Now in its fourth year, the Salon Privé has really come of age. It is London’s premier classic and supercar event combining a superlative concours with the showing of select new and concept cars in the beautiful grounds of the exclusive Hurlingham Club.
Salon Privé is one long garden party during the day, starting with the VIP Day, followed by Ladies Day and the finale being the Concours Judging Day on the Friday. The evening gala dinners include a Sportsmen’s Dinner, a Summer Ball and the Concours d’Elégance Award dinner, which this year erupts into a full-on dance party with excellent live music.
As Octane is one of the sponsors of Salon Privé, I have been invited to join the judging panel headed up by Derek Bell and including Vicki Butler-Henderson, Tiff Needell and Marek Reichman, the Aston Martin design supremo. The organizers have done a great job of collecting a superb and sizable line-up of fabulous classic cars for the concours. Everyone who is anyone is here, ranging from collector Neil Corner to musician Jay Kay roaring about in the ex-Bruce Willis Dodge Charger.
Salon Privé is uniquely British. It is a frightfully smart affair but with a twist of fun. Some drivers can’t resist laying down a bit of rubber next to the croquet lawn and Max Wakefield fires up his P4 racing car. The shriek of the F1 V10 Benetton engine has club lance-corporals running from all directions!
The arduous task of judging the various classes begins in the usual way: lunch. Derek Bell heads the team and I am paired up with television presenter and racing driver Vicki Butler–Henderson and architect David Nelson of Foster and Partners fame, to judge the Grand Routier and Ferrari classes. Other classes include Aston Martin: Birth of the DB Series; Hall of Fame: Supercars of the 1970s; American Muscle Cars and Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans.
With the showers clearing we avoid the Champagne tent and get to work. The first class, Grand Routier: Panache of the 1930s and '40s consists of an immaculate Hispano Suiza J12; Delahaye 135; 8 Liter Bentley; Auburn Speedster; Bugatti T46 and T57; Derby Bentley; Mercedes-Benz 710; Rolls-Royce Phantom I and Jaguar SS1 Coupé. Vicki is immediately taken with the bodacious 1935 Auburn 851 Boat-tail Speedster. Owner Andrew Crisford explains that it is righthand drive because it was supplied to South Africa and raced by its owner Roy Evans in the first South African Grand Prix. Crisford drives the Auburn regularly including trips to France, and he remarks that the supercharged straight-eight is relaxed and economical. Exactly what this superb old car should be doing.
Neil Corner has brought along his fantastic 8 Liter Bentley which looks fast just standing still on the lawn. He shows Vick the huge engine, which is tuned to do an easy 130mph, and nonchalantly tells her that he will be driving it back to Yorkshire after the show. Good man.
Architect David Nelson is drawn to the supremely elegant 1935 Bugatti Type 57 Grand Raid with its Faux Cabriolet-Atalante coachwork. Enthusiastically owned by the equally elegant Claire Harrill, this matching-numbers Bugatti is one of just three built and it was recorded for years as ‘whereabouts unknown’ but has now been restored to absolute correct perfection.
Ex-racing driver Peter Blond’s Bentley 41/4 Vanden Plas is extremely elegant, as is Peter Reeves’ Hispano J12 and Delahaye 135, but the judges all come to the conclusion that the immaculate 1933 Jaguar SS1 Coupé owned by Dr James Hull is the winner. Created by William Lyons and powered by a 2-liter six-cylinder engine, the Jaguar looks superbly rakish and lean with its long bonnet and short tail. It is taut and narrow with a comfortable interior trimmed in sumptuous red leather. The SS1 exudes style and panache.
Next it’s the Ferrari Roadsters, and the impressive line-up includes Chris Evans’ 250GT California Spider as well as David Cottingham’s Cal Spider; Clive Bates’ 275 GTS; Peter Read’s 250GT; Stewart Ross’ Dino; Martin Chisholm’s 225S recently reunited with its original 2.7-liter V12 engine; Jon Hunt’s Daytona Spider and Paul Bailey’s F430 Scuderia Spider. All absolutely fabulous, and we agree that we would like to own each and every Ferrari here. But the stand-out car is Clive Beecham’s 1968 275GTB/4 NART Spider. Only 10 NART Spiders were built. Conceived by American Ferrari importer, Lugi Chinetti (hence North American Racing Team) these 275s were the first road-going Ferraris to feature four camshafts, and Beecham’s example is the only one outside of America. Steve McQueen was an owner and the NART is regarded as an ultimate Ferrari. Finished in its original silver, the Ferrari is totally immaculate and wins the class as well as the prestigious Best of Show award.
With the judging completed Derek Bell announces the Class Winners and Runners Up. The concours classics fire up and drive through the grounds to the red carpet to receive their trophies. Simon Kidston’s superlative black Lamborghini SV wins the Octane and evo Hall of Fame: Supercars of the ‘70s award with Alexander Fyshe’s Maserati Ghibli taking the Runner Up award. London now has an elegant, world-class Concours d’Elégance thanks to Salon Privé.
Images: Tim Scott, www.fluidimages.co.uk