Blenheim Palace is about as English as an English country house can get – situated in the pretty Cotswolds village of Woodstock, just outside Oxford, it was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and its gardens were designed by Capability Brown. It was also built to commemorate victory over the French in 1704…
So it makes a cracking backdrop to Coys’ annual summer garden party, where an auction of quality classics is complemented by an informal and easy-going concours meet – a kind of ‘show what ya brung’ rather than a ‘get the cotton buds out, Mabel’ type of event.
After a week of intermittently heavy rain, Coys’ frontman and auctioneer Chris Routledge was looking extremely relieved as the sun broke out and a diverse line-up of classics rolled through the Palace parkland. There are no rules or regulations to the Coys’ concours: you just park up next to whatever happens to be there already, then take a stroll around the auction marquee or visit the Palace while the concours judges do their rounds.
Three trophies were up for grabs this year: the Coys-sponsored Churchill Trophy, the Octane Trophy, and the Spirit of Motoring Trophy. Octane deputy editor Mark Dixon threw his two-penn’orth into the ring and nominated a gorgeous Aston Martin DB6 Volante as winner of the Octane cup: owned by Julian Fox of London, this understated, dark green convertible is regularly used for holidays on the Continent and has clocked up 25,000 miles in the last few years.
Andrew Pisker’s imposing vintage Bentley won the Churchill Trophy, while the Spirit of Motoring award went to familiar VSCC face (and manager of Nick Mason’s Ten-Tenths classic fleet) Mike Hallowes, for his wonderfully shabby XK120 Open Two Seater roadster – one of the very first steel-bodied XKs.
Other noteworthy cars in the concours included a brace of matching Mercedes-Benz 190SLs, an early flat-floor E-type and an amazing Corvette Mako Shark-style concept, which sadly burbled off home again before the morning was out. But that’s the attraction of this event: do what you like, when you like.