Salon Privé London 2023 review: supercars and classic stars electrify grand garden party

Ferrari F40 and F50 cars line up at Salon Prive London show

More than 18,000 visitors attended the second Salon Privé London three day event, say organisers.

One of the most prestigious automotive events in the world, Salon Privé is held annually in the grounds of Blenheim Palace in the autumn. The spring edition, at the Royal Hospital Chelsea London, is a comparable celebration of luxury with Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Bentley all in attendance. 

Well-established brands were not the sole focus though this year, Hennesey, Rimac and Delange were all present, showcasing their, quite frankly, astonishing 1000+bhp cars.

One of the unique features of Salon Privé is the relaxed atmosphere, combined with an exclusive and intimate ambience. The organisers pride themselves on creating an event that is as much about the people as it is about the cars.

Celebrity guests included F1 World Champion Jenson Button, Grand Tour star Richard Hammond and Lewis Hamilton’s father Anthony Hamilton.

Hennesey, Rimac and Delange were all present, showcasing their, quite frankly, astonishing 1000+bhp cars…

The dress code is smart casual, although, on Ladies’ Day, when I dropped in, most had chosen to dress for the occasion. I opted for walking boots given the event is held outdoors on grass.

As is consistent with events of this type, beautiful surroundings are part of the experience, so it was a shame the rain fell heavily on the Friday morning – but by the afternoon, the skies had cleared and the sun shone on the glistening cars, allowing excited visitors to enjoy the (pre-booked and inside) fine dining options, along with the central and well attended Pommery Champagne bar. 

It’s the perfect place to enjoy a bottle as you dry out under the sun, and take in the myriad of motors on display. Something I thoroughly recommend if you plan on staying for any longer than a couple of hours.

The event isn’t all about the latest cars. Salon Privé London also features some of the world’s most exclusive classics, a great number of which are for sale on the day. These are displayed throughout the grounds and guests have the opportunity to get up close and personal with them. 

This year saw some particularly wonderful examples, the highlight for me being a pair of Ferraris bought by supercar dealer Furlongers. Their low mileage F40 and F50 were presented in immaculate condition and offered a rare opportunity to see them side by side. 

As anyone of a certain age can attest to, these Ferrari icons are truly incredible pieces of engineering. I watched as hordes of people gathered around taking in their striking aesthetics, appreciating the advances in aerodynamics. 

Having been in both models, albeit as a passenger, they offer different experiences – the F40 has a rawness about it and demands focus. The F50 feels more refined and forgiving, with the soundtrack from a detuned F1 engine providing the soundtrack. Don’t get me wrong, it is just as exhilarating as the F40, just a little less wild.

Salon Privé is also known for its luxury village. The event features some of the finest stores and artisans, across multiple categories. Montblanc presented its new 8000 Capsule collection, fresh from Geneva. Announced at the show was Coachbuilt Whisky, a new five region blend launched by Jenson Button and whisky expert George Kotusakis.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the Andrews slipper launches that Andrews Boathouses has painstakingly restored to their former glory, utilising modern tech. The elegance and refinement they possess is really quite unique. It’s difficult to imagine a finer boat to enjoy on the Thames.

Sloane Helicopters bought (or should I say flew in) a Robinson R44 Helicopter in a burnt orange livery, which would pair perfectly with a McLaren of a similar colour. 

F Beesley had an assortment of handcrafted shotguns, showing an unparalleled level of craftsmanship, and Thornton Hundred showcased their custom Triumph motorcycles, which made me long to have a bike licence. Unfortunately, my maturing brain occasionally resonates with sensibility and takes control.

I walked around multiple times, filling up a virtual shopping cart with cars. Although the 1000bhp examples look incredible, where can you use them apart from on the track? The latest Ferraris were appealing, but my heart was drawn to the classics, like the Porsche 911s, Aston Martin DB5 and DB6 Volante. 

This year’s Concours de Vente saw more than 70 cars parked on the Royal Hospital Chelsea lawn. The Prix d’Honneur winner was a 1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 Vignale from Aston Workshop. It was commissioned by King Baudouin of Belgium and built by Italian coachbuilder Vignale. 

The Class 1 winner, for cars up to £250,000, was a 1966 Maserati Sebring 3700 GTI from Graeme Hunt. The Class 2 winner, for cars between £250,000 and £1 million, was a 1961 Maserati 3500 GT Vignale Spyder from Classic Motor Hub.

Meanwhile, Dylan Miles’ 1954 Bentley R-Type Continental was the Pensioners Trophy winner, while a 2005 Maserati MC12 from Joe Macari was named the People’s Choice winner.

What ultimately stole this year’s show for me though was the mighty Maserati MC12, one of 50 and the only example with a blue carbon body, the beautiful Jaguar XJR-15 and sublime lines of the Ferrari 400 Superamerica.

An exceptional event for those that appreciate the finer things in life, I’m already looking forward to Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace, now in its 18th year, which will run August 30 to September 2.

Event photography by Photography by Chris Cooper/ ShotAway.

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