By Leila Russack
Late Saturday morning, a bramble of young classic car and modern motoring enthusiasts took to the road from Richmond, Surrey in a high-speed convoy to Winston Churchill’s manicured former residence, Blenheim Palace. While grey clouds loomed above like the slow traffic below on the M40, a tourmaline 1981 Aston Martin V8 Oscar India, a purist white MY15 Jaguar F-Type V6 S, an imported rare manual MY16 F-type V6 and a brand new Land Rover (for good measure) took every opportunity to stretch the miles per hour in their prowl towards Salon Prive.
As soon as the low riding vintage Aston was parked on the green, the ladies swapped their driving feet for heels and took to the VIP Hospitality Entrance, umbrellas in tow, ready for the rain. Those who didn’t enter the event enjoyed watching the stunning menagerie of cars turning up, snapping shots with the day’s perfect stormy lighting.Beyond the box tapestry gardens and lawn, a concourse of mighty stealth, design class and vision awaited us. The lineup was over 50 vehicles in the innovation and bespoke league of Koenigsegg, the racing pedigree of McLaren, the modern must-have Lamborghini, vintage Ferraris, Porches, Jaguars and Bentleys, and, much to our excitement, the Jaguar’s new Project 7. All set against the backdrop of Blenheim Palace, famous for more than just a parking lot for Winston’s Daimler Dropheads.
Yellows of canary and real gold, reds of seduction, velvet and lipstick, blues for boys and girls. Greys for discretion and greens for professionals. Racing stripes and badges from decades of supercar manufacturing. The details excite as they are emblems of the horsepower and history these cars hold. Those who drive them, love them, make them, and of course, race them.
Peckish after the long drive, we took shelter in one of the Dining Pavilions for some late lunch. After the main dish was served, my Brazilian friend insisted we not be rabbits with left-over salad and buffalo mozzarella. She insisted the catering staff find us a special meal, something that reflects the price of entry, a cool £300 each. Soon enough, after some laughs, the waitress brought us a family of lobsters, and Champagne of course. We laughed and ate before heading back to the lawn, umbrellas protecting us from the typically English drizzle.
An old tale tells of a coupe being remodelled into a roadster in aide of fainting ladies. One young man comments on the lack of adequate sealing to avoid water leaking into these old cars. Another collector sits in his 1961 Bentley S2 Drophead coupe, engine running to keep him warm. Discreet chattering is heard about how many millions of pounds each of these rare cars are worth. Whilst showroom vehicles drop value as soon as they are driven, these classics continue to hold and gain value.
A cold chill catches us in our cocktail dresses during a selfie capture at the Ferrari 330GTC. We admire the lust-worthy Aston Martin DB11 V12 and quickly find cover at the Universal Classic Cars pavilion. At their sophisticated Salon Prive hut, we are offered more Champagne, how can we say no? The youngsters talk supercar mechanics and high specification detailing, while I can’t help but notice one of UCC’s neon Porsche Carrera RS sitting like sunshine in the rain.
After such an exhilarating day, we are hungry again, time for dinner! The Crazy Bear in Bear Lane, Stadhampton lured us in with its Medieval setting and farm fresh food. Recommended was the pan-fried fois gras, a texture entirely new to me, divine and wholesome. We had fillet steak and creamy risotto with lobster, delicious delights.
Our slew of cars rode back along the M40 towards William the Conqueror’s 11th Century residence, Windsor Castle, Berkshire SL3. The Aston among us soon lost fuel with its full throttle V8, each of us racing the other down the motorway. We eventually found the entrance to the sparsely signed Castle grounds. What an incredible sight. Our beautiful vehicles were parked among common spectators,’ Toyotas and Skodas, but what can you expect when more valuable parking closer to the Castle is upwards of 5000 pounds?
We opened some purpose-chilled, half-bottles of exclusive Dauby Champagne, preferring the dry complexity to the usual event sponsors’ sweeter choices. In a constant sling of jibes and laughter, we posed with our cars before strolling up to the Classic Car Club and tree-lined
After all these tipsy questions were partially answered, we ate BBQ for lunch at the burned out car and drank more Champagne at the RM Sotheby’s stand. A metallic strawberry 1957 Mercedes Benz 300 SL Roadster caught my eye, matching perfectly with my patent Diorama and manicure. At a chilling million pounds to be auctioned on the 7th of September with RM Sothebys, why barter? The perfect ladies’
We found a 1926 Grand Prix car, a Frank Halford Special that completed 82 laps of the circuit. It held a special place in my heart, as my Grandfather drove under the name Allan Marshall with the number 26 on the Jeep Special he built. Memories flooded back of watching races in the late 80s. His car is now owned by a driver collector of the Vintage Speedway Association in Australia. These cars are not legal to race due to the safety requirements of professional racing.
If we weren’t already amazed by the concourse leading to the Castle, sixty of the world’s rarest cars gleamed in the Castle’s Quadrangle lawn, leaving us all in awe. I spot a 1953 Jaguar XK120 Ghia Supersonic, a kissed raspberry red coupe ready for a dream drive around the country roads. We could certainly put some miles into its odometer at 22,000kms! A Lalique crystal Cockerel head is perched upon the radiator of the deep magenta 1928 Mercedes 630 Saoutchik Stadt Coupe, which would fit us all in for a top-hatted run for Champagne and ice-cream.
By the time it was over, there were already so many people we would drive in the rain with for the next luxury motoring event. The Concourse of Elegance at Salon Prive Blenheim Palace and at Windsor Castle are the ideal events to have entry-level enthusiasts and professionals mixing with keen collectors and buyers. Tips for newcomers: arrive early at Salon for your lobster! Best weekend in a long time, thank you to all involved!