Pictorial: 2020 Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace
The United Kingdom’s Concours of Elegance has always been select on almost every level, though this year it was significantly more so. The concours always limits the number of entrants to maintain its extraordinary standards, and this year brought together just 60 cars, preferring a small selection of exceptional cars that can be showcased in the traditional exceptional backdrop.
Since its inception in 2012, the Concours has rotated through some of the most magnificent settings in Great Britain, such as Windsor Castle, St James’s Palace, Edinburgh’s Palace of Holyroodhouse (The Queen’s official residence in Scotland) though in recent times it has preferred this year’s venue, Hampton Court Palace, the former home of Henry VIII and of many other British kings and queens since then.
Held from September 4 to 6, 2020, the Concours is one of the eight world-class concours events which contribute their winner to the Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award each year, the defacto world championship for collectible cars. Even more significantly this year, the Concours of Elegance was the first major international automotive Concours d’Elegance event held since the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in March. Since then we’ve seen many major events canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the world’s oldest, Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este and the world’s most important, the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
Many changes were needed to ensure audience safety at Concours of Elegance (UK) on the weekend, with revised hospitality facilities, far-more-restricted audience capacity and separate morning and afternoon tickets. This meant the tickets sold out early and not nearly as many people got to see the splendor of this year’s concours.
Most of the cars on display at Hampton Court Palace have been the center of attention for their entire existence, but few have captured quite as much attention as the car that took out the "Best in Show" at the 2020 Concours of Elegance.
In taking top spot ahead of what the organizers billed as “the greatest ever line-up of collector cars gathered in the UK”, the Porsche 917 KH that took the marque’s first ever victory at Le Mans became the focus of the automotive world for a second time. Its win will see it go into a reduced field vying for the 2020 Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award and may yet become the toast of Paris for a second time when the winner is announced at Retromobile in February 2021 (previous winners – 2019 – 2018 – 2017).
The 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans was one of the most spectacular battles in the history of the event. Porsche had never won, though it had come close in 1969 when one of its cars finished just 120 meters behind the Ford GT40 of Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver. That was the last of the four straight Ford wins and the last time Ford won the event. Ferrari was the perennial winner but 1970 saw the changing of the guard. Ferrari hasn’t won one since, and this car took the first of 19 Porsche outright victories at the event.
Porsche rolled up in 1970 loaded for bear with no less than nine of its fearsome 917s, while Ferrari managed to get eleven of the newly homologated 512S beasts onto the grid.
This real-life drama was heightened by the shooting of one of the most famous movies of all-time. Steve McQueen’s Le Mans was shot throughout the race and live footage of the race was captured for the movie by running a Porsche 908/02 in the race that was fitted with movie cameras – not a big deal these days, but before digital video and miniaturization, it required numerous technological miracles to do that 50 years ago. The movie became a blockbuster, and the fame of this car in its time cannot be underestimated.
This Porsche 917K won the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans becoming the first of many Porsches to win the world’s most important race in front of a crowd of 300,000 spectators. Driven by Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood, the 4.5 liter flat-12 covered 4,607.59 km (2,863.02 mi) at an average speed of 192.00 km/h (119.30 mph).
Ford versus Ferrari
One of the many specially-curated aspects of the Concours of Elegance this year was a Ford vs. Ferrari display, that paid homage to some of the Le Mans 24 Hours’ most famous racers that emerged from the rivalry of Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari. It all began when Ford decided he wanted to buy Ferrari, sent a delegation to make Enzo an offer and ... Enzo told Ford’s executives they worked in a “big ugly factory” making “big ugly cars” for a “pig-headed boss.” Within a month it got very personal with Ford throwing money at a new initiative to build a GT car capable of winning Le Mans.
The resultant GT40 initially provided disastrous results but once the bugs were ironed out, it won four years running, along the way racing against a number of Ferraris that are now each worth a King's ransom: the Ferrari 250 LM, 365 P2 and the Ferrari 250 GTO, with all cars on display at Hampton Park.
That this particular edition of the Concours of Elegance should feature both the war between Ford and Ferrari which saw them both win their last Le Mans event more than 50 years ago, and the first Porsche winner (of 19 and counting) ... is ironic!
The Central Display: 25th anniversary of the McLaren F1 GTR
The Concours of Elegance Central Display is traditionally reserved only for the most extraordinary vehicles or astonishing motoring feats, which in the past has included a celebration of the Jaguar D-type’s 1-2-3-4-6 finish at Le Mans. This year the centerpiece was the 25th anniversary of the McLaren F1 GTR, and a feat which is arguably even greater than that of the Jaguar.
F1 creator Gordon Murray always saw the McLaren F1 as the ultimate road machine, and never a racer, and a motor sport-ready F1 was never part of the British brand’s production plan. The McLaren F1 GTR was an afterthought, demanded by F1 customers who wanted to take their cars racing. To that end, the F1 GTR began testing in January 1995 with the Le Mans 24 Hours race only five months away, where it would be competing against not only modified production cars but also prototype vehicles designed specifically for endurance racing. Unfazed, the F1 GTR swept to victory in one of the most comprehensive motor sport victories of all time, taking four of the top five places overall and the top four GT1 places. The final result was McLaren F1 GTRs in first, third, fourth, fifth and 13th places.
“The Concours of Elegance is all about shining a light on the most astonishing stories and creations in the motoring world, and bringing them to one of the world’s most beautiful palaces for our visitors to enjoy", said Concours of Elegance Director, Andrew Evans, of the display, which brought together four of the cars that competed at Le Mans.
"Arguably there’s no more emotive story than that of the F1 GTR; a car that no one expected anything of which then went on to one of the most convincing victories ever seen at the world’s hardest motor race. We’re excited to bring these amazing vehicles together in 2020, but it really is just one small part of a very carefully curated selection of special features and world-class automobiles set for our event.”
