MMR Blog

Sandy on Assignment: London’s Concours of Elegance…

Posted on November 19, 2014 Comments (1)

A weekend with a Prince!

Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

A legendary show car, the 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Touring -- Flying Star -- takes Best in Show with the Pullman Trophy.

A legendary show car, the 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Touring ‘Flying Star’ takes Best in Show with the Pullman Trophy.

To walk among sixty of the world’s rarest historic cars, exclusively invited to participate in London’s Concours of Elegance was magnificent. To be in the presence of a Prince while doing so was extraordinary!

I was planning a trip to Germany; right about the time RM’s London auction was to take place. Without a moment’s hesitation, I adjusted my plans for a two-day stop over in London and a chance to attend RM’s eighth annual London auction. It was a great opportunity to watch my favorite auctioneer and RM’s European Managing Director, Max Girardo. Just as exciting, was discovering a new motorsports gem… London’s Concours of Elegance.

This legendary 1922 Sunbeam Tourist Trophy Grand Prix Car remains one of the finest Sunbeam racing cars ever built.

This legendary 1922 Sunbeam Tourist Trophy Grand Prix Car remains one of the finest Sunbeam racing cars ever built.

Now in its third year, the UK’s budding international concours, uniquely held at a different Royal Palace each year, is definitely making its mark… not only among the motorsports elite, but with the public, as well. Held the first weekend of September, this event is the ultimate motorsports English garden party.

Hampton Court gardens are breathtaking.

Hampton Court gardens are breathtaking.

On Sunday, I attended the gardens of one of London’s spectacular palaces, Hampton Court, home to not only the sixty concours cars but cars from many UK car clubs and specialty car tours, as well as something unique… the “Talking Concours”, a staged area featuring interviews with greats from the car world.

The inaugural event of the Concours took place in 2012 within the private grounds of Windsor Castle to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s diamond jubilee of reign. The second Concours of Elegance was held at the Royal Palace of St. James, last year.

Henry the VIII’s favorite royal playground was Hampton Court.

Henry the VIII’s favorite royal playground was Hampton Court.

Although Hampton Court Palace has not been home to the British Royal Family since the 18th century, its grandeur stands out among world Royal Palaces. It is best remembered as Henry the VIII’s favorite royal residence. Nearly 200 years later, William III and Mary II embarked on a massive expansion of the Palace, which included the grounds enjoyed during this year’s Concours.

The 1938 Talbot-Lago T150C-SS Figoni et Falaschi Coupe received The Autoglym Elegant Design Award

The 1938 Talbot-Lago T150C-SS Figoni et Falaschi Coupe received The Autoglym Elegant Design Award

The William & Son Award for the Most Elegant British Motor Car went to this 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Freestone and Webb Coupe

The William & Son Award for the Most Elegant British Motor Car went to this 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Freestone & Webb Coupe

This 1934 Triumph Dolomite 8C SS Corsica Roadster received The Royal Automobile Club Spirit of Motoring Award

This 1934 Triumph Dolomite 8C SS Corsica Roadster received The Royal Automobile Club Spirit of Motoring Award

Much like Villa d’Este, the Concours of Elegance differs from traditional concours where a ‘winning’ car is selected by a panel of judges. The Concours of Elegance organizers maintain that if a car has been invited to participate in the Concours, it is already a winner. On Saturday, each of the sixty Concours participants casts their vote for the vehicle they consider the most elegant, thus Best of Show. During an exclusive dinner Saturday evening in King Henry VIII’s Great Dining Hall at Hampton Court Palace, Concours Patron HRH Prince Michael of Kent presented this year’s Best of Show to the 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Touring ‘Flying Star’ with the Pullman Trophy.

A legendary show car, the 1931 Alfa Romeo made its concours debut in 1931 at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, where, accompanied by the model Josette Pozzo, it won the Coppa d’Oro di Villa d’Este trophy. It has been winning accolades and trophies ever since.

This 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza is one of the most desirable pre-war racing cars in existence.

This 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza is one of the most desirable pre-war racing cars in existence.

