LONDON CONCOURS: A Garden Party to Remember
The London Concours improves upon its already stellar mix of stunning automobiles, a pictureperfect historic setting, and top-notch city entertainment by adding a host of additional special attractions and reimagining its hospitality package.
The cars continue to be the main attraction, and this year’s lineup has been carefully selected to feature a variety of racecars that are street-legal. To compete in rallying, endurance racing, or touring automobiles, manufacturers must first release a specific number of streetlegal versions of the vehicle. It is these exceptional vehicles that make up the ‘Made to Race. For the Road’ category.
The ‘Evolution of Aero,’ another theme at the London Concours, spans the 1930s’ sleek streamliners through today’s ground effect vehicles and downforce-heavy supercars with massive rear spoilers and front splitters. It’s a pictorial illustration of how aerodynamics evolved to play such an important role in the development of high-performance automobiles. The one-off creations of manufacturers or specialised coachbuilding enterprises shine in ‘Bespoke Automotive,’ elevating common automobiles to the level of rare and extraordinary works of art.
Lamborghini, probably the most exotic and evocative brand, is also celebrating its 60th anniversary at the show. The incredibly stylish 350 GT, Lamborghini’s very first production model, will be among the vehicles on display at the fantastic Lamborghini exhibit. The 350 GT was unveiled during the 1964 Geneva Auto Show as a response to Ferrari’s illustrious Grand Touring offerings. The 350 GT was up to the challenge, thanks to its Touring-designed aerodynamic body and a Bizzarrini-engineered all-aluminium 3.5-litre V12 that delivered a solid 280 horsepower through a 5-speed ZF manual gearbox to the rear wheels. Each finished product was put through rigorous testing for hundreds of kilometres before delivery, with test drivers “exercising” the 158 mph vehicles at high speeds on the autostrada. Before stopping in 1966, only 120 350 GTs were ever produced. A motor vehicle of such rarity and historical value is a rare find indeed.
Grand Tourisme is the newest class to be added to the London Concours. Cars that do things their own way, often with a dash of craziness and always with impeccable flair, may be found in this carefully curated category showcasing the best examples of French ingenuity and eccentricity across the decades. The
French automobiles will join an exhibit of approximately one hundred other spectacular privately owned vehicles on the perfectly manicured grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company, in what is sure to be London’s best automotive garden party to date.
The Facel Vega Facel II, one of the most beautiful French GT cars ever made, will be participating in this class. The stately, Chrysler V8-powered machine was introduced at the 1961 Paris Motor Show as the world’s fastest four-seater coupé, with a top speed of 150 mph for the 390 horsepower, four-speed manual-equipped models. The Facel II was not only one of the fastest vehicles in its day in terms of top speed, but it was also one of the fastest accelerating cars, being faster than the Aston Martin DB4 and the MercedesBenz 300SL Gullwing from 0-60 mph.
Such power came at a hefty premium, with this car costing 50% more than its nearest competitors and 3x as much as a Jaguar E-Type. Picasso, Christian Dior, and Sir Stirling Moss were among the period’s notable owners. It’s still a great French coupé, and one of the last of its kind. Shortly after the final car was manufactured in a run of 180, Facel Vega filed for bankruptcy, thereby ending the company. The Citroen SM, a coveted French coupé with a 5-speed manual gearbox and 2.7-litre fuel-injection engine, will be on display in June. The heartfelt V6 behind this variant’s beautiful skin came from Maserati, which the French manufacturer acquired in 1968. The SM’s futuristic hydro-pneumatic suspension makes it possible to travel at high speeds across Europe without ever feeling uncomfortable. Several prominent people found themselves unable to resist the enticingly attractive package; a Citroen SM owners’ club may have included Johan Cruyff, Leonid Brezhnev, Carlos Santana, and the Shah of Iran, to name a few. Yet, it is said that Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was the most devoted SM fan, having as many as seven of the stylish French vehicles at one point.
This June will also include some of France’s sportier, lighter coupé options, such as the charming Alpine A110, in highperformance 1600S trim. The A110, which remained in production from 1963 until 1977, boasted outstanding performance on the road and in rally special stages despite its petite size and light weight. The lightweight 1600S model debuted in 1969 with a spirited 4-cylinder motor fitted with two Weber carburetors, delivering 138 hp to the rear wheels with a 5-speed manual gearbox, good for acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds and a top speed of over 130 mph. Extraordinary engineering work
from the French yet again.
The Honourable Artillery Company will also be enthusiastic about the most recent iteration of the A110, known as the “Légende GT.” With its refreshing lightness and fluid handling, the A110 has won over aficionados since it was first introduced in 2017. The GT Légende is widely regarded as the sweet spot of the lineup due to its combination of the normal A110’s more forgiving suspension and the more potent 296 horsepower “S” version of the 1.8-litre turbocharged fourcylinder engine. It is installed midship and transmits power via a quick-shifting dualclutch gearbox. Performance is serious, with a 0–60 mph time of 4.2 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph despite weighing only 1,134 kg. The show in June will be a fantastic chance to compare this contemporary Alpine to its parent.
The Renault 5 Turbo, arguably the coolest car of the 1980s, will be on exhibit with other French legends. The wild, rear-wheel-drive cars with mid-engines that debuted in 1980 looked nothing like the hot Renault 5s. The Turbo was substantially altered to ensure victory on the challenging special stages of Group B rallying, making it a true homologation special. The roof and doors of the Turbo were made out of aluminium, and the shell was beefed up and broadened to provide a more exaggerated, cartoonish appearance. The road-ready version of the hatchback’s 1.4-litre turbocharged engine produced 160 hp, and the car’s light weight of 900 kilogrammes meant it accelerated from zero to sixty miles per hour in 6.6 seconds, while it took the Golf GTI 9 seconds. The Clio V6, which debuted in 2001, will join the 5 Turbo as its wacky spiritual successor. With its wider body, rearwheel drive, and powerful, mid-mounted 227 horsepower 3.0-litre V6, the V6 again shared very little with the regular Clio supermini on which it was nominally based. Tom Walkinshaw Racing in the United Kingdom produced the original “Phase 1” cars, while Renault Sport in Dieppe, France, put together the “Phase 2” models. For many, the early 2000s were the pinnacle of the automobile industry, and the V6 stands out as a dazzling example of French automotive independence and a wonderful flash of craziness from that time.
This is only a taste of the amazing vehicles from a wide variety of exotic marques that will be on display during the event in June.
Andrew Evans, London Concours Director, said: “We’re delighted to announce that our event this June will celebrate the most fabulous French cars ever produced. The Grand Toursime lineup, carefully curated by our team, will highlight the consistently idiosyncratic genius of the French automotive industry—machines that delight with both their engineering ingenuity and stunning looks. They’re going to add real colour and gallic charm to our show, which is now under two months away. It’s going to be our most spectacular yet! Stay tuned in the coming weeks for further exciting class announcements.”