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Volume 44 Issue 15

Jul 20, 2019

The fifth edition of the Chantilly concours took place on a sunny June 30. Thankfully it was the first day after an intense heatwave that oppressed Europe for a week, perhaps the weather gods agreed that excessive heat does not go well with ancient radiators, fine jackets or dresses.

    The fifth edition of the Chantilly concours took place on a sunny June 30. Thankfully it was the first day after an intense heatwave that oppressed Europe for a week, perhaps the weather gods agreed that excessive heat does not go well with ancient radiators, fine jackets or dresses.

    In the end 18,000 attended which is a healthy rise from 2017 so without the heat the number may have nudged 20,000. It was cooler that morning than in the days before, however it seemed some spectators had stayed away.

    As always, it was a feast of magnificence in terms of the setting, undeniably one of the grandest castles in Europe and the world, in terms of the cars assembled and also the organization for which the task list must be as monumental as the château.

    After four annual editions held in September from 2014 to 2017, Patrick Peter, head of the organizing firm Peter Auto, decided to hold it every two years and in early summer just before the summer vacations.

    This was a success as the much longer daylight hours and holiday atmosphere made it a joyous start to summer as opposed to its reluctant conclusion. The bi-annual event is held in alternance with Le Mans Classic also organized by Peter Auto at the same time of early summer in even years.

    The judges this year included Guy Berryman, the bass player from the band Coldplay who created the beautiful the road rat magazine. Also, John Barnes of Cavallino magazine; Pierre Fillon head of the ACO (organizers of the Le Mans 24 hours); François Cointreau from the eponymous French liquor empire; designer Adrian van Hooydonk; Julius Kruta, Bugatti’s in-house historian; and Le Mans winner Gérard Larrousse.

    Saturday had participant-only events, namely a touring rally for the concours cars which saw a Porsche 917 partake with brave driver and even braver wife waving an old fashioned fan in the cockpit.

    There was a touring rally for supercars with passage at the nearby Circuit de Mortefontaine which includes a Montlhéry-like steep oval and road course.

    On Saturday evening there was a superb black tie dinner in the impressive stables. At one point a horse and rider in grand outfit galloped between the tables and then stood on its hind legs in the middle of the dining room. Not your average dinner.

        Concours d’Etat

    One car having its unveiling entered in the Paris Motor Show Cars, until 1961, class, was a one-off Stabilimenti Farina Cabriolet 166 Inter S/N 0063 S.

    Displayed new at the 1950 Paris Salon it was bought by F1 gentleman driver Baron Emmanuel ‘Toulo’ de Graffenried from Lausanne, Switzerland. A handy driver who won the 1949 British GP, he was also a dealer and soon resold it to a local amateur racer.

    It competed in a couple of minor events but quite how long this man kept it seems unclear. The car suffered damage at some point and it was found in the mid-late sixties in a Swiss scrapyard by noted Dutch broker and sometime author Rob de la Rive Box, based in that country.

    It then went through a series of owners mostly in the UK who modified it mercilessly and fitted a 212 engine as the original block was lost; then the chassis was modified so it could resemble a 166 Spyder Corsa. Sometime thereafter it was transmogrified into a 166 MM lookalike. The poor thing was blown from owner to owner like a tumbleweed, moving on to the US and then Germany.

    But there it sat at Chantilly for its world premiere, brand spanking new, having been reborn in the hands of Ferrari Classiche for its Belgian owner.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and one would call its styling “interesting” but the most striking thing about its restoration is that it was very much a resurrection as very little remained from the original car.

    It had been so modified in its complicated life that it had lost its original body and engine; even the chassis had been modified to make it look like a Spyder Corsa at one point. According to Marcel Massini it took Ferrari Classiche five years to execute.

    It is a seminal moment because as far as this writer knows it is the first time that Classiche essentially recreates an entire car starting from the bare minimum, i.e., what was left of the original chassis but creating the engine, transmission and body from scratch along with countless components.

    On the one hand the accomplishment is admirable and must have come at a mindboggling cost but the question is whether this is a rehearsal of sorts for other creations as opposed to restorations.

    Other manufacturers have crossed the line and actually engaged in the production of recreations such as Jaguar with its D-Type and Aston Martin with its DB4 GT Continuation.

    The Aston Martin had its world premiere just weeks before at Le Mans during the 24 hour race weekend; it was also entered at Chantilly, bizarrely in the Concours d’Elegance with the new one-off prototypes.

    The classic Ferrari community is for the most part noticeably not in favor of such ideas so it will be interesting to see what emerges from Classiche in years to come.

    If Maranello has decided on actually making an SUV then one should not doubt that its management would be capable of continuations but will they dare face the wrath of the traditionalists? Probably yes...

    Another notable entry and unusual sight contrasting with the usual concours fare was a 1952 342 America Vignale Cabriolet S/N 0232 AL.

    Its handsome light blue shade with beige interior and top was an attractive combination, but in this writer’s opinion, the same cannot be said of its blockish body, large radiator “mouth”, bulky uninspired proportions and massive bumpers.

    Sold new to Otto Wild in Switzerland it was soon exported stateside and eventually acquired in the sixties by noted collector Joe Alphabet in California. It then found a home in the hands of Norman Snart in nearby Hawyard, Calif., who kept it 32 years. In 2002 it changed hands then again in 2007 when it was briefly in South Korea owned by the chairman of Samsung before heading back to California and the Blackhawk Collection which then sold it at Monterey 2017 where it was bought by the Garrity’s from Green Bay, Wisconsin.

    Well done to the owners of these cars for showing them in any case, a rare treat.

    The Post-War Cars in Original Condition class was most interesting. A three-owner 1973 Daytona was entered, fitted with optional wide wheels and A/C, it has been maintained scrupulously by all its caretakers and is in the hands of the current owner since 1985.

    Jumping a couple of decades forward the GT Endurance class from 1994 and up featured a well-known 348 GTC/LM. Prepared by the factory’s subcontractor for GT racing Michelotto, it came in 11th at Le Mans that year with Spanish royal Alfonso de Orleans y Borbón and his compatriots Vilarino and Saldana.

    One class was devoted to the creations of design genius Marcello Gandini. While his most iconic designs such as the Alfa Romeo Carabo, Maserati Khamsin and Lamborghini Miura were present, a number of cars including many one-offs arrived from Italy and elsewhere. This class included the one-off 1976 Rainbow show car, as wedgy as his wedge-themed era got, with ruler straight lines and targa-type roof.

    In contrast, the Dino-engined Lancia Stratos next to it seemed positively curvaceous and a 308 GT4 completed the era’s work for Maranello as head designer for Bertone.

    There were all sorts of interesting classes from Ballot to two Aston classes to McLaren; one really worth seeing was the Voisin selection which featured some of the more outlandish aircraft-inspired cars built by the company whose primary products were aerial transportation. Herds of Bentleys celebrated the company’s centennial anniversary in two classes.

    This being France, lunch is important and like in yesteryear’s ocean liners there was first class, 2nd class and steerage. First class means VIP package with access to that area, gourmet food, open bar all day and the right crowd, not that there is any crowding at Chantilly compared to say Pebble Beach which gets jam packed.

    Then steerage would be an unfair appellation but by that I mean the food and beverage stands where you stand in line to purchase your luncheon. This year there were more of them and the lines were entirely acceptable, whereas the first year in 2014 it was hopeless.

    The third option is a middle-of-the-road one and entirely new this year. A package allowing you to reserve, pay online and be served in a deluxe setting but at half the cost of the VIP package.

    This was called Chantilly Chic Garden Party and done with major chefs such as Arnaud Faye, chef of the legendary Chevre d’Or (golden goat) in Eze above Monaco; Serge Vieira of the remote region of Cantal or Julien Lucas from the 5-star Auberge du Jeu de Paume right by the Chantilly castle. This is the lunch option I would choose if I was with my lady as opposed to working (I skipped lunch-don’t tell anyone).

    The French Ferrari Club display had three 275 GTBs, a 250 GTE, a 250 GT PF Coupe, a Ferrarina (the stillborn smaller coupe project outsourced by Maranello), an F40, F50, more recent GTs.

