IAIN ROBERTSON

Creating a brand-new family event in the grounds of one of England’s finest stately piles might be a late-summer rallying call, suggests Iain Robertson, who enjoyed first-rate access to a gathering of motorcars set to stun and amaze.

Is it fear that sets people into motion? Our country is hardly in a ‘good place’ right now. Money is tight and set to get tighter. An anti-car government fussing over EU dismantling, while emitting endless soft criticism at a North Korean nutcase, is doing its best to turn us onto electricity and autonomy…as long as we survive. Yet, flinging open the doors at several venues, all in the same early-September weekend, not even localised autumnal drizzle could dampen visitors’ spirits.

Blenheim Palace, the magnificent, monumental and ancestral home to Sir Winston Churchill (who is buried at nearby Bladon), remains the home to the Dukes of Marlborough, in the Oxfordshire countryside. It is now the latest Salon Prive addition to a raft of classic and supercar events being held around the UK. In fact, it amazes me just how much wealth is wrapped-up in this strikingly vibrant market, not least in the amount of energy expounded by the monied owners, who are seemingly able to traipse from one such event to the next, as though they are pursuing a new career of open showmanship!

Despite thousands of paying punters (£15.30 per head; £41.00 for families, for a Park and Gardens ticket), many of whom were arriving in show cars of their own and actually had a choice of classic events to attend occupying the same weekend, around 300 exotics, rarities, former competition, or homologation specials, and classics galore drew their attention at a damp and grey parkland venue. Naturally, not all exhibited vehicles were for sale, although I am sure that slapping a ‘righteous sum of money’ in some owners’ open palms might have witnessed a few V5Cs changing hands.

Silverstone Auctions displayed a tented gathering of a real mixed bag of mostly desirable, some even affordable, classics that ranged from a mint, original Mark One Ford Escort Mexico, to a gorgeous Cadillac Eldorado coupe, with a fine choice of automotive ephemera dating back to the 1930s, or as recent as the 1980s. Yet, a wander around the public car parks, trying desperately not to look nefarious, revealed some handy beauties belonging to myriad venue visiting owners. Blenheim provided a haven for the car fan…a classification by which many of us, despite the pressures, are still happy to be regarded.

Inevitably, the crowds gathered ten-deep around the 2.4mEuros blue and black Bugatti Chiron parked in the same largely anonymous cluster in front of the Palace’s porticoed main square as other exotics. Yet, apart from the attentive buzz of aficionados rubbing gently off each other (no nylon shell suits here; thus, no ‘sparks’!), there was an unhurried sense of ‘everyone-will-get-to-see’ and photo-ops were very much the order of the day.

A row of F40s celebrating the model’s 30th Anniversary entertained the eyeballs, notably the road-going one registered ‘F4 0FU’. Mind you, there were plenty of ‘O.Fs.’ being offered at attendant Astons, Ascaris and even Audis. I had driven to and from the event in the latest Audi RS5, which seemed to gather as much attention as a Bugatti Veyron deposited in the public car park. Yet, the pretty Spyker, various Porsches, some older than others, Mercedes ‘Pagodas’ and Italian exotica by the score maintained the ‘Wow!’ factor at a modestly respectful level.

Pirelli Tyre sponsored the Prestige & Performance Competition, which was centred on 80 truly sensational super and hypercars built from 1976 to date. It was a superb platform for the new colour-coded brand that apes the painted sidewalls of the current F1 crop. The gathering included a Jaguar XJ220 and the race-intended XJR15, both of which were fated to enforced rarity status due to political and economic circumstances of their eras. The rally-related ‘short-Sport’ Quattro sat comfortably alongside a 205T16, R5T and 037. With the Ferrari Owners Club celebrating its 50th and the marque heralding its 70th birthdays, 150 of the Modenese marvels sent a shiver up most fans’ spines.

Other rarities include Zenvo, Rimac, Koenigsegg, Noble and McLaren, alongside a pre-Teutonic collection of Rolls-Royces and Bentleys. Yet, as I departed the venue, it was a sole, unadorned and yet openly-parked Lamborghini Countach that caught my eye and captivated the car-boy-with-camera within me. A model that truly summed-up a fabulous (if moist) day in the country, the Countach is one of those evocative models that highlighted the splendour of this new event. I was glad to grab the unmolested worshipping opportunity.

About Iain P W Robertson

Frequently being told to 'go forth and multiply', Iain P W Robertson's automotive wisdom is based on almost forty years in the business, across all aspects from sport to production, at the highest levels. He likes dogs and drives a Suzuki (not related).