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St. Armands Circle Invitational Auto Show • 2006
photos and info by Bill Mergens

St. Armands Circle is located west of downtown Sarasota on the way to the beach, and is known for it’s quaint shops and gourmet restaurants. It is also a great place to hold a car show, and the 4th Annual St. Armands Invitational Auto Show which took place on November 4th, 2006 is just one of the great shows that take place there each year.

Many of the vehicles at this show are only seen a couple times a year, and only at shows like this. Spectators and fellow participants were treated to a wide variety of outstanding vehicles, many of which are extremely rare and valuable. There was a 1914 Fiat Touring car and a 1927 Morgan Arrow 3-wheel car, both of which are pretty rare automobiles. Also, an original owner 1964 Shelby Cobra Roadster, 1972 Jensen Interceptor from England, and a 1974 DeTomaso Pantera GTS. If you like the older classics there was a 1936 Auburn Boattail Speedster, 1932 Packard 902 Coupe Roadster, and a 1953 Bentley R-Type. Throw in a great array of superb street rods and a couple of 1948 MG TC’s and you have the makings of a truly great International Invitational Auto Show.

Around 80 vehicles were in attendance, fitting into 4 classes: Antique, Classic, Custom and Street Rod. Judging all these great cars was quite a task, but once the class winners were determined there were no big trophy presentations....they simply walked over to the winner and gave them their award. In the Antique category that was John Lynch of Sarasota for his 1940 Ford Deluxe Coupe. In the category of Classic it was Steve Estok of Punta Gorda with a 1960 Chrysler 300F. The Custom class was won by Ron Menda for his 1937 Ford Cabriolet Custom out of Sarasota, and the Street Rod winners were Pat and Carolyn Harvey for their 1937 Ford Coupe.

St. Armands Circle, with it’s 130 shops, is fast becoming the place for Concourse d’Elegance style car shows on Florida’s Gulf Coast, but it also has an interesting history. In 1893, Charles St. Amand, a Frenchman and the first resident of the island, purchased three tracts of land totaling 131.89 acres for $21.71. He homesteaded the land, fishing in the waters of the Gulf and Bay and, along with other early pioneers, raised produce which he brought by boat to the market at City Pier in Sarasota. In later land deeds, his name was misspelled “St. Armand” and this spelling has persisted to the present day. Visionary circus magnate John Ringling purchased the St. Armands Key property in 1917 and planned a development which included residential lots and a shopping center laid out in a circle. In 1925, work began on a causeway to join St. Armands Key to the mainland, and circus elephants were even used to haul the huge timbers from which the bridge and causeway were built. John Ringling’s influence is still evident today in the planning and design of streets radiating from the circle at the island’s hub and the Italian statuary from his personal collection strategically placed around the key. The circle looks very much as Ringling originally envisioned it, with the palm lined medians, park-like setting, and tropical plantings he intended. Gone are the pioneer farms, vacant lots, and the bandshell featuring Sunday afternoon concerts. But the promise of greatness, the truly cosmopolitan shopping area envisioned by John Ringling, has become a reality.

2007 shows on tap the first half of the year at St. Armands Circle include an All Ferrari show on February 10th, and an All Corvette show on May 5th. For more info you can visit CN