The Hampton Court Palace Concours d’Elegence is hands down one of the best events I have been to all year. This beautiful setting, once owned by Henry VIII, is a gem of British heritage. Constructed between 1515 and 1525, the palace is a stunning piece of English history with luscious private gardens and architecture. It has stood for over half a millennium, epitomising Britain and its extraordinary history as one of the great empires of the world.
On this particular day, the palace became the setting for a spectacular concours. A line-up of vehicles of an incredible calibre, everything from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to the Mclaren P1 GTR. Stood in the magnificent grounds of an English palace, surrounded by tens of millions of pounds worth of automotive history sends your inner car geek into overdrive.
It is now time for me to focus on what I will do once this, my final year of university, is over. Having realised that I want to become an automotive journalist only this summer, I have been left with a lot of work to do in order to get my foot in the proverbial journalism door. Events like the Hampton Court Palace Concours provide exceptionally valuable insights and experiences in the automotive world. Manufacturers, retailers, photographers and journalists swarm these events, using the time to feed off of one another's fascination of everything automotive. My Instagram, even with engagement at an all time low, has done something which I never imagined it would do. It has inadvertently allowed me to gain access to major automotive events and document my time there and the cars I come in contact with. I have, completely by accident, given myself a leg-up into the automotive world by taking a few pictures of cars (close to almost 600) and uploading them to social media. It’s funny how things seem to work out like that.
Anyway, enough about my own personal endeavours and on to the more important issue of the incredible concours at Hampton Court. The vehicles arrived in convoy down the gravel track toward the back of the palace, then turning toward the fountains where the concours viewing stand was situated. I had no idea what vehicles were expected to turn up, but I was not disappointed. Some of the highlights had to be: a 1961 Aston Martin DB4 Zagato in glorious racing green, a Ferrari Laferrari Aperta, Ferrari 250 GT SWB, Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato, Mercedes 300sl roadster and a 1963 Jaguar E Type Lightweight. Those who were fortunate enough to attend were able to see an awesome array of vehicles. Had it not been my brother’s birthday dinner that evening I would have happily spent the entire day sat on the luscious lawns of the Palace and gazed indefinitely at the cars on display.
Once the vehicles were parked up, we were able to walk around them for hours on end. A Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-9 drew my attention almost immediately. I had always dreamt of collecting one on Gran Turismo when I got the game as a Christmas present over 7 years ago. It’s hard to explain how something so insignificant and artificial can make you so fond of the real thing. The XJR-9 frankly exceeded all expectations. It is a raw, race-winning speed machine. Victory at the 1988 24 hours of Le Mans cements its place in automotive history. The famed Silk Cut livery makes it unique among Le Mans legends, the rear wheel covers are reminders of that 80’s futurist style; if Doc Brown were to go racing I'd imagine the XJR-9 would do the trick. Topped off (or more accurately tailed off) by an enormous 1.5m wide rear wing. All-in-all, this legend of motorsport is a sight to behold.
The Jaguar XJR-9 runs with a naturally aspirated 750 bhp Jaguar V12 spooling up to 7,200 rpm. It sends an astronomical 828Nm of torque to the rear wheels through a March/TWR 5 speed manual transmission. Weighing only 880kg, this machine hit close to that coveted one-to-one hp to weight ratio. A top speed of 245mph made it 10mph faster than the rival Porsche 962Cs down the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans. Having last sold at the 2015 RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island auction for a staggering £1.62 million the XJR-9 is likely to have a current market value of well over £2 million.
People are often disappointed when they get to live their childhood dreams. I have to admit that I had very few real ambitions as I grew up; the only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to be involved with cars. Whether that be building them, designing them, filming them, racing them, anything at all. It was only in the moments that I spent walking around the XJR-9 alone that I finally realised that my childhood dream is beginning to become a reality - and it’s certainly not disappointing. Today as I sit here, writing this short article, I am incredibly grateful to my friends for that single day we spent sat on the quad at university. If it were not for them convincing me to start an Instagram account to post my shoddy phone pictures of cars, I would not have been sat at Hampton Court in midsummer surrounded by some of the rarest automotive history on the planet. I would not be in my final year of university finally feeling hopeful about my future prospects, with the possibility of doing something that I love. I am and will forever be grateful for something that was so insignificant for them but has had such an massive impact on my life.
Visit the Concours d'Elegance website for more details and to get tickets for next summer.