The last minute offer of a free ticket to this event was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Spending a sunny Saturday morning amongst classic and exotic cars in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea was an unexpected delight.
The car brands on display ranged from cutting edge Hypercars (Automobili Pininfarina, Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Tushek & McLaren), through car “recreators” (Caton, Curie Ecosse and Kimera Automobile), to genuine classic cars (Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Austin Healey, Jaguar and others).
Where to start? Perhaps with “A”.
Perhaps the most intriguing car on display was the Alfa Romeo 12C Prototype. This unique survivor was tucked within a tent which restricted close inspection and attempts at photographing but this was by far in a way compensated by the fascinating story of the car provided by an Italian gentleman on the Progetto33 stand.
It was explained that the car seemed to be an experimental car created by Giocomo Colombo possibly with the intention to race it in the Mille Miglia. Powered by a experimental and one of a kind V12 engine, the car features suspension designed by Ferdinand Porsche (as proven by an invoice for from the great man his work).
This engine could be the progenitor of later Ferrari V12 engines dating from the time when Colombo moved from Alfa to Ferrari.
Jointly developed by Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing, this car is quite clearly meant for track use only and that’s hardy surprising given that it was conceived by Adrien Newey, Andy Palmer, Christian Horner and Simon Spoule.
Power comes from an Aston Martin Cosworth normally aspirated V12 engine plus a Rimac electric motor delivering combined hybrid power of 1,160 hp. Crazy!
When compared with the “normal” Frank Feeley designed DB2/4 coupe with opening tailgate, the Tickford bodied Fixed Head Coupe is quite a rare beast (one of only 34 built) and is rather handsome particularly in two-tone paintwork following its full body-off chassis restoration
This car is powered by the 2.9 Litre straight six Lagonda engine designed by W. O. Bentley who was employed by by Lagonda at the time that Aston Martin acquired the company in 1947 . Frank Feeley who designed the DB2/4 was also a Logonda employee at the time of the acquisition.
Of all the DB Aston models, I think the DB 4 is my favourite with the absolute pinnacle being the DB4 GT Zagato – one of the most beautiful cars ever made.
This car in its original California Sage colour scheme looked great. I love the stacked rear tail lights and its glorious Borrani wire wheels.
The DB4, DB5 and DB6 models were powered by Tadek Marek designed straight six engines starting with a 3.7 Litre unit in the DB4 and 4 Litre units in the DB5 and DB6.
Only 123 examples of the DB5 Volante were built by Aston Martin and its rarity and high restoration costs are reflected in the high asking price for these cars, now generally well north of £1 million. Prince Charles has a later DB6 Volante which he’s converted to run on biofuel or cheese or something organic from his Duchy farms.
Last of the classic DB cars before they switched to the William Towns designed DBS6 and later V8 cars which just are not my cup of tea. The DB6 bodywork and underpinnings are very similar to the DB5 but the DB6 was lengthened to improve legroom for rear seat passenger and the up-swept tail was added to improve downforce at high cruising speeds.
This immaculate Austin Healey 100/4 deservedly took the prize of best car on display as voted for by the Chelsea Pensioner residents of the Royal Hospital.
It was good to be able to compare and contrast the genuine 100/4 with the Caton recreation and to my mind, there is no doubt which one I prefer. As the first of the Big Healey line (big when compared to the Sprite), the 100/4 was a brilliantly simple but effective combination of sweeping ’50s bodywork and a hulking great 4-cylinder Austin truck engine and associated gearbox.
The engine had so much torque that 1st gear was completely pointless so the factory simply blanked it off to prevent it from being selected through use of the incredibly long gearstick. If you look carefully at the gear knob showing the selection gate for the gears you can see that the lowest gear is “2” with two further forward gears (“3” and “4”) plus reverse “R”. Thankfully, overdrive was available on all three forward gears.
The car was meant for everyday use but with the ability to roll-up at a race circuit, lower the food-flat windscreen and then fling it around the track after which the driver could re-erect the windscreen and pootle off home for dinner. Along with other post-war British marques and models, the Big Healey was a great export success most especially to the USA.
The Caton recreation of the 100/4 or 100/M racing version was interesting but I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the mix of original styling and ultra-modern elements. Swapping the 3-speed gearbox for a more modern 5-speed unit is fine. Replacing big front and rear drum brakes for disks also fine but LED headlights and the not quite original front grille treatment just didn’t sit well for me.
This historic car was created by Bentley engineer Wally Hassan in 1934 at the request former Bentley Chairman Woolf Barnato. It was designed to achieve just one goal – to take the outer circuit Class B lap record which it at achieved at 142.6 mph and this record still stands to this day.
The car, powered by an 8-litre 6-cylinder engine took part in numerous races and achieved a higher unofficial lap record of 143.11 mph in 1938 before the car went into long term storage for the duration of WWII.
The only other cars that were able to achieve higher lap records were specials such as John Cobb’s monstrous Napier Railton which used enormous aero engines rather than conventional car engines.
