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Hampton Court Concours and Auction by Gooding & Co.: Social, yet Distanced


1921 Leyat Hélica

1921 Leyat Hélica

1955 Aston Martin DB3S

1955 Aston Martin DB3S

1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato s/n DB4GT 0176 R

1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato s/n DB4GT 0176 R

1928 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix s/n 4871

1928 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix s/n 4871

Gooding & Co. "Alfresco" Sale Room

Gooding & Co. "Alfresco" Sale Room

1962 Ferrari 250 GTO s/n 3387GT

1962 Ferrari 250 GTO s/n 3387GT

1972 Maserati Ghibli SS 4.9 Spyder s/n 1251

1972 Maserati Ghibli SS 4.9 Spyder s/n 1251

1904 Fiat Type 24 32 s/n 745

1904 Fiat Type 24 32 s/n 745

1938 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante Gangloff Coupé

1938 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante Gangloff Coupé

1948 Land Rover Model 80 s/n 860001

1948 Land Rover Model 80 s/n 860001

1954 Maserati 250F s/n 2516

1954 Maserati 250F s/n 2516

1967 Ferrari 312 F1 s/n 0007

1967 Ferrari 312 F1 s/n 0007

1965 Ford GT40 s/n P 1007

1965 Ford GT40 s/n P 1007

1965 Ferrari 365 P s/n 0828

1965 Ferrari 365 P s/n 0828

1957 Jaguar XK150 S Bertone & 1933 Rolls-Royce

1957 Jaguar XK150 S Bertone & 1933 Rolls-Royce

 

As the year we would all like to forget has drawn to a close, there are obviously very few major classic and historic car gatherings to reflect upon, certainly after the month of February. However, in between the initial global spread of the pandemic and the major resurgence of the virus, owing much to the colder weather of winter in the northern hemisphere, there was one such oasis of an occasion in the UK, which remained world class in quality.

Social distancing and public health measures in place, the Concours of Elegance, held at Hampton Court Palace, south west of London, was a very welcome, if rather momentary, return to something like convivial normality.  Soon afterwards, the printed press and leading automotive websites were full of words and pictures, reflecting not only the happy ambiance being among the best motor cars gathered for informal judging, but the highlights of the first auction held by Gooding & Co. on the eastern side of the Atlantic. At last, something fresh to fill the pages and occupy the screen.

   >> MediaCenter: Gooding & Company Auction

But gradually it faded from headline view as, at last, there were some ‘behind closed door’ race meetings to focus upon, such as the rescheduled Le Mans 24hrs and the Goodwood Speed Week. That said, unless you were a driver or officially part of a competing team, the vast majority of us had to be content with imagining a spectator free atmosphere.

So now, not least because ‘I was there’, I hope you’ll find it is well worth revisiting the early September occasion, from the house of King Henry VIII, giving an alternative, more personal, perspective. It was all the more historical to me because of surprising past connections with some of the very rarest and most valuable vehicles, only fleetingly back in the limelight.

This was now half a year since I’d been able to make a visit to a car event of any nature, let alone one of high quality, so I had been looking forward to the Hampton Ct. concours for quite a while. And this was augmented by the re-arranged auction for Gooding and Company’s first foray into Europe and their modest, but very high quality, ‘Passion of a Lifetime’ collection containing some 15 cars, as individual lots for sale, at Hampton Court Palace. I had anticipated the occasion by reading up detail of the vehicles in the auction, a few of which I’d seen earlier in the year when visiting Paris for Rétromobile, as well as noting some of the highlights of the feature concours itself.

A few of the most notable automobiles on offer were those I’d first seen several decades earlier and photographed when very new to the classic racing scene. The first of these was an Aston Martin DB3S which I’d arrived upon quite out of the blue, over 28 years previously. This when as a youngster, I was searching to purchase my own initial Aston and had seen a DBS advertised in a garage in Clapham, South London. I remember the day vividly.

It was a cold Saturday morning in January and, as well as test driving the car I had come to view, I’d seen a Superamerica 410 Ferrari as well as this DB3S, both looking modest, unlit and dormant. It was one of the three Kangaroo Stable cars (for the team of six UK based Australian drivers, led by Jack Brabham), and the owner of the garage kindly showed me round, opening the bonnet, letting me take a shot of the engine, etc. Primarily, of course, I was there to test the 4-litre DBS which I subsequently didn’t buy, in favour of a V8, but it was number two on my list of half a dozen possibilities.

