Tag Archives: Blenheim Palace

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A lawn, a palace, sunshine and cars………what’s not to like?

To say that we have been living in strange times would something of a gross understatement. The weirdness is set to continue as the pandemic, pending economic catastrophe, widespread civil unrest and US Presidential elections scrap with each other in the doom and gloom stakes, all screeching for our attention. Maybe the escape route from this turbulence is to retreat into better days and reflect on our general good fortune. A final look back at Salon Privé is as good a remedy as any, so here goes.

Encountering a Fiat 8V is always a welcome sensation, they are all special but this one is particularly note worthy. It was one of three lightweight alloy models built specially by the factory for the 1953 Mille Miglia. In a top class field with works entries from Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lancia and Maserati, the “Otto Vu” performed well, finishing eighteenth overall and sixth in class. It ran again in the Mille Miglia the following year but was forced to retire. In ’55 it scored an excellent thirteenth overall in the Targa Florio, second in class. In 1956 the car was acquired by future Ferrari Grand Prix star, Lorenzo Bandini.

Bang up to date is the Brabham BT 62 which was to make a competition debut in the hands of David Brabham and Will Power a month or so later. DDC had Simon Hildrew on hand to bring this gallery.

Is there a collective noun for a bunch of Paganis? A power? A performance? A pulchritude? Whatever it is there was an impressive line up of Zondas to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the supercar.

Reflected glory? Maybe that’s as good as it gets for me.

And now for something completely different…..to quote the release……This Rolls-Royce is an imposing open touring-bodied 1912 Silver Ghost, coachbuilt by Barker & Co. of London and fitted with an elaborate Taj Mahal nameplate for its Indian Raj client; the Maharaja of Nabha. This distinctive Silver Ghost has a unique place in Rolls-Royce history, it being the only surviving pre-1914 Indian trials car, with its authentic engine and chassis still carrying its original bodywork.

Salon Privé is not only a concours d’elegance but is a neat platform for those trying to launch something new in the motoring universe. The Jannarelly Design-1 is typical of the genre, a touch of re-inventing the wheel, literally. It is a Cobra for the second Roaring Twenties, perhaps with a little less venom, but in the right hands would surely be grin inducing.

This 1953 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith with coachwork by Hooper & Co. was used at the wedding of Prince Rainier of Monaco & Grace Kelly in 1956 and still is the epitome of ’50s style.

This Delahaye Type 145 is nicknamed ‘Million-Franc’. The Prix du Million being a one million franc prize offered in 1937 by the French Government to encourage French motor car manufacturers to take on and beat the Germans, who were then dominating motor racing. On August 27th 1937, René Dreyfus drove this Type 145 for 200 kilometers in a record one hour, twenty-one minutes, 49 1/2 seconds, which amounted an average speed of 91.3 miles per hour on the banked L’autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry. This was enough to grab the prize, and the headlines. The following year Dreyfuss scored a memorable victory in the Delahaye at the Pau Grand Prix, besting the Mercedes-Benz of Caracciola/Lang; it was a most popular win with the patriotic French crowd.

1900bhp and €2 million, the numbers are all extreme, perhaps the Pininfarina Battista will prosper in these straightened times but, somehow I doubt it. Four electric motors, one at each corner propel the carbon fibre hyper car to 60 mph in around two seconds………..not for me I think……………

Back to the concours stage and this 1935 Avions Voisin C-25 Aérodyne, a glorious fusion of aerodynamics, Art Deco and cutting edge engineering. The price tag of 88,000 French Francs during a time of financial crisis ensured that the striking car was not a commercial success and only six were built.

The sumptuous profile of the 1948 Talbot-Lago T26 GS Fastback Coupé by Figoni is outstanding, no wonder it took the Best in Show against some very stiff opposition. First owned by a Mr Fayolle, the ‘Zipper King’ of France, the car found its way to Los Angeles and then was stored in obscurity for 47 years. Subsequently it has been lovingly restored to its original configuration as it left the coachbuilders, it is art on wheels………..

The 2020 Salon Privé is scheduled to happen at Blenheim Palace on 23-26 September, fingers are to be kept firmly crossed.

John Brooks, July 2020

Cavallino Rampante at Blenheim Palace

Concours come in all shapes and sizes, at the top end there is one sure fire method of judging the event, what are the Ferraris like? Some may disagree with my approach but I find the higher the level of Maranello’s finest, generally the better the show. So how did Salon Privé rate last September?

The answer is simple, first rate. I had missed the event for a couple of years, but I was truly impressed with the organisers’ achievement in maintaining such a high standard of exhibits on the lawns.

A good example of the rarefied level is this exquisite 250 GT Ellena dating back to ’58. Originally a Pinin Farina design, Mario-Felice Boano took over building the cars while Farina had a new factory constructed. He subsequently headed off to Fiat, and handed responsibility for upgrading the 250 GT to his son-in-law, Ezio Ellena. Some of the Corrozzeria Ellena examples had a raised roof line, all had bigger brakes and a steering system from ZF. This elegant coupé is a ‘matching numbers’ example as it was reunited with the original engine in 2013.

A complete contrast is this F40 LM, developed from the road car by Michelotto with Maranello’s blessing. The car was raced in North America by an all-star line up of drivers for its five IMSA GT events. Ecurie Pozzi employed no less a bunch of aces than Jean-Louis Schlesser, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Olivier Grouillard, Jacques Lafitte, Hurley Haywood and Michel Ferté in its ’90 campaign. A few years down the line and the F40 LM was developed into the fearsome GTE versions that spiced up the BPR and provided the F1 GTR with proper opposition.

The palatial backdrop for this 250 GT Europa Vignale Coupé is most appropriate. Originally ordered by the Belgian Princess Liliane de Rethy, second wife of King Leopold III, a passionate Ferrari enthusiast. It was the final Ferrari chassis to be given a body by Vignale and is very distinct from the Pinin Farina examples of this model. There is an unusual inclined opening in the dash board, something of a mystery. However, by a stroke of luck a bottle of Veuve Clicquot can be accommodated, though how it is to be kept chilled is not clear.

A rare gem from the mid-60s is this 500 Superfast, one of just 36 examples built. The list of owners of these fabulous machines could have come straight from the gossip columns of William Hickey or Nigel Dempster: the Aga Khan, Peter Sellers, Gunther Sachs and the Shah of Persia to name but a few; all very important figures at the time, now more Ozymandias-like in our enlightened Twitter age………….

The 500 Superfast has been described as ‘the ultimate in front-engined Ferraris for those who like the Rolls-Royce touch with their performance cars.’, they were the last of their breed.

I am an unashamed fan of the 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione, with its elegant proportions and fantastic record in competition. This example finished third overall on its debut in the ’60 Paris 1000kms held at Montlhéry. Driven by Jo Schlesser and André Simon in Paris, it went on to win the GT class in that year’s Tour de Corse with Mrs Schlesser accompanying her husband.

Ferrari, despite the ramped-up production levels in the modern era, remains a fairly exclusive brand, the likes of me are unlikely to trouble the Ferrari Owners’ Club. As Orwell put it so sagely, “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. So it is with Ferraris, this 365 California Spider is part of an ultra-exclusive group, just 14 examples were built in the mid-60s. The flowing Pininfarina design and angular rear set it apart from its contemporaries.

Almost the last word in exclusivity on planet Ferrari are these two 342 America models, this one the coupé.

And this one is a cabriolet. Just three of each variety were specially built, the car above is the only one with bodywork from Carrozzeria Vignale.

The coupé on the lawn at Salon Privé first appeared at the ’53 Geneva Salon. Both cars have spent most of their lives in the USA.

The 2019 edition of Salon Privé comfortably passed the Ferrari Test in a very stylish manner. We must hope that in the troubled times that 2020 is enduring the show will go on.

John Brooks, July 2020

Bentley at Blenheim

The Salon Privé is now firmly established as one of the top car events on the planet. It has a unique flavour, mixing old and new, all to the absolute highest of standards. I had missed the event for a few years, the offer of a pass for a few hours at the end of the show did not appeal, especially given the delights of driving around the M25 on a Saturday. Then I received an invitation from Dirk de Jager to join him with the Fiat 8V that he was displaying on Owners’ Day, I was very pleased to accept and the show did not disappoint, anything but.

In retrospect 2019 now feels to me like 1914 or 1939 might have done to those who experienced the great conflicts that followed those fateful years, not that I am comparing the pandemic to the slaughter of the World Wars, but I suspect things will be very different when we finally emerge.

Some of the activities that we took for granted like motor sport or concours d’elegance may just not happen once the economic impact of the past three months becomes clear. There will be less money to spend and we all may well have to concentrate on the essentials. This realisation is tempered with an optimism that, even if we consign 2020 to the dustbin of history, things will get back to normal within a few years. In the meantime let’s reflect on happier times. The Salon Privé has been one of the highlights of the UK motoring calendar over the past decade or so, the 2019 show maintained the top class standard set over the years, that bar is high.

