Pictorial: 2019 Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille Concours d’Elegance
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of both, with the French Grand Prix returning to the F1 calendar in 2018 and the Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille beginning in 2014. The now biennial concours event was held for the fifth time on Sunday 30 June 2019 and has rapidly evolved into one of the most prestigious in the world.
The quality of the cars at Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille is world class, demonstrated amply by the last winner in 2017, a 1936 Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic, which went on to win the Peninsula Classics Best-of-the-Best Award in February 2018. And each year the crowds and the number of manufacturers involved at Chantilly has grown.
The move of the Peninsula Classics Best-of-the-Best finale from Pebble Beach to Paris has added further momentum to the fast-growing Retromobile show, and rise of both Retromobile and Chantilly reflects the latent potential of the automotive heritage abundant in France.
Most importantly for a concours event, the venue of the Château de Chantilly is second to none. Domaine de Chantilly is one of the jewels in the crown of France's cultural heritage, and houses the intact treasures of a 19th century prince, the second largest collection of paintings after the Louvre, a priceless library of illuminated manuscripts and a museum, all set among three separate gardens totaling 115 hectares. The entirety of this magnificence came from Henri d'Orléans, the Duke of Aumale. The Duke left no heirs, so he willed his domain and its precious collections to the French Institute so that it would be opened to the public.
Just 30 minutes north of Paris, in the spectacular and historic surroundings of one of France's most renowned castles, the event seems destined to make theConcours d'élégance French again, just as it was when Paris was the epicenter of the world's automotive industry. The term dates back to the 17th-century, when aristocrats paraded horse-drawn carriages in the parks of Paris during summer weekends and holidays, with contests for the most elegant horse-drawn carriage emerging. When carriages became horseless, the Concours d'élégance' as we know it was born.
The fifth running of the Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille saw 16 automotive manufacturers attend: Abarth, Alpine, Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW, Bugatti, DS, Ferrari, Honda, Lexus, McLaren, Pagani, Porsche, Renault, Tesla and Volkswagen.
Most importantly, the event is beginning to become a launching pad for hyper-exclusive machinery. The image above shows a number of the exotic cars displayed at Chantilly, many of them for the first time in a public event. For easy reference, and with links to the standalone stories about each car, they are, from left to right: the DS X E-Tense; the I.D. Buggy by Volkswagen; the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Continuation; the Bugatti "Voiture Noire"; the BMW Vision M Next; the McLaren Speedtail; the Renault EZ-Ultimo; and the Lexus Concept LC Cabriolet.
Concept cars and important hypercar debuts are the stars of international motor shows and less than a handful of concours events have risen to the heights of being able to attract concept car and significant production car debuts. This year Chantilly numbered several world debuts among its classes, most notably the DS X E-Tense, a front-wheel-drive electric sports car with exquisite lines.
For road use, DS has limited the power to 400 kW (540 horsepower), but there's also a track mode, where 1,000 kW (1,360 horsepower) is available. The car comes with rock solid credibility, as much of the technology in the car comes from DS Performance, the same technical team behind the Formula E DS TECHEETAH team.
The DS TECHEETAH team is leading both the Formula E driver and manufacturers points table with just one round to go of the 2018-19 Championship calendar, and the team's points lead is large enough to suggest that both titles will be held by France a fortnight from now in the most hotly contested and most relevant motorsport championship in the world.
Concours d'Elegance Best of Show
By far the most significant debut at Chantilly was the McLaren Speedtail. While the DS X E-Tense is a concept, the McLaren Speedtail is a significant new model from a very significant performance car manufacturer, and the Speedtail appears at this early stage to be the spiritual successor to the legendary McLaren F1 road car. As is McLaren's forte, it went big when it counted and won "Best in Show" by the judges at a concours event of elite stature.
McLaren is framing the Speedtail as its first car in a new class which it has dubbed, the Hyper-GT class. It is meant to offer a quantum leap forward in roadgoing performance cars of the same magnitude as the F1 Road car did in its day, and McLaren's "long tail" success has become a hallmark of the brand. One of McLaren's brand assets is now aerodynamic knowhow, and delivering a car of such beauty that is at the bleeding edge of aerodynamic efficiency is a breathtaking achievement.
The exact details of the hybrid powertain have not yet been disclosed, other than it delivers 1,036 hp to the rear wheels and propels the 3,153 lb (1,430 kg) car to 186 mph (300 km/h) in 12.8 seconds (four seconds faster than the P1), and has a top speed of 250 mph (403 km/h). It is almost certainly the most aerodynamically advanced road car ever produced, and it was accompanied at Chantilly by the McLaren GT (pictured directly below), which is the car that will become the cash cow.
At US$2.25 million, the Speedtail is surprisingly cheap for what it is, and how visually arresting it is in the flesh. That might look like a normal roof from the images, but it is actually one continuous piece of glass, and that has never been done before in a production automobile.
