2023 London Concours

2023 would be my third London Concours. Its’ my favourite event in the U.K to cover – There are always amazing cars, the Honourable Artillery Company’s grounds make for a spectacular backdrop and its’ never an overly busy event which makes it an absolute pleasure for content creation.

There’s a lot to cover in this article, so I’ll keep the introduction nice and short!

As I walked between the saluting cannons at the entrance to the show, the cars of the first category of the concours flanked either side of the walkway.

This was ‘Make Green Great Again’.

Relatively few people actually want to own a green car. Many consider it an unlucky colour. It’s a shame though. Many brilliant cars have been painted British Racing Green including the likes of Bentley’s 4.5ltr Blower and Jaguar’s D-Type.

Even away from the track their have been some cool green cars. The ‘Squeeze Green’ that Ford offered on the Mk7 Fiesta is actually one of my favourite car colours.

A lot of the greens in this collection were actually quite dark.

This 488 Pista is painted in Verde Francesca. A brand new shade for Ferrari which was named by the owner of this car.

Verde Francesca was originally a 1950s Maserati colour called Verde Tevere. The owner wanted a historic colour for hos car so took a sample of Verde Tevere to Ferrari. They changed it ever so slightly and Verde Francesca was born.

This Alfa Romeo Giulia has been retrofitted with the 2 litre twin spark, twin cam engine from a Alfa Romeo 75 from the late 1980s. It also has uprated suspension, a limited slip diff and four pot brakes.

Its a really nice restromod that has retained the original character of the car.

A beautiful XK120 road racing car.

My favourite car in this class was actually a 2023 Rolls Royce Phantom VIII.

The international Peninsula Hotel chain use Rolls Royces as shuttle vehicles to take their clients to the hotel from the airport and vice versa. This is one of two Phantoms that have been custom built for the hotel in Belgravia, London. (If the owners happen to be reading this, I’m sure I could write a nice article about the shuttle experience for a complimentary night at the hotel, just saying haha!)

I know the current trend for VIP cars is upmarket SUVs, but I really don’t think you can beat a big saloon car for making an impression. If you’re an important client for a hotel, the CEO of a FTSE 100 company or the dictator of a third world country, the Phantom is a pretty cool way to arrive somewhere.

The ‘Golden Age Coupes’ class was a celebration of sports cars built in the 1950s and 1960s. Sports car of that era are considered to be the most beautiful cars ever built.

My favourite car of this class was this Ferrari 250 SWB. I know Rosso Corsa red is the staple colour for Ferraris, but I actually think the 1960s Ferraris actually look better in more understated colours. This gunmetal grey with the terracotta interior is a beautiful specification!

Another good example of this was the 275GTB at the Savile Row Concours. IT was in a really pale blue called Azzurro La Plata which really suited it. You can read about that event here: https://motorsportformentalhealth.com/2023/05/31/savile-row-concours-2023/

The Wild Cards class hosted a mix of unusual cars. This BMW 507 and Corvette C1 I thought could have been in the beautiful Golden Age Coupes class. Perhaps the organisers limited the number of cars in that class.

This BMW 850CSi ticks a lot of boxes for me: German, big engine, split rims, in car phone, bespoke interior. My C240 Mercedes is nearly there. I must restore the SL split rims I’ve had in my garage for about 4 years now haha!

The Ferrari 365GT4. This body style lastest over several models – the 365GT4, the 400, the 400i and the 412. The lastest model to be made – the 412 from 1985 to 1989 – is actually one of my favourite Ferraris. I think they’ve aged really really well.

The wildest of the wild cards was this 1921 Leyat Helica. Much like an aeroplane taxiing the propeller pulls this thing along.

30 were built. 2 originals survive in France and this is a recreation.

I perosnally wouldn’t want to take one on a public road, but on private land I’d love to have a go! I bet it’s quite a unique thing to experience.

The Leyat Helica is certainly bespoke, but there was a whole class dedicated to bespoke cars, aptly named Bespoke Automotive.

The lovely Bentley La Sarthe presented by JD Classics which we have seen before at Salon Prive London. My article covering all the classic cars at that event can be found here: https://motorsportformentalhealth.com/2023/04/25/the-classic-cars-of-salon-prive/

My favourite car of this class was the 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom Boat Tail.

This hidden compartment for a picnic basket is a later feature added to the car, but I think it’s really cool and keeping with the car’s character!

These, I’m assuming fuel tanks, by the doors look like the cutaway of an aircraft wing. Really cool detail!

My favourite car at the 2021 London Concours was a boat tail bodied 1926 Packard. The shape of the boat tails I think really suit cars of the interwar era as does the highly varnished wood. You can see that Packard here: https://motorsportformentalhealth.com/2021/06/09/london-concours-delegance-2021/

Lamborghini are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year which the concours celebrated. The class had cars ranging from the 400GT and Miura up the the current Aventador.

It was really cool to see an LM002. I’d never actually seen a ‘Rambo Lambo’ in person.

Speaking of off road vehicles there was a fabulous display of Land Rovers. These are a British automotive icon. Ready to take on any task sent their way.

There were a few RS Porsches on display. RS stands for rennsport which is the German for racing. The RS cars are much more track focused than Porsche’s normal cars.

There was also a 911 Carrera RS in the ‘Built to Race for the Road’ category.

The ‘Built to Race for the Road’ category of the concours was a collection of cars built as ‘homologation specials’.

In some series, a manufacturer needs to produce a certain number of road going versions before the car can be entered into that series. Those road going race cars become known as homologation specials.

My favourites are the Group B cars. The likes of the Audi Quattro, Metro 6R4, Ford RS200, Lancia 037, Peugeot 205 T16 etc etc were phenomenal racing cars and made for equally awe inspiring road cars.

The only Group B car on display was the Porsche 959. The 959 was the fastest street legal production car when introduced in 1986 at 197mph.

If you’ve never seen it, look up the Rothmans liveried Paris-Dakar 959. I actually made a slot car tribute of it a couple of years back which you can read about here: https://motorsportformentalhealth.com/2019/02/17/scaleauto-porsche-959-raid-build/

The FIA Group A regulations which originally covered touring cars but also took over rallying once Group B was banned, also produced a lot of homologation specials over its long life.

On display from Group A touring cars were the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth:

Alongside BMW’s E30 M3.

From the rallying side of Group A was the Lancia Delta Integrale.

Volkswagen’s Golf Rallye. This one has been heavily modified, including an engine swap to the 1.8 turbo engine out of an Audi TT. I believe that’s a common engine swap in the VW world.

15 year old Richard would be screaming at this. I used to love Imprezas! The 2008 WRC car campaigned by Chris Atkinson!

‘Grand Tourisme’ highlighted some of the finest French automobiles.

The first cars I’d like to feature are the Renault 5 Turbo and Turbo II.

The original Turbo was actually a homologation car for Group 4 rallying, which was the predecessor to Group B. Much like the later Peugeot T16 and Metro 6R4 the engine was mounted in the middle and it was rear wheel driven.

400 were made. Following the success of those 400 cars the Turbo II came along. The Turbo II was a fair bit cheaper than the original car as as a lot of the lightweight alloy body panels on the Turbo were replaced with traditional steel. It was just as fast as the original cars though.

The Clio V6 was the spiritual successor to these cars. 252bhp, mid mounted V6 and rear wheel drive. I think that they’re an incredible little thing.

My personal highlight of this class though was the Citroen SM. 1930s through to the 1990s Citroen executive cars really make the happy chemicals in my brain do their thing. Citroens, of that era especially, were quite unique in their designs and apparently they are ever so comfortable!

I’ve never owned a classic Citroen though. An XM is on my bucket list of cars to own.

The ‘Evolution of Aero’ class was a look at the evolution of aerodynamics from 1970 up to the present day. This was personally my favourite class.

We’ll start with another homologation special – the Plymouth Superbird. From 1969-1971 manufacturers were building more aerodynamic cars to run in NASCAR. They were called Aero Warriors. The two most famous cars are the Plymouth Superbird based on the Road Runner and the Dodge Charger Daytona but Ford and Mercury also produced cars.

Next to the Superbird was ‘F40 BG’. A car I’ve seen at a lot of shows! Today I’ve learnt that this car was actually originally owned by Sir Stirling Moss.

There were plenty of super cars in this class.

The Bugatti Veyron. When these came out in 2005 they were absolutely revolutionary. They produced 1000bhp and were able to go over 250mph. It’s not a harsh race car though. It has a plush interior with carpet, sound deadening, big leather arm chairs and a radio. It can be comfortably used around town or as a grand tourer. When James May took the lightened Super Sport to 253.81mph on Ehra-Lessien test track, he commented on how controlled and stable it was at speed. Even when you watch the video at over 200mph he really isn’t having to strain his voice to speak over the noise.

I know there are a lot of cars out there now that break 1000bhp, and that current generation Bugattis are technically better than the Veyron, but the benchmarks that the Veyron set and it’s historical significance mean it would be a car that one day I’d love to own. Even though the maintenance costs are absolutely astronomical.

My favourite car in this class, and the actual winner of The People’s Choice Award, was the Schuppan 962CR.

It is in essence a Porsche 962 Group C racing car with a body built by Schuppan. Sadly Schuppan went bankrupt and the company folded after only 6 of the cars were produced.

I don’t know a lot about motorbikes but I did enjoy seeing the display celebrating Norton’s 125th anniversary. The really early bikes always interest me. They are literally just bicycles with a small petrol engine attached to them!

This Atlas police bike really caught my eye. This particular one was used for royal protection. It escorted Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen Mother and the then Prince Charles.

Norton Motorcycles also had a stand to show off their new motorbikes and talk to potential customers.

My favourites Alpine had a stand with a couple of A110s and their F1 car.

The big news though is that Koenigsegg are opening a showroom in Kensington, London. Hopefully we’ll get to see some more Koenigseggs in the U.K. I’ve only seen four in my lifetime, with two of them being on this actual stand.

The best part of the day for me was meeting Lord Alexander Hesketh of Hesketh Racing. He was a true gentlemen with a lot of funny and interesting stories to tell.

I got a copy of James Page’s new book about Hesketh Racing – Super Bears signed by Lord Hesketh.

I also took this Fly slot car Hesketh 308 in the Penthouse livery for him to sign.

Thanks for reading! London Concours is always a highlight in my calendar. It’s really easy for me to get to, it’s always a really laid back, easy day with lots of cool cars. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event!

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By Richard Francis

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