Dinard Elegance: A Stunner of a Delage Wins As An Indian Packard Stars
Images: Jerome Cadoret, Louis Monnier, Gautam Sen
The opening sentence of Western France’s leading daily Ouest France extolled that there were as many as ten nations ‘represented among the participants, including India, the United States, Georgia…’ and so on for this year’s Dinard Elegance where the Packard of Nisha and Rajiv Kehr stole the show over the weekend of 17th-18th last.
India’s first and only entry to Dinard Elegance—the concours d’elegance that evokes the very first concours ever held over a hundred years ago, on 4th September 1921, and which has been at the forefront of reviving the concept of a concours d’élegance a la française—was the cynosure of all eyes as the Packard 1101 Straight Eight Tourer toured the countryside and then made the presentation on the ramp in front of the historic Manoir de Port Breton, in the famous resort town on the Western coast of France.
Even though the competition was tough, the 1934 Packard was at the centre of most of the attention amongst the thousands of spectators who had thronged the route as well as had a close look at the cars when they were lined up for display on the digue, which is the esplanade over the croissant-shaped beach of the town, the same seafront that had hosted the very first concours way back in 1921, and then every year until WWII put a temporary halt to this annual celebration of the automobile, design and haute couture.
As the president of the organising committee of Dinard Elegance, Denis Cohignac points out, the early years of the concours d’élegance was all about three Cs—the cars, coachbuilders, and couturiers—whereby carmakers worked in tandem with the famous coachbuilders, as well as well-known haute couture houses, to launch new models or special designs, combining fashion and styling into a festival of the bold and the beautiful.
In fact, it was at Dinard during the very first concours d’élegance where Georgina Citroën, the wife of carmaker André Citroën, presented the Citroën 5HP Type C Trèfle for the first time, a month or so ahead of the official launch of the model at the Paris Motor Show. To commemorate that, a rare Trèfle from 1924 was one of the 32 cars carefully selected for the concours d’élegance.
Broadly divided into four classes—pre-1930 vintages, post-vintage cars from 1931 to 1940, classics from ‘41 to ‘60, and a final class of the post-1960 cars termed ‘post classics’—the cars ranged from the relatively ordinary (yet rare) such as the cute Citroën C Trèfle and the amusingly ‘cylindrical’ Zagato Zele to astounding one-offs including the Alfa Romeo 6C Aprile and the Best of Show-winning Delage D8-120 bodied by de Villars.
The Fritz Burkhard-owned Delage D8-120 has been winning Best of Shows elsewhere given that stunning roadster bodywork by de Villars in its striking two-tones of blue and silver, and so has Corrado Lopresto’s one-off Alfa Romeo, designed to a Mario Revelli de Beaumont drawing, giving the car an almost hot-rod look decades before it became fashionable.
Yet the car that walked away with the popularity award was the astounding Avion Voisin C25 Aérodyne, from 1935. The audience, which numbered several hundred, voted for that distinctive art deco car in significant numbers, with the Marcello Gandini-designed Autobianchi Runabout concept car (presented by Sabina S and Giuseppe Dell’Aversano, a vice president with the Italian federation ASI) a close second.
But the Runabout, which incidentally, is now 54 years old, did corner the trophy for the Prix Design for its distinctive barchetta design (explained in: The Autobianchi A112 Runabout That Was Inspired By Speedboats (derivaz-ives.com)
For yours truly, the best part of being there at Dinard, was the opportunity that Dell’Aversano gave me—to drive one of my teenage dream cars, the sublimely beautiful Runabout, for a couple of kilometres. The dropped jaw looks from the pedestrians and other motorists… priceless!
It wasn’t only fun and games for yours truly—I was also there for being useful. Part of the seven-member jury (along with Pascaline Mascitti of Autosur; Karine Blanchard, the marketing director of Longchamