FOR ROBERT, CLASSIC PORSCHES – AND OTHERS – ARE NOT IN THEIR NATURAL ENVIRONMENT ON THE MANICURED LAWNS OF A CONCOURS EVENT. MAYBE IT’S TIME FOR A NEW-LOOK SHOW…
On concours events –and more
Iam not a natural concours fan. I'm not sure old cars are at their best on posh lawns with well-dressed people tottering about with silly drinks. However, I did attend a couple of events in London recently. The first was the City concours at the Honourable Artillery Company's open space at the southern end of City Road. It's an impressive backdrop and a rather bright idea – where better to showcase some seriously spendy cars than the Square Mile?
Even so, the format felt a little tired and some of the cars weren't quite right. An early 911Shad wide wheels and tyres and a Lotus Elan had an after-market steering wheel. I'm not sure any of that matters outside the concours arena, but I thought it did inside? Maybe not. Two similar 2.7 RSS were displayed near each other. Not that close, but not that far away. It looked as if no-one else had noticed their similarity.
The ring of traders' tents around the perimeter was too obvious and a little offputting. A promising start with room for improvement. I'll be back – if invited!
The St Johns Wood Pageant was more to my taste. The normally-busy High Street was closed and the cars were displayed down both sides, with not a blade of grass to be seen. There was some impressive machinery on show, too, including one or two cars I recognised from the City concours the week before.
I found a few familiar old car people to chat to while the assorted family members with me amused themselves by popping in and out of clothes shops. A win-win! The star of the show, in my totally biased opinion, was my old 356 Pre-a (see photo).
The car was parked outside its new owner 's premises and carrying flyers for this year 's Classics at the Castle, and next year 's 356 International. What a lovely little thing it is. It slightly hurts to admit it, but the addition of bumpers with Gt-type trims has made it even prettier than when I owned it. Hedingham, incidentally, is exempt from my dislike of posh lawns.
Not long after the two London events, the hefty but excellent Luftgekuhlt picture book arrived with a thud. A great flick-through for all classic Porsche fans. I haven't been to the Californian event – though I do have the Deus ex Machina T-shirts – but it looks stunning. That's partly because the photographs in the book are so good, but only partly.
In the spirit of my views on concours, there are no lawns, the people are dressed in T-shirts and jeans and I don't see any silly drinks. If anything, it looks like an espresso and Diet Coke crowd. I'll have one of each, please. The cars are a mix of the original and the modified, as well as the significant and the unimportant. It all seems to rub along together and it would be great to see something similar in a suitably car-friendly site in Europe.
Maybe London is not the right venue – we tend to take our cars and ourselves too seriously. I wonder if it's more something for Berlin, Milan or Glasgow. I'll certainly make the journey if it happens.
A friend kindly invited me to join him in trying Porsche's current range at the Silverstone Experience centre. We started with the Panamera and the Macan. The first was too big and the second not big enough. I get the commercial case for both, but these complicated and competent cars seem more or less unconnected – other than by the badge on the bonnet – with the older models we know and love. I like the look of the Panamera estate but I am not sure what it has to do with anything from the past either.
Next, a driver drifted a Cayman GT4 around while I sat in the passenger seat. It was like a big animal in a small cage. The circuit next door would have suited it more. At this point, I noticed that some of the staff had taken to calling me Mr Grumpy! Never mind, my mood was about to change.
I got into a manual 911 Gtsand it all started to make sense again. I was dismissive of the latest 911 model initially, thinking that, much like myself, it had bulked up a bit over the years. I must say it carries it well. The new car can still be driven hard and, when pushed, it is recognisable to anyone familiar with older 911s.
Into the Cayenne and proof, if it were needed, that as well as building large saloons, Porsche also builds large on/off-roaders. Great. We ended with the new Boxster and Cayman. The cars have taken some flak over the noise of the new flat four engines. They sounded fine to me. The irregular off-beat rhythm was another echo of cars gone by – in this case the 356. There are still some classic Porsche themes and values in the current range, but you have to look, and listen, quite carefully to find them. CP
“THE CARS WERE DISPLAYED WITH NOT A BLADE OF GRASS TO BE SEEN…”
Robert Barrie is a classic Porsche enthusiast through and through. As well as competing in historic events with a variety of early Porsches and organising track days, he's also a purveyor of fine classic automobiles