In 2014, Patrick Peter and Richard Mille revived the very French tradition of the Concours d'Elegance with the inaugural Chantilly Arts & Elegance. This year, the fabulous Chateau de Chantilly again formed the backdrop for the event that has already become a set fixture on the calendar. Among the special features at the Chantilly Arts & Elegance's second edition were classes for 1967 - 1972 Formula 1 cars, Iconoclastic Interiors and Supercharged Mercedes-Benzes. Like last year, the event also included a Concours d'Elegance for current show cars and special one-offs. As with most of Peter's events, the various car clubs were also invited and they brought out a large number of interesting cars, some of which would not have been out of place on the main show field. New for 2015 was The Chantilly Sale staged by Bonhams' European department.
The Chantilly Sale
On the eve of the Chantilly Arts & Elegance Bonhams held what was referred to by the company's head of the European department, Philip Kantor, as their first 'black-tie, evening sale'. Very exclusive, the lot list consisted of less than three dozen cars, many of which were one-offs or very limited production models. The sale was topped by the unique Maserati Boomerang, which was styled by design master Giorgietto Giugiaro, which looks as outrageous today as it did when it was new, over 40 years ago. Fully road legal and driven regularly, this striking show car found a new owner for an impressive Euro 3.3 million. Another one-off Maserati, a Frua-bodied Mexico, also did well to sell for just over Euro 600,000. The sale also included eight cars from a single French collection, which inspired active bidding and saw a Bentley S3 Continental find a new owner for close to Euro 180,000. It was not all good news as the two unique Bugattis in the sale failed to attract bids that were sufficient to meet the reserve set. At the end of the evening, Euro 7.5 million worth of cars changed hands.
In a nod to the pre-War Concours d'Elegance, a selection of the latest concept and show cars were invited to the Chantilly Arts & Elegance. These were not only present to further the cause of the respective manufacturer but were also judged by the public. Before the winner was announced the cars were paraded with a model wearing a haute couture outfit. One of the cars destined for a life beyond the show floor was the Monstro created by Zagato using Maserati mechanicals. The car on display was actually the second of five produced and was due to be shipped to its owner in Japan the day after the show. No doubt attracting a lot of attention from the partisan crowd was the Alpine Celebration Concept. Officially created to celebrate the recently revived marque's 60th anniversary, it is believed to form the basis for the all-new Alpine production model. At the end of the day, however, BMW's 3.0 CSL Hommage R proved to be most popular of all. Considering the type of event, it was no surprise that this very retro styled and liveried machine got the most votes.
Tribute to Bugatti
As in 2014, Bugattis were prominently featured this year. The special 'Tribute to Bugatti' class was this time dedicated to the legendary French manufacturer's racing cars. Actually entered in the 'Untouched Open' class was a beautifully original Type 35. This particular example was a 'C' variant, which meant it was fitted with a two-litre, supercharged version of the three-valve per cylinder engine. The most successful racing car of all time, it was only fitting that a Type 35 won this particular class. Also included with two very early Bugatti's the diminutive but mechanically very fascinating Type 13 Brescia and the brutish Type 18, which is powered by a massive, five-litre engine. The slightly later Type 50S on display was the sole survivor of Bugatti's dramatic three-car 1931 Le Mans effort. This powerful machine would, in 1935, also lead Le Mans but a gearbox failure ended that charge. Finished in a sinister black, this Bugatti won the dedicated class. A Bugatti also won the 'Untouched Closed' class; a Vanvooren Type 57 C. Built in 1939, its original owner was so demanding that he had Vanvooren built two bodies for him to choose from.
