In the late 1930s, Rust Heinz of the H.J. Heinz family food empire designed a totally different car. The product of his imagination was the Phantom Corsair, a one-of-kind look at the future of automotive design. Maurice Bohman of famed coachbuilders Bohman & Schwartz helped Heinz create a vehicle labeled by some as both a “monstrosity and a marvel.” This stunning car will be a centerpiece to the 14th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, to be held March 13-15, 2009. The Phantom Corsair will be shown courtesy of the National Automobile Museum (The Harrah Collection) in Reno, Nev., and will be included in the event’s Bohman & Schwartz feature display.

“When this car came out of Bohman & Schwartz, people called it both outrageous and futuristic,” said Bill Warner, founder and co-chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “It’s a 70-year-old design that generates a buzz wherever it goes, and still defies description today, just as it did when it rolled out of their Pasadena shop in 1938.”

Bohman & Schwartz built the Phantom Corsair on a Cord 810 chassis for an estimated $25,000; Heinz had plans to build a limited number for about $12,500 per car, but his untimely death shortly after its completion ended production plans. After a stint at the 1939 World’s Fair, the car moved on to a new career in Hollywood as the mysteriously sinister “Flying Wombat” in the David O. Selznick production “The Young in Heart.” Eventually, the car joined the collection of William Harrah.

“This car always surprises people,” Warner said of the Phantom Corsair. “Voluptuous curves would seem out of place on such a hulking behemoth of a machine, but here, they make sense. Visually, this car is a stunner, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s one of the most photographed cars throughout the day.”

Race cars and drivers honor 50th anniversaries
The 50th anniversaries of the first U.S. Grand Prix Formula One race at Sebring International Raceway and the only Indy car race ever held at the Daytona International Speedway will also be celebrated at this year’s concours. A seminar called “The Great Roadster Drivers” will be held to recount the history and legacy of these races.

Jim Rathmann, the 1960 Indy 500 winner, will participate in a Saturday seminar at The Ritz-Carlton grand ballroom. Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Unser and Parnelli Jones are also tentatively set to join Rathmann on the panel.

“The races at Sebring and Daytona may seem to be footnotes to some since they were held only once, but both are an important part of the overall history of auto racing, as each was run a single time for very different reasons,” said Warner.

The 1959 Sebring race was short lived due to financial troubles. Daytona’s experience was far more tragic. Racer George Amick, after setting a one-lap American course record of 176.887 mph during practice, lost control of his car on the last lap of a 100-mile race and had a fatal crash. Rathmann took the checkered flag for that race. Since 1959, Indy cars have not raced at Daytona.

About the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is one of the nation’s most innovative vintage auto shows featuring more than 250 rare vehicles. The 14th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will be held on the 10th and 18th fairways of The Golf Club of Amelia Island at Summer Beach, adjacent to The Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island. The show’s foundation has donated nearly $1.6 million to Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, Inc. since 1996.