This year’s Salon Privé Week attracted some stunning cars and bikes to wonderful grounds of Blenheim Palace from 22-26 September, including a record number (93 over 17 classics – 77 cars and 16 motorbikes) of entries for the prestigious Concours d’Elégance.
I think the true winners of this event are the event organisers, Andrew and David Bagley who bravely went ahead, when so much was at stake and so many others would have cancelled. Despite growing Covid-concern, safety was paramount and a robust COVID-19 system was in place including the pioneering introduction of the CI Group’s Liber track and trace app. A master stroke of genius. Perhaps if the Bagley brothers could now sort out the rest of the country, our classic loving life can continue.
The week got under way with a new VIP Media Day on 22 September with some of the world’s greatest brands choosing Salon Privé and Blenheim Palace as the perfect venue at which to unveil their latest models. Click here for our review.
In the Concours of Elegance, a sublime selection of machinery made up the pre-war classes, and the Veterans At The Palace group was topped by a 1919 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. Built in the marque’s Springfield, Massachusetts factory, the car played a starring role in the 1974 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, which starred Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.
A matching-numbers 1936 SS Jaguar 100 that boasts period competition history and was used as the basis for a Matchbox scale model topped the Pre-War Touring class, while 110 years of Alfa Romeo history was celebrated with a dedicated category that was won by an ex-Scuderia Ferrari 8C Monza Zagato. Legendary Italian ace Tazio Nuvolari took chassis 2111044 to victory in the 1932 Coppa Principe di Piemonte, and also competed in the prestigious Klausenrennen hillclimb that year.
And that wasn’t the only Alfa Romeo to be recognised by the judges. The Milestones of Endurance Racing class was new for this year, and the 12-cylinder category was won by an ex-works Tipo 33 TT12. Chassis 008 started its racing career at the 1974 Monza 1000km and took a glorious victory on home turf in the hands of Arturo Merzario and Mario Andretti. It then successfully raced on into 1975 with the likes of Brian Redman, Jacky Ickx and Vittorio Brambilla.
The other Milestones of Endurance Racing class was won by a 1988 Porsche 962 – the model that helped to define the fabulous Group C era of sportscar racing and which was the privateer’s weapon of choice during the second half of the 1980s.
Other highlights included the winner of the Most Exceptional Coachwork award – an ex-Sir Malcolm Campbell 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Touring Saloon that was making its final appearance in the UK before heading to India, where Yohan Poonawalla will house it in the prestigious YZP Collection & Museum. Campbell’s grandson, Don Wales, was at Blenheim Palace to meet its new owner and bid farewell to the car.
Ferraris always play a starring role in the world’s most prestigious concours d’elégance, and Salon Privé was no exception. One of the most significant cars in the marque’s illustrious history topped the Post-War Sports Racers class – the 166MM that in 1949 won both the Mille Miglia in the hands of Clemente Biondetti and Ettore Salani, and the Le Mans 24 Hours courtesy of Luigi Chinetti and Lord Selsdon. Chassis 0008M remains the only car to have won both of those famous events in the same year.
An exceptional Dino 246 GTS that was making its first appearance following the completion of a three-year restoration deservedly took the Post-War Touring (Open) class, while one of only 22 right-hand-drive 250 GT Lussos won the Passione Ferrari class. The success of the Maranello marque was capped by the 1991 Ferrari F40 that took the honours in the Classics of the Future (Pre-2000) category. The Post-2000 class was won by a 2006 Pagani Zonda Roadster F.
One of only three surviving Henri Chapron-bodied Citroën Le Paris won the Post-War Touring (Closed, four-seater) class. The Gallic beauty – which was presented at Blenheim Palace fresh out of restoration – was displayed at the 1960 Geneva Salon and is unique in that it was the only Le Paris to use the ID platform rather than the DS. The Post-War Touring (Closed, two-seater) class was won by an Aston Martin DB4 Series II that was bought new by Sir Robertson Huntly Stewart, who used it to tour Europe for six months before taking it home to his native New Zealand.
New for this year was an award for Most Exceptional Design. Named in honour of Sir Winston Churchill, who was born at Blenheim Palace, the ‘Churchill Cup’ was judged by some of the most respected automotive designers in the world and was presented to a 1936 Lancia Astura Pinin Farina ‘Bocca’ Cabriolet.
Marek Reichman, Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer Aston Martin, said: “It was an extremely difficult choice with an outstanding field to judge, but after many discussions and deliberations the Lancia came through with a majority vote. The ‘Bocca’ Pinin Farina-styled cabriolet is an incredibly elegant and wonderfully proportioned car, with each element in harmony. The exquisite detailing and imagination on the interior made it a clear victor. A truly remarkable car and a very worthy winner.”
Friday was dedicated to the Salon Privé Masters by Pirelli and Lockton. This year’s event was a celebration of the supercar and its evolution from the Lamborghini Miura of the 1960s to the engineering masterpieces of the 21st century; class winners included a 1995 McLaren F1 and a 2009 Bugatti Veyron.
The Duke of Marlborough Award went to a 1987 Lotus Esprit Turbo HC, and the Owners’ Choice was selected not by a panel of judges, but by the entrants themselves with the honours going to a spectacular 1979 BMW M1, one of the rarest BMW production cars ever built fitted with Procar-style bodywork. This particular example was owned new by Franz Farian founding member and the voice behind the 1970s pop group and disco sensation ‘Boney M’.
Salon Privé Chairman Andrew Bagley said: “Every year, we welcome the world’s greatest cars to Blenheim Palace, and 2020 was no exception. The finest marques in automotive history were represented in the Concours d’Elégance – our chosen specialists and marque experts really had their work cut out with the judging process, and the winners represent the very best of the international classic-car scene.”
Wrapping up the week on Saturday was the hotly anticipated Salon Privé Classic & Supercar day, tickets for which sold out within a record seven minutes of going on sale! More than 1100 cars took part in a procession into the grounds of Blenheim Palace, with models new and old on display from Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Maserati, McLaren and Porsche. The keenly contested Salon Privé Club Trophy was awarded to a beautiful 1972 Lamborghini Miura SV bought brand new from the factory by musician Rod Stewart. It has the split sump, air-con, blue leather interior and recording cassette deck, so that Rod could hum and record melodies to take to the studio. The car is featured in his autobiography.
Photographs thanks to Oliver Flower @fullthrottlephotos (Please contact Oliver for permissions or hi-resolution copies)
Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance 2020 – Award Winners