In common with events of this kind, there are several themes that run through the concours and the narrative hangs off this in the form of appropriately focussed displays. 2019 saw the celebration of Bentley’s centenary, indeed the final day at Salon Privé would witness the largest assembly of Bentleys in history with 1,321 examples surrounding Blenheim Palace.

Bentley’s own celebration of the milestone came in several forms, the most prominent of which was a concept car, the EXP 100 GT. In some ways it was difficult to know what to make of this huge creation.

The PR fluff that accompanied the car’s release was woke on an epic scale, full of right-on signals. “The interior takes Bentley craftsmanship in a new direction by seamlessly fusing sustainable materials with technology. It incorporates new directions being explored by Bentley, including the use of light in creating a wellness-enriching environment and Adaptable Biometric Seating that adds to the feeling of wellbeing.”

Having said that, one had to admit that there was a certain consistent element of elegance running through the display, with the sinuous curves and sense of opulence and style clearly evident. I am not the target market, and never will be, so perhaps my views are irrelevant.

Another Bentley concept car, from another galaxy, is the recreation of the 1939 Corniche. The original car was inspired by the Embiricos Bentley, that had been styled by Georges Paulin. Bentley’s management were convinced that a sporty version of the forthcoming MKV would prove popular with the marque’s customers. I suspect it’s aerodynamic curves looked as surreal to the late ’30s enthusiasts as the EXP 100 GT does to me.

As the PR release says; ‘It was agreed that the Corniche should be built to investigate the idea. It would have a lightweight chassis, built from thinner-than-standard gauge steel, fitted with a tuned version of the Mark V engine matched to an overdrive gearbox created to suit. The Corniche was built as a collaboration between Bentley and third parties such as Georges Paulin, the French car designer who designed the bodywork and Carrosserie Vanvooren in Paris who made the bodywork.‘.

After a successful roll out at Brooklands in May 1939 the car headed for Europe but was then involved in two separate accidents. The second was quite severe, the chassis returned to the UK and the bodywork was to be repaired in France. The outbreak of the war overtook the project and the bodywork was destroyed during an air raid on Dieppe Harbour.

At the turn of the century enthusiasts attempted to recreate the Corniche. The project really came to life when Bentley CEO, Adrian Hallmark, took it in-house to Mulliner, the result is this stunning work of automotive art.

Although Bentley ceased competition when it was acquired by Rolls-Royce in 1931, that did not mean the end of the road for the chief ‘Bentley Boy’, Woolf Barnato. In 1934 he commissioned Wally Hassan to build a racer based on Bentley parts, including the engine from ‘Old Number One’, victorious in the 1929 Le Mans 24 Hours. The car was raced at many places, including Brooklands, with Oliver Bertram posting a lap on the outer circuit at 143.11mph. After the war it took part in the 1949 Spa 24 Hours but failed to finish.

Another initiative that Woolf Barnato made at Bentley was the introduction of a supercharger, designed by Amherst Villiers, for the 4½-litre engine to create the Blower Bentley. This road-going example, dating from 1930, was Barnato’s personal car, with coachwork by Gurney Nutting.

A pair of familiar faces at Blenheim were this Bentley 8 Litre and its owner, Mihai Negrescu. I had the pleasure of riding with him in this fabulous limousine a few years back on the Salon Privé Tour, perhaps I should revisit that tale soon.

The Bentley 8 Litre was W.O. Bentley’s swansong for the company he founded. This example had a bit of an odd history, ending up in Canada at one point. The excellent vintagebentleys.org provides the tale. “Jack Charters bought the car when he lived in the UK but took it over to Canada in 1948 and, with his wife, drove it across Canada in the winter from Halifax to Soda Creek 400 miles north of Vancouver where they lived. Jack died in a blizzard in 1949 and the car was rescued from the British Columbian wilderness by Capt. L. Goudy. He took the car to Vancouver and restored it. It was in a poor state having had a collision with a moose and the wings had been trimmed. It was also painted white by then. Capt. Goudy kept the car until at least 1971. Capt. Goudy recalls the time when he was stopped by the police in Vancouver and thought he was about to be charged with a motoring offence, but the officers only wanted to see the engine and then one of them stated that his uncle was called Lycett, and he used to race Bentleys. This, of course, was the famous Forrest Lycett.”

Now fully restored but still sporting the original interior, it is a jewel of an automobile, I hope to see more of it now that the owner has moved.

