A weekend at Blenheim Palace.
So last weekend I attended one of the UK’s most prestigious automotive events that is in the annual calendar; Salon Privé. Salon Privé literally translates to “private lounge” in French and it does indeed live up to its name. Hosted at one of the most beautiful venues I’ve ever been too – Blenheim Palace, Salon Privé is one of the most exclusive and elegant events I’ve ever attended. The atmosphere is truly unlike anything I’ve experienced at other car shows. You really do feel the sense of occasion as you pass through the guarded arch branded with the events name and into what is probably the UK’s most luxurious automotive garden party that is accessible to the public.
I first attended Salon Privé last year in 2016 and in typical British summertime fashion, it rained. It definitely it dampen the mood (pardon the pun) but the range cars that showed up despite the weather was rather something. There was your usual array of Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s but amongst the seemingly common supercars there were some that really stood out to me i.e. An Orange LFA, Carrera GT, 997 Sport Classic, 997 GT2RS and of course the Zonda 760 RS (also known as the Viola) and all of this was technically outside of the main show. Inside Salon Privé last year was equally if not more special. There was a 996 GT1 Straßenversion, a black 288 GTO and it was the UK debut of the Koenigsegg Agera RS ‘Naraya’ owned by my friend @lathouras_p. Due to the heavy rain, despite my perseverance – my camera and lens at the time had enough of the weather and condensation struck in my lens. So unfortunately there’s a lack of photos from last year.
So with that experience from last year, I had high hopes for this year’s event. So did the event meet my expectations? In short, yes. To avoid the confusion of what was what, this year the event was split into 3 days for Salon Privé and one additional day for what was dubbed as ‘Blenheim Palace Classic and Supercar’. I imagine this was because there was so much on inside the palace grounds last year that it detracted from the main event so this year’s event was a lot less crowded and felt more thought out. The turn out on Saturday was great, some of the cars that were on the entrance lawn were astonishing. Some highlights for me were the Reventon coupe and roadster, Koenigsegg One:1 (all supplied by SuperVettura), LFA Nürburgring Edition (@lathouras_p) and @tempestaracing‘s Tailor Made Ferrari F12 TdF.
Inside the event itself there was some beautiful machines on display. The main event on Sunday was a tribute to 70 years of Ferrari. You had an array of F40’s, an F50, Enzo and various 250’s and California’s. Some other cars on display were an Aston Martin Vulcan, Koenigsegg Agera RS (both supplied by SuperVettura), Lamborghini Centenario, Alpine’s new iteration of the A110 and the Italdesign Zerouno.
Just outside of the main show further down from the palace was the Salon Privé sale conducted by Silverstone Auctions. There were a few interesting bits there including a dark green Diablo SV, a 930 Flachbau cabriolet finished in Minerva Blue contrasted with a creme interior, a 964 RS finished in Rubystone Red and even a BMW E30 M3 Convertible.
There’s no real itinerary when it comes to the show, which is a good thing. Everyone has time to socialise, ogle the latest and greatest and even in some cases throw money and buy what’s on show. The ambience that the show provides is very relaxed, sounds of champagne bottles popping, glasses clinking and laughter filled the air whilst everyone eagerly anticipated the food that was coming from the charcoal grill’s scattered around at each corner of the event. The food was excellent (Pirelli had the best Coffee and Cannoli’s) although I did hear chatter and gasps of when people heard that lobster wasn’t being served on the Saturday – I kid you not, this seemed to be a genuine concern amongst some.
As lunchtime past, it was time for the owners of the Ferrari’s on display to go for a little drive around the palace grounds for all to see. Some of my favorites from this selection were the Grigio Silverstone LaFerrari Aperta, 365 GTB/4 Daytona Berlinetta Competizione and of course the 250 California’s. There was also an appearance from @tempestaracing‘s 488 Challenge car.
After the parade, everyone flooded back in to resume drinking and finish up the day with afternoon tea with scones and sandwiches. As the sun dropped down, the sky started to tint and golden hour snuck up on us. It was the end of the show and time to move the cars for the next day – Blenheim Palace Classic and Supercar.
As the crowds left and the cars started to drive out onto the lawn, a select few owners decided to take the opportunity and get some photos by the palace. Once done, it was a short drive by the lake towards the main courtyard. With the sun setting over the lake and only the sound of tyres passing over gravel filling the air, one could almost imagine that they were at Villa d’Este. Watching a range of Classic and modern race cars with the odd hypercar mixed in passing by the lake was the perfect end to the day.
The morning after…
With heavy rain forecasted and about 5 hours sleep, I woke up reluctantly the following morning as I imagined a repeat of what was the previous year. So I went back up to Blenheim Palace (as a passenger this time) with golf umbrella in hand and camera covered. The turnout on Sunday was rather large considering the less than desirable weather conditions. For me, photos weren’t all so important as I had seen all the cars prior but another opportunity to take more photos in that setting shouldn’t be overlooked.
As lunchtime approached, the crowds began to thin as the rain continued to hammer down on those who decided to brave the rain. Despite the adverse weather, in true British fashion the must go on and so did the parades of the palace. Most of the cars had no issues driving out but the Mercedes AMG CLK GTR Roadster is completely roofless, no detachable tent, no carbon panels… nothing. Instead the event sponsors Pirelli were generous enough to hand the passenger an umbrella in attempt to keep most of the rain out of the cabin. It was obviously not the conditions the organisers prepared for.
Despite the weather, the cars on display were amazing especially as it is an opportunity for those who couldn’t attend Salon Privé to see some of the cars. I managed to get a few shots of the SuperVettura cars before I left.
To conclude, in my opinion this year’s Salon Privé was an improvement on last year’s. The event felt more structured and organised which I believe was achieved by separating Salon Privé from what is now known as Blenheim Palace Classic and Supercar. The two events are very different; one is very much a social event for those who have the latest and greatest on order whereas the other is a great opportunity for keen enthusiasts to see some of the worlds most exquisite automobiles in a spectacular setting. I’m a fan of both events and hope to attend next year’s. If these events aren’t in your calendar already, they should be.
Other Photo’s From Both Events: