Now in its third year, the Chelsea Auto Legends is maturing nicely and has become a must do event if you are in and around London in early September. The timing of the show is providential from a family perspective, marking the end of summer holidays and just before the schools go back.
While bringing a dash of speed and style to this exclusive part of London, not that the Royal Borough needs much more of either, there is a more serious purpose to the Chelsea Auto Legends and that is to raise money for The Royal Hospital and other Armed Services’ charities. For this year the featured charity was Walking with the Wounded, a very worthy cause. http://walkingwiththewounded.org.uk/
The Royal Hospital was opened in 1692 and is a retirement and nursing home to former British service men and women. Designed initially by Sir Christopher Wren, the buildings are in need of extensive refurbishment. This expensive project formed the catalyst for Chelsea resident, and long time Le Mans fan, Michael Scott, to conceive and then create a show that brings the flavour of the world’s greatest race to Central London. Since that initial objective was first achieved the horizons have expanded and this year something could be found for everyone of a automotive mind.
Greeting the visitors as they pass into the grounds was a fine collection of cars brought along for the day by their proud owners. Ferrari, Cobra and Jaguar on the roll call, and all marques with real Le Mans pedigree.
Further into the estate and the first real racers were encountered, a Porsche 911 GT1 from Le Mans 1997, though the front diveplanes and rear aerofoil configurations came from later developments of the car.
Another factory Porsche on parade was the 1983 winning 956/003. That was a real skin of the teeth performance as the engine started to smoke badly during Al Holbert’s final laps with the water temperature going off the scale. Holbert just about made it across the line at the conclusion of 24 hours, another lap would have seen the engine seize. Another lap would also have seen Derek Bell’s factory 956 run out of fuel, which would have left Mario and Michael Andretti as winners in the Kremer 956. Small margins always play a big part at La Sarthe.
How could you have an event in London with a Le Mans’ flavour and not feature the Bentley Boys?
Or my old friend the Harrods McLaren for that matter.
The cars that raced at Le Mans is an important element in the Chelsea Auto Legends but another strong representation comes from the Italian Car Clubs and the turnout for 2012 was fantastic. I was drawn to this Maserati MC12, outshining its cousin , the Enzo. My old friend and Le Mans racer, Joe Macari was prominent with his fabulous set of Italian classics.
And who can resist a pretty Alfa Romeo?
Or this butch Abarth 500?
When it comes to tough guys, who is going to argue with the Subaru, smart in East African trim?
Quattro, still with the capacity to startle in the flesh.
Another integral part of the London Auto scene are the folks from the Ace Café, though we are all Mods at heart.
Perhaps one of the biggest draws of the day was the SuperCar Parade, certainly the audience flocked to see the cars arrive.
Bugattis, Ferraris, Maseratis, Porsche all sounding like an automotive celestial choir.
At the other end of the noise scale is the electric powered Lola B12/69EV of Lord Drayson.
The Brooklands Museum had a substantial presence, reminding us of our sporting heritage.
And the ROFGO collection also brought along a few gems.
The Show expanded in area to virtually all parts of the estate and dotted around the place, like garden sculptures, were classics such as this Citroën DS21.
Another Citroën on the grass, this one a modified DS19, Le Dandy Coupé, only 50 made and snip at £79,995……………..
For those in need of their regular Sunday fix of retail therapy, there were many fine stalls. Budding Eric Claptons could source exactly the right shade of blues……………
Those wanting automotive art for the walls could do worse than this colourful depiction of the 1971 Daytona 24 Hours.
Art and motorsport come together with this McLaren F1 GTR
And then there were other distractions………………..
The Chelsea Pensioners also inspected the visitors………………one hopes that they approve of the disruption to their regular Sunday morning routines.
Though what they made of the Ghost Busters Wagon is anyone’s guess.
The Chelsea Auto Legends is well worth the time to visit, great cars in an historic location, well organised and for the benefit of a host of worthy causes. What’s not to like? See you there next year.
John Brooks, September 2012