It always seems to start with a Ferrari.
Last year it was a black F50 bumping and weaving over the grass at the back of Blenheim Palace. This year I came across its forebear, the F40. Gleaming in Rooso Corsa red no less, a gent pulled up to ask the steward where he should thread his (probably) million-pound car.
Salon Privé was on.
I was eager as ever, but it seems the majority of the elite punters had the same idea this year. Even though the gates aren’t open until 11am, a half hour before, the bijou venue was already filling with the UK’s top 1%.
Dashing round I shot as much of it as I could. Tom Hartley catches me and asks who I’m shooting for, the briefest of chats congratulates him on a stunning display (as ever) a quick hand shake then a ‘real pleasure’ and I was off. There was far too much precious metal to capture before the hoards arrived, it was ladies day don’t you know.
The first beaut to catch my eye was a totally carbon fibre Agera RS. Bare as the day it was born the weave popped in the sunlight, moving round to the side and it had carbon fibre wheels too, naturally. The fresh morning sunlight rippling across each spoke, digging out the darker details and bringing the rims to life.
A special part of Salon Privé is seeing new machines up close.
I’d already come across the Italdesign Zerouno at Geneva this year. Back then it was on a plinth spinning round with the worlds press clamouring over it. Now it sits beneath a marquee with just myself taking in its futuristic angles, undercuts and missing bits of bodywork.
I can’t say I’m a fan per se…it looks rather like a squashed Nissan GT-R mixed with the front of an Enzo and the rear of a Lamborghini. It’s also too long. But for all its messiness in the design department it has some stunning details.
Making my way over to the far side, where the classics reside, I was in for a real treat.
Last year I poured over a ’66 Shelby Cobra. Amongst the concours show cars sat a lone Wimbledon White Shelby 427 Competition Cobra from 1965. Keys in the ignition.
It just sat there as if it was nothing special. A normal car on display with the rest of the antique exotica. To put some perspective on this, a Competition Cobra sold at Sotheby’s in 2016 for a cool $2,255,000. Roughly £1.7 milli.
LOV 1 was something rather special.
Front on there’s no grille, diffuser or guard in place. You’re looking straight into the radiator. In front sits a guillotine like fan glinting in the light. You wouldn’t want to be small bird in the wrong place at the wrong time with this on the road.
Moving around this gracious beast it’s creamy white paintwork reflected the world around it. People moved and rippled across its haunches, vanishing as they met the large matte black side exhausts.
Yellow tinted tape covered the lights, adding to the vintage appeal.
There’s just something about AC Cobra’s. I’ve never driven a real one, but a kit car replica I once piloted was handful enough.
I’m not sure it would be an enjoyable drive, I can imagine it’s the type of car that keeps one’s butt cheeks on edge. Feeling for that tell-tale twitch, a wag of the back end just as it starts to lose traction. The sort of feeling that kicks in muscle memory. In a split second you have to decide whether it’s opposite lock, or if the slip angle is too much and you have to release the throttle before things really go south.
Alas, at nearly £2 million pound I doubt I’ll ever get to experience it.
I’m thinking all of this as I’m wandering round, capturing this sculpted epitome of speed. And then, as I mentioned earlier I see the keys in it.
A simple metal key sits in the ignition. Its keyring? A small brass tortoise.
As with last year and the 66 Shelby I ponder how far I could get in it before I was stopped. Maybe a few feet, maybe the gates, the M1 heading north? What a story to tell eh? Surely that would be worth a driving ban or a few months in prison?! Sanity comes back to mind.
I’d at least need a high vis to even start getting away with such an audacious plot.
I didn’t pack a high vis.
LOV 1 was sold back in 2009 by Sotheby’s, I came across a stunning provenance piece online later that day. It’s wonderful to have such exacting history of this machine, the amount of times it’s been swapped form left to right hand drive, and the adventures it’s been on. Incredible, and well worth a read.
Sat within a stone’s throw was a 1932 Alfa Romeo P3. One of just 6 made that year, a total of 13 ever. It was entered as the Don Lee Special in the 46/47 Indy 500, driven by Hal Cole. At the time Don Lee was the most successful Cadillac dealer on the West Coast.
The original paintwork almost looks like a movie prop. The old weathered paint, the bumps, the scrapes, it’s almost too genuine to be true. But it’s all original. The car has never been restored. It just wears its 85 years proudly on its skin.
A few rows down from that sits a stunning black Porsche Speedster. Overhearing the owner, it was completely taken back to bare metal, before being repainted in its original colour.
It’s absolutely mint.
Across from that is a huge, ugly thing. It’s called the Bugatti Chiron. I do not care for that. There’s far more interesting things here.
One being sat right next to it. An original Ford GT40, in white with red detailing. Wheels pushed up into its arches. Low, light and fast. The Chiron looks gargantuan in comparison.
I know what I’d rather have.
As always there’s a seemingly ever growing number of classic car vendors trying to cash in on what seems to be a very lucrative market – even with a slight downturn.
Universal Classic Cars had a gorgeous red Dino on display. Similar to the Cobra, machines like this have some sort of magnetic draw to them. The balance and rawness, purity of feel and just being lightweight. Sports car manufacturers have somewhat forgotten the perfect ingredients. Luxury and crazy power now dominate the majority of the market.
Wandering around I take a few more snaps of some detail. The spotless engine bay of a massive Bentley blower, the reflection in a stunningly pristine old school Carerra. And then I happen across The Old Racing Car Company – O.R.C. They’ve bought along an incredible looking 1951 Ferrari Monoposto.
It’s honeycomb grille protruding slightly from its nacelle like shark nose. This old fezza has been across the world, from competing in Milia Migla back in the day to Brazilian race series. It was lost for 20 years, only to be rediscovered in the 70’s. It’s currently on sale.
If you have to ask the price, you probably can’t afford it.
Far too long had been spent lusting over this precious metal. It was time to head to the Silverstone Auction pavilion.
It’s always interesting wandering around here. I’ve been to classic car auctions before, but this is on a different scale.
The most expensive thing I was paranoid about hitting with my camera? A pristine Ferrari F40 with 592 km’s on the clock, it’s only had 3,000 km’s on it during its whole life but the trip was zeroed after a €300,000 overhaul by Ferrari Classiche. It’s probably the most pristine, lowest mileage F40 in existence. It was super clean. Sadly it was withdrawn from the auction, but it was estimated at £875 – 975,000.
An odd little car was the 1970 Porsche 914-6. Once again, the auction lot at Salon Privé surprised me with a car I’d never seen before.
It turns out Porsche and VW had a relationship way back when the 912 and Karmann Ghia needed replacing. The result was…this. Yeah, this was the 70’s remember. Lines and cubes were in.
It was a rare 914 6 model, featuring the beefed up flat-six boxer engine producing 110 bhp. Sadly, it was priced within a gnat’s whisker of a 911. Only 3,300 were built.
It also had a 160 BHP dealer uprated engine and a close ratio gearbox fitted. Totally unrestored it’s all original after dry storage and only being used on rain free days. It had a £50/60k price tag, but went unsold.
Enough sunburn and dehydration for one day, there are of course refreshments but I was far too busy for that. As always, the barbecues were firing up ready for their lobster counterparts just as I was exiting.
I always say it, but it never gets old. Make sure you attend Salon Privé once in your lifetime, it’s a truly dazzling, other world with prodigious metal at every footfall.
Make a day of it, get your money’s worth, and go on ladies day – it’s quieter you know.