Hampton Court Concours – A Treat in Elegance
The Hampton Court Concours of Elegance is now well-established amongst the very best of UK car events, now in its seventh year (2018). Set in the most impressive grounds of Hampton Court Palace, itself a tourist gem, the rarest and most elegant of cars are displayed amongst the trees, lawns and lake by the River Thames.
Some of the Petrolheads Welcome team were lucky enough to be invited along by Aston Martin Bristol, so we couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a few photographs, naturally, and to do a little filming (see the link at the foot of this page).
We stayed very nearby at the White Hart Hotel, Hampton Wick, so that we could change into the ‘elegant casual’ required of the dress code.
There is an immediate wow factor when approaching the display grounds, especially when the sun is shining so brightly as it did for us. Despite being a very popular show with very many exhibits and other entertainment, it felt anything but crowded. Even at lunchtime, there were plenty of places to find a seat in the shade and recharge one’s batteries before continuing the wandering amongst the automotive glitterati.
All of the 60 cars that formed the main display had been selected to attend by a panel of experts. They included such notables as the 1998 Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR and Ford GT40, both of Le Mans fame. The early years of motoring provided the 1912 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Torpedo Phaeton Tourer ‘Taj Mahal’, a 1910 Renault Type BY and an Alfa Romeo RL Targa Florio from 1924. Other pre-War highlights included the 1938 Lagonda V-12 Rapide Coupé and a 1925 Bugatti Type 35.
The post-War years saw dramatic styling changes of automobiles with the 1960s being many people’s favourite period. They were not to be disappointed by the presence of special models by Ferrari, Aston Martin, Jaguar and others.
The presenting partner was A. Lange & Söhne, exclusive watch makers of Germany, led by its self-confessed Petrolhead CEO, Wilhelm Schmid. Their stands included technicians demonstrating the art of watch making and even a microscope to inspect their work… and your own watch if you liked! It’s worth saying that the presence of sponsors can sometimes dominate events in the way that adverts dominate free newspapers. For me, there was no sense of that at this event. The many traders, dealers and brands represented were housed in tents that, being evenly distributed around the displays, helped to decorate the scenery and aid navigation.
I found that wandering around with no particular agenda resulted in 6 hours passing, seemingly in the blink of an eye. This was not one of those shows where I’ve seen it all in the first couple of hours and then decide what to go back and have a proper look at. I’m not sure if that was the organisers’ strategy, but it worked.
The Royal patronage of HRH Prince Michael of Kent goes a long way to maintaining the exclusive feel of the Concours of Elegance. He is a very active supporter, to the extent of driving a few other notables around the grounds in a vintage Bentley… followed by a blacked-out Range Rover (not sure why that was necessary, but it added to the theatre of the event!).
The litmus test of such events is often “would you go again?”. The answer – most definitely!