Tag Archives: Salon Privé

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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 high 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 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 drive day, 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

 

A Most Agreeable Event

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One of the highlights of my motoring year is the Salon Privé, a fusion of the automobile and a traditional English garden party.

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Held this year for the first time in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, a fitting arena for the show.

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And I was lucky enough to get an invitation to ride with Dirk de Jäger in the Cisitalia 202S-MM that finished fourth overall in the 1947 Mille Miglia. I wrote about that red letter day HERE

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The Cisitalia was a rival for Ferrari back in the immdiate post-war period in Italy.

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I had a closer look at the fabulous Italian sports car HERE

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Another amazing Italian on the lawn at Blenheim was the Ferrari FXX K, a universe away from the Cisitalia.

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Boasting 1,050hp obtained with the latest technology HY-KERS system topping up a more traditional V12 lump. More can be seen HERE and if you get time click on the film of Sebastian Vettel wringing the neck of the FXX K at Fiorano, astounding.

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Going to these high end car events I have come to the conclusion that a Concours can be judged on the quality of the Ferraris on display, arbitrary and unfair, but so is life.

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Salon Privé ticked all the boxes in this challenge as illustrated HERE

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Numerically outnumbered by Maranello’s crop, Porsche was represented by several models from its illustrious past, the pick of the bunch was the ex-Ben Pon 904 GTS, more on that HERE

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One of the attractions of Salon Privé is the range of cars that are assembled each year. Away from the usual content there are always autos on display that have you reaching for the catalogue to figure out what they are. Two of these Lancia Sport Prototipo Zagatos were built in 1964 though this is the sole survivor.

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Another one-off is this Goldmanini, Italian styling from the ’50s at its simple best.

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Even the car park will produce the unusual, a Zagato-styled Bentley Continental GTZ. More can be seen HERE of these cars.

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The quality of the cars on display encourages my photographic side, so the Fujis are fired up searching for THE shot.

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Naturally I cannot find it but it is not for want of trying.

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The full gallery can be seen HERE

The next Salon Privé will be held at Blenheim Palace on 1-3 September, don’t miss it.

John Brooks, December 2015

The Distant Horns of Summer

2013 Salon Privé

Salon Privé is a delightful affair, relaxed, stylish, just the right way to round off the summer and prepare for the long nights to come. Fabulous cars, gourmet grub and some very pleasant company, what more could you ask for? I even got to ride in an Alfa Romeo 8C courtesy of Dirk, thanks old boy.

So here is a gallery from Wednesday……………..

John Brooks, September 2013

A Touch of Class

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There are many celebrations of the automobile taking place in every corner of the globe, inevitably some are better than others. So the top table would be composed of the likes of the concours at Amelia Island, Villa d’Este and Pebble Beach to name but three. Here in England we could advance the charms of Goodwood’s twins, the Festival of Speed and the Revival, which stand comparison with any. However until recently London, one of the true world cities, did not have a motoring event to match, not even a domestic motor show.

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That omission has now been put right and we now have not one, but two world class events within reach of the capital. Even better they are at around the same time, early September. The first of these is Salon Privé, currently held at Syon House, the London residence of the Duke of Northumberland, a truly magnificent setting and less than ten miles from the center of town.

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Held over three days the event combines a passion for automobiles with a taste of the finer things in life, all very agreeable. There is something for everyone at this festival of the car.

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The 2013 edition will take place on 4-5-6 September and details, tickets etc., can be found HERE

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The highlight of the event is the Concours d’Elegance, which is judged on the first day, by the likes of Le Mans legend, Derek Bell, and design guru, Peter Stevens.

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There are also Hyper and Super car exhibitions and a number of new cars will be shown in the UK for the first time. It is a top class affair and well worth the time and expense. The tickets are not cheap but you get very well looked after in the refreshments department and it certainly beats the crowds at Goodwood or the misery of Silverstone. Go, you will not regret it.

John Brooks, August 2013

 

Le Pétoulet

To win one Monaco Grand Prix driving a Ferrari is quite an accomplishment. To repeat the victory three years later driving for Rob Walker is to be in truly exalted company. Maurice Trintignant was an exceptional driver with a 14 year career in Formula One, scoring points at the Nordschleife in his 44th year. He was the driver of the last Bugatti to race in a Grand Prix and with José Froilán González triumphed at Le Mans in 1954.

After he retired from motorsport, Trintignant had a vineyard near Vergèze, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. He called his vintage Le Pétoulet after the nickname he had been bestowed by his fellow drivers in 1945.

In his wonderful autobiography “F-Stops, Pit Stops, Tears and Laughter” Bernard Cahier tells the full story.

“He (Maurice) owned a Bugatti 37B which he’d hidden in a barn during the war. When he took it out and raced it for the first time after the conflict he discovered the engine was starved for fuel. Upon further investigation he discovered that a family of mice had taken up residence in the gas tank while it had been in the barn and the fuel line was clogged with their droppings. Telling this story to his friend and fellow driver, Jean-Pierre Wimille he said, “You know Jean-Pierre my gas tank was full of pétoules” – the provincial word for mice droppings. Wimille had a good laugh and then told Maurice, “That’s appropriate because you’re nothing but a big pétoulet yourself!” From that moment the name stuck.”

