The ebbing of summer in and around London brings a generous portion of automotive exuberance. Perhaps it is the final chance to play with the classic before the nights draw in and the roads get salted. In any case the first weeks of September see a veritable cornucopia of Concours of Elegance in the UK, and the crop of 2012 is especially rich.
I got the first inclination that last week’s Salon Privé was going to be extraordinary when I took a wrong turn down by Isleworth’s famous pub, The London Apprentice. Attempting to retrace my route I was passed by the above Lamborghini Miura that was being closely followed no less than three Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwings. Heavy metal on the bank of the Thames…………
Frankly that set the tone for the rest of the day. Utterly amazing cars in a beautiful setting and almost perfect weather.
Syon House is the London residence of the Duke of Northumberland and is now host to the Salon Privé, the event having outgrown its original home, The Hurlingham Club. It is a fine location, matching the quality of the cars on show.
I have already posted about the central display from the ROFGO Collection but by no means did they overshadow the rest. There were stunning cars everywhere, all the colours, all the sizes, all the ages. The FXX was just one of many stars.
Aston Martin chose the Salon Privé to reveal to the public their latest model, the V12 Vantage Roadster.
Another lovely drophead was this vibrant Bentley, no chance of losing this in an airport parking lot.
The event honoured two particular cars this year, the Gullwing Mercedes, I had witnessed that myself.
And the Ferrari F40, there were many fine examples on the lawns.
Including this ‘black sheep’ courtesy of Joe Macari.
Mr Macari was much in evidence at Salon Privé, this immaculately restored Dino engine is his handiwork.
As was this MC12
One category on display was that of Shooting Brakes, this Ferrari 330 GT was the last car to be created by Alfredo Vignale. It was brought to Salon Privé by Jay Kay, who must be worn out at this time of the year with the number of shows he attends.
One entry in that class that caught my eye, a fantastic Chrysler Town & Country Car. Looking like it had just rolled off the dealer’s lot, if you try hard you can hear Bennie Goodman and Glenn Miller swinging away in close proximity.
Is it possible to over restore a classic?
Speaking to one dealer who had much experience of cars from the period, he asserted that this beautiful Rolls Royce Silver Ghost is in way better condition today than when it left the factory nearly a century ago. Is that a problem? I suppose it depends on the car, the Silver Ghost can carry it off, one expects to be dazzled.
Another car that impressed me was this gorgeous Ferrari 330 GTS, absolutely mint.
Another rarity even by the standards of this event was this Daimler ‘Royal Four’ Limousine.
One of seven examples built to the specification of King George V, this is the only known car outside of the Royal Collection.
The Salon Privé is much more than a collection of fine automobiles in a splendid setting. The entry ticket appears to have a steep price till it is compared to other events of a similar stature. Unlike other motoring events, such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed, which has grown to be a victim of its own success, there is a feeling of intimacy almost like an extended family party. For those not getting behind the wheel later the excellent Pommery Champagne flows, a perfect accompaniment to the barbecued lobster.
For those whose interests extend beyond cars there are several diversions, a chance to window shop in a relaxed manner.
No motoring event can exist without an element of horology, Salon Privé is no exception to this rule.
Despite the retail distractions, the central theme of the day is the car.
And there were some many amazing examples to choose from. Choosing the crème de la crème was the task allotted to the judges, amongst whom was my old mate, Peter Stevens.
The 2012 Salon Privé stands comparison with any of the world’s great celebrations of the automobile, be they in the grounds of Villa d’Este, or on the greens at Pebble Beach. If you are reading this blog, then you should probably be planning to attend next September, I know I am.
John Brooks, September 2012