Show Review: Salon Privé 2011Sun, 03 Jul 2011
Salon Privé is billed as Britain's most elite car show and, with its lashings of pink champagne, lobster barbecue and attendees who look to have taken a wrong turn from the UK scripted-reality show, Made in Chelsea, it's certainly the glitziest. This year Salon Privé moved from its traditional home of The Hurlingham Club, just a (precious) stone's throw from the real-life set of the aforementioned show, to the grounds of Syon House in outer West London.
Home to the Duke of Northumberland, Syon House's Italian Renaissance architecture and lush grounds provide a fitting background for such an event although those familiar with the locales of Villa d'Este on the shores of Lake Como, the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the heart of Lord March's idyllic West Sussex estate or the dramatic Californian coastline of Pebble Beach may be disappointed. The borough of Hounslow in Middlesex is the antithesis of glamor, while only ardent aviation fans would appreciate the constant low passes performed by the commercial jets coming in to land at nearby Heathrow. This may sound snobby, yet as that appears to be Salon Privé's interpretation of the word 'exclusive', it's also relevant.
There's a much greater emphasis on new cars than at other such events, with the lawn leading up to the entrance of the house filled with the latest offerings of some of the world's most exclusive carmakers, each bordered by its own white picket fence. Debutants (to the UK at least) included the Lamborghini Aventador, Toyota Duckling Aston Martin Cygnet, Hennessey Venom GT, Range Rover Evoque, Morgan 3 Wheeler, Rolls-Royce Phantom 102 EX and Jaguar XKR-S.
It's undoubtedly a great place to get close enough to touch some hugely exotic cars; regular motor show goers wouldn't stand a chance of being given such access to cars such as a Bugatti Veyron SS or Aston Martin One-77. It's also a great chance for quintessentially British oddball manufacturers such as Jensen and Morgan to rub shoulders with the big boys.
There was also plenty to keep fans of older cars entertained too, with a strong list of entrants to the concours d'elegance. The eight classes were titled: Rolls-Royce: 100 years of The Spirit of Ecstasy; Road Racers of the 1950s and 1960s; Oddballs: Unique Designs and Concepts with 3 Wheels or more; 100 Years of The Isle of Man TT Mountain Course; Steve McQueen's Machines; Grand Prix Racers up to and including the 1970s; The Thirties; and Ferrari 250 Series.
With cars ranging from Nick Mason's ex-Gilles Villeneuve 1978 Ferrari 312T3 Formula One to Sir Norman Foster's newly restored 1934 Dymaxion streamliner – via a line-up of cars celebrating 100 years of Rolls-Royce, a selection of pre-1980 F1 cars and numerous motor bikes – this was a true mecca for enthusiasts.
The judging panel – consisting of a line-up of eminent experts across a wide aspects of the automotive field including designer Peter Stevens – awarded Gary Snell's exquisitely elegant Alfa Romeo 6c 2500 S Berlinetta the Best of Show trophy. It's not just the stunning Touring Superleggera coachwork which makes the car a worthy winner, its history is also fascinating and controversial as it was originally commissioned by Benito Mussolini as a gift for his mistress Claretta Petacci.
With the lack of a genuine British motor show on the UK's motoring calendar, the chance for the nation's car enthusiasts and potential buyers to see, touch and compare new cars has been left to more specialist events such as Salon Privé and the Goodwood Moving Motor Show and Festival of Speed to fill the gap in what is one of the biggest new car markets in Europe.
Unfortunately for Salon Privé, the events at Goodwood just two weeks later rather undermine its activities. Manufacturers hold back their latest products for Lord March's wonderful show, where the average car buyer now gets a chance to check out more mainstream cars for considerably less money and in far less pretentious company. Its array of historic cars is also unrivaled anywhere in the world, with the added bonus of watching them being raced up the hillclimb course in anger.
Salon Privé should be applauded for its efforts to offer a much-needed event to the calendar and is a pleasant day out for those looking for an exclusive day out near to London, but for everyone else, we'll see you in West Sussex next year.
Show Review: Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este 2011
By Owen Ready