    There was a display by the French importer where, gathered in front of a big screen TV, many Ferraristi were on tenterhooks during the final laps of the Austrian Grand Prix as Charles Leclerc so nearly won his first GP; to much agony Max Verstappen got past him two laps from the end.

    The club displays go on and on in various parts of the park and since there is a Best Club Display, they go all out, most of them being creative, romantic, bucolic, some with chandeliers, others with rustic hay bales; it is quite entertaining to see.

    In terms of percentage of crowd dressing in period clothing it is not as strong as Goodwood Revival but far, far more than at the Le Mans Classic and you do see some brilliant outfits.

    It is always a good idea to peruse the parking lots in the park and several dozen more Maranellians could be spotted there such as a 365 GT 2+2, an F12 with proud French color stripes across its center, or another 250 GTE along with many recent production models.

    Special displays included a complete set of Matra F1 cars including an ex-Jackie Stewart GP winner.

    There are luxury and fashion stands; you could dress in period costumes for a photographer pretending to be the Duc d’Aumale and his lady revisiting the grounds.

    The Midual motorcycle was presented again and much admired; made in western France it is as nicely made as a Pagani on two wheels, in fact Horacio Pagani told them that himself.

    There was a display of a half dozen Paganis to mark the company’s 20 years. You could also order your private jet from Airbus Corporate Jet division (as you do on a relaxed Sunday), or have a bespoke hat made according to your whims.

    As usual in such events many automotive artists showed their wares from the sublime to the useless but ladies could also make use of temporary beauty salons giving them period looks. My favorite was the specialist of wooden art creations with a cypress wood bathtub for a mere 8,000 Euros; wrap it up right away, please.

    The Concours d’Elegance pairing a fashion house with a manufacturer did not feature any Ferraris but is nevertheless a spectacular sight as one-off brand new manufacturer prototypes, some of them outlandishly futuristic, parade around the circular fountain escorted by impossibly leggy models in outlandishly alluring gowns.

    This is one car event your better half won’t mind attending, trust me.

    This was followed by a horse carriage and horse display, always an amazing window into a world of equine skills and grace, more relaxing to watch than the breakneck acrobatics on galloping horses seen two years ago.

    There were quaint wooden games from past centuries for kids who could also enjoy pony and boat rides as well as (tethered) hot air balloon experiences.

    As in previous years, visiting the castle itself with the second most important painting collection in the nation after Le Louvre and the fabulous stables nearby, the largest and finest on earth, and the recently  renewed horse museum 200 meters away, are treats to be savored in awe of so much history with a capital H.

    FIA President Jean Todt was present to give the Best of Show awards. Also in attendance was Simon Pagenaud, winner of this years Indy 500 and France’s first in a century, and fellow former Indycar champion Scott Dixon as well as Wolf of Wall Street star Australian actress Margot Robbie and model Yasmin Le Bon.

        Concours d’Elegance

    Best of Show : McLaren Speedtail

    People’s choice award : Volkswagen I.D. Buggy

        Concours d’Etat

    Best of Show (pre-war) was awarded to a very grand Bentley 8-Litre Foursome Coupe (1931) owned by major Ferrari collector Chip Connor of Hong Kong.

    Best of Show (post-war) was awarded to a one-off Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupe (1948) with a bespoke design, which since its owner made a fortune in zippers, had a nose with a stylized zipper on it!

    There was some silverware for Maranello macchinas. The 1994 and Beyond Endurance GTs class was won by the 348 GTC/LM (1994) while the Cars in their Original State (Post-War) class was won by the  365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’ (1973) beating an amazing OSCA Barchetta complete with its weathered period race tech inspection stickers.

    The Grand Prix des Clubs rewarding the club with the best presentation was won by the Facel Vega club.

    The finest lady spectator’s hat award was given to one with suitably spectacular headwear that probably qualifies for having its own zip code.

    An absolutely world class day, don’t miss the next edition in early summer 2021 which is bound to feature more Maranello cars.

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