This amazing record breaking car is for sale for around £4.5 million: https://vintagebentley.com/stock/details/barnato-hassan-bentley/16
The CSLis not only a lovely looking pillarless coupe, it was also a formidable track racer which attracted the nickname “the Batmobile” due to its various aerodynamic appendages.
This particular car was sold when new to the Royal Family in Bahrain who insisted on it being painted yellow. Its original Chamonix White colour scheme was reinstated during its restoration.
The silver colour of this particular car enhanced by BMW Motorsport stripes was particularly striking but my all time favourite CSL is the Alexander Calder “Art Car”.
The 1930’s gave rise to some absolutely wonderful cars which were built to be driven on public roads or on race tracks and the Delahaye 135 Competition Speciale was one of these cars with a particular focus on competition..
Delahaye 135’s won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1937 and Le Mans in 1938 with many other good results in later races at Le Mans and in French Sports Car Grand Prix races. This car competed successfully in a number of races before and after WWII and even managed an amazing 8th place finish in a one-off sports car race at the 1952 Monaco Grand Prix ate the ripe old age (for a competitive race car) of 16 years old.
This car is an uprated replica of the C-Type Jaguar raced successfully at Le Mans in the ’50s by Edingurgh’s very own race team Ecurie Ecosse which was founded by David Murray an accountant and racing driver.
Murray and fellow director (and chief mechanic) Wilkie Wilkinson started out racing Jaguar XK-120 cars before gravitating towards the XK120 Type C also known as the C-Type Jaguar.
The C-Type established the racing credentials of the Jaguar factory and of privateers such as Ecurie Ecosse with the C-Type, later D-Type and eventually the E-Type.
I have to say that this replica looks extremely authentic but it has benefitted from a degree of modernisation such as expansion of the engine to 4 Litres and an increase power to 300hp. An ideal car for blasting around country roads gathering flies in your teeth!
This early 206 is powered by transverse mounted 2.0 Litre V6 engine which was later expanded to 2.4 Litres in the 246 version of the car. At the time the car was built was built, having only six cylinders meant that it didn’t warrant a Ferrari badge. This honour was reserved for V8 and V12 engined cars. The same Dino engine was fitted to the contemporary Fiat Dino (mainly in 2.0 Litre form) and the later 2.4 Litre engine was used in the Lancia Stratos.
Styled by Pininfarina and built by Scaglietti, the Dino was arguably a much more accessible car and went on to sell in large numbers when compared to other more exclusive Ferrari models.
Designed by Ken Okayama at Pininfarina, the Enzo used F1 technological innovations to create a tribute to the company founder Enzo Ferrari. A carbon fibre body with butterfly doors, auto-shift manual transmission, ceramic brakes, a longitudinally mid mounted V12 engine and a host of aerodynamic took this flagship car way beyond it’s much more analogue predecessor the F1.
Around 400 cars were built and with a top speed of 220 mph, it was definitely supercar if not an early example of a hypercar.
This car has quite conservative styling by Ferrari standards of the time and is more handsome than its close relative – the California Spider. I’m sure it would provide wonderful and stylish transport along the serpentine roads of the Amalfi coast if one was so inclined.
Better known to most folk as just The Daytona -this was one of the ultimate GT cars during its period of manufacture (1968 to1973). The car replaced another Ferrari big-bruiser GT, the 275 GTB and it retained the front mounted Colombo designed V12 engine albeit bored out to 4.4 Litres.
The Daytona nickname followed from Ferrrari’s 1,2,3 finish at the 1967 Daytona 24 Hour Race.
Whilst the bodywork design is quite striking with an emphasis on the long bonnet housing it’s magnificent V12 engine, it diverged from the more sweeping and flowing Pininfarina designs for other models. This is odd as the designer Leonardo Fiarovanti was previously involved in the design of the Dino.
Competition versions of the Daytona looked even more brutal with flared arches housing fat racing wheels and rubber.
There are a very limited number of Ferrari models that I like and this is quite definitely one of them. Its flowing lines exude luxury and quality and with a 3 Litre Colombo designed V12 engine under the bonnet it was also no slouch.
This car was never intended to be competed – it was simply a fast (150mph) and stylish Grand Tourer for discerning and well heeled clientele. Steve McQueen owned one of these cars and described it as one of his favourites.
Only 121 Spider versions of the Daytona were produced by the factory but their desirability led to a number of less rare coupe’s being subjected to a bit of butchery to convert them into unofficial Spiders.
This car is one of the original 121 factory cars featuring a 4.4 Litre V12 engine. Personally, I prefer the coupe.
The Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica is (unlike a lot of other cars at the event) not strictly speaking a replica as it was built by Frazer Nash in period to replicate a successful Le Mans raced model.
Built in 1950, it was initially raced by Bob Gerard in such events as the Tourist Trophy, Hundred and Goodwood. After fitting an update engine, it also raced at Le Mans in 1953.
A great car from a venerable company founded by Archibald Frazer Nash who started out building chain driven cars before the company became the first British importer of BMW and later Porsche cars. AFN later became Porsche GB.
Creation of the lightweight, low-drag E-Type followed-on from the rather dubious bending of race homologation rules practised by Ferrari with their 250 GTO which they claimed was simply a modified 250GT rather than a brand new car.
Jaguar replaced steel bodywork with lighter weight alloy incorporating a more steeply raked front windscreen, a lower and more streamlined roof and aerodynamic sloping tail. The 3.8 Litre engine was converted to dry sump and it was fitted with a wider angle cylinder head to increase power.
Only twelve low-drag cars were built by the factory and this is not one of them. It is instead a recreation of one of the original cars based upon a 1962 chassis by Lynx Engineering with help from Crosthwaite and Gardiner in the engine department. Beautiful.
What a purposeful car this looks ……. and is! With its 5.0L twin turbocharged V8 engine developing 947 bhp and a curb weight of less that 1,500 kg – it’s no slouch. I’m just not sure how it would cope with Islington’s mountainous speed bumps. No mention in the blurb either of how much grocery shopping you can fit in so a support vehicle might be required.
I have to say that in contrast to some of the more onerous and bulky Maserati “sports cars” produced during recent years the MC20 looks rather good. It seems to take many styling queues from the 2004 MC12 which was a full-fat sports car built to homologate a racing version.
It features a twin turbocharged 3.0L V6 developing 621 bhp slotted into a Maserati/Dallara designed chassis enabling the car to reach 203 mph.
The Gullwing Mercedes is quite definitely near the top of my list of the most beautiful and desirable cars ever made. The road car was derived from the 1952 W194 racing car designed by Rudolph Uhlenhaut who rather interestingly was born in Britain to an English Mother and German father who was seconded to the London branch of Deutsche Bank. His British birth was to cause Rudolph some problems back in Germany under the Nazi regime resulting in him being kept under close observation.
The mechanical direct fuel injected straight six engine was capable of propelling the car to 163 mph thanks to the car’s excellent power to weight ratio imbued through its SL (super-leicht) tubular frame and steel chassis construction which was similar in concept to the Italian Superleggera construction method.
The high and wide sills of the car provided great structural rigidity but made entry and egress for driver and passenger extremely difficult without the use of Gullwing doors and the unusual feature of a hinged steering wheel.
The Roadster version of the 300SL is no less beautiful than the coupe with the frontal aspect of the care being enhanced by the oblong headlight indicator/headlight units as opposed to the circular items on the coupe.
The SL was developed during what was a golden age for Mercedes craftsmanship and quality. All aspects of their cars from this period exude simple and functional design combined with practical luxury.
This particular car has only 12,650 miles on the clock following an extremely comprehensive four year restoration at Mercedes specialists Kienle.
O.S.C.A. or Officine Specializzate Costruzione Automobili—Fratelli Maserati S.p.A. to give it’s full and rather grand title manufactured cars intended to road and track racing between 1947 and 1967.
The company was founded by the Maserati brothers (Ernesto, Ettore and Bindo after they finally parted company with Adolfo Orsi who bought all of their shares in their eponymous company in 1937 but who kept them working for him for ten years.
Orsi moved the Maserati company from Bologna to Modena whilst the remaining Maserati brothers established O.S.C.A in San Lazzaro di Seven in Bologna. Older brothers Carlo and Alfieri died in 1910 and 1932 respectively.
O.S.C.A. produced a range of cars with relatively small capacity engines wrapped in a lightweight chassis and clothed by bodywork created by famous carozzeria such as Frua, Fissore, Touring, Vignale and Zagato.
This particular car was a 1954 Tipo MT4-2AD which was the works Le Mans entrant and which also competed three times in the Mille Miglia (achieving a class win) and two times in the Targa Florio.
A fully electric conversion of a 964. This car drove past me as part of a car parade during the event. Totally silent therefore not a 911 from my perspective! Why?
What a glorious technical tour de force this car was and is. Developed in three forms -as a Group B rally car, as a road car (to aid homologation) and as a track race car and it excelled at all of these. Perhaps it’s greatest claim to fame was winning the gruelling Paris-Dakar Rally in 1986 with other 959 entrants finishing in second and sixth places.
This striking GT2 Evo version of a 993 was never actually raced in anger which is a bit of a surprise. It was instead converted for road use by its rather self-indulgent (and why not?) Japanese owner. It must have been quite a sight and sound blasting around the streets of downtown Yokohama.
TVR Tridents are very rare birds. The car was designed by Trevor Frost (also known as Trevor Fiori – Italian for Frost) when he was working at Carrozzeria Fissore in Savigliano near Turin. This car was the last of the three prototypes built in 1965 on a lengthened TVR Griffit chassis with steel bodywork and with a 289 cubic inch Ford V8 engine under the bonnet.
Financial problems at TVR (a regular occurrence) meant that the TVR Trident project never really got off the ground but a separate company – Trident Cars was set-up in Woodbridge in Suffolk, later moving to nearby Ipswich where they sporadically building cars with fibreglass bodies and a variety of drive trains between 1966 and 1978.
I have to say that this is a handsome car which really shows its Italian design roots with some features shared with other Fissore creations such as the Monteverdi High Speed and the Elva-BMW GT160. I assume the wedge styling influenced Oliver Winterbottom’s later TVR design – the TVR Tasmin.