Described as an ‘automotive garden party at the heart of the city’, London Concours is one of the capital’s most eclectic car shows. This year, around 100 rare and exotic machines assembled at the Honourable Artillery Company, near Moorgate, from a vintage Rolls-Royce to a V8-powered Aston Martin Cygnet.
The featured ‘Great Marques’ for 2019 are Ferrari and Jaguar, while there are themed displays celebrating forgotten brands, modified ‘outlaws’, cars made in Germany – and much more. Here are our highlights.
If, like us, you misspent your youth playing Out Run, the Ferrari Testarossa needs no introduction. An icon of the 1980s – a white example starred in Miami Vice – its dramatic, wide-hipped Pininfarina styling epitomised the era of excess.
‘Testarossa’ translates into English as ‘red head’, so-called because its cam covers are painted Ferrari racing red. A mid-mounted 390hp flat-12 gave 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds and a top speed of 180mph. Launched in 1984, the car later evolved into the 512 TR (1992) and F512 M (1995). It was replaced by the front-engined 550 Maranello in 1996.
The Testarossa’s arch-rival and another 1980s poster hero, the Lamborghini Countach is the archetypal supercar. Its angular, wedge-shaped silhouette, complete with upwards-opening scissor doors, still looks radical today. It replaced the – equally crowd-stopping – Miura in 1974, and remained in production until 1990. Early ‘Periscopo’ cars, which had a roof-mounted periscope in place of a rear-view mirror, are most sought-after today.
The power output of the Countach’s V12 swelled over the years – from 375hp to 455hp in the final 25th Anniversary edition (co-developed by Horacio Pagani). This latter version could hit 62mph in 4.7 seconds and 183mph.
Part of the Great Marques display to celebrate Jaguar, this D-Type is one of the most valuable cars at London Concours. The aerodynamic sports racer was developed to win the Le Mans 24 Hours – and did so in 1955, 1956 and 1957. Its innovative rear fin took inspiration from aircraft, increasing stability along the 170mph Mulsanne Straight.
Power came from a 3.4-litre straight-six, mounted at 8.5 degrees from vertical to reduce frontal area. Only 71 D-Types were built, 18 for the factory racing team and 53 for customers. Jaguar stopped production in 1956, but subsequently sold 16 cars converted to road-going XKSS specification.
BMW has built countless M-cars over the years, but only two true supercars: the i8 and M1. Originally a joint-project with Lamborghini, the mid-engined M1 was a homologation special, conceived to allow BMW to compete in Group 5 sports car racing. That didn’t go according to plan: the Germans and Italians swiftly parted ways – spurred on, no doubt, by Lamborghini’s financial meltdown – and rule-changes excluded the M1 from its chosen race series.
Nonetheless, BMW salvaged success from the jaws of defeat. The M1 got its own one-make Procar championship supporting Formula One, and the 277hp road car (seen here) was a credible Porsche 911 Turbo rival. Its subtle Giugiaro styling has aged remarkably well, too.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
The original Golf GTI had a seismic impact. Its winsome blend of style, performance and practicality made it a sales sensation, defining the hot hatchback as we still know it. This particular GTI, owned by James Bullen, is a 1983 Campaign – the run-out edition with a twin-headlamp grille, green-tinted glass and Pirelli alloys.
We were lucky enough to sample James’s GTI for CAR magazine earlier this year, saying: “Drive at eight-tenths and the Golf is smoother than synthpop, dispatching broken B-roads with a loose-limbed fluidity that modern hatches can’t match.” Let’s hope it wins some London Concours silverware.
Porsche 911 2.7 RS
No classic car show is complete without a 1973 2.7 RS. It’s the original Rennsport, a car born for the racetrack then tamed for the road. It’s also (notwithstanding the number of replicas) a rare beast. Porsche only built 1,525 examples: 17 RSH homologation cars, 200 stripped-out RS Lightweights and 1,308 RS Tourings – the latter more luxurious and 100kg heavier. The best can sell for nigh-on £1 million.
The 911’s air-cooled flat-six delivers 213hp, 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds and 152mph. Wider Fuchs alloys boost cornering ability, aided by stiffer suspension and that trademark ducktail spoiler. Porsche payed tribute to the RS in 2009 with the limited-edition 911 Sport Classic.
