Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace: Supercars galore
PUBLISHED: 10:16 01 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:16 01 October 2020
Katie and Ian Jarvis visit Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace, home of hypercar launches, world premieres, and James Bond recreations, where Ian talks shop and Katie nods a great deal
I’m at Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace, the world’s most super-class super-car super-event anywhere in the universe, ever, at all. Salon Privé, where the chaps (and, yes, they pretty much are) heading the companies showing off the cars say things like, “We create bespoke cars, matching customers’ handbags, lipsticks and private jets,” while everybody nods, and even I try to remember the brand colours for easyJet.
We stop by Bentley Mulliner, which has launched a range of 12 (yes! Just 12 will be made!) Bacalar cars. Again, even I – and I will use this phrase a lot – can see how beautiful a Bacalar is: a customised, personalised, hand-built, nearly £2m open-top car (the most expensive Bentley ever). “And,” says the chap (I think he might be the Mulliner boss but, sorry, I missed that bit; my ignorance is so profound, it took me a while to realise he wasn’t selling yogurt) proudly showing us round, “every one of the 12 has been sold; and every interaction [because of Covid] has been by Zoom”.
Gosh, I think, deeply impressed; all the buyers are able to work Zoom.
And that’s the thing about Salon Privé. You might just be there because you have a couple of million quid you found you’d been using as a bookmark.
Or – like me – you might be there because the event is such rollicking fun. Take the well-named James on the Aston Martin stand, who’s standing guard over the dove grey (“Silver birch,”), sorry, silver birch DB5 that Sean Connery used to pursue that evil psychopath through the Furka Pass in Switzerland. (Dangerous though that chase might have been, nowadays having a girlfriend named Pussy is riskier.) Well, not the actual, actual car. Better than that. It’s one of 25 recreations, complete with rolling number plate (three different registrations), bullet-resistance (“We’ve tested it with firearms; useful for traffic jams”), smoke screen, slice-y bits on the wheels, and machine gun frontage (NB, non-working. I forgot to ask if there was a Novichok dispenser-option for the contemporary Russian market). The rear oil slick is merely coloured water nowadays – slightly disappointing; nor could they persuade H&S spoilsports to let them install a mostly-harmless ejector seat. But, the point is, it costs £2.75m (“Plus local taxes”). Sorry, plus local taxes. YET you can’t actually use it to pop to Aldi (NB this is NOT a joke. Have you seen ever an Aldi car park?) or to take the kids to school because it’s not public-road legal. So there you go! You spend £2.75 million and you can’t even use the thing to assassinate people on A-roads. Now, that’s what I call an indulgence.
There are cars there – many of them world debuts – that you can hardly believe exist. “What is that one, Kate?” Ian ogles, pointing to a futuristic sports car, which turns out to be an Aspark Owl. A Japanese production car – electric – costing 2.9 m Euros. “More than 2000 BHP and 0-60 in 1.72 seconds: a new record,” the lady from Aspark tells us in what Ian at first thinks is a language mix-up but turns out to be true.
The world premieres are particularly fun. Each to-be-unveiled car is shrouded in black silk, which flutters in the breeze like Marilyn Monroe on a duct. At unveiling time, a rolling machine automatically ravels the silk up, slowly and tantalisingly revealing the splendours that lie beneath.
“Heavens,” marvels the journalist next to me. “I’d love one of those.”
“No, unveiling machines. Imagine using it to reveal what you’d cooked for tea each night.”
The first unveiling is an Aero 3 Superleggera retro-inspired supercar. The head of design, Louis, talks to us about the inspiration behind its teardrop good looks. Tbh, I can’t hear a word he says as he doesn’t use the mic, for some reason; but he’s mesmerising in his own right and not in the least retro-inspired.
There are beautiful people milling round, wearing beautiful clothes. And I can see Ian’s eye wandering – to a restored Series 1. For I’ve found him chatting to the Windsor Classics team who, for £70,000, will totally refit your old Range Rover. Forget all the hypercars: Ian is in love.
Listening in to various conversations is mesmerising. Men might not be catty about other men (“What has he done to his hair?”) but they manage it when it comes to cars. “Bentley Bentaygas. They’re like Ford Focuses in West London,” one says. “Can you imagine a designer taking a step back and saying, ‘Job done’? Looks like a brick.”
I’m fascinated by the whole thing. Not just the cars but the advertising. “Boodles, 1798” (in case you thought they were nouveau arrive). Pommery Champagne (not quite as old but that’s OK because they’re French, which trumps everything). There are men constantly polishing bodywork with cloths made by Yuppie silkworms. A marquee offering premium jet-charter, proving the classlessness of an event that welcomes people who can’t afford their own. Even the smell of petrol is a posh smell because – in this case – it comes from vehicles manufactured pre-1964, now retailing at only slightly less than the global brand value of Chanel.
There are helicopters dotted around – SEXY-2 – and even a sort of yacht.
I feel relieved when I finally find a vehicle I can’t afford by only 500,000 Euros, which begins to feel like a sort of bargain. It’s an Engler ‘superquad’, a kind of cross between a car and a motorbike. A sports-car frame surrounds a bike seat in the middle, complete with a motorbike handlebars. As the name suggests, the biggest quad bike you’ve ever seen; and one, moreover, that will run to 217mph, whether or not you’ve fallen off by then.
“This is a prototype,” the rep assures me. “The actual Engler will have a seatbelt.”
Well, that’s a relief.
“But you don’t need to wear a helmet,” he continues. “It will be registered as a car.”
Well, that makes sense of the fact that they’re only making 10 of them a year. Presumably, there’s a good chance – through natural wastage, legacies, etc – of them recirculating reasonably quickly.
Does it make me want to be rich?
Umm. Not really. Though it makes me want to be able to afford an annual ticket to Salon Privé. It’s huge fun, seeing how the other 0.00001 percent live. Give me a packet of crisps, a Covid mask and a bus ticket, and I’m happy. I mean, imagine the stress of trying to pick just one colour from your Guerlain KissKiss Gold and Diamond Lipstick range. Impossible.
For more on Salon Privé, visit salonpriveconcours.com
By the by, I also stumbled across Auto Addicts, a magnificent ‘classic adventures’ car magazine. Have a look at autoaddicts.com