Grand Prix Cars
No regulars on a Concours d'Elegance show field but nevertheless very interesting were the Grand Prix cars lined up in the Formula 1966 - 1972 class. A colourful mix, the class featured some of the era's most successful but also some of the most unusual cars of the day. Certainly falling in the former category was the Lotus 49 entered. Still very original this particular chassis helped Graham Hill win the World Championship in 1968 and Jochen Rindt two years later. Another World Championship winning machine was the Brabham BT24 that propelled Denny Hulme to the title in 1967. Fitting in the unusual category is undoubtedly the McLaren M9A that was displayed at the Donnington Grand Prix Collection for many years. Used for only a single race, it features an innovative but ultimately unsuccessful four-wheel drive configuration. The unique car has been restored to full running by experts Hall and Hall and can now drive under its own power for the first time in nearly 50 years. Unusual certainly also applies to the BRM P115, entered by Richard Mille himself. It was the last of the H16-engined BRMs but nevertheless could drive onto the stage unassisted to collect the class trophy.
Special Coachwork Citroen DS and SM
A true treat to Francophiles were the two classes for special bodywork Citroen DSs and SMs. Particularly well filled was the class for the DS, which included several examples used by the French government with the absolutely massive 'Presidentielle' from 1968 as a prime example. The class also boasted the fabulous Coupes and Cabriolets built by Chapron on the DS platform. Our eye was particularly caught by the two competition examples; a very short rally car and the 'Chamonix' ice racer. The latter was powered by the Maserati V6 engine, which never made it into a production car. It was driven by Bjorn Waldegard in a precursor of the Andros Trophy and despite losing one of the rear wheels, the Swede managed to clinch second place by putting the trademark hydro-pneumatic suspension in the highest mode. The SM class featured a four-door, a Cabriolet and an example with a sliding roof created by Heuliez. Although using a standard shell, the most interesting car in this class was the V8-engined version. Citroen built three of these, using a V8 based on the Maserati V6 but created in-house. These were all destroyed in period but one of the engines did survive and this was later mounted with remarkable ease by Citroen experts Daunat in the SM on display at Chantilly.
Grand Touring Cars
Spread over three classes, the Grand Touring cars of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s were undoubtedly among the crowd's favourites. The class for open cars included the very last Jaguar XKSS produced, a lovely Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder but also one of three AC Shelby Cobra team cars that competed in the 1963 Sebring 12 Hours. In the class for closed cars up to 1957, each of the entrants deserved to win. Freshly restored, the Aston Martin DB3S Coupe was among the most unusual cars in this class, which also featured a very hot Fiat 8V Zagato and a Talbot Lago that competed at Le Mans no fewer than five times and was awarded 'best in class'. That honour in the class for later closed cars was bestowed on the Ferrari 250 GTO entered. As this was such an obvious choice, the very knowledgable judges weighed their arguments carefully and this particular GTO's racing pedigree, which includes an outright Tour de France win, and unblemished history made it stand out, even in this highly competitive class. This also included the first GT40 finished in road trim and a beautifully restored Aston Martin DB4 GT.
Shortly after Mercedes and Benz joined forces, the merged company introduced a range of supercharged models, designed by none other than Ferdinand Porsche. The cars featured an engageable supercharger, which cut in only when full throttle was applied and emitted an awe-inspiring scream. Mercedes-Benz continued to offer supercharged models until the War broke out and these are considered the company's finest pre-War cars. The special class for these machines included several early S and SS models as well as later 500 K and 540 K cars. Beautifully presented, one of the stars was the 500 K Cabriolet clothed with very elegant Cabriolet coach-work by Erdmann & Rossi. A rare British bodied example was the 540 K of 1938, which received its Saloon body from Freestone & Webb. Taking class honours, and more importantly the coveted 'Best of Show' award, however, was the 500 K Spezial Roadster brought by Evert Louwman from his fantastic Louwman Museum. The very striking machine was originally delivered to London and after the War was owned by a butcher from Walsall, and accordingly it is today referred to as the 'Butcher's car'. The award was more than well deserved as Mr Louwman is a great enthusiast, who goes to great lengths to share his passion with the world through his Museum and his many appearances at events around the world.
No doubt helped by the beautiful weather, the 2015 Chantilly Arts & Elegance attracted 13,500 spectators, which represented an increase of 35% compared to the inaugural event. What was even more telling was the quality of the show field as 'Chantilly' faces stiff competition from two similar events staged on the British isles during the same week. With the Mercedes-Benz 500 K and owner Evert Louwman, the Chantilly Arts & Elegance had a very worthy winner.