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Car Heaven

Posted on May 17, 2019 in Mille Miglia , May-June 2019 , Inaugural Vintage Car Show , Robert Davis , Anne Hunter

A row of Jaguar XK120s lines Central Square in Seaside for the inaugural vintage car show in March. Photos courtesy of Jack Gardner.

SEASIDES®’s first vintage car show attracts Mille Miglia Dream Machines By Anne Hunter

From above, the fastidiously restored row of forest green, metallic silver and cream colored Jaguar XK120s positioned alongside the red and white 1954 American convertibles and the silver 2000 Mercedes Benz SL500 Roadster, resembled the stripes of a future flag that would be sewn together and gracefully flown above its township from a towering flagpole.

But on this day, from the cobblestone streets below, random passersby intermingle with car aficionados, ranging from refined connoisseurs to geeky gear-heads, having heard the word-of-mouth whispers that an ensemble of cool cars would be on display in the early hours of Saturday morning, March 9, inside the town square of Seaside, a community ironically world-famous for inhibiting the use of automobiles on its pedestrian-friendly New Urbanist thoroughfares.

When Seaside co-founder Robert Davis aspired to host a car show, he contacted fellow car collector and Seaside homeowner, John Houghtaling. Together they orchestrated a car event that included a shakedown drive from New Orleans with three Jaguars that are Mille Miglia entrants. The Mille Miglia is a an open-road motorsport endurance race that took place in Italy 24 times from 1927 to 1957 and has been recently resurrected to assuage the world’s top tier sport motorists whose cars were built during that time span.

Seaside’s inaugural vintage car show began with a coastal drive from New Orleans for the Jaguars as a Mille Miglia trial run. They set out on scenic coastal roads piloted by a driver and navigator; and accompanied by a road crew of mechanics. The drive culminated in Seaside where the Jaguars would unite with three more cars that had been selected for the show.

The weekend included a Friday night paella dinner at 45 Central Wine & Sushi Bar for the drivers and their families. Saturday morning followed with a private breakfast reception at Amavida Coffee Roasters and public car show in front of 25 Central Square. That afternoon, the vintage vehicles traversed the quaint natural and manmade landscapes of Seaside, Grayton Beach, Rosemary Beach and 30A as if it were an obstacle course leading them to the grand finale, dinner at Caliza Pool at Alys Beach.

“Next year, I hope we can organize a bigger group to drive from 30A to the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance,” Davis says, glancing east into the distance to capture his dream.

“A Seaside car rally has been something my dad has wanted to create for a very long time,” says Robert’s son, Micah Davis. “Hopefully this small trial run will be a good kickstarter for the final product.”

Seaside Community Development Corp. General Manager Pam Avera and Seaside founder Robert Davis with Davis’ 1970s red Pontiac. Photos courtesy of Jack Gardner.

Robert Davis’ penchant for cars is a conundrum for Seaside; which, by design, he envisioned to become the quintessential American car-less town. Contemplating the irony that Seaside’s founder is a bonafide automobile enthusiast and an accomplished race car driver, can send your wheels spinning. Davis’ response to his personal paradox may be why the town’s free-thinking co-creator celebrates the sanctity of the world inside the car as his solace for combatting the sprawling suburbs in the world outside it. “Seaside is an attempt to counter the degradation of the world that succumbed to the car,” he says.

The mutual relationship of the world inside and outside of the car seems genetically linked in its separateness, inasmuch as Seaside is linked to its pedestrians whose feet are inextricably tied to both the pavement and the gas pedal. That connection could be why Davis does not wish for cars to be reduced into commuter vehicles, dying slowly in traffic jams or humiliated into facilitating errands at shopping centers. Rather, revered as beautiful instruments of liberation that cruise fast across open landscapes into the elegant designs of fairytale towns to park in gorgeous plazas, where the car conductor’s feet lilt onto the pedals of bicycles and lust for walking in the slow lane.

Seaside and its surrounding New Urbanist communities provide ideal environments for retreating from the car. By fighting suburban sprawl, their landscape has remained relatively free. Just ask any of the thousands of spring breakers who descend upon Scenic Highway 30A and ditch their cars for bicycles one week of every year. These extraordinary American villages, where one can walk to their ordinary daily needs, can make cars resemble cumbersome wheelchairs that are only needed for rolling people into to the places that their legs can’t carry them to.

In this context, the difference between a car and a pedestrian becomes muted for our forward-thinking founder who won’t be boxed into the perils of traffic jams caused by those seekers eager to step foot on the stretch highway that is home to his innovate town.

As the gaps of automobile technology close in with solutions like autonomous cars and alternate modes of transportation, so does the dream that Davis cast 35 years ago. Now echoing back the pending freedom from traffic-filled roads and the vehicles that both entrap and liberate their drivers, it signals that the remaining distance to his vision for 30A Mobility; and the bountiful phase of community that follows, no longer feels so far.

“Robert’s thoughts on the future of transportation and the Seaside Institute’s 30A Mobility program are an inspiration,” says Lawrence Pugh, who relished in the honor to have his Mercedes cast alongside the American convertibles and the world-class Jaguar XK120s as part of the show. “His plans for a future road rally along 30A that includes an environmentally friendly component are very exciting.”