London calling

Clashing concours drew a cornucopia of classics to the capital. Time for a quick flit betwixt the two, then

London was packed with impressive cars in September, when two major concours coincided. Salon Privé, at Syon Park, has a few years behind it whereas this was the first year at St James Concours. I squirted between the two and came away dazzled by seductive curves.

Inaugurated last year at Windsor Castle, the St James gathering packed out the gardens of Marlborough House, off the Mall, with an invited selection of impressive vehicles, at least one of which, an unusual Aprile-bodied Alfa 6C, had rushed over from Salon Privé.

I admired the knife-edge wings on a Bugatti 57C by Buhrbeck, and also John Shirley’s delicate Scaglietti 375MM, built for director Roberto Rosselini; normally these big-engined Ferraris have brutal bodies. In size contrast was a pretty and rare 1923 Newton, while seeing two Fiat 8Vs and a muscular Siata was a treat.

This event has broadened to include supercars and concepts. Touring sent the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante concept, even prettier in person; a double score for the coachbuilder as at Syon I had been shown over Touring’s delectable Flying Star Bentley shooting brake by Piero Mancardi, CEO of the famous carrozzeria, and was impressed by form and finish.

They plan 19 of them – said Mancardi, “it’s more exclusive than 20!” Salon Privé’s remit is wider but very elevated, including supercars such as Spyker and the Mexican Vuhl, plus high-voltage new electrics from Exagon and Lightning. I’m somewhat sated with exaggerated mid-engined hypercars, so the 950bhp Vulcano prototype from new Chinese brand Icona pleased me with its front V12 and brawny compact shape.

Collector and racer Carlos Monteverde told me the highlight of his weekend was going to be driving to St James – in his 1970 Le Mans-winning 917, on trade plates. “I’d better check if there are any speed bumps,” he said, getting out his smartphone.

This year Salon Privé moved judging to the first day, picking Sarah Allen’s Ferrari 250GT California as Best in Show, cars driving over an American-style ramp. Perhaps with these events,

RM’s Battersea auction and Goodwood to follow, we’re looking at a UK rival to the legendary Monterey weekend – and Sandra Button, Chair of the Pebble Concours, attended both gatherings.

Gordon Cruickshank