Blenheim Palace: birthplace and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But this week, the 18th century palace is alive with the sound of popping champagne corks, cracking lobster shells and fiercely powerful engines. Yes, it’s that time of the year again – welcome to Salon Privé, probably the poshest automotive garden party… in the world. Well, in Oxfordshire, at least.
Lobster and champagne
Did we mention champagne and lobster? Guests – who pay £295 for a ticket – are invited to enjoy lobster and champagne throughout the day. Indeed, some say more lobster is consumed at Salon Privé than at any other motoring event. We may have made that bit up.
But one thing’s for certain: one does not simply roll up in Subaru team jacket and flip-flops. Guests are invited to “dress smartly”, while on Ladies’ Day, “it’s glamour all the way but remember to wear a hat, headpiece or fascinator if you want to be considered for the prize”.
Yes, something like that. But enough about lobsters and fascinators, what about the cars?
Boutique motoring event
Now in its 11th consecutive year, Salon Privé is said to be the “UK’s premier ‘boutique’ motoring event”, with the Concours d’Elegance at its heart. The cars are almost as well dressed as the guests. Almost.
The Concours d’Elegance is split into a number of different categories, including the aptly named ‘Celebrating 50 Years of the Lamborghini Miura.’ This is one of eight Miuras at Salon Privé.
Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa
This wonderful 1956 Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa is part of the ‘Racing Improves the Breed’ class. Almost all the 500 TRs ever made were built by Scaglietti and they helped Ferrari to secure another world title. It was also successful in the Italian championship and the famous Mille Miglia. It has been awarded the best in show trophy at Salon Privé.
Lamborghini Miura SV
This Lamborghini Miura SV, restored by Lamborghini Polo Storico, has picked up an award in the Concours d’Elegance. Polo Storico is Lamborghini’s in-house service, offering restoration, historical certification, spare parts and technical drawings.
Salon Privé is about more than just classic cars, as demonstrated by this Bristol Bullet. It’s the first time the £250,000 speedster has been shown to the public. Though its styling has divided opinion, it certainly looks at home on the lawns of Blenheim Palace. More champagne, anyone?
Did somebody mention champagne?
Maserati A6 GCS Berlinetta
This 1954 Maserati A6 GCS Berlinetta is another award-winning car. It’s one of five cars in the ‘Racing Improves the Breed’ category, with the trophy handed over by chief judge, Derek Bell.
Ferrari 250 GT Series II Cabriolet
It’s not often you see a Ferrari 250 GT Series II Cabriolet on the road. These auction heroes are worth somewhere in the region of £1 million.
Ferrari 275 GTB/4
Meanwhile, here’s a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/4. The GTB/4 was an updated version of the 275 GTB, featuring a quadruple overhead camshaft V12 – hence the 4 in GTB/4. There was also an open GTS/4, which was popular in the United States.
OK, we’re heading to a commercial break, so here’s question for you: what exotic beauty is hiding beneath the cover?
If you said ‘Hyundai Stellar’, we’re afraid you’re mistaken. If, however, you said ‘Ferrari’, give yourself a gold star. If you said ‘Ferrari 250 Europa Short Chassis Prototype’, help yourself a plate of lobster.
Norton Model 50
The Salon Privé Concours d’Elegance includes three categories focused on motorcycles, including ‘Exceptional Motorcycles 1900-1939’. One such entry is this 1936 Norton Model 50.
No self-respecting boutique automotive garden party extravaganza would be complete without a Ferrari F40. This is one of six cars in the aptly-named ‘Dream Machines’ category, which also includes a pair of Lamborghini Countach, De Tomaso Pantera, Ferrari 512 BBI and Ferrari 288 GTO. That’s an awful lot of bedroom wall space, right there.
AC Shelby Cobra
This is the view most people see of the AC Shelby Cobra 427, as it disappears into the distance.
Remember what we said about Subaru team jackets and flip-flops? This incredibly well-dressed man is enjoying a pint and a cream tea. Remember: jam first, cream second. Them the rules.
Meanwhile, back at the Concours d’Elegance, this German-registered Porsche 911 S is entered in the ‘Porsche Racing Pedigree’ class. This 1969 car was campaigned by French drivers Gérard Larrousse and Maurice Gélin. It finished third in the 1970 Tour de France Automobile – the highest ranked Porsche, behind a pair of Matra Simcas.
Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental
And now for something completely different… This is a 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental, with coachwork by Hooper & Co Ltd. It has been awarded first prize in the ‘Pre-war Coachwork’ class.
They say variety is the spice of life, so from a competition Porsche and a pre-war Rolls-Royce, we bring you the Vulcano Titanium, claimed to be the world’s first titanium car. The Italian wondercar features a supercharged V8 engine developing 670hp. Its makers say it will top speeds in excess of 220mph.
Harp, stay sharp
Salon Privé: the only motoring event where a titanium supercar mingles with a lady playing a harp.
Like a scene from Reservoir Dogs. We suspect they’re off in search of lobster.