Shot! The 2022 Concours of Elegance
The most eye-catching automotive exotica on show at Hampton Court Palace
Now in its tenth year, the three-day Concours of Elegance has established itself as the UK’s premier Concours as well as one of the most prestigious in the world. If the word is unfamiliar to you, it’s French for a public contest, which is why automotive events like this are commonly referred to as Concours d’Elegance.
Like many outdoor events, its location has a big part to play in how people perceive it. In recent years, it’s been held each September at Hampton Court Palace, Henry VIII’s home by the Thames.
The 60 Concours cars are displayed in the Great Fountain Garden, the formal baroque garden created at the end of the 17th century by Daniel Marot for William & Mary. With its rows of toadstool-like clipped elms, it provides an iconic backdrop for the cars, but while the individual entrants change every year, it does mean that, visually, each Concours looks much the same as its predecessor.
Indeed, if I had one criticism of the event, it’s that it’s too predictable. I first attended back in 2012 and have now covered it seven times. Whilst the Concours cars may change, not much else does. Last year I spoke of the Concours stage being carpeted in yellow rather than red, which highlights the conservatism of changes implemented.
With this year marking the event’s 10th anniversary, I was hoping — even expecting — some new features. Disappointedly, the only discernible difference I could see was the return — for the first time — of most of the previous Best in Show cars.
Fortunately, what always keeps the event fresh is the diverse collection of cars, some so unique you’ll probably never see them again. Of these what attracts your attention depends completely on you automotive taste.
I say it every year, but I still find it jarring that the Concours cars are always so randomly displayed, with models from different manufacturers, styles and eras placed next to one another without any logic. For photographers this means it’s almost impossible to get a shot of one car without part of another either being in the frame or reflected in the bodywork.
I also think that more attention needs to be given to how the Concours cars are displayed. Personally, I think they deserve more than just being parked on gravel with a sign in front of them. Quite literally, they need to be ‘elevated’ from all the other classic cars — and there are over a thousand of them — that are also on display at the event.
Apart from their rarity, what of course links all the Concours cars is each one possesses a fascinating backstory. That being said, it’s easy to be completely unaware of what you’re looking at as each entrant only bears cursory details of its name, year and owner. I’m sure with better storytelling, the organisers could engage visitors so much more than on pure aesthetics alone.
Well that’s enough of my gripes — which I only mention as I think the event can be improved — let me move on to the automotive exotica that for one reason or another had special appeal to me.
Just like last year, my favourite car from the 2022 Concours was owned by San Diego architect Jonathan Segal. A year ago, his gorgeous Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 from 1950 was my personal favourite.
This time he brought another Italian classic from the fifties, a 1956 Maserati A6G/54 Berlinetta with coachwork by Zagato. And what a beauty it was.
In 2017, this race-proven two-door coupe, number 21 of 21, was offered for auction at Pebble Beach by Gooding and Co. where it sold for an eye-watering $4,400,000. Last year it won the Strother MacMinn Most Elegant Sports Car award at the 2021 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance where it was also nominated for Best in Show.
As well as its curvaceous burgundy exterior, I was drawn to its exquisite interior, with its cream seats and red metal dash. And how do you make a $4,400,000 car look even better?
By having a bottle of Balvenie, a tumbler and some Cuban cigars on the parcel shelf! Although personally I’d have swapped the Scotch for a bottle of claret just so it colour-coordinated better!
Quite rightly, the Maserati won the event’s Elegance in Motion award, as well as being voted the best Concours car from the 1940s and 1950s.
Fast forward 66 years, what might the modern equivalent of that Maserati be? Well, there was one car at Hampton Court Palace that would be a viable contender. And it was making it’s dynamic debut at the event. The car in question was the 2022 Bentley Batur — and I loved it!
Created by Mulliner — once a coachmaker, now Bentley’s in-house customisation arm — this stylish two-door coupe is the first Bentley under the watch of the marque’s new design director, Andreas Mindt and heralds the design language of all future Bentleys. Also, if I’m not mistaken, this is the first Bentley where (like on a Rolls-Royce) the logo on the wheels spins so that it always ends up vertical.
Named after an 88m deep lake in Bali and powered by a V12 engine, the handbuilt Batur is the most powerful Bentley ever.
Mindt describes his sleek design as having a “resting beast” stance. What its minimalist style does — especially in moving away from the marque’s traditional twin round headlights — is make all current Bentleys look decidedly old fashioned.
The Batur looked great in Bonneville Grey — an understated pale grey — contrasted by an edgy interior featuring lava-like bright orange and pink accents and seat stitching that matched the grille.
Another interesting touch was the drive mode selector, made of 3-D printed 18K gold and looking like a piece of hand-crafted jewellery.
Production will be limited to just 18 cars, each costing around $2m and even if you were tempted, you can’t have one as they’ve all been sold!
As well as the Batur, another bespoke car grabbed my attention. This one featured the same bright orange, but its was on the outside. However, in contrast to the subtlety of the Batur’s exterior lines, this was all taut curves and crazy sculpture. It was also the most dramatic looking McLaren I’ve ever seen.
I just happened to be nearby when the 2022 McLaren 765 LT MSO 01 arrived. You couldn’t not notice it. It sounded great and looked absolutely stunning. As he was buffing the exterior, I spoke with Jas Hayre the owner and learnt more about his amazing car and the spec he’d chosen.
It turns out he only collected the car from the McLaren HQ in February 2022 having ordered it back in 2018 — that’s a four-year wait! It’s a unique vehicle, produced by McLaren’s MSO division. The colour is Volcano Orange, which apparently is a classic McLaren paint. In the Hampton Court sunshine it looked like it was formed from molten lava.
The curvaceous body — penned by McLaren design director Rob Melville — is fully carbon and all the perforated metal is titanium.
The more you observe it, the more you appreciate its beauty. At the rear, the curves and perforations are a work of art that could have been sculpted by Frank Gehry.
Even the alcantara and carbon seats have been sculpted to the owners body, just like an F1 car. And sat between the seats is a racing helmet sporting the same carbon and orange. What you can’t see is what’s hidden under the bonnet. The car has been signed by Bruce McLaren’s daughter Amanda, Bruno Senna and F1 drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo.
Not surprisingly, the car quickly drew a crowd, which says a lot when the Concours is full of automotive exotica.
Ninety years before Jas specced his McLaren, another unique car was launched that undoubtedly met the same reaction. Today, it still looks out of this world.
The car in question was the Hispano-Suiza H6B Dubonnet Xenia from 1938. I’d seen it before. It won Best of Show at the 2016 Concours and was one of the returning winners.
Its dramatic, aero-inspired bodywork was developed by André Dubonnet, an inventor, racing driver and World War One fighter pilot. Dubonnet chose an H6 Hispano-Suiza engine for his creation, and commissioned Jean Andreau to design the incredible, streamlined body. Jacques Saoutchik then brought the design to life, featuring curved glass, sliding doors and a panoramic windscreen.
Whenever I see the Xenia I can’t help but wonder what people thought of it when it was first revealed. Back in 1938, they must have thought it was some kind of other-worldly spaceship.
Also screaming ‘look at me’ was the 2021 Bugatti Divo. Launched in 2018, this $5m hypercar — named after the French racing driver Albert Divo and limited to just 40 units— was finished in fluorescent matte yellow and black.
Apparently, the livery is a tribute to the old Type 55 Bugatti and was inspired by Ettore Bugatti’s favourite colours. Whatever the thinking, just like the orange McLaren, the colour choice really amplified the car’s amazing bodywork. Or fuselage, as Bugatti’s design director refers to it.
Another Concours car also stood out for its paintwork, although its was dull and peeling and its chrome was full of rust. The reason for this was it had been in storage for six decades. It was a 1955 Ferrari 250 Europa GT Barchetta, the 29th of 43 that Ferrari produced.
Originally exported to America in 1960, it was acquired by a San Diego auto enthusiast, William Gottwald. Just six years later, in 1966, he retired the car from the road with only 20,925 miles on the clock, and it went into storage, never to be seen again until his death in November 2020 aged 92.
In May 2021 the completely unrestored car was sold at auction by Gooding & Co for $2,220,000 and was first displayed at Pebble Beach earlier this year. Today, its Grigio Metallizzato paintwork is dull and chipped, and its chrome work — including its Borrani wire wheels — are rusty and flaking. But to my eyes, it looks all the better for it.
There’s something quite enthralling to see a totally unrestored classic, especially amid cars which are in Concours condition. While the convention is always to return them to their factory state, it’s actually even more special seeing one in its aged form. I really hope this Ferrari remains as it is.
Speaking of being left to the elements, there were two examples at Hampton Court where the driver is forced to do just that as there’s no roof or windscreen to offer protection from the vagaries of the weather.
The first of these was the 2022 Ferrari Monza SP1. This single seater has to be one of the most impractical cars Ferrari has made in its 75 year history. There’s no room for a passenger, or space for anything at all for that matter. Designed purely for racing, the SP1 is about as close as Ferrari have come to producing an F1 car for the road. I’m on the fence about its design. It’s neither scintillating beautiful or dog ugly. And at almost $2m it’s a helluva price to pay for a car you can only drive when the weather’s good.
Such impracticality hasn’t stopped other marque’s making similar cars, one of which is the 2022 Aston Martin V12 Speedster. This does at least have the benefit of being a two-seater, but again with no roof and no windscreen, practicality goes out of the window.
Similar to the Monza, I can’t say I’m totally won over about its exterior styling, which was penned by Aston Martin designer director, Miles Nurnberger. I do however like the rear aesthetic, as well as much of its detailing, some of which was jetfighter inspired like the rear cockpit area where you can store a pair of race helmets.
So those were the cars that caught my eye. If I had to choose my favourite Concours car from this year’s entrants, hands down it would have to be Jonathan Segal’s magnificent Maserati. The sixty owners who actually got to choose the winner, saw it differently, judging the 1938 Delage D8–120 S ’de Villars’ to be the best in show.
Whenever I was passing it, there were too many people around to get a good shot. I did take a few pictures, intending to return later, but never did. There’s only so much time in the day and you have to use it wisely.
Speaking of time, the event sponsor, A Lange & Söhne, had something special on their stand — a one-off 18-carat white gold, black dial chronograph created especially for the Concours of Elegance. It was the first time they had done so. I did get to photograph it, although it was in a glass display case and you couldn’t see the Concours of Elegance logo hand-engraved on the hinged cuvette.
It will be auctioned at the Geneva Watch Auction on 6 November 2022 with proceeds going to The Prince’s Trust.
And there was one more thing. On my way in, I passed by the display of cars that were going to be auctioned that day by Gooding & Co. One caught my eye and as I left the event I made sure I got a closer look.
Perhaps the most striking of all the cars at Hampton Court was this 1927 Avions Voisin C14 Lumineuse.
Avions Voisin was a luxury French automotive maker established by Gabriel Voisin in 1919. The company only traded for 20 years, but remarkably this car had been in the same family for the past 72 years.
Its eye-catching tricolour bodywork was hand-painted based on a 1925 Vogue cover drawn by Georges Lepape.
The Lumineuse carried an estimate of between £225,000 and £350,000 without reserve and sold on the day for £202,500.
Behind the shot: These images were taken either using the Olympus OM-D E-M1 with the M Zuiko 1.8 75mm lens or the iPhone 12. As always at Concours of Elegance, getting great shots of the cars is never easy which is why I tend to focus on tight compositions. I’m always surprised when I see car images from pro photographers that include people in the frame. Unless they have something to do with the car or add some value to the composition, to me that’s just lazy photography. With so many cars to choose from, the temptation is to try and shoot as many as you can, but I prefer to be more selective and spend more time on just a few models. Selecting which ones to focus on is of course a matter of personal choice and — together with how you shoot them — ultimately what separates one photographer’s set of images from another. And for me, the last thing I want to do is take the same pictures as everyone else. Photographed at Hampton Court Palace on 3 September 2022
About the author: Based in Sussex-by-the-Sea, on England’s south coast, Gary is a creative writer and image-maker. He specialises in creating out of the ordinary portraits of musicians and people with interesting faces, as well as photographing some of the world’s finest flowers and gardens, not forgetting an array of automotive exotica.
On the writing side, he has used his research skills to author deep dives into some noteworthy songs beginning with Bryan Ferry’s ‘These Foolish Things’ ‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials and ‘All The Young Dudes’ by Mott the Hoople.
He has also written a biography of Robert Palmer and the stories behind Whitesnake’s blatant Led Zep rip-off, ‘Still Of The Night’ and Harry Styles’ anthem to positivity, ‘Treat People With Kindness’.
Most recently, he has also recently penned the fascinating story behind George Orwell’s dystopian novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’
All these can be found here on Medium, along with his reviews of gigs and events and chats with musicians including the likes of Royal Blood, Joe Satriani and Wolf Alice.