Luxury London puts a man on the inside to explore one of the year's most exciting British car shows – the Concours of Elegance at Windsor Castle
Bathed in a late summer sun, a rare alchemy occurred last weekend as the Concours of Elegance returned to Windsor Castle after it’s inauguration in 2012. Sixty of the rarest cars from decades ago mixed with the most glamorous hypercars of today in a convivial, delightfully unstuffy gathering.
Protected from inside the Castle’s quadrangle and standing on grass so verdantly green it seemed a pantone swab away from a Pixar movie. Somehow a troubled outside world appeared eons away. All was hushed as smiling owners answered questions from visitors shaking their heads in disbelief was what lay before them. We spotted one getting emotional when he came across a car that must have been the one of his dreams and being mortified for doing so shortly afterwards.
Starting with a 1800s Ascot Landau, the entrants within the quadrangle were to be bookended by a 2016 Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder. Supported by an enthusiastic Royal patronage of Prince & Princess Michael of Kent, the stage was set for three days of automotive magic.
It’s fair to say nobody’s ever felt a degree of pity for a McLaren P1, Ferrari 250 GT SWB or Aston Martin DB5 owner but when Luxury London attended last Saturday – midway into the event, we found these cars parked unceremoniously up on the grass outside the main entrance. This was a pecking order of a completely parallel dimension.
Before us are cars so rare that many an ardent enthusiast might be stumped.
Strolling on The Long Walk we bumped into Paul Brace of Eagle Cars who had brought the first completed Eagle Spyder GT (with a proper roof). Last time Luxury London saw the car at Eagle it was simply a bare shell and now completed – in a striking light blue – it was ready for its new owner. “It would have been nice all the same to make it in past the event’s entrance!” says Paul laughing with some incredulity.
Once past the security entrance visitors, VIPs and press mingle among more stunning cars. Men with red trousers, panama hats and blazers try best to remain nonchalant but fail miserably when they spot a car they love. Immediately they’re seven years old all over again. There’s the Mercedes 300SL Roadster we saw, the Lamborghini Countach, a Ferrari F40 and Ferrari 250 GT SWB. It was easy to become dizzy and lightheaded before you even reached the Castle’s main entrance. Even the legendary “9600 HP” E-Type Jaguar – the development car that was involved in the famous mad overnight dash from Coventry to Geneva for the 1961 Motor Show was there. For a car so revered by enthusiasts to end up parked on the grass outside the Castle between a Mini and Ford Capri seemed incongruous.
Onwards we walk into the archway and into the quadrangle and stop. Nothing prepares you for was is inside. Before us are cars so rare that many an ardent enthusiast might be stumped. One or two whip out a smartphone to do an internet search. Immediately the 1937 Hispano-Suiza H6C Dubonet Xenia with its 7981 cc displacement commands our attention. Strolling on we come across a 1961 Ferrari 250GT SWB California Spyder RHD, a 1940 Aston Martin DB2 Prototype ‘UMC 272’, a 1956 Maserati Tipo 200s Barchetta #2408, a glorious 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Viotti Coupe and a white 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione.
This writers’ favourite was a 1952 Jaguar XK120 Ghia Supersonic. Though some may have 59 others
Aside from the spectacle, the Concours of Elegance is staged to raise money for charities. This year donations nudged £200,000, giving the Concours of Elegance a £1million raised collectively. This being no ordinary Concours event with THR Prince Michael of Kent presiding as Chief Judge, it’s the owners themselves that finally pick the winning car to win the coveted Royal Automobile Club Trophy.
In all 12,500 visitors attended the event with the winning car being a 1938 Hispano-Suiza H6B Dubonnet Xenia proudly owned by Peter and Merle Mullin. We’d agree, it’s a spectacular machine. The second place prize went to an Alfa Romeo 8C Viotti Coupe and it’s fully deserved. Our choice? Well, this writers’ favourite – a 1952 Jaguar XK120 Ghia Supersonic. Though some may have 59 others.
During the afternoon the rain came and it went. We witnessed the Prince and Princess making a surprise dash for it through the archway in a 1929 Bentley and on at full tilt down into the Castle’s main grounds, disappearing into the trees. The sight of Royal and Specialist Protection chasing after him in a Range Rover provided terrific amusement to everyone watching.
Eventually, with a heavy heart we turned and made for home. Just then we realise the display at the quadrangle is set to change over each of the three days – and this was just Saturday. Goodness knows what feasts were lined up for Sunday.
Visitors to the event, be they moneyed, enthused or just plain curious will take away personal memories of the Concours of Elegance for some time to come.