We recently visited the iconic Blenheim Palace to take part in the annual Salon Prive Concours d’elegance event. Along with two of our Brough Superiors and one of our trusty Royal Enfield himalayans we set up camp alongside Gladstone motorcycles and the Henry Cole team.
Our stand looked out over an impressive sea of Maserati, Bentley, Porsches, and countless names of hypercars we’d never seen or even head of before. Those attending the event brought the class, both men & women alike but none more so than on the Boodles ladies day. I’m not embarrassed to say that the best hat competition, which really upped the ante, curiously had us all raising our gaze from the grilles and trims of the vehicles up to the elaborate head wear on display…
Salon Prive is a coming together of some of the best classic and vintage cars you’ll ever see, with top engineers doing their upmost to put the vehicles back to their original and phenomenal form. Such cars as Delahayes, of course Bentleys, and various single seat racers from the 20s & 30s decorated the lawn. Ferari GTO 250 and berlinettas lined up in various guises looking better than new, it was an incredible sight.
Luxury brands littered the outside of the arena from high-end vintage petrol pump restorers to natural pinewood furniture, there was a brilliant selection and every one of the complimented to automotive and lifestyle feel of the overall event, it was exquisitely put together and maintained a consistent atmosphere throughout. We soaked up the vibe and enjoyed our experience as three days of blistering sunshine blessed the event.
As we looked out from the SME stand across the lawn we soon noticed that interested parties would make a b-line for the SME stand. Very few motorcycle brands attend Salon Prive and so it was nice to see that between Gladstone and ourselves we managed to tempt the two-wheeled enthusiasts out of the crowd. The motorcycle competition for the best in show was taking place directly opposite us and we watched a familiar pattern of behaviour. The guests would enter the show, mingle their way amongst the cars over to the bikes, take a quick look at the long the line up, maybe point a finger in the direction of a favourite and browse the iconic early-model Brough Superiors. Once they’d made their way through the motorcycle concours d’elegance they would naturally flow over to the SME stand and chat to us about our luxury tours, it worked really well.
The opulence and luxury of this event is something I have not been used to in my life until this point and I’ve never spoken with so many interesting motorcycle enthusiasts from such a wide range of backgrounds. I soaked up the conversations with people with motorbike collections in number of triple figures, people who owned bikes from various points on history, riders who rode with Bud Etkins and Steve Mcqueen in the Mohave desert. Something I found particularly exciting was peaking to a number of land speed record holders, including the fastest ever survived motorcycle crash. Conversation like these made the days fly by as my passion and enthusiasm was mirrored in the people I spoke to, I found myself excited to return each day.
Sunday promised to be a different day, as the gates were open to the wider public as opposed to on an invite-only basis as it had been. Many more thousands of people passed through the gates of Belenheim Palace to see the phenomenal show on the lawns. Part of this day was the attempted record break for the most amount of Bentleys congregated in one place, which was achieved with an impressive 1400 cars all the way through the ages, spanning from the first ever made (model 002) to present day continentals.
Alongside Bentley’s powerful display, there had been an effort to segregate areas of parking by car brand in their hundreds. Sections of Ferrari, Maserati, Maclaren , Porsches and more created the most incredible car park you’ve ever seen. You name it, that brand was lined up in the designated area. We giggled as we passed through in our Mercedes Vito van, imagining how it’ll stand out amongst these supercars in the same way a supercar would normally stand out in any other car park in day to day life.
As an attendee of this event, on arrival you pass through the main gates and across the lawns to find that you have infinite choices of which direction to head. One of the ways in which this enhanced the drama of the event was the option of wandering through the peaceful nature of the gardens including pretty period lakes, bridges, trees and orchards. Huge oak trees that were scorched by lightening 40-50 years ago were a testament to the time that had been put into the gardens at Blenhiem. The tranquility and raw nature of this area poetically juxtaposed the noisy man-made triumphs of the beautiful machinery, including cars and helicopters, that were but a stone’s throw away.
The Tudor style ornate gardens and fountains were a stunning backdrop for our Brough Superiors, and they seemed very at home glistening in the sun amongst this opulent scene. We thoroughly enjoyed out four days at Salon Prive, and we were incredibly encouraged by the warm reception that SME received and the countless enthusiastic conversations that took place.