Over the weekend London’s Hampton Court played host to 60 of the world’s rarest and most desirable cars at the UK’s third Concours of Elegance. Some 10,000 guests poured through the gates of Henry VIII’s sumptuous Thames-side palace to feast their eyes on many cars that had never been publicly seen in the UK. Ben Whitworth shouldered the onerous task of donning his blazer and Panama to rub shoulders with the owners, buyers and car fans. Photos by www.fluidimages.co.uk.
1904 Oldsmobile Model N French Front Touring Runabout
Looking fit and healthy given its 110-year age, this Oldsmobile was the first to make it into production with a steering wheel. It was powered by a 1.9-litre 7hp single-cylinder engine, which was mounted beneath the plump smoking-room seats.
1912 Bugatti 5 Litre Chain Drive
This is the oldest surviving Bugatti racer, and was Ettore’s own personal competition car. Its manacing wasp-tailed aero bodywork hid a sophisticated three-valve-per-cylinder four-pot engine driven by an overhead camshaft. Bugatti raced it at both Le Mans and Mont Ventoux Hill Climb in 1912, where its 100mph plus top speed saw it take a class win.
1928 Mercedes Benz 680 S Saoutchik Torpedo Roadster
This beautifully proportioned coupe from avantgarde French coachbuilder Saoutchik dropped the sleekest of bodywork, complete with lizard-skin cabin, over Mercedes-Benz’s rampant S Series to create the ultimate road racer. The supercharged 6789cc straight six delivered the pace to match the two-seater’s hedonistic grace.
1929 Mercedes-Benz 710 SS Grand Prix UW302 R and 1930 Mercedes-Benz 710 SS Rennsport GP10
Two of the finest racers from the Mercedes-Benz stables, both developed under the technical watch of Ferdinand Porsche. The 7.1-litre 170bhp UW302 was driven in torrential weather to victory in the 1929 RAC Tourist Trophy by Rudoph Caracciola at an average speed of 72mph. GP10, which boasted an even more muscular 250bhp version of the straight six engine, was owned by Malcolm Campbell. In his first outing at Brooklands in 1930 he obliterated the lap record and he continued to race the car successfully at Brooklands in the early 1930s.
1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Touring Flying Star
Winner of this year’s Pullman Trophy for Best of Show, this legendary Alfa Romeo was built for a wealthy Italian heiress by Touring of Milan. Undeniably feminine with its flowing curves, the 6C was also a fiercely competitive racer – its 85bhp six-cylinder engine was good for 90mph and in 1929 it won the Mille Miglia, the Tourist Trophy and the Spa 24 Hours. Owner Deborah Keller looks suitably happy with her award.
1933 Rolls Royce Phantom II Continental Freestone & Webb Coupe
Vast, fast and dramatic, this Phantom II was clothed by coachbuilders Freestone & Webb for Sir John Leigh, Conservative MP for Clapham. He wanted something for ‘fast touring in Europe’ and this elegant long-bonetted four-seater was the end result.
1936 Dusenberg Model J Rollston Victoria Coupe
The Model J was the finest American car of the 20s and 30s, with an unmatchable combination of power, presense and performance. Its 6876cc straight eight developed 265bhp – good for 120mph – and it was the car of choice for Clark Gable, Cary Grant, King Alfonso of Spain and Prince Nicholas of Romania. Big, brawny and bold – how very American.
1936 Bugatti T57 Paul Nee Pillarless Coupe
This stunning Type 57 – the last and arguably Bugatti’s finest production car – was designed by Parisian coachbuilder Paul Nee. It’s impossibly sleek and elegant in the metal, all curvaceous and flowing, and its 3.3-litre supercharged straight eight engine delivered 100mph performance. Gorgeous from every angle.
1938 Talbot Largo T150C SS Figoni Falaschi Coupe
This isn’t a car – it’s a rolling art deco sculpture, a teardrop of mercury made metal. It’s difficult to describe just how perfect this car’s streamlined proportions are, and the fact that it was underpinned by an advanced 4.0-litre 165bhp straight six with a four-speed pre-selector 'box makes it even more incredible.
1952 Jaguar XK120 Jabbeke
Can you even begin to imagine what Jaguar works driver Norman Dewis must have experienced being strapped into this heavily modified XK120, having that Perspex bubble bolted into place and then being turned loose on Belgium’s concrete Jabbeke motorway to have a crack at the Flying Mile world record? Whatever his anxieties, he coolly kept his toe in and the Jaguar clocked up a faintly preposterous 172.412mph word record.
1955 Mercedes Benz 300B Pininfarina Coupe
Possibly the most breathtakingly beautiful Mercedes ever – 300 SL Gullwing included – this Pininfarina-syled 300 Coupe was the perfect marriage of German engineering and Italian style. Born out of a written request from Pininfarina for a 300 chassis to modify, this was one of only three Mercedes-Benz cars the Italian coachbuilder created.
1957 Jaguar XK140 Zagato
Nope, that’s not a typo – this really is a Jaguar XK140. Taking on a damaged XK140, Zagato created this svelte and sexy one-off model, hoping it would lead to a more formal relationship with Jaguar. All traditional Jaguar styling clues were dispensed with, and the flamboyant result was shown at the 1957 Paris motor show.
1957 Ferrari 250 TDF GT Scaglietti Corsa Berlinetta
One of only seven surviving Tour de France Berlinetta 250 models – hence the TDF moniker – this aluminium-bodied beauty featured a stronger tubular chasis, wider track, double-wishbone suspension, a 250bhp 2953cc V12 and... a third windscreen wiper. It raced competitively in both Europe and South America in the late 1950s.
1959 Aston Martin DB4GT Lightweight
One of only two surviving lightweight GT models, this DB4 was some 170lb lighter than standard and was powered by a 302bhp 3.7-litre straight six – good for a white-knuckled 150mph. Stirling Moss took the chequered flag in this car at the 1960 BARC Goodwood meeting, and it was also a winner at Brands Hatch and Oulton Park.
1974 Porsche 911 RSR 214 Turbo
Just look at this beast. One of only three RSR Turbos built by Porsche for the 1974 World Championship, this 500bhp monster completed every race it entered and racked up some impressive podium finishes – second at Watkins Glen and second at Le Mans. Traction was apparently still an issue, despite those toilet-roll rear tyres and vast rear tail. Sweaty-palm scary…
1985 Lancia Delta S4 Corse
This is the Lancia in which Henri Toivonen ansd Sergio Cresto won the 1986 Monte Carlo Rally, a supercharged and turbocharged monster that epitomised the radical Group B racers of the late 80s. Weighing just 890kg and with 550bhp on tab, the Delta could out-accelerate a contemporary F1 car up to 100mph. Makes today's WRC cars look like mobility scooters…
1970 Lancia Stratos Zero Bertone Concept
The work of Bertone head stylist Marcello Gandidni, the Zero caused a riot at the 1970 Turin motor show. Not hard to understand why! It's this wonderful juxtaposition - concept cars rubbing shoulders with McLaren F1s - which made this Hampton Court car show something quite special.