Champagne, concours classics, outlandish concept cars, lobster, more champagne... That’s Salon Privé in a nutshell. We braved the 30˚C heat (and the relentless champagne) to bring you a flavour of the event… Words: & Photography: Daniel Bevis.
Few car shows offer the luxurious package that Salon Privé provides. While the cost of entry may be prohibitive to some, you do get what you pay for: not just a ticket into one of the UK’s most exclusive motoring events, but also a sumptuous lobster luncheon and unlimited champagne refills throughout the day. A more mischievous correspondent may even suggest that the more you visit the bar, the better value the ticket works out to be…
This hedonistic flavour is appropriately mirrored by the venue at which Salon Privé takes place. The event used to reside at south-west London’s Syon Park, but in recent years it’s called Oxfordshire’s Blenheim Palace home, and 2018 was the first year to see the concours staged right up next to the mighty house itself. Categories in the concours this year numbered 13, the first three for motorbikes, and the remaining 10 exhaustively listed as follows: Preservation at its Best, Pre-War Bugattis, Pre-War Luxury Tourers, Grand Tourers of the ’50s and ’60s, Wind in Your Hair, Best of British, Streamlined Closed Sports Cars, 50 Years of the Dino, Supercars of the ’70s, and Competition Cars. The standard in each category was phenomenally high, with multiple concours winners being shipped from all over the globe to compete.
Interestingly, this event was once again scheduled to clash with the Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace, so entrants were forced to choose between one or the other. Suffice to say, each event boasted a sterling line-up and those at Salon Privé were there because they’d prioritised this event as the favourite. You can see from the photos just how discerning a group they are. The fiercely contested Best of Show category was scooped by a 1933 Bugatti Type 55 Roadster, with second and third place on the podium taken by a Delage D8-120 and Rod Stewart’s old Lamborghini Miura S.
Prizes elsewhere went to the Porsche 550 Spyder, for Most Unique Bodywork (bit of a misnomer in truth as uniqueness can’t be quantified – but you can’t deny the unusualness of a small roadster wearing an aeroplane spoiler as a hat); the Ferrari 250 LM winning People’s Choice, and a Ferrari 365 GTC winning Most Elegant. You won’t hear any arguments from us there. The dates for the 2019 event have recently been announced, running from 5-7 September. Let’s hope they’ve booked the sunshine again!
At concours events it’s not uncommon to hear the dulcet tones of a string quartet, or perhaps a stripped-back rockabilly trio knocking out a few standards. But it’s quite unusual to hear Maggie May blasting out at full volume. The source of the incongruous sound was a silver Jaguar XJ220 as it passed the judging desk. And the reason? Well, this very XJ220 used to be Rod Stewart’s car, delivered new to the singer back in 1994. It’s only covered 6,000 miles since and, as you can see, it’s every inch the show-stopping retro supercar.
Another of Rod Stewart’s old motors, this 1971 Miura S featured the later 360bhp power hike, and was purchased by the popster with the proceeds of the chart-topping Maggie May single. He also bought a Miura SV around the same time, and famously used both as regular road transport. This one has recently received a full Polo Storico Lamborghini factory restoration, and deservedly took a top-three place in the Best of Show rankings.
There are few supercar silhouettes as immediately recognisable as the Ferrari F40 and, while it was never conceived as a race car, it wasn’t surprising that some owners wanted to take them to the track. This one, chassis no. 80742, was one of seven F40s converted to race specs by Michelotto, to run in the Italian Campionato Italiano Supercar GT. It was entered by the infamous Jolly Club in this eye-catching Monte Shell livery, with Marco Brand driving the GT/LM to victory in nine out of 10 races that season. It enjoyed a sparkling motorsport career, and has recently been restored to original Monte Shell specs by DK Engineering.
Ferrari 512 BB Koenig
In the era of outlandish excess that was the ’80s, aftermarket conversions abounded for sports cars and supercars. These have languished in the hinterlands for collectors, but they’re now starting to win accolades in auction houses and showgrounds. This Ferrari 512 BB, registered in Germany in 1978, became one of the renowned Willy Koenig’s first conversions: it received fuel-injection, twin Rajah turbos, Mahle pistons and a racespec exhaust, plus that outrageously wide bodywork.
Lamborghini Aventador SVJ
The new-for-2018 SVJ is proof that Lamborghini can’t leave things alone. As brutal and accomplished as the Aventador is, there are always ways to make these things better. So the SVJ, which retails at £360,000, has titanium valves, a lighter flywheel and a raised rev limiter, making it both more eager and more powerful at 759bhp. It has lightweight wheels and much-lightened bodywork, enabling all-in dry weight of 1,525kg. This, then, is the Aventador refined: the best possible version of what it can be. For now, at least…
The new BT62 is a limited-run curiosity – one of those cars that’s neither road-legal nor eligible for any race series. It’s simply a very expensive track toy. But £1.2m buys a lot of heritage, along with a 700bhp nat-asp V8, gorgeous carbon-fibre bodywork, a tubular spaceframe chassis, six-speed sequential gearbox, motorsport-derived suspension, and a GT3 race-style interior. Exclusivity is guaranteed, with just 70 examples built. If you can afford one, you can probably afford to make it road legal!