McLaren F1s Mix It Up With Messerschmitts At One Of The Coolest Concours Out There
Photography by Patrice Minol
Heveningham Hall is a wonderful site that dates back to 1780, but you’d be forgiven in never having heard of it, seeing as the place is most famous for hosting an annual county fair for charity than it is a car show.
Which brings us to the interesting part: in 2016, Heveningham began holding an automotive event with the intention of bringing together 50 of the world’s finest examples to be displayed on the dramatic grass terraces. Now in the third year in 2018, the concours is already one of the best events in the UK for people like us, and though I’ll go into a bit more detail, I think the photos of the group assembled last weekend tell you the story of why that’s the case.
Let’s start with a nice aerial view from the roof of the house where you can see the fanned layout of the cars on the terraces. With Nick Mason’s 250 GTO sharing space with a McLaren F1 there’s no doubting the cachet of the metal on display here, but more than just a nice lineup put together on a freshly cut lawn, there was more to this event, and the viewing opportunities were far better than the jammed-together rows that some shows resort to.
Being able to go backstage as it were, before all the crowds rightfully stopped in their tracks and in front of my lens, I wanted to show what it was like to have more one on one time. Indeed the best feeling for me was simply getting so close to these cars without interference. To see them driving and drifting around the grass and doing full-power starts for the hillclimb race, that was just a bonus in making the event an entire package for the petrolheads that came to watch.
Getting so close to so many legendary cars isn’t an everyday option even at such grand events as the upcoming Festival of Speed, but here I could take you entire afternoon looking at all the details and reflections before the V12s and their cousins got started up to have a run at the hill.
But before the hill was to be climbed in a series of sprints on Saturday, Heveningham Hall was running an absolutely choice rally around Suffolk’s renowned Heritage Coast, and I had the privilege take part in the tour in a red Ferrari Daytona; Italian horsepower mixed with the Suffolk countryside made for one happy passenger.
The tour was 50 miles long, with a well deserved pitstop in a local pub. The pub was on the other side of the river we’d been following though, meaning we had to cross it with a rather let’s call it “quaint” ferry, which allowed the wild sight of a Daytona like ours or road-legal P1 GTR crossing the river on an old wooden boat. Not their usual means of transport I’d hope and imagine.
The Daytona was a pleasure of course just to ride in, with the smell of the old Italian leather and the heat of the V12 creeping up from your feet. It would have been nice to have it out on open roads all to ourselves, but in a convoy with a Lancia Stratos, Porsche 356, Eagle E-Type, etc., it wasn’t the worst traffic one comes across in this life.
The race up the so-called Horsepower Hill provides an opportunity for concours-level cars to become alive and burn their rubber “as intended.” Seeing the 250 GTO climbing the hill was unbelievable given how fast it was going and how much it’s worth, and the “track” they used for this part of the weekend is actually just one of the roads inside the grounds. Well organized and without issue, the succession of climbs was a success, and the best part for me was to walk up to the top of the hill afterwards to see all the cars coming back down at half pace—the effort made in hiking up the hill gave me the chance to see the most expensive car in the world coming down all alone, without anyone around it to spoil my imaginations of being back in the ‘60s when such a sight may have been more common.
Though some of the best on the planet were here, the weekend wasn’t exclusively focused on the grounds strewn with supercars. An acrobatic aero show was also taking place, with mock dog fights between Spitfires and Messerschmitts drawing complex loops and arcs above us in the blue skies. The famous fighters then landed on the grass next to the house to join the more earth-bound machinery. Attendants were not left wanting at Heveningham.
The show is a young one in its three years of running, but as you can see the organizers have managed to curate a selection of truly top-level pieces of automotive history both recent and long-reaching, and besides these specimens there is much else to see in the architecture of the Hall itself, and in the display of vintage aircraft. The atmosphere was terrific, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Congratulation to the Hunt family (not that Hunt family) for putting on such a unique event, and thanks to Will and Steve for the Daytona ride!