The very epitome of ’30s elegant motoring is this Bentley 4¼ Litre, with coachwork by H.J. Mulliner, form and function coming together in harmony.

This is another of Woolf Barnato’s Bentleys, delivered in July 1936 to his Mayfair home.

The Bentley day at Blenheim took place on the Sunday and, unfortunatley, I had a conflicting appointment. So I must make do with this dazzling selection of Bentleys from the main show. More from Salon Privé in the next week or so.

John Brooks, June 2020

Ferrari at the Palace – 2016

Back in 2015 I came up with a theory that you could measure the value of a car event by the quality of the Ferraris on display, a shaky premise to be sure but as good as any other subjective tool. So now at the fag end of the year it is an opportunity to look back at some of Maranello’s finest that I encountered on my travels.

The approach of autumn is heralded by some of the finest car events of the year. Salon Privé continues to delight those of us fortunate enough to attend with an eclectic selection of cars for our delectation and the Ferrari crop in 2016 is no exception to this rule.

Perhaps the place to start is at the top and the 2016 Best in Show which was awarded to this fantastic Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa which has recently been totally restored by DK Engineering, whose painstaking skills have rightly been recognised..

This example, 0614MDTR, has a well documented competition pedigree. Starting life across the Atlantic, the 500 TR became a fixture at the Nassau Speed Weeks in ’56 and ’57 plus appearances at the Cuba Grand Prix, with the original owner, William Helburn scoring a class second with Le Mans Legend, Olivier Gendebien, in February ’57 edition.

A new owner, Boris ‘Bob’ Said, took a class win in the Nassau Trophy. Said competed in the 1959 US Grand Prix at Sebring and was the father of well known endurance and NASCAR driver, Boris Said III. The Ferrari was sold on again to James Place, who campaigned it at Meadowdale and Elkhart Lake, eventually sticking a Chevvy engine to replace the 2-litre, four cylinder Italian unit. A Ferrari engine was eventually put back and now we have this most elegant mid-50’s barchetta to admire and enjoy.

Another piece of 50’s style from Maranello was this Ferrari 250 Europa. One of two prototypes and the sole example of a short chassis with Pininfarina styling.

Powered by a 3-litre V12 version of the classic this model was the ancestor of the Ferrari 250 GT range.

Fast forward some 30 years, to another legendary Ferrari, the 288 GTO. Back in 1982 the FIA introduced Group B regulations to encourage a move to production-based cars for competition as opposed to the prototypes in Group C that raced in the World Championship and Le Mans. A minimum production run of 200 examples was mandated but the laws of unintended consequences intervened. Porsche and Ferrari considered building cars for the tracks, whereas Austin-Rover, Audi, Ford, Lancia and Peugeot introduced Group B cars to rallying. The vastly increased performance of the new cars led to several incidents with spectators being killed or injured. The final straw came with the deaths of Lancia star, Henri Toivonen, and his co-driver, Sergio Cresto, on the Tour de Course, when, inexplicably, their Delta S4 left the road and caught fire. Group B was finished, cancelled by the FIA.

One of the reasons that there was little enthusiasm for racing either the Porsche 961 or the Ferrari 288 GTO is that it was cheaper to buy a Porsche 956/962 and have a shot at outright victory as privateer teams beat the Werks car on several occasions, even at Le Mans. The cancellation of the FIA regulations might have caused Ferrari a problem but the designation GTO (Gran Turismo Omologato) guaranteed demand and in the end 272 cars were built. They sold out immediately, the 288 GTO achieved iconic status.

Looking at the auction houses gives a clue as to why this matter, the spiritual ancestor of this car, the 250 GTO, achieves prices way, way in excess of any other car. The 250 GTO is the Holy Grail of Ferraris, the ultimate object of desire for those with ‘Il Cavallino Rampante’ in their hearts. A look through the list of owners of the 288 GTO turns up some well known names, four FIA World Champions, Niki Lauda, Keke Rosberg, Michael Schumacher and Bobby Garretson. F1 notables such as Adrian Newey, Eddie Irvine, Walter Wolf, Jean-Pierre Van Rossem and Michele Alboreto have had a 288 GTO as have endurance racing stalwarts Fredy Lienhard, John Bosch, Giuseppe Lucchini, Hans Hugenholtz, Martino Finotto, Rik Bryan and Jean Blaton aka ‘Beurlys’. Arguably the most famous owner was front-man from the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger, proving that

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need

However it was not just sentiment or the collection of stars that purchased the car that makes it special, the 288 GTO was a very important car in the Ferrari story. It was the first Ferrari to utilise the modern technology developed from motor sport to enhance performance and the driving experience. Powered by a 2.8 litre V8 with twin turbochargers installed longitudinally in a tubular chassis derived from the 308 GTB and clothed by a body made of a glass-fibre or mixes with Nomex and/or Kevlar.

To quote Joe Sackey, author of the book that is the last word on the 288 GTO. ‘This car epitomised a new beginning for Ferrari, and served to popularize its road-going cars in a way that previous models had not. The 288 GTO was truly the last car that Enzo Ferrari had any direct influence on, personally naming the car and setting a mandate for his men which left little doubt about his goals by stating: “What we have to do is build a new version of the Berlinetta. We shall call it the GTO.” ‘ No pressure then, but the result of this encouragement speaks for itself, it is a truly special car, even by the standards of Maranello.

If the 288 GTO had restored Ferrari’s reputation for producing the ultimate supercar, then its successor, the F40, propelled this status to the heavens. The F40 was intended to celebrate Ferrari’s 40th anniversary and it took the performance of the 288 GTO to another level and was claimed to be the fastest car in the world at the time of introduction in 1987 and the first road-legal production car to exceed 200mph.

It was not just the performance but also the dramatic style of the F40 that caused shock waves when publicly unveiled to the world at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Enzo Ferrari was well aware that his time was short, as he was approaching 90, and he encouraged his workers to create the ‘ultimate Ferrari’, he would have felt satisfaction at the results of his encouragement.

 

Available only in ‘Rosso Corsa’ and despite the eye-watering price tag, the F40 was a best seller, 1,311 examples were produced in the production run stretching from 1987 to 1992. The Ferrari F40 is right up there in the pantheon of Maranello’s heroes.

 

Any serious consideration of the roll call of Maranello’s Heroes would have to include the 365 GTB/4 or perhaps the even more precious 365 GTS/4. This handsome beast catapulted Ferrari back to the top of the supercar tree in the face of the challenge of the Lamborghini Miura, much as the 288 GTO and F40 would do in the following decades. Moreover the car was nicknamed as the ‘Daytona’ in a salute to the 1-2-3 victory in the 1967 edition of the Daytona 24 Hours, despite heavyweight opposition from the normally rampant Ford factory effort that suffered with catastrophic transmission failures in all their entries. To beat Ford so comprehensively in their own backyard must have been particularly sweet for Enzo Ferrari, especially in view of the drubbings that Ferrari endured in 1966 at the hands of the Detroit giant,  the Daytona designation was allowed to stick.

The Daytona was first presented at the 1968 Paris Salon and although production was slow to begin with, by the time the model was replaced in 1973 1,284 examples were built. The numbers on the convertible were were much smaller, all but 18 of the 122 production run were destined for the US market and this is one of the few.

The premium attracted by the desirability of the open top has led to some conversions from the original coupé. Author and Ferrari expert, Anthony Pritchard, in his excellent book The Road Ferraris, gets quite cross about this vandalism as he sees it: “Prices of the open cars are ludicrously high, even by classic car standards, and rather foolishly some Berlinettas were rebuilt as convertibles by Autokraft and other concerns, with sellers often anticipating similar prices. Original Daytona Spiders are worth a very great deal of money, but converted coupés simply debase the coinage, and no genuine and serious enthusiast, as opposed to misguided investors, would buy one.” Well that told us.

Another strikingly elegant convertible on display was this 250 GT Series ll Cabriolet that was introduced at the 1959 Paris Salon. 202 examples of this car were made up to 1962.

No assembly of Ferraris would be complete without a Dino and this 246 GT is particularly attractive. The Dino is a truly landmark car in Ferrari’s history. Glen Smale in his great book, Ferrari Design – The Definitive Study  had this to say: “Pininfarina readily admit that the stylistic approach of the Dino concept served as the foundation for all successive mid-engined Ferraris. Perhaps this fact serves to highlight the importance of this model.”

So there I rest my case, a high bar has been set and with the 70th birthday of Ferrari in prospect the Salon Privé will have its work cut out to go one better in 2017, I look forward to seeing the results.

John Brooks, December 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Dressing for the Lawn

The arrival of September signals the shift in the seasons here in England. It also heralds the final flourish in the automotive events’ calendar with the best left till last. I looked at Windsor Castle’s Councours of Elegance briefly and here is a similar overview of the Salon Privé, held in the magnificent shadow of Blenheim Palace. A more detailed appraisal will appear later this month.

John Brooks, September 2016