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Jax Businessman Showing Off Rare Cars At Concours D'Elegance This Weekend

This morning a caravan of championship-winning rally cars drove from Jacksonville to Amelia Island to be featured in the he Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance car show. The rare cars belong to Jacksonville businessman John Campion.

Campion sees the poetry in rally racing.

"It’s sort of a pantomime and a ballet of brutality," Campion said.

He says the cars are flogged.

"Rally driving is through forest, it’s through gravel roads, it’s driving at night, it’s driving in the snow," Campion said. "It’s absolute brutality."

Campion has four Italian Lancia rally cars. Lancia doesn’t make them anymore. The company got swallowed up by Fiat in the '80s. He searched high and low to find them — from Australia to the Czech Republic, Italy and the Canary Islands.

But to find rally racing, Campion just had to look in his own backyard, or, in his case, his back bog.

Campion grew up in Ireland in the '70s. Ireland was going through a tough period. Catholics and Protestants were killing each other. Ireland's unemployment was high, but a national shamrock sprang forth: Billy Coleman, a farmer from Cork who became a world-class rally car driver.

One morning in 1978, Campion says his dad took him and his brother out to a forest. The sun was creeping up through the trees. The mist was rising up off the ground.

All of a sudden...

"There’s this screaming sound. I look around, and there’s a Lancia Stratus coming around a corner sideways in the air — driven by Billy Coleman," Campion said.

Campion’s cars and many others will be on display this weekend at Amelia Island’s Concours D’Elegance at the Ritz Carlton.

Peter Haden is an award-winning investigative reporter and photographer currently working with The Center for Investigative Reporting. His stories are featured in media outlets around the world including NPR, CNN en Español, ECTV Ukraine, USA Today, Qatar Gulf Times, and the Malaysia Star.