To emphasize that McLaren's aerodynamic and technological tour-de-force is much more than a list of impressive numbers, the Speedtail did something that has never before been done at a concours event, taking "best in show" at its first outing as a production automobile. By virtue of Chantilly's standing as one of the contributors to the Peninsula Classics Best-of-the-best award, the McLaren Speedtail will go to Paris next February as a contender for the defacto world championship of concours cars, as a current model.
By any stretch, McLaren must have packed up the cars at Chantilly and headed for this weekend's Goodwood Festival of Speed having achieved more than it thought possible, even though it had come to Chantilly loaded for bear!
McLaren's modern racing heritage is as rich as any, and when the trucks arrived at Chantilly from McLaren's headquarters in Woking, after the Speedtail and GT were unloaded, so too were the McLaren F1 road car that won Le Mans in 1995 (above), Johnny Rutherford's Indianapolis-winning McLaren (below), and the MP4/4, the winningest car in Formula One history over a single season.
McLaren's immense and growing collection of priceless cars is now a marketing tool, and in picking the eyes from the collection and showing them at Chantilly, it wasemphasising its past record of elite world-beating performance achievements as it released the Speedtail.
That's the 1988 McLaren MP4/4 being unloaded in Chantilly above. It is the most successful Formula One car in history over a single season - 16 races, 15 poles, 15 wins. Its winning percentage of 93.8% beats out the 2016 Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid which won 19 of 21 races (90.5%), the ultimate measurement of a car's competitiveness. Had it not been for a freak accident which took Ayrton Senna out of the race at the Italian Grand Prix, whilst he was in the lead with two laps remaining, this car would have completed a season undefeated.
The Fashion Show
One of the advantages of debuting a car at a concours rather than an auto show is that the car is driven, albeit slowly, and the other is that everyone gets to see it from every angle without having to muscle their way through a rugby scrum at a car show to get a brief glimpse of an inanimate object.
At Chantilly Arts et Elegance Richard Mille, the cars move around in the magnificent setting of the chateau, accompanied by models dressed by major fashion houses.
For example, the models around the McLaren Speedtail were dressed by fashion designer Paule Ka, and the Volkswagen I.D. Buggy model was dressed by Ann Demeulemeester.
Similarly, each major model was accompanied by models dressed by a specific haute couture designer: Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Continuation (Ronald Van der Kemp); the BMW Vision M Next (Talbot Ruehnof); Bugatti "Voiture Noire" (Max Mara); DS X E-Tense (Eymeric François); Honda E Prototype (Yohji Yamamoto); Lexus Concept LC Cabriolet (Rochas); and the Renault EZ-Ultimo (Guy Laroche).
Hence the parade of showstoppers was doubly so as it was also a fashion show catwalk. The Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este began the practice of elegantly dressed fashion models accompanying the cars onto the red carpet at presentation time, but Chantilly Arts & Excellence Richard Mille has taken it to the ultimate expression of elegance and high fashion. That is, of course, unless the innovative organizers think of something else which can be added to the show, and given the first five events, that's likely.
Concours d'Elegance Public Best of Show
While the 2019 Best of Show award at Chantilly went to the McLaren Speedtail, the 2019 Best of Show award, voted by attendees at the event, went to the I.D. Buggy by Volkswagen. That the public would choose the I.D. Buggy is a sign that Volkswagen is on the right track with its MEB-based architecture upon which the I.D. Buggy, the fifth electric concept car based on the platform, is built.
Volkswagen has already announced that its MEB-based EV architecture and powertrain will be opened up to external manufacturers, either low-volume automotive couturiers, all the way through to high volume manufacturers. Ford is the first of the big names to announce it will use the MEB architecture to develop new vehicles, and there undoubtedly will be more.
Hence, it is possible, perhaps probable, that the thriving global coachbuilding industry that once existed for exclusive car bodies, may be resurrected. The once glorious wares of carrossiers, carrozzeria and coachbuilders such as Figoni et Falaschi, Karmann, Vanden Plas, Franay, Hibbard & Darrin, Saoutchik and Kellner may find modern day equivalents, and those still in existence may find trade booming once more as fully functional bare chassis become abundant once more.
110 years of Bugatti
One of the many birthdays celebrated at the event was 110 years of the Bugatti marque. In 1919, Ettore Bugatti took a last minute stand at the Paris Motor Show, displaying three cars using his SOHC four-valve, four-cylinder 1,368cc engine. The Type 13 pictured above was one of them, and it proved a fitting contrast at Chantilly to the most expensive new car in the world, Bugatti's $12.3 million La Voiture Noire.
La Voiture Noire has an 8-liter engine that produces 1,479 horsepower (1,103 kW) and 1,180 pound-feet (1,600 Nm) of torque from its W16 engine, retuned for this special car. A big hit at the recent Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este, La Voiture Noire and the Type 13 nicely book-ended the marque's spectacular history, complemented by a 1928 Bugatti Type 37A and a 1994 Bugatti EB110 GT (1994), and representing all three phases of the French marque. Bugatti exhibited examples of all its current range.