A vision for the future, this 1970 Lancia Stratos Zero Bertone Concept Car received RM Auction’s Award for the Most Innovative Car of its Era.

A vision for the future, this 1970 Lancia Stratos Zero Bertone Concept Car received RM Auction’s Award for the Most Innovative Car of its Era.

Spectators to the Concours of Elegance, reached well over 10,000 this year. Voting for a first time award… the Public Choice winner was awarded to a rare alloy-bodied 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing Coupe, number 19 of only 29 alloy Gullwings built.

First owned by Italian gentleman racer Dottore Alberico Cacciari, this car was the only alloy-bodied 300 SL to compete in the 1956 and 1957 Mille Miglias, with Cacciari driving. The car appeared at Hampton Court, just as it raced in 1956, with its 452 racing numbers, and original tool kit and factory-fitted luggage.

This rare 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Alloy Gullwing Coupe received both the ‘Public Choice’ award and AGI Private Clients Award for the Most Historically Significant Car

This rare 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Alloy Gullwing Coupe received both the ‘Public Choice’ award and AGI Private Clients Award for the Most Historically Significant Car

So there I was, wandering among the beautiful cars and beautiful gardens in awe of the Palace when the Patron of the Concours of Elegance drove by. His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent accompanied by his lovely wife, the Princess, was admiring the cars and speaking with owners and vendors throughout the day.

HRH Prince Michael of Kent, Patron of the Concours of Elegance and his Princess were highly accessible to attendees throughout the weekend.

HRH Prince Michael of Kent, Patron of the Concours of Elegance and his Princess were highly accessible to attendees throughout the weekend.

So which palace is up next for this prestigious concours? With the gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen, the 2015 Concours of Elegance will be held at the Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland, The Queen’s official residence in Scotland.

Moved last year to coincide with the Concours of Elegance, RM Auctions concluded its European auction calendar on Monday, with its London auction at Battersea Evolution. While pouring over one of the Jaguars during the preview just prior to the start of the auction, I started talking with a gentleman and his son. You just never know who you’ll meet at a RM auction! To my astonishment, he introduced himself as the previous owner of the Ecurie Ecosse transporter, which I had seen a year ago at the Goodwood Revival and this year at the Mille Miglia. To know me, is to know I adore transporters. I was tickled!

Sitting pretty among the sparkling lights, the 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione ‘Tour de France’ took the highest hammer price of the night.

Sitting pretty among the sparkling lights, the 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione ‘Tour de France’ took the highest hammer price of the night.

Sitting in the second row, right in front of Max was definitely the highlight of the weekend! The crowd was very international with 35 countries represented in the room. We watched as the hammer went down on the final bid of $8,119,188 for the 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione ‘Tour de France’ and $3,266,340 for the rare 1966 Ferrari GTB Alloy, and $1,959,804 for the highly original 1964 Shelby 289 Competition Cobra. We were in awe watching the sales sore to $36,348,733 US dollars. Another whirlwind motorsports weekend was over… as the final hammer went down.


Exciting Times

Posted on October 15, 2014 Comments (2)

Alain de Cadenet

By Alain de Cadenet


The Bubble has not burst. Far from it; in fact, every report I see enhances the onwards and upwards market trend. For years, the auction houses have led the exhilarating charge to produce fresh values that range from the expected to the outrageous. The only bargains now seem to be cheaper cars needing work that buyers can do themselves; thereby making serious saving.

Mercedes

When Bonhams sold the exquisitely engineered 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196, it provided a boost for important GP machines ranging from pre-WW2 Alfa-Romeos, Talbot-Lagos, and Maseratis to 1960s and 70s F1 kit. Record prices appear to pervade confidence to similar genres of cars and that must surely be mirroring the commodity market? Either way, the auction houses have ramped up their businesses as demand increases and specialist publications have become invaluable to buyers in determining how prices have panned out as well as offering opinions, suggestions, and an insight into just how much knowledge is needed to bid assuredly.

