2014 Chantilly Concours: A Judge's perspective

Want to know what it is like to be a judge at one of Europe's premier Classic Car Concours events? Read on....


2014 Chantilly Concours 2



Other than the honour of being in such august company as the likes of enthusiast and Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera’s owner Roland D’Ieteren, French classic car federation boss Laurent Hériou, Patrick Rollet, the president of FIVA, the international body for the classic car movement, Bugatti expert Pierre-Yves Laugier, Retromobile’s Francois Melcion, F1 engineer Gordon Murray and ex-racer Alain De Cadenet, and despite the experience of judging at Le Mans Classic and other classic and vintage car events in India and elsewhere, the ‘business’ of evaluating the cars participating at the first edition of the Chantilly Art & Elegance do on September 7 last, was very special indeed.



Gautam Sen at the 2014 Chantilly Concours
From left to right: Serge Bellu, Laurent Hériou (FFVE), Gautam Sen, Nic Waller (Pebble Beach Concours), Philip Kantor (Bonhams Auctions)


The amazing location and the terrific arrangements made Chantilly a wonderful experience, but at the same time the thinking for the judging also needed a sea-change in attitude. The concours d’elegance, or the competition to decide the most elegant car, was essentially for just one class, that of the newer concepts cars, which were to be paraded with beautiful young ladies,  dressed up in matching haute couture ensembles. Unfortunately, this wasn’t my class – alas, we had to deal with a metal-and-leather class where the judging was more for the concours d’etat, an evaluation of the state of the car, its originality and authenticity more so than the quality of restoration, or the sheen of the chrome.


Porsche at the 2014 Chantilly Concours



The class that I had been put in for, along with judges of much greater eminence and experience – Bonhams’ Philip Kantor and Pebble Beach’s Nic Waller – was that of cars with British chassis, but with Italian bodies: a rare, yet distinctive bunch of vehicles from the 1950s and ’60s, whence some interesting British-built chassis-engines found themselves clothed in exotic Italian sporty skins. We had to judge nine cars, the oldest being a rare Pininfarina-designed (but bodied by French company Facel) Bentley Cresta from 1948, one of about 17 built, the newest being a 1969 AC 428 convertible, designed and bodied by Pietro Frua, in Italy.



The Delahaye 135 that won the 2014 Chantilly Concours



Plus, seven rarer bolides, one of which I had never known the existence of till the day of judging: a 1955 Jaguar XK140, with Ghia bodywork, to a most distinctive design by brilliant freelancer Giovanni Savonuzzi. Not one of his more flamboyant masterpieces though, the two-tone Jaguar was most interesting from the rear three-quarter, despite being a bit awkward at the front. This one, along with another Savonuzzi design, the well-known Jaguar XK120-based Ghia Supersonic, won special awards as we all agreed that the 1960 Aston Martin DB4 GT with Zagato bodywork, the very first of 19 cars originally made, was the redoubtable winner, a fitting tribute to the design genius of Ercole Spada.


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