50 years of the Porsche 917
It's now 50 years since the Porsche 917 was first shown at the Geneva Motor Show, with its 520 hp, 4.5 liter, 12-cylinder boxer engine and seemingly impossibly light (42 kg /93 lb) spaceframe chassis. Literature at the time quoted the price at DEM 140,000 (US$34,874) for the 800 kg race car. After a challenging first season, the car soon lived up to its potential and became a worldbeater.
So much so, that getting hold of one of the 37 cars that were built (that's the first edition batch of 25 lined up in 1970 above) will probably cost in the vicinity of $10 million if it doesn't have a few major wins in its provenance, and more if it does. Last year at Gooding & Company's Pebble Beach auction, a 1970 917K sold for $14,080,000. Being one of the stars of Steve McQueen's Le Mans feature film helped it become the most famous racing car of its era, perhaps any era.
The 917 certainly showed glimpses of its potential in the first year, but certainly not the dominance it would eventually display, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1970 and 1971 and the North American CanAm Series in 1972 and 1973. In 1971, the 917 was timed at 387 km/h (240 mph) on the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans and the CanAm models were developed to eventually produce 1,100 bhp in turbocharged form.
Three 917s were present at Chantilly, with one of them being the road car that was built by Porsche for Count Gregorio Rossi de Montelera of Martini & Rossi fame. Rossi bought chassis 030 from Porsche, and it raced once under the Martini Racing Team Flag at the 1971 Zeltweg 1,000 km World Championship race. It was then returned to Porsche, where it was turned into a road car, adding an additional 160 kg of registration and comfort necessities, and registered for the road in the only place where the good Count could get it registered – Alabama. Certainly one of the fastest road cars in the world in its day, the 917 won its class at Chantilly. For the record, a 917 driven hard returns an astonishing 30 liters per 100 km, so next time you have a Martini, raise a toast to the eccentric Count.
Matra World F1 Championship 50th Anniversary
Matra (Mécanique Aviation Traction) was a French technology company that produced cars, bicycles, aeronautics and weaponry. In 1964 it began producing cars, and using innovative construction and technology from its aviation subsidiary, it began a motorsport program that rocked the world. Inside of five years it won the Formula One Drivers and Constructors Championships in 1969, then continued onward, winning the Tour de France Automobile (1970, 1971) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1972, 1973, 1974).
Though it was successful in all forms of motorsport it competed in, it was the 1969 Formula One title which engendered French national pride, and for which the marque is fondly remembered. That's Jackie Stewart winning the title above. For the record, the Tyrell Matra is the only French car to have won a world Formula One Championship, the Renault in which Fernando Alonso won two world titles was built in England.
Pagani's 20th Anniversary
Another of the many celebrations in Chantilly was the Pagani Zonda's 20th birthday. Five Zondas made the party including the original C12 from 1999, the 2005 F named after Juan Manuel Fangio (Horacio Pagani is also from Argentina), a 2009 R racing version, a Cinque from 2008 and a one-of-three 2017 HP Barchetta powered by a 6-liter 798 bhp V12.
Ballot's 100th Birthday
Ballot produced automobiles for just 13 years, yet carved itself a place in automotive history for its exclusive, costly and very fast cars. The company was already producing marine, industrial and automobile engines when it decided to go racing in late 1918. Four cars were built to a design from Swiss born engineer Ernest Henry, who had made a name for himself as the primary designer of the highly successful four-cylinder DOHC, four-valve Peugeot racing cars which won the 1912 and 1913 (French - there was only one at this time) Grands Prix and the 1913 Indianapolis 500. Henry's DOHC four-valve engine became the blueprint for the next century of motorsport.
The four cars were fast, but encountered trouble with their wheels, with two having to pull out while in leading positions, with the others finishing fourth and tenth. While Henry's career continued with Sunbeam, the Ballots often finished on the podium, but only won one major race: the inaugural Italian Grand Prix in 1921. The 1919 Ballot 5/8 LC which won the Ballot Race Car Class at Chantilly was one of the cars that had to retire from the 1919 Indianapolis race (pictured above).
Finally, those concours which have risen to world acclaim share one attribute: exceptional organisation. In this regard, Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille is world class.
The rest of the story is in the image gallery captions.
Best of Show (Pre-War)
Winner: 1931 Bentley 8 Litre Foursome Coupé
Best of Show (Post-War)
Winner: 1948 Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupé
1994 and beyond endurance GTs
Winner: 1994 Ferrari 348 GTC LM
Racing Aston Martins, post-war, closed cars
Winner: 1960 Aston Martin DB4
Racing Aston Martins, post-war, open cars
Winner: 1959 Aston Martin DBR1
The Facel Vegas
Winner: 1961 Facel Vega HK500
Japanese Sport Cars
Winner: 1969 Toyota 2000GT
Winner: 1970 McLaren M8C DFV
Cars at the Paris Motor Show in the Grand Palais up to 1961
Winner: 1948 Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport