For One Day Each Year, Thousands Of British Sports Cars Gather At Lake Geneva
Photography by Daniel Zizka
Last Saturday, my day began in a park at the entrance of Morges, a small Swiss municipality on the shore of Lake Geneva. As always, the magnificent 17th century galley La Liberté was the focal point of the town’s harbor, and as I began to walk along the water I admired it and the rest of the town. Famous for its medieval castle, its tulip festival, and countless pedestrian zones, Morges is a beautiful city to walk through, and while it has plenty of virtues, it’s not the ideal driving destination. Located in the canton of Vaud, about a ten-minute drive from Lausanne, Morges wouldn’t be the first place you would think of when it comes to interesting cars. However, every year, for a single day, this notion is upended under the colors of the Union Jack.
If the name didn’t give it away, the Swiss Classic British Car Meeting is an annual celebration wherein every pre-1990 British car is welcomed into the castle’s gardens and onto the lakeshore road. I have been attending this event for as long as I can remember, and the most recent had the best weather I’ve seen at the show, which led to even more cars than usual turning out for the day. This year, over 1,600 classic British automobiles and motorcycles made it to Morges, with number plates representing at least ten different countries (keeping track of so many plates wasn’t easy with nothing to write with I learned!), and you can multiply the amount of cars by fifteen to start to imagine how many people came to admire them.
2017 marked the 26th edition of the event, which celebrated the 95th anniversary of Jaguar, Accordingly, there was a special selection of cars from the manufacturer thanks to the Jaguar Drivers’ Club, including a wonderful Mk2 touring car showcased at the entrance of the castle. But of course, amongst the masses of vehicles, beauty was to be found in the diversity as well as the individual cars. Finding a rare Sunbeam Tiger between a handful of Minis, a couple of friends enjoying a picnic next to their Silver Dawn, or an R-Type Continental sharing some shade with a 1980s lifted Range Rover, everything just seemed right even if it seemed to represent so many facets of a country’s car culture.
Usually, the organizers of the event create zones reserved for certain types of vehicles or marques, but this year was particularly disorganized. The constant arrival and departure of many cars definitely did not help the situation, and although it may sound like it, I do not mean any of this in a negative way. The differences in year, size, shape, or even just color made the lineups even more interesting to look at, and it represented what this event really is about: a common passion for British automobiles, not a segmented meeting of separate groups.
Regardless of the presentation of the cars, it’s always difficult to walk around this gathering and find a personal favorite out of so many strong contenders! The usual DB5s are as captivating as ever, and this year, a beautiful white example stood out in particular. Another potential favorite was an early, green Austin-Healey 100, complete with leather bonnet straps, white racing numbers, and a front and rear bumper delete; a car that offered a lovely change from the endless blue and white Healey 3000s. But of all the cars this year, I knew that a Jaguar would likely grab my attention with a stronger grip than the others, and sure enough, away from the official brand tents and the castle, a very unique XK150 S was the one to do it.
Based on a rare 1959 3.8-liter fixed head coupe model, the ex-Douglas Hull machine was a remarkable car to see in person. I had only heard of it once before, and I’d since forgotten about its existence, only remembering the more famous “woody” variant of the XK. Parked between a regular XK120 convertible and yet another Ice Blue Healey, it just perfect among its contemporaries and siblings, and it was refreshing to find a car like this not necessarily showcased on a carpet with barriers around it.
Another year, and another Swiss Classic British Car Meeting comes to an end, marking with it the beginning of the end of the car show season around the area. After a great day like this one, it’s a bittersweet moment. As I was walking back to my car, and taking my last photos of a white on white Vantage Volante, I was already looking forward to the 2018 edition despite the long wait. Of course, if you are only interested in concours-winning, million dollar pieces of art, this event might not be for you, but if you enjoy a simple, relaxing afternoon on Lake Geneva, accompanied by the smell of fondue and petrol, I definitely recommend you add this event on your calendar. Having a penchant for British roadsters wouldn’t hurt either!