The world debut of the INEOS Grenadier
Curiously, there was a global debut at this year's Concours from a company that has never previously made a car but is almost certain to be dearly loved by a dedicated global following for many decades to come. Unlike most newbie automotive manufacturers, the INEOS name comes with serious gravitas and momentum. INEOS is already a global chemicals manufacturer, employing over 22,000 people across 183 sites in 26 countries and the backstory involves INEOS head honcho, Sir Jim Radcliffe. It's a marketer's dream.
The first INEOS Grenadier prototype was on display at Hampton Court Palace, and just to make sure everyone was very clear about the company's intended market and brand values, it brought along a collection of serious 4x4 off-road vehicles from history that it had purchased and studied "to look closely at what made them so enduring.”
First and foremost, INEOS Automotive’s Concours display featured the first-ever production Land-Rover, a 1948 Model 80. It was restored and displayed by INEOS Automotive in an ingenious marketing manifestation of the brand values the fledgling company has embraced and will infuse into its new Grenadier. This is brilliant positioning of a new brand.
As New Atlas' Testosterone editor Chris Weiss put it when explaining the coming of the INEOS Automotive brand, the Grenadier is "the real Land Rover Defender redux the world was waiting, hoping and yearning for when Land Rover instead dropped this $50K luxury overlander on us."
“At the outset of the Grenadier project, we brought some of the great 4x4s of the past into the studio to look closely at what made them so enduring,” said Toby Ecuyer, Head of Design at INEOS Automotive. “And now, it’s fantastic to see the Grenadier in the company of these legends. You can see common design traits and proportions, and certainly the same clarity of purpose. I think the Grenadier sits very naturally among these 4x4 icons, and if others agree, then we’ve achieved our design objective.”
“We received some great feedback following our recent reveal of the new Grenadier, and this is now the first time we’re showing the vehicle at a public event in the UK,” said Dirk Heilmann, CEO at INEOS Automotive. “It’s very fitting that the vehicle is being showcased alongside a collection of off-road icons. They have served as the inspiration for the Grenadier project and represent the uncompromising go-anywhere spirit that the new vehicle will deliver for customers around the world. We look forward to assessing the reaction of the show’s many visitors.”
Prototype testing of the Grenadier is now fully underway, and sales are planned to start in markets worldwide from the end of 2021.
70 Years of Formula 1
Formula One has been running at world championship level for 70 years this year, and Concours events are always on the money when it comes to celebrating anniversaries. Hence the 2020 Concours of Elegance put on a display honoring the milestone, and collecting a range of Grand Prix cars representative of each era of the sport: a 1954 Maserati 250F, a 1961 Lotus 18-21, a 1967 Ferrari 312, a 1972 BRM P180, a 1993 Williams FW15C and a 2005 McLaren MP4/20.
This classical beauty was fielded by the Maserati factory team in 1955, mainly in the hands of Jean Behra, and won at Pau and Bordeaux, with a podium at the Syracuse Grand Prix. The 250F was the car that Mercedes-Benz let Juan Manuel Fangio race until his works Silver Arrow was ready – he won two Grands Prix in it while contracted to Mercedes-Benz.
He then won two titles for Mercedes-Benz, then stepped back into a 250F in 1957 for four more World Championship victories that year. One of those races is generally regarded as the greatest drive in Formula 1 history. He emerged from the pits at the Nürburgring some 48 seconds behind the leading car of Mike Hawthorn due to a disastrous pit stop. He then proceeded to break the lap record at “the Green Hell” TEN TIMES, passing Hawthorn with one lap to go and taking his most famous win.
Aston Martin's bespoke Victor
This is the Aston Martin Victor, a one-off supercar that was on display at the Concours of Elegance. The car was developed for a private customer by Aston Martin’s Q division, which can design and build whatever you wish at a commensurately obscene price, and with a naturally-aspirated 7.3-liter V12 producing 836 hp, it’s the most outrageous Q design yet to see the light of day. Though the all-carbon styling contains hints of the limited-edition One-77, track-only Vulcan and the Valkyrie, the engine comes from the $1.87 million (77 units) One-77, though it has 10 percent more power and … our guess is around $5 million, though the gentlemen involved don’t and won’t discuss such matters, so it might well be more than that.
It's hard to see anything but blue sky in Aston Martin’s future now that it will be effectively controlled by Canadian Lawrence Stroll, who brings with him the Racing Point Formula One team, a deep passion for sports cars (he owns an extensive Ferrari collection and featured in our Ferrari 250 GTO owners parade in 2018), and a track record for rebuilding brands and making them very valuable. Stroll’s son Lance was already a driver in Formula One when Stroll Senior purchased the F1 team, and it is expected that the family’s high energy and passion for automotive performance will significantly invigorate the company’s future product plans.
One thing Lance, please give some thought to the Aston Martin collector car owners when deciding on continuation model production.
116 Years and twice across the Atlantic
The winner of the “Pre-1915” category at this year’s 2020 Concours of Elegance was this 1904 Fiat Type 24/32, which has a wonderful history – journeying from its birth land in Italy to Cape Cod and across the United States of America before settling in Northern Europe. The car was originally purchased by an American couple to use on their honeymoon in Italy, being taken home to Cape Cod and when no-one wanted to buy the 28-year-old car in 1932, it was interred in the grounds of their Cape Cod estate.
The legend of the "buried car" grew and in 1942 Ted Robertson, co-founder of the US Vintage Sports Car Club, was given permission to exhume the Fiat. Remarkably, it had survived its decade underground quite well and it was sold “as is” for $50. It has subsequently been exchanged between enthusiasts many times, including four decades in storage in Milwaukee, a restoration in the early 1990s and a return to Europe in 2007.