Winston Churchill’s Birthplace Hosts A Unique Top Tier Concours In Salon Privé
Photography by Nat Twiss
Salon Privé is a unique event, and while you may already be refuting that with something along the lines of “Well it looks like just another concours in front of a fancy building where everyone drinks champagne and walks around looking at cars they know little about,” let me try to explain my view of it too.
Yes, it is located in a pretty posh place, as the grounds of Blenheim Palace have no dearth of decadence, and like any concours of this caliber there are bound to be people who are there for what I suppose you could call the “wrong” reasons, but that’s a really narrow focus to take, and one that’s inaccurate once you try to generalize it. The dominant majority of people here are true gearheads, do not mistake that. I joined into and overheard countless other conversations discussing these machines at a level of minutiae and knowledge that becomes its own language—you know what I mean, when sentences can seemingly consist of chassis codes, competition results, and last names’ of racing drivers and designers alike—and that’s something that simply can’t be faked.
So then, why is it that this concours is so special relative to the rest of them that increasingly fill up our calendars each year? For one, there is the basic but formidable fact that the cars that attend each year are inarguably among history’s uppermost tier of automotive achievement—in every discipline too, from road to race, and era to era—and though I won’t dive into hyperbole and pretend that this is the only place on earth where such cars will congregate, I feel confident in assuring you that it is one of very few. And certainly one of an even smaller group that can boast of a venue like Blenheim Palace.
Overall, it’s a strange affair in the sense that outside inspection of Salon Privé typically compels complaints that swirl around the notion that it’s an out of touch way to celebrate these cars, while those fortunate enough to attend this show up close are so often surprised at how much this isn’t the case once they meet with a few of the owners and other guests.
I have a wonderful and wondrous time each year I’ve attended the event, but this year lent a new sense of focus to the whole thing due to its display of Ferraris. It’s still hard for me to believe that the company is coming up on being three-quarters of a century old while rarely faltering from its peak atop the sports and racing world. Perhaps the entry list wore more than the usual amount of “Rosso Corsa” than most years, but even if it wasn’t Italian, it was an outstanding machine in its own right. It’s hard to be left wanting at Salon Privé.
For instance, watching an uber-rare Maserati Tipo 61 “Birdcage” jaunt through the Salon Privé grounds is a heavenly experience, second only to watching one be driven in anger at a circuit. But let’s be honest, it’s about Ferrari this time, and the recently restored 250 GT California Spider stole my heart effortlessly.
Take a peek at our photos, and try your best to find an excuse to be at Blenheim Palace next year!