Hampton Court Concours of Elegance
An incredible Mclaren F1 GTR Le Mans veteran makes its post-restoration debut
The seventh Concours of Elegance brought everything from Twenties coachbuilt one-offs to battle-hardened Nineties endurance racers to the gravelled boulevards of Hampton Court Palace.
Mclaren F1 GTR
Mclaren launched its certification programme with the unveiling of a 1997 Le Mans F1 GTR Long Tail, fresh from a two-year restoration. Said heritage manager Tom Reinhold, ‘It was the last contemporary Mclaren F1 race car and the first time a GTR has been restored to this level. We were up until four or five o’clock yesterday to get it ready.’
A fire forced Ray Bellm, Andrew Gilbert-scott and Masanori Sekiya to retire chassis 025R from Le Mans in 1997 after 326 laps, but 020R and 026R came home second and third.
‘From 1999-2005 it was campaigned by Hitotsuyama Racing in Japan, before ending up in a collection, painted white. Our brief was to take it back to completely original 1997 Le Mans specification, right down to the aerial. It still had the original tub, though it had been repaired a few times, but it has seen a lot of changes to both the mechanical specification and body to keep it competitive.
‘Around 90 per cent of the parts needed were available from stock – even the tyres and magnesium wheels. We had to open a lot of packing cases to discover just what we had. The hardest job was working out exactly how the car ran at Le Mans that year, because specifications, even sponsorship decals, changed from race to race. Fortunately we have an accurate archive, including old emails and letters, and could talk to people like original team principal Michael Cane and lead technician Russell Hancox.’
Fiat 1200 Wonderful
One of two surviving Fiat 1200 Wonderfuls made its post-restoration debut at Hampton Court. It was one of five bodied by Vignale to a Giovanni Michelotti design. Said Scott King, who managed the restoration for owner Stephen Bruno, ‘It’s the perfect blend of Italian and American styling. It was built in 1958, making it the first-ever targa top. And unlike the later Triumph TR4, when the top comes off it fits in the trunk.
‘The car was found in Italy with the third owner, who hadn’t completed the restoration. The trickiest part was adhering to authenticity and using the correct materials. Most of the car is original, even the glass, but we had to fabricate the stainless steel side trims from photographs – each car is a little different. It needed new wheel covers, which are from a Dual Ghia, but fortunately we found a restoration shop that had made a batch of them and had some spare.’
1957 Ferrari 500 TRC
The last four-cylinder Ferrari ever built made its UK event debut since being imported from Japan. Said owner Chantal Chamandy, ‘When I found the car it had been kept in the owner’s living room. It looked pristine but I had to do a mechanical overhaul – it hadn’t been driven. It’s chassis 0708MDTR and was ordered new by John Von Neumann, who had it painted in the racing colour of Germany, but with the red stripe in honour of Ferrari. I picked it because it was the prettiest car I’d seen, and it drives so well. It just wants to go. Although I’ve driven it on track I haven’t raced it, but it’s wonderful to drive on a rally.’
In 1958 the TRC was bought by Jack Nethercutt, who raced it successfully through to 1960, after which subsequent owners fitted a Buick NASCAR V8 and then another TRC engine before it was reunited with its original straight-four in 1990.
Rolls Phantom I
Frédéric Leroux sums up his taste in classics with the likes of Bizzarrini 5300GTS, so the Rolls-royce Phantom I Coupé Chauffeur he bought last year, complete with vanity set and passenger-to-driver intercom, sits oddly. ‘I was flicking through an auction catalogue and went back to it three times.
‘I found I couldn’t avoid buying it. It represents the time when wealthy people had no shame in showing their wealth. It’s a caricature of ostentation, ordered by a wealthy widow, Irene Schoelkopf Carman in 1929, just before the financial crash, with gold-plated everything.
‘The gold wicker-effect on the rear bodywork would have taken the craftsman at Brewster three months to complete, applying it with a device like a cake icer. As soon as Irene’s second husband died, she bought this car. But his family decided that she didn’t deserve the money and made her give it back.’
Restoration of the Mclaren F1 GTR back to original 1997 Le Mans spec was completed just hours before the show