Forget all this pre-war/post-war stuff, this is how you break down a concours!
On Saturday I attended my second Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court – and it was as glorious and spectacular as last year’s with a sensational turn out of cars and remarkably good attendance too, despite the Covid concerns.
Going through the extensive gallery of images it’s taken me several days to edit and sort, I realised they could be subdivided into quite particular categories of my own devising – hope you enjoy those below.
Here are my categories from the 2020 Concourse of Elegance!
For me this was probably the most extraordinary exhibit of the show – the 1921 Leyat Helica. Designed by an aircraft engineer who wanted to make a plane without wings, it had an 8hp engine driving a caged propeller at the front, and the lightweight car could actually managed to reach over 100mph, which seems somewhat terrifying when you realise it only had cable-operated real-wheel steering. Not speculating – well I am – but perhaps that’s why out of 30 made only two survive. They’re both in France, this one is a replica.
Who doesn’t love a little three-wheel bubblecar type thingy! This one is a Messerschmitt in bright orange and c’mon, it was just adorable!
Why is this pretty thing in this category – because it’s a Jaguar and doesn’t look like any Jaguar I’ve seen before! This 1957 Jaguar XK150 S Bertone – it’s one of three rebodied by Bertone in Turin. Each slightly different but all styled by Franco Scaglione – he also did the Alfa Romeo BAT cars. This is car number 2, the others are missing, and has been restored a couple of times. A very curious mix of British engineering and Italian style.
Of course one of the big stars of this year’s event was the new Aston Martin Victor (see video below) and the Ineos Grenadier also had its public debut (again video below). But when in the exalted company of classics, it’s amazing how some of the spectacular new cars around almost get overlooked. I mean that’s a three-seater 1000bhp Mclaren Speedtail. Oh and a LaFerrari and the new £1.25m Brabham BT62R road car with a 5.4-litre V8 putting out 700bhp.
The Dream Catchers
At these events attendees are usually found taking pics and selfies, checking out the cars, reading the specs, rushing around, and looking for the loos. But every now and then you encounter people just stood transfixed, lost in their day dreams, completely enthralled by the automotive sculpture in front of them. You imagine they can’t hear or feel the crowds, don’t notice you watching them, and have completely forgotten they were mere moments ago in search of an affordable bite to eat, the hungers pangs having receded and replaced by yearning. Should’ve snapped more of these, but here’s three I did get.
These are the old cars where, being kind, you could describe them as having ‘patina’ or more ruthlessly you could proffer the notion that the owner’s just couldn’t be bothered to at least sort the paintwork out, right? Actually neither is quite true, these cars bear their considerable history and age with authentic dignity; each ding, dent and scar tells a story, or it would if it could. There’s a ravaged realness here that brings an extra element to the art gallery of automotive motion, even when the stars are resting still, like this red 1928 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix that was a work’s entry in the Targa Florio.
JUE 477 is the first series production Land Rover – chassis number 860001 – built in July 1948 and originally meant for King George VI. Instead it ended up in the Land Rover development programme. In 1950 it was taken over by a Durham Universtity professer. Twenty years later in 1970 is was bought by famer and left exposed to the elements for years. Eventually it turned up at 50th anniversary celebration in 1988. Ineos bought it in 2017 and it has been the subject of a carefully considered process of preservation and restoration leaving the history, ‘patina’, original components and unique details of the vehicle intact.
I love the grandeur and elegance of these magnificent machines, but as a driver they are harder to relate to for contemporary generations as they hail from long-gone eras. Although having said that, the 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Sports Saloon in that metallic Saxe blue had incredible presence. And it was built for no less a personality than Captain Sir Malcolm Campbell – yes he of multiple speed records on land and water. The third one he owned in fact. It’s now owned by Yohan Poonawalla and is part of his collection alongside various Maharaja Cars and soon to be showcased in a new museum in Pune.
So sexy it hurts
You can neither marry a car, nor make love to it… no, no, really you can’t, not legally at least as I believe mechanophilia is a crime in most countries, though I haven’t checked… honestly I haven’t. But some cars, damn, you do look at them and… stop it! Stop it now, you’ll get us both in trouble. Just ogle these voluptuous, curvaceous, sensuous sensations. That gorgeous golden Miura, the many enticing classic Ferraris, Astons and Jaguars, and that incredible red 1966 Bizzarrini GT Strada 5300, but I tell you what, it’s that 1958 BMW 507 that had me somewhat stricken.
Briefly driven by Leonidas Papagos, son of Alexandros Papgos, Prime Minster of Greece, it was later bought by a Lebanese couple that fell in love with it – and who can blame them? They gave it to their son who was studying in London, and he drove it from London to Munich, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Genoa from where it was shipped to Lebanon – it was even his wedding car in Beirut in 1969. When the Civil War started in 1975, the family became worried that something might happen to their son’s precious car and asked their friend Munir Abu-Haidar, president of Trans-Mediterranean Airways, for help. He flew it back to London and kept it till it was bought by an Italian as a gift for his wife having undergone a full restoration in 2017 – there’s just so much love here. Sigh…
That desire to capture an image of something that surprises and seduces our visual perceptions is stronger in this day and age than it’s ever been, though it’s always been present in the artistic greats amongst us from Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelango to Andy Warhol and Ian Banu-Cook of PopBangColour fame. We’re all photographers now of course, whether we labour along lugging three cameras, seven lenses and never enough batteries, or the person with a multi-pixel smart phone in their pocket. These cars can be captivating and compelled to capture them we are.
Class, style, a certain je ne sais quoi is all about having a presence, an aura, a panache that sets you apart from the crowd. It’s like those two sitting on the bench, demonstrating effortless elegance and charisma. You may not always want to engage with such ostentatiousness but you can’t really help but admire and envy.
Cars like this 1961 French Facel Vega HK500 which lived in Hollywood, as you’d expect, and was powered by a 6.3-litre Chrysler V8 producing 360bhp! Or this 1958 Ferrari 250GT Ellena and the 1960 Astong Martin DB4GT with a 300bhp straight-six and ready-to-race (Stirling Moss once won a race in a customer’s stock car after his works racer was rolled). Unrestored, this one’s eye-catching Wedgwood Blue somehow makes it even more special. Or how about the 1957 Bentley S1 Continental Drophead Coupe which is like the ultimate in extravagance and decadence – plus it’s brown – perfect for the BrownCarGuy on a classy grand day out?
Racing is Life
A quote often ascribed to uber-cool Hollywood legend and car fanatic Steve McQueen, it was actually his character, Michael Delaney in the movie LeMans that said: ‘Lotta people go through life doing things badly. Racing’s important to men who do it well. When you’re racing, it’s life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting.’ Well these historic racers certainly looked like they were in waiting! It’s almost a shame to see them still like this.
This 1993 Williams FW15C, chassis No 02 was raced in F1 by British F1 World Champion, Damon Hill, who took three wins in his first year in F1. Despite its value of many millions of dollars, this 1965 Ferrari 350LM in resplendent yellow, once owned by Prince Jefri, brother of the Sultan of Brunei, regularly sees action in historic races today. The 1969 Porsche 917, driving by Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood was driven to the first of 19 overall wins for Porsche at LeMans. Now that’s special.
The event was also the world debut of the surprise stunner from Aston Martin – the incredible one-off Victor and I was able to get a walkaround video of the car which you can see below.
Additionally it was the public debut of the Ineos Grenadier and again I managed to get a walkaround video.
Saturday was Club Day at the Concours and I managed to get chat with the founder of one of the most active and popular clubs – The Drivers Union.
What were your favourite categories and cars from the Concours of Elegance?