Hampton Court Concours d’Elegance is a history nerd’s dream come true
Growing up, I was passionate about rural Michigan auto shows. The same group of people flocked to most of the local events, but I never got tired of watching the same muscle cars in the same places year after year, event after event. Every auto show felt like coming home. And although I knew that a big, fancy event like the Hampton Court Concours of Elegance would be something totally different, i just didn’t realize How? ‘Or’ What it would be different until I get there.
Full Disclosure: The Bridge of Weir greeted me as a VIP guest at the Hampton Court Concours d’Elegance after Jason Barlow gave a kind introduction.
The Hampton Court Concours d’Elegance takes place (you guessed it) at Hampton Court Palace, outside London. It is best known for being the home of Henry VIII, who brought his six wives to live in the Grand Palace, but construction of the palace began in 1514 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. And in one of the palace’s many courtyards crowded rows of historic cars begging to be inspected.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t know what to expect. The name Concours of Elegance certainly implied a certain pinkies-out attitude, but the last auto show I attended was back in Michigan, where most people shone their 1970s American muscle. It was rare. to have a car with a story, one that was built long before your parents were born.
At Hampton Court, instead, I found cars that never existed except in the pages of automotive history books. I have lost track of how many times I have succumbed to a dramatic gasp as I pointed to a car that had been driven by a motorsport legend.
There was, among others, a 1928 Bentley which won the victory at Le Mans. There was a used 1932 Alfa Romeo P3 Tipo which had been ordered for Grand Prix competition by Enzo Ferrari himself and which was later bought by Count Jose de Villapadierna, 19, who stole the jewelry from her aunt to buy the car. There were Aston Martins driven by Stirling Moss. There was René Dreyfus’ Bugatti Type 59 from 1934 and a Porsche 936/77 from 1976 driven by legends like Jacky Ickx. Everywhere I turned, there was a car steeped in the kind of history I didn’t think I could see with my own eyes.
It was honestly a little overwhelming. The palace itself was well worth a day trip just to see it in person. The cars are the ones that I would have paid stupid amounts of money just to be able to look at them. And paired with luxurious champagne canapes galore, I felt a bit like stepping into a different and much more sophisticated dimension – one where I could pretend to be on my way to visit the Monaco Grand Prix in years. 1930.