Anyway, returning to 2020, and I was now back in proximity to this very same racing Aston Martin, first spotted nearly three decades earlier. Then again, a few times, in the intervening years being campaigned at Silverstone, Brands Hatch, etc., but quite a while since I’d been this close to it, as I found myself right now. Very fortunately for me the head of Gooding and Co, David Gooding himself, was casually walking around the display of his entire British inventory, and untroubled by staff or people from the media. He approached and stood beside me. I had a word and thanked him for the introduction he had given me when present in Paris. Also commenting to him that this Aston I had seen, first of all, even before the current long-term custodian had bought it himself. I mentioned the South London garage and, as I did so, another gentleman passed us, from behind my left shoulder. He stopped, turned right around and said, ‘Yes, that’s right.’

I couldn’t believe my eyes. An instantly recognisable person, although without his glasses, so I said, “Do you happen to be Mr. Prince, of Paradise Garage?”

“Yes” he replied. Indeed, this was Charlie Prince, owner of Paradise Garage, whom I had last met nearly thirty years before. Therefore, a coincidence completely unique to me - and the car - for here was the current vendor of this highly valuable Aston, together with the immediate past vendor. Neither had met before, but I was the only conduit. So both gentlemen, David Gooding and Charles Prince, kindly stood either side of the car which they both had for sale, and I took my own photograph. I think this one will always remain singular, worldwide.

I’d also taken a few other old photographs down with me just to make some comparisons, a sort of ‘then and now’ exercise. One of another pair of Astons with which I was familiar, was the even more valuable DB4GT Zagato, chassis 0176/R, the first number in the series of 20 constructed (note; for those who count 19 - one number was repeated) manufactured between 1960 and 1963. Rather beguiled by this car myself at Silverstone, first of all in the early 1990s, I’d taken a photo specifically of the special DB4GT in the summer of 1993 at the old ‘Coys Historic Festival’. As I remember, it had been driven into the circuit and parked outside the Fabri team’s motorhome, Hubert’s cars being expertly looked after by Aston specialist Ian Mason.

Now, having some space to photograph the vehicle once again, I was able to make a very similar depiction of the dark red Aston from the front end, looking back over the smooth curves of the typically Zagato styled bonnet, windscreen and roofline. It was only when I got back home and downloaded my pictures that I realised how absolutely zero had changed in the look of this car over the last 27 years. The small driver’s side number plate was identical, as were the circular wing mirrors and every other panel one could see, proving to me that if the car looks right, no reason to change its original shape or appearance. (Take a look at my comparison montage.) A great car, just as visually fantastic now as it was back last century. So, at last, I was on my way, finally, walking through the Hampton Court Palace buildings to actually see the concours cars. But wait, I spotted a further expert from the highest echelons of automotive preservation culture. Another gentleman whom I hadn’t see for about 16 years and he was still in charge of an establishment which restored and looked after some of the greatest cars in the world, for another marque. His name, Mark Lyon.

Back in 2003 I’d been able to secure, with the kind assistance of Gregor Fisken, some very high-quality Ferraris for display in the Royal Automobile Club, of which Gregor is an active member, but this led to an introduction to GTO Engineering who had prepared, rebuilt and refurbished many of them. And, as a result, I’d been given exclusive access to a particular Ferrari 250 GTO. This was the second car constructed and, to my mind, perhaps the best and probably my favourite - for a couple of reasons. One of which was because it had campaigned as a racing car as well as used for the road, and its most significant success was in the 1962 Sebring 12 Hours, where it had finished 2nd in class. And just as favourable, it wasn’t red. The subsequent owners had kept it in a similar shade of blue, with the white stripe centrally all the way down the body, just like it was at Sebring. I had been allowed to sit in it and photograph the artistic, mechanical, masterpiece from all angles, after which, I’d written an article featuring my experiences with this most priceless of all Ferraris.

The Hampton Court Concours press department had released, only a few weeks previously, the fact that this particular product of Maranello would be one of the stars, if not the star of the whole event, so I really relished the chance of seeing it again. What a surprise, then, to see Mr. Lyon, founder of GTO Engineering who remembered my visit and advised me that the GTO, as it stands today, looked a little different.

When I reached it, the familiar lines and blue colour greeted me, but the vehicle had been totally restored once again and the exact shade of blue was now probably identical to the very original paint colour it sported back in 1962. In fact, London dealer and driver Joe Macari had made the whole specification completely parallel to that of the Sebring race, from over 58 years ago.

Things I noted, in difference to more contemporary 21st century times, were the absence of the chrome grille surround, a deletion of the side lights and additional air intakes behind the ‘C’ pillar, which weren’t there in my previous pictures. And even the clear rear screen had an opening at the back, to let hot air out, which understandably accumulates in the cabin when the engine is working hard. What was also unique and rather wonderful about this particular occasion was that the car itself was fired up to applause and driven around, then to be presented to the assembled guests on the show podium, where each invited entrant of the afternoon was equally welcomed and described to the appreciative, and knowledgeable, audience. Now, to the heart of the exhibits, moving on…


© 2020 John Godley

If ever there was a 50-year-old open topped sports car which personifies the era of effortless performance, luxury and Italian style it’s a Maserati Ghibli. When that’s the ultimate spec SS 4.9 Spyder, ice white with cool blue interior and a manual gearbox, then you know you are looking at an exceptional incarnation. It just so happens this particular example is one of only four RHD’s ever made and, furthermore, a recent film star. One that even outshines a ‘supporting cast’ Lamborghini Miura SV. Turns out, Simon Kidston not only sells top notch cars, but is additionally rather good at cinematic creativity. For a short nostalgic escape from today’s stressful existence, take a look at this parody of a very famous genre of British advertisements for Cadbury’s chocolates. And so it was a very welcome surprise to see Simon, and that he’d brought the car all the way back from Portofino.

Skip forward about a quarter of a century, move the location to France, and the notable year of 1995. That was my own ‘on site’ baptism to the gladiatorial automotive struggles and wonderful atmosphere of Le Mans. No one on the planet - with only a faint interest in endurance racing - can fail to recall that this was the magnificent win for the McLaren F1 GTR. Ostensibly a road car with a few rushed modifications, but soon after launch a squadron of seven early examples were on the starting grid among many much faster prototypes. Yes, the heavy rain helped, but straight out of the box, McLarens came home 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 13th.

The podium cars; the Ueno Clinic sponsored victor and third place Harrods car, I’ve been fortunate to see several times since and, for that matter, the others on occasion, too. All with the exception of the 5th place French Giroix team’s ‘Jacadi’ car, chassis 07R. But what an overture of expectancy to find it depicted graphically on the Concours catalogue’s front cover. And, in the metal, it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Several other almost priceless Le Mans 24 Hour veterans were present, one of the most exciting being the 1965 overall second placed Ferrari. This the 250LM, in Ecurie Francorchamps yellow (chassis 6313). But going one better, as the outright winner some five years later, was the 917KH from arch rival Porsche. The Richard Attwood/Hans Herrmann driven example had also benefited from significant deluges of rain, adding to the constant drama, but at Hampton Ct. we were indeed honoured by its presence in the dry, given there are at least two more sister cars retrospectively painted in the red and white Salzburg colours. To all but a very trained eye, they are visually identical.

Not only from the Le Mans hall of fame, but participants, even winners, of other epic sports car events graced the lawns: Most notably the Targa Florio (the Ferrari 365P winner and a Ford GT40), Mille Miglia (HWM Jaguar), and Sebring again (MGA Works Twin Cam), among yet more, such as both Nürburgring and Monza 1000kms.

And talking of Monza, Formula One was best represented by the multiple Grand Prix winning Williams FW15C in which Damon Hill was also victorious, at the ultra-high speed Italian circuit, in 1993. Parked beside it, from a dozen years subsequently, the silver and orange V10 monster Juan Pablo Montoya was to achieve the same feat, piloting his McLaren Mercedes MP4-20A. This was a triple GP winning F1 car (chassis 07) for Montoya, who achieved two further podiums with it during the 2005 season.

Take a look through the accompanying photographs to see for yourself that we fortunate visitors were provided with the very best in Elegance as well as Speed, far too many to mention individually in words, but no less worthy and exciting to view and hear. My annotations provide their production identities, for various marque aficionados.

So, back to the present and, like everyone else at this time tasked with summing up the year just gone, what follows shows starkly the limitations of a rather unimaginative amateur writer. For I could only plagiarise, fusing together lines from a sombre speech by Roosevelt and ‘the other song’ about New York, never actually sung by Frank Sinatra: “2020, a year which will live in infamy, so bad they named it twice”. (After that, perhaps a wry smile, from us both, as things can only get better, surely?)

© 2021 John Godley
Classique Car Conduits