The Concours of Elegance holds the position as one of the world’s top three Concours d’elegance events. Yet it rarely amasses the same fussy media coverage as Pebble Beach or Villa D’este on the banks of Lake Como. We will embrace this as the London Concours of Elegance is probably the best kept, most accessible secret for automotive hedonists scrambling to see some of the rarest cars ever made. Set in the stunning gardens of Hampton Court Palace in west London among the 1,000 cars on display this year, it was a 1938 Delage D8-120 ‘de Villars’, which was carefully appraised by the Concours owners before emerging as Best in Show over the three days this month. Delage produced some extraordinary cars before being taken over by Delahaye. Only 120 examples of the D8-100 and D8-120 were ever produced and were first revealed to the public at the Concours de l’Auto de Printemps in 1938.
Other winners in classes were a 1912 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost in the Pre-1915 category, a 1925 Vauxhall 30/98 OE Wensum Tourer in the 1920s class, a 1930 Cord L29 Brougham in the 1930s class, a Vittorio Bellentani adapted 1956 Maserati A6G Zagato that judges awarded the best in the 1940s and 1950s category. Other winners included an achingly pretty 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato in French Racing Blue that uses the DB4GT’s mechanicals. This particular car built in 1962 was a lightened special and delivered new to the racer Jean Kerguen where the 3.7-liter straight-six powered machine could hit 170mph on the Le Mans Mulsanne straight. It was hard to ignore too, what must be one of the most beautifully proportioned cars ever designed – a 1971 Lamborghini Miura SV. It won the best in the 1970s class. Still ultra rare, just 150 SVs were built out of a total Miura production run of 764.
The Miura’s reign as the first mid-engined V12 car began with the original P400 produced from 1966 to 1968, which boasted a peak output of 345bhp. The beefier version of the Miura – the SV – appeared in 1971, with altered Weber carburetors and different cam timing, which pushed output to 385bhp and torque to 295lb-ft. Purists will point to the P400S as the Muira’s sweet spot but glistening in the late summer sun. The Miura SV had wives peering into the cabin and husbands shaking their heads, yearning how they could never afford one for themselves.
The pace of the event is slow and hushed, and during the weekend, it was only to be interrupted by the sound of whoops and gasps coming from the live auction being hosted by Gooding and Company, where a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione realized £7,762,500 when the gavel was cracked. The performance statistics may look pedestrian today with 2,953 CC SOHC Tipo 168B V-12 Engine producing just 275 BHP at 7,000 RPM using a 4-Speed Manual Gearbox, but the provenance included race entries at Le Mans, Goodwood, and Montlhéry and successfully Campaigned at Le Mans Classic, Goodwood Revival, and Tour Auto.
Proof that money lurks in garages worldwide was evident with a 1956 Porsche 550 Spyder that made an eye-watering £2,025,000. The car was originally finished in red with white darts and beige upholstery and bought new by a Swiss racing driver Heinz Schiller with period racing entries at Avus and Monza.
It was refreshing too, to see American cars represented with seven of the world’s finest 1930s Packard Twelves on display. Packard gained a reputation for being some of the most innovative and luxurious car manufacturers of all time. If you haven’t made space in your calendar for the Concours in 2023, you should do so now. It’s an unmissable event for true car aficionados.