There are dozens of automotive events that take place in the UK. The small rock that is soon to turn its back on the European Union is home to hundreds of the rarest and most valuable cars ever produced. Old and new, there are cars the will have any self confessed fanatic weak at the knees foaming at the mouth. From Goodwood to Silverstone, the summer calendar is punctuated with a plethora of shows up and down the country.
As the busy season winds down I start to look forward to the last few events of the year – the majority of which focus on classics, such as the Goodwood Revival. An event that always stands out in my mind for it unparalleled quality is Salon Prive. For the second year running Salon Prive took place at the glorious Blenheim Palace in Woodstock.
The courtyard and drive were open to the public and the cars presented there alone could have Salon Prive considered one of the best events on automotive calendar. The presence of cars both old and new, racecars and road legal was incredible. Ferrari F40s and F50s were mixing with the likes of a purple Pagani in dramatic 760 RS guise, one of six Koenigsegg One:1s and a spattering of other sensational automobiles including a handful of Lamborghini Aventador SVs a McLaren P1 and Ferrari 599 GTO.
Milling around and greeting familiar faces I was met by another, none other than Jay Kay in his shiny Silverstone grey Ferrari F12 TDF. Nods exchanged I continued out to the drive under the moody grey September skies into the supercar carpark where I set my sights on two of the greatest cars to be built in the past decade. Ferrari 458 Speciales and Huracans became invisible, I had to consciously remember to blink as I parted the sea of young spotters and smartly dressed gentlemen before arriving at a duo of my dreams.
A familiar Porsche Carrera GT sat modestly in its tight black dress along side a less than subtle Lexus LFA finished in a shade of orange that I could imagine would offend many of the Lords and Ladies that once inhabited the palatial grounds many years ago. A constant stream of Ferrari GTC4 Lussos, Lamborghini Huracans and BMW i8s flowed up and down the drive – one of the unique attractions of Salon Prive is the dynamic test drive element that gives well heeled visitors the opportunity to drive and experience cars they may be tempted to throw a deposit at.
As I rounded the walls of the palace that doubled as the birth place of one Winston Churchill, I entered the huge manicured green behind the building and approached a roped walk way lined with another batch of all time greats. The first car along the path to the main event was the sublime Koenigsegg CCX, those that followed were just as impressive. Another gaggle of Aventador SVs, a couple of 991 GT3 RSs that defended a very rare 911 R the sat opposite a mean looking 918 Spyder. Continuing on and rubbing my eyes in disbelief was and Mercedes-McLaren SLR, GT3 RS 4.0 and a naked carbon Zonda F. All of this before I even set foot in the main event itself.
Flashing my VIP badge I walked under the entrance marquee and onto one of the most exclusive and prestigious lawns anywhere in the world. Immediately I observe another F50 and F40. Panning right to the right I see a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport, another 918, McLaren P1, Bugatti EB110 and one of three Pagani Huayra Dinistia editions with its shark like fin. Excuse me if it seems I am glossing over such significant cars, it pays testament to the extent of how many exceptional cars were in attendance and I haven’t even got the cars that stole the show.
The Lamborghini stand was one of the must visits of Salon Prive 2016 as one of their most exclusive cars was making its UK debut – the Lamborghini Centenario that sat low and wide to the grass. Another car making its UK debut came from Koenigsegg and is owned by one of London’s most prolific modern supercar collectors. The Koenigsegg Agera RS Naraya is a unique car finished in naked blue tinted carbon and complimented with contrasting gold highlights. All the gold you see is 24-carrot leaf that was applied by hand by an artist in Italy. The exhaust is milled from solid gold and in like nothing I have seen before.
Another star of the show is not something making its debut and comes from 1997. The Porsche GT1 is a Le Mans car that was somehow homologated for the road so the car could compete on track. It features a seven-figure price tag and was presented in a dark shade of blue and snapped necks of all in attendance. You would be forgiven for choking on a scone of spitting out your champagne seeing some of the price tags and values of cars on display. Speaking of scones and champagne, the afternoon tea is a highlight that again makes this a special occasion, but not before the Lobster lunch that is a unique characteristic of Salon Prive.
Some things are not in even the greatest event planners control and the traditional British weather inevitably rained on the parade. That being said, the show went on in rude style and glamour and without a doubt still remains my favourite event of the year. The mix of cars and the calibre of guests in attendance in like no other – combined with the unique charm of the setting, lunch and tea the show continues to operate going from strength to strength. I cannot wait to don my weekend best, with an umbrella of course, and make my pilgrimage to the palace once again.