So it was quite a surprise to see this wine bottle on a windscreen at Salon Privé and recall the tale. I doubt that the wine deserved the branding, especially coming from that beautiful corner of France. One day maybe I will sample……………

John Brooks, September 2012

To purchase a copy of this great book go to

http://www.autosportsltd.com/shop/books/bernard-cahier-f-stops-pit-stops-laughter-tears/

Lawn Dressing

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


 

Blue & Orange

There is an odd feeling evident in London over the past two months. The Olympic Effect, usually heavy on cost and light on return, has changed the way Londoners react to each other, pockets of civility have broken out, a new found confidence in the national identity. Whether this will last is anyone’s guess, perhaps the feelgood atmosphere will fade as the autumn slips into winter. It would be nice to think that the Games really will have a legacy.

As if in harmony with the wider world, on the motoring front it is as if London has taken to impersonating the Monterey Peninsula, during the Pebble Beach Concours week. In the past seven days those of us who are into fine automobiles and the like, have had several birthdays and Christmases all come at once. Kicking off the week was Chelsea Auto Legends, then on Wednesday I toddled over to Syon Park for the 2012 Salon Privé, then the past two days were spent marvelling at the Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance. I defy anyone to match the sheer quality of the cars on show, truly one is fortunate to be in this part of the world right now.

So rich and varied has the content been at the latter two events I consider it almost impossible to produce a single blog post that would do justice to the story. So for the next week or so I will take elements that caught my eye and try and bring them to life for the readers.

In the past two years one of the most significant additions to the historic sportscar scene has been the ROFGO Collection. Put together for a private collector by Duncan Hamilton & Co., the central theme that runs through it is that the cars included were sponsored by Gulf Oil, so plenty of icons to choose from.

The collection was the centrepiece display for the 2012 Salon Privé and certainly did the event and location justice.

Oldest car in the collection is the Mirage M1, winner of the 1967 Spa 1000 Kilometres, a race that put Jacky Ickx on the map and established his reputation for being special in the wet. If your local track is Spa then………………

This Mirage was the first to wear the colours of Blue and Orange, a sponsorship deal that was arranged between team owner John Wyer and Gulf Oil VP and sportscar nut, Grady Davis. The funding enabled John Wyer to form JWAutomotive with John Willment. He then recruited John Horsman, David Yorke and Ermano Cuoghi to create one of motorsport’s legendary outfits.

Next on the lawn was the Mirage BRM M2, not one of the cars to trouble the record books and probably the worst to come out of JWAutomotive. Unreliable and with wayward handling, the scale of disaster was disguised in the wake of the double triumph for the team at Le Mans in 1968 and 1969 utilising the venerable GT40. Porsche were on the horizon with the 917, this canine could be quietly forgotten.

The stuff of legends, a simple recipe. Take the coolest guy on the planet, the coolest car of almost any time, the greatest race of them all, season with an insane Hollywood budget and cook at high pressure for several months, final result is immortality.

“A lot of people go through life doing things badly. Racing’s important to men who do it well. When you’re racing, it… it’s life. Anything that happens before or after… is just waiting.”

Steve McQueen, Gulf Porsche 917 and Le Mans, what more needs to be said?

An unmistakable profile, the Porsche 908/3, a clear signal of Porsche’s determination to pound the opposition into dust. Problems with the 917 at Nürburgring or on the Targa Florio? Well run the 908/3 instead.

JWAutomotive had an involvement with a German manufacturer a whole year before signing their deal with Porsche. They acquired a Mercedes transporter in 1969 and at Salon Privé the ROFGO Collection showed off their restored truck for the first time in public. Speaking with the collection’s chief mechanic, Ted Higgins, we both agreed that it would be very cool to use this to take the cars to the next Le Mans Classic, though whether Ted would play Michael Delaney or Tommy Hopkins, was open to question.

In 1969 Gulf Oil also backed a couple of Formula One teams, so it was no real surprise to find a Brabham BT26 on the lawn.

The other famous association between Gulf Oil and motorsport some 40 years ago was with McLaren, whether in Formula One with the M14A.

Or in Can-Am as illustrated by the M20, truly giants roamed the earth during that brief era……….

Gulf Oil all but disappeared after the take over by Chevron Oil in 1984, but the brand still existed in the UK. A relaunch of the company in 1991 included a plan to tap into the enthusiasm of British Le Mans’ fans. So in 1994 Gulf were back at Le Sarthe.

Not only was Gulf blue back, but so too was 1971 Gulf Porsche 917 driver, Derek Bell. Five time victor at La Sarthe, including in a Gulf Mirage in 1975, Bell was the ideal ambassador for the brand and still quick enough to be second fastest overall in Qualifying. The Kremer K8 was a development of the Porsche 962.

 

The next step was to reunite with the other famous racing marque, McLaren.

In 1995 and 1996, Blue & Orange were reunited on a pair of F1 GTR’s resulting in many race victories and the 1996 BPR Endurance Series titles for Ray Bellm and James Weaver.

1997 saw the launch of the FIA GT Championship, with the Gulf liveried longtail F1 GTRs.

And one of the greatest endurance racers of them all, the Audi R8 also sported Blue & Orange in 2001.

Paul Belmondo brought the colours back to Le Mans in 2006 with his Courage C65.

Since that time another icon of the motoring world, Aston Martin has turned Blue & Orange. A DBR9……………

Then back as a prototype on the Lola Aston Martin LM P1

The ROFGO Collection is fantastic, Automotive art of the highest order. Even more fortunate is the willingness of the owner to share his treasures with the rest of us, not a cheap enterprise. It was a highly polished jewel at the centre of the 2012 Salon Privé, in total harmony with the ethos of the event.

John Brooks, September 2012