Across five memorable days at Blenheim Palace, this year’s Salon Privé Week blended established favourites such as the Concours d’Elégance presented by Aviva with exciting new elements such as Salon Privé TIME presenting the world’s leading watchmakers, the jaw-dropping Red Collection, and the return of live action to Blenheim Palace on the ‘Hill Sprint’.
The Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance presented by Aviva opened proceedings on the Wednesday. As one of the most prestigious such events in the world, it is a Partner Concours to the Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award and features a panel of ICJAG judges, all renowned experts in their respective marques.
The coveted Best of Show award was announced during Ladies’ Day presented by Boodles on Friday 3 September, and was presented to a unique 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Cabriolet A. The majestic 1930s titan was part of a keenly contested Pre-War Tourers class that lined up directly in front of Blenheim Palace. Class winners included the very first Triumph motor bicycle ever made, the famous Jaguar low-drag Lightweight E-type that was raced in period by Peter Lindner and Peter Nöcker, a highly original ex-Ford France GT40, and a beautifully restored SS 100 3½ Litre.
An esteemed panel of chief automotive design judges awarded the Churchill Cup for Most Exceptional Design to a 1972 De Tomaso Mangusta. Named in honour of Sir Winston Churchill – who was born at Blenheim Palace – the prize celebrated design and elegance, with the panel including automotive designers Ian Callum and Fabrizio Giugiaro, headed by Chief Judge and five times Le Mans winning legend Derek Bell.
An Aston Martin DB2 that competed on the 1956 Monte Carlo Rally picked up two prizes – the Preservation Award and People’s Choice – while event host, the Duke of Marlborough, selected his favourites on both two wheels and four. He presented the car award to a 1949 Bentley Mk VI Light Touring Saloon by Hooper & Co, owned by Mr Yohan Poonawalla, while the motorcycle award went to the 1901 Triumph Minerva motor bicycle.
Wednesday also hosted the grand unveiling of a brand-new feature for 2021, ‘The Red Collection’. Presented on the historic Blenheim Palace cricket pitch, and featuring a centrepiece Ferrari 250 GTO, chassis 4399 GT was rebodied by the factory ahead of the 1964 season, using the updated ‘Series 2’ body style. It was surrounded by a carefully curated selection of exceptional cars, including everything from a 1927 Amilcar C6, last year’s Best of Show 1931 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza Spider, to the only original red McLaren F1 in the world and a 2009 Pagani Zonda F Clubsport.
Saturday was given over exclusively to the premium marque car clubs, for the Salon Privé Club Trophy presented by Lockton. A number of significant anniversaries were being celebrated, including half-centuries for the spectacular Italian trio of Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari 365 GT/4 BB and Maserati Bora. A Manufacturer’s Award and a Secretary’s Award was presented to a car from each of the owners’ clubs, but the top prize, the Lockton Club Trophy, went to a fabulous 1953 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith.
Sunday proved to be a spectacular conclusion to Salon Privé Week thanks to the addition of yet another new feature. The Classic & Supercar Day was open to the public, and enthusiasts flocked to Blenheim Palace to revel in the return of rally cars to the venue for the first time since the halcyon days of the RAC Rally. Group B, Group A and WRC machinery was demonstrated on a course that ran from the North Gates down to the Vanbrugh Grand Bridge, with commentary by racing driver and broadcaster Tiff Needell, alongside brothers and organisers Andrew and David Bagley.
In addition to a stellar collection of rarely seen cars driven by World Champions – such as the ex-Carlos Sainz Ford Focus WRC and Subaru Impreza in which Juha Kankkunen took his final victory at the highest level – there was a tribute to Richard Burns on the 20th anniversary of the late Englishman’s 2001 title success. Included in the line-up was the Subaru Impreza in which Burns clinched the championship in a final-round showdown with rival Colin McRae.
Also taking part in the inaugural Salon Privé ‘Hill Sprint’ was a spectacular selection of supercars and classics, including a number of UK and world debuts, one such being the Touring Superleggera Arese RH95, the incredible McLaren Elva flying down the hill, finishing with a cavalcade of Jaguar E-types to celebrate 60 years of the landmark British sports car.
Salon Privé Director David Bagley said: ‘This was our most ambitious event yet, with a number of exciting new features over the course of the week and it was a spectacular success. From the demonstration runs to The Red Collection, it was a reflection of our passion to keep innovating and looking to the future, and we’re delighted that it was so well received. The week got under way with some of the world’s leading marques presenting new debuts, a world-class Concours d’Elégance and finished with the inaugural Salon Privé Hill Sprint – we couldn’t have asked for more.’
And enthusiasts won’t have to wait until next September for the next instalment, thanks to the announcement of a brand-new Salon Privé event ‘The Chelsea Edition’, coming to London in April 2022.