‘The Ghost’ Porsche 911
From the ultimate purists’ 911 to something altogether more personal. This one-off 911 is well known in Porsche circles and even gained a thumbs-up from Magnus Walker, godfather of the ‘Outlaw’ modified Porsche scene. His video with the car, accompanied by a pounding Prodigy soundtrack, is well worth seeking out online.
‘The Ghost’ started life as a 1984 3.2 Carrera Sport, but has been customised into a lightweight B-road weapon. Notable additions include a 3.0 RSR-style front bumper, roll cage, dished Fuchs wheels and Sparco seats.
Ferrari Dino ‘Evo’
If you felt troubled by that 911, this modified Ferrari – also part of the ‘Outlaws’ category at London Concours – might push you over the edge. Thankfully, owner Kevin O’Rourke, whose business Mototechnique did all the work, hasn’t messed with the Dino’s gorgeous lines, although he admits the Ferrari 360 alloys are controversial. Under the skin, however, this classic packs a 300hp punch, with a tuned 328 engine and F355 fuel injection.
Driving Kevin’s car for City AM, we said: “With the lift-out Spyder roof removed, the V8 sounds magnificent. It’s multi-layered and richly mechanical, gurgles and gasps of induction augmented by zingy rasps from the exhausts. The Evo is quick enough to worry hot hatchbacks, but it’s more about sensation than raw speed.”
Classics don’t come any classier than a Citroen DS. The Déesse (goddess) seemed like science fiction in 1955, and has hardly dated since. Now Citroen has an entire car brand named after its most iconic model, but its DS3 crossover and DS 5 SUV aren’t fit to scrub the original’s floor mats. Pas du tout.
The DS wasn’t just breathtakingly beautiful: it also introduced technology years ahead of its time. Advanced hydraulic systems controlled the self-levelling suspension, power steering, clutch and transmission. The car became the preferred choice of French presidents and remained in production for 20 years.
Everyone knows about the Jaguar XJ220, while the XJR-15 has faded into obscurity. Ironically, the latter was partly a reaction to its more famous cousin, which was watered-down from V12 concept to V6 reality. Tom Walkinshaw, Jaguar racing driver and team owner, wanted no such compromises: his supercar would be a road-legal version of the XJR-9. And Peter Stevens, later of McLaren F1 fame, would design it.
A savage 6.0-litre V12 developed 450hp and shared many parts with the Le Mans-winning racer. It was wrapped in fully carbon fibre bodywork – a world-first – with a completely flat floor and rear diffuser. Performance was quoted at 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and 191mph. Only 53 examples were made.
Venturing into The Lost Marques area of London Concours, here’s a 1966 Gordon-Keeble. This debonair British GT is one of just 100 built. Its Italianate styling was the work of Giugiaro, although it was initially assembled in Slough. The car’s badge famously featured a tortoise, after a pet wandered (presumably quite slowly) into its first photoshoot.
With a 300hp 5.4-litre Chevrolet V8 and glass fibre bodywork, the Gordon-Keeble had supercar performance – along with a supercar price tag of £2,798. Amazingly, more than 90 of the original 100 cars survive.
Another hybrid of Italian looks and American muscle, the Iso Grifo was a glamorous GT produced from 1963 to 1974. Initially, it used the same Chevy small-block engine as the Gordon Keeble, although some later cars had a big-block 7.4-litre V8. Unsurprisingly, the oil crisis of 1973 hit Iso hard, and the company closed its doors a year later.
A total of 413 Grifos were built and the car has become a cult classic – relatively reliable and affordable to repair, thanks to its mass-produced Detroit motor. A modified Bizzarini version raced at Le Mans in 1964, finishing 14th.
A name meaning simply ‘The Ferrari’ sounds pretty definitive doesn’t it? And there were no half-measures when it came to the LaFerrari’s specification. Launched in 2013, Maranello’s flagship packed an 800hp 6.3-litre V12, backed by a 163hp electric motor. In a car weighing 1,585kg, that meant 0-62mph in 2.4 seconds and 217mph.
Ferrari made 499, followed by 210 examples of the open-air Aperta. The LaFerrari was, along with the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder, part of the ‘Holy Trinity’ of hybrid hypercars. Together, they raised the bar for road-going performance.
‘Fire up the Quattro!’ The 1980 Audi Quattro wasn’t the first 4WD road car (take a bow, 1966 Jensen FF), but it popularised the technology – not least via success in rallying. It won the World Championship in 1982 and 1984, and also broke records at Pikes Peak hillclimb.
Road-going versions used a turbocharged five-cylinder engine with up to 220hp in 20v guise. Sure-footed and blisteringly quick cross-country, the ‘Ur-Quattro’ remains the blueprint for modern, RS-badged Audis.
Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
From 1906 to 1926, the stately Silver Ghost really was The Best Car in the World. This one-off example was exported to Bombay in 1912, where it was christened the ‘Taj Mahal’. Today it’s known, more informally, as ‘Nellie’.
Nellie’s special features include longer travel suspension, a tropical electrical system and chain-mail mudguards – all designed to protect well-heeled passengers from the rigours of Indian roads. Repatriated to England in the early 1990s, she has since covered more than 75,000 miles across Europe and Australia.
After his bid to buy Ferrari failed, Henry Ford II decided to wreak revenge on the racetrack. The GT40 was the result, and it achieved an unprecedented 1-2-3 finish at Le Mans in its debut year. Three more consecutive victories followed, cementing the GT40’s reputation as one of the greatest sports racers ever.
That legend lives on with 21st-century Ford GT, a road-going supercar that pays homage to the 1966 original. Like the 911 2.7 RS, there are countless GT40 replicas, but the real thing can be worth millions – particularly with a few racing legends on the V5…
We suspect even a food mixer would look good in black-and-gold John Player Special livery. The Lotus 79 looks downright sensational. It was the first Formula One car to fully employ ground-effect aerodynamics and the first to use computer-aided design. It dominated the 1978 season, winning the constructors’ championship for Lotus and the drivers’ title for Mario Andretti.
Aero technology on the 79 includes venturi tunnels that create low pressure beneath the car, sucking it towards the Tarmac. It’s powered by the venerable Ford Cosworth DFV V8, a staple of F1 racing throughout the 1970s and 80s.
Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren 722
Speaking of Formula One, we’re well used to seeing Mercedes-Benz and McLaren collaborate on the racetrack. Back in 2003, however, the two companies co-developed a road car. The supercharged, V8-engined SLR was a 208mph GT to rival the Ferrari 599 GTB. Available in coupe and roadster guises, it had side-mounted exhausts and a pop-up rear airbrake.
The ‘722’ edition seen here celebrates a famous victory by Stirling Moss – driving car number 722 – in the 1955 Mille Miglia. Its modified engine produces a not-inconsiderable 650hp, allied with bigger brakes and a stiffer chassis.
Lancia Aurelia ‘Outlaw’
The Lancia Aurelia was the first production car with a V6 engine and radial tyres. Near-perfect weight distribution made the B20 GT coupe version successful in motorsport, too – and it wasn’t long before privateers began to modify their own cars. This roof-chopped Aurelia ‘Outlaw’, built by renowned Lancia specialists Thornley Kelham, is inspired by one such racer.
Reviewing the ‘Outlaw’ for CAR magazine, we said: “True to its transaxle layout, it feels beautifully balanced, turning in keenly and tenaciously holding its line. Despite a 60 percent power hike, it feels capable of more. You feel the car settle into a turn, sense the steering weight up, then use the throttle to coax it out the other side. There are no electronic aids and no excuses, but a communicative chassis helps put you at ease. This particular Outlaw plays by the rules.”
Aston Martin Cygnet V8
The craziest car at London Concours? Without doubt. Shoehorning the 436hp V8 from an Aston Martin Vantage into a former Toyota iQ is madness bordering on genius – particularly as the Cygnet weighs 400kg less than the donor supercar. Zero to 62mph takes as estimated 4.2 seconds, with a top speed of 170mph. Oh, and there are no traction or stability aids.
Unlike some hyper-hatches, the one-off, factory-built Cygnet V8 isn’t rear-engined. Instead, its motor is wedged behind an extended dashboard, driving the rear wheels via a paddleshift gearbox. We’d love a go – but perhaps on a dry day…