The stuff of dreams - a palace, an Aston Martin DB4, a Riva motor yacht and a Porsche 962 for a bit of fun on the track. Picture: MARK SMYTH
The stuff of dreams - a palace, an Aston Martin DB4, a Riva motor yacht and a Porsche 962 for a bit of fun on the track. Picture: MARK SMYTH

It has been a dire year for the hospitality sector worldwide, not least of all for the famous automotive concours events such as Goodwood, Villa d’Este, Pebble Beach and, locally, Concours South Africa.

In the greater scheme of things it’s difficult to complain but there’s a big difference between seeing iconic cars on the internet and actually being up close and personal with them, or rather up close and socially distanced with them.

Which is why the announcement that the famous Salon Prive concours at Blenheim Palace in England last week was going ahead was a surprise. Time to grab the panama hat and a face mask and look at not only some famous marques, but some new models too.

In recent years, global concours events have been used by carmakers to reveal some of their more exclusive models and the same was true for Salon Prive.

Touring Superleggera showed its new Aero 3, the third model to come from the Italian company. Based on the design of the Alfa 8C 2900 Le Mans Berlinetta, it’s a beautiful tourer that boasts a classic V12 engine. Only 15 will be manufactured, each to the individual customer’s exact specifications making this instantly collectible.

Zenvo revealed its TSRS-1, the latest carbon fibre track car to come from the Danish company. Its engine produces 878kW and it looks like a handful of fun.

And then there was the Engler, though quite what it actually is we’re not sure. Officially it is a super quad, but if you’re keen on doing 300km/h on an 820kW Lamborghini V10-powered quad then you’re much braver than us.

In all honesty though, we weren’t really there for the new stuff. These cars were in the company of such icons as the Lamborghini Miura, Ford GT40, Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchetta and super rare Bertone Jaguar XK150 S coupe and Citroën DS19 Le Paris.

Caption to Salon Engle: First we had supercars and superbikes, now Engler introduces the super quad with a Lamborghini V10 engine for the very brave.
Caption to Salon Engle: First we had supercars and superbikes, now Engler introduces the super quad with a Lamborghini V10 engine for the very brave.

Overall best in show went to an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza Spider by Zagato that was raced by Scuderia Ferrari in the 1930s. Runner-up went to a Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchetta that won Le Mans in 1949 and it was a Ferrari in third place too for a 1964 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso.

Another trophy that stood out was the People’s Choice award and it went to the famous Gulf-liveried 1997 McLaren F1 GTR long tail.

There was sadly no sign of Gordon Murray’s new T.50 hypercar at the event though.

There was also no award for scale replica cars for kids, which is a pity because two of the stars of the show for me were from The Little Car Company — scale and working replicas of the famous Aston Martin DB5 Volante and Bugatti Type 35. Both are electric with up to 10kW of power and cost from £35,000 (R750,000).

The People’s Choice award went to this Gulf-liveried 1997 McLaren F1 GTR long tail. Picture: MARK SMYTH
The People’s Choice award went to this Gulf-liveried 1997 McLaren F1 GTR long tail.  Picture: MARK SMYTH

Concours events always turn up interesting stories. Sat alone beside his car was a chap called Neville Swales. A gap in the schedule meant he had the chance to give an impromptu speech to the media about his car. He’s one of those people with real passion and has used it to hand build a replica of the 1966 Jaguar XJ13 Le Mans prototype, a car that never raced in anger and which was destroyed in a crash in 1971 at an event to launch the E-Type.

His car uses the original and first ever Jaguar V12 engine that produces a huge 147 decibels at only half throttle. It’s always great to see a passion become a business.

Finally a story about a different sound and it’s not even that of the engine of a 1972 Lamborghini Miura SV on show. It’s about its tape deck. As well as being in pristine condition, it is the only one in the world to have a recording tape deck fitted inside. Well you’d need that if you were the owner, a certain Rod Stewart.

Salon Prive might well be the only concours event we’ll get to in 2020 sadly, but at least it was one with some stunning cars and some fascinating stories. Let’s hope it’s not too long until we get to another.

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