Goodwood Festival of Speed

Such is the influence of auction prices that the biggest groans come from dealers who have difficulty obtaining stock. Owners are reluctant to dispose of something just in case it goes up dramatically in price. Who can blame them? Personally, on the premise that he wouldn’t risk his own capital on a dicey machine, I have always thought that a vehicle that was actually owned by a reputable dealer was a better bet than something that was merely on sale or return. Good logic? Depends on the dealer.

About 45 years ago I was chatting with an acquaintance who’d worked out that the sum total of really special, worthwhile vintage, veteran, and classic cars was only something around 3,000. That’s counting just the best of everything and what went into the mix is pure conjecture. Just think about that, though perhaps there aren’t that many totally delicious cars to be had. Remove cars held in trusts, museums, and the like and, even though there is more machinery to be considered from 1969, there will never be enough good stuff to go around.

Ferrari F1 Goodwood

With cheap money abounding, surely you should buy whatever you can get your hands on because this hobby/sport/market is not going to go away in the foreseeable future. By doing so you not only satisfy your cravings, but also provide ample fodder to set up a regime to help keep yourself sane in today’s ever changing world.

After all, old vehicles keep you busy. Research, study, and investigation all lead to what the quintessence of this celebration of artifacts is all about. They stop you playing Sudoku and Candy Crush and teach you about chassis manufacture, castings, machining, brakes, gearboxes, camshafts, bodywork, wheels, tyres, race history, vin numbers, registration numbers, and whatever else it takes to be an expert in your field.

Goodwood Festival of Speed

What’s on offer is wonderful therapy. It is the way knowledge is gained and one of the reasons why demand is so high. Next time you go anywhere the cognoscenti are gathering (Goodwood, for example), just ask them how much fun they are having and you’ll know why prices are on the up.

You’ll notice I have talked only about prices. A price is someone else’s idea of what something is worth and value is a different thing altogether. It is derived from your own feel for the item based on experience, knowledge, and discipline. Your dad’s old car will be more valuable to you than anyone else. So will the car that you always wanted but couldn't afford. Likewise, if you don’t want to wait for years for your favorite to be restored, the ready-to-go 100 pointer may be more valuable to you.

Either way, whatever is going on out there is fueling exciting times in every way in the old vehicle world. That’s why there is no need to worry.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on May 2, 2014 Comments (0)

Alfas

Alfa: A Glorious Past—An Unpredictable Future

Regular subscribers may have noticed that mention of Alfa Romeo occurs frequently in our weekly screeds. The history of this glorious brand provides excellent fodder for our constant railings against the plastic look-alike offerings of Maserati, Jaguar and Buick.

Alfa Romeo has had two lives; a full rich one in Europe where its successful racing and fine street cars engendered a passion which endures around the world today. And another in America where its European accomplishments were generally unknown but where Alfa race cars soared sporadically in the sixties and seventies. Truth be told, it is best remembered in America for being Dustin Hoffmann’s ride in The Graduate.

Alfa

This week it was announced that Fiat would be removing Alfa from under the Ferrari–Maserati umbrella and making it a stand-alone company. In fact, Ferrari is the premium performance brand, and a struggling Maserati is not a close second. Porsche has that. Glorious as its past unquestionably is, today there is no room for Alfa Romeo in the Fiat garage. This week’s announcement is not accompanied by a hopeful plan or an encouraging narrative. Rather it has fueled speculation that Alfa Romeo is being positioned for sale. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it found a loving home.

Alfa 3 wheel

Alfa: History Flash

In keeping with the Alfa theme, contributor S. Scott Callan has provided us a reminder of Alfa’s glorious past from his book, Alfa Romeo: View from The Mouth of the Dragon.

Ferrari 250 GTO in Motion

Ferrari 250 GTO 1964

University of Rhode Island Film Professor, one time actor, and MMR subscriber Hal Hamilton forwarded a great video of Derek Hill narrating the history of and driving the Ferrari 250 GTO that his father drove to victory in several major races. This is about as close as many of us will ever get to the view from the passenger seat of this most beautiful of the 36 GTOs ever made.

Senna and RUSH

Motorsports magazines are reminding Ayrton Senna fans that this month marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola. Autoweek carried Alain Prost’s fairly brief remembrance of their relationship in the most recent issue. As it happens, I saw RUSH last week and read the Prost piece shortly afterward. It occurred to me that the rivalry between Senna and Prost would have made a far better film.

Images

Our lead image and Alfa images this week are from Michael Keyser’s excellent book Racing Demons – Porsche and the Targa Florio.

And Michael Furman’s image this week is a great shot of the long tail 917 that lives at the Simeone in Philadelphia. Isn’t it stunning?

photo by Michael Furman, Porsche Long Tail 917

If you haven’t visited our Uncommon Classifieds recently, click here. There are a number of rare and interesting cars on offer at this time. Take a moment to dream, it’s good for you.

Have a great weekend and please share this with a friend.

Peter Bourassa


Alfa Romeo: View From the Mouth of the Dragon

Posted on May 1, 2014 Comments (0)

by S. Scott Callan

Alfa Romeo: View From the Mouth of the Dragon

“A note about the illustrations:

Some of the earliest automotive books received when I was young came from that great period of illustrated publications. These publications spoke of automotive design and engineering through the visual language of the pen and ink watercolor. These publications and their illustrations inspired my automotive enthusiasm and motivated me as a young artist. In the interest of taking the reader on a journey through the time period discussed, to fully appreciate the innovation of 1914 say, I have revisited this printing and graphic method dating from the turn of the 20th Century through nineteen forty.

For the engines I had a special interest in bringing alive the engineering; utilizing the printed page to bring forth the evolving performance of these engines in a method that inhabited the time, while animating them in third dimension representation. So here once again I revisit the period printing and graphic visual language of the pen and ink watercolor to bring forth an understanding of what Giuseppe Merosi, Vittorio Jano and Gioachino Colombo imagined and made metal.”

– S. Scott Callan

View the book on S. Scott Callan's website.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on April 11, 2014 Comments (0)

F1

Just when we were expecting the worst, a fine race broke out. This was certainly one of the best races F1 has produced in recent memory. Bahrain is still a Mickey Mouse track but it would have been impossible to duplicate this kind of close racing at Spa. Why do TV racing producers feel compelled to keep the cars racing for the win off of our screens? This is not the first race this year where we are treated to the gripping battle for fifth while the battle for the win is ignored. Meanwhile, Ferrari and Renault need a new plan soon or heads will roll.

Denise McCluggage and Anne Hall in Ford Falcon -- Monte Carlo Rally

But Baby, It’s Cold Outside

It is the 50th Anniversary of Paddy Hopkirk’s Monte Carlo win and our lead image is of Denise McCluggage and co-driver Anne Hall blasting thru the Alps to win the Lady’s Cup and, more important, their class in the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally! Denise also raced and won for Ford in The Shell 4000 Rally in Canada. Read on.

Winter Courting in Quebec

We never really took Summer rallying seriously. We just wanted to drive fast for an hour, find a secluded beach with a campfire and warm beer and neck. Ah necking! It was a far different time.

Winter rallies were different, we would bounce our little AH Sprites at breakneck speeds over snow packed and deeply rutted side roads in the Quebec countryside to finish in some warm little restaurant where we would learn that the winning team, generally driving a Volkswagen Beetle equipped with functional windshield wipers, a heater and a calculator, (The unfair advantage?) had finished an hour ahead of us and we had never even been on the same roads. Then we would fall back into our little cars, race all the way back to St. Jean with one eye glued to a five inch half circle of clear windshield. It is amazing that we lived. Girls wouldn’t come with us on these adventures because, one, they took place on Sunday mornings and they had to go to church, and two, the rallies were stupid and they weren’t. Besides they never necked on Sunday. It was their day off.

Uncommon Classifieds

This week’s classifieds are exceptional. Take a moment to buy one.

Alfas Everywhere!

S. Scott Callan shared images and a vignette about Enzo Ferrari and his days with Alfa—from his book Alfa Romeo: View From the Mouth of the Dragon. This week’s brilliant image of our favorite car (which resides at the Simeone Foundation Museum) is from Michael Furman’s book The Spirit of Competition.

Michael Furman photo

Have a great weekend. Don’t forget to share this with a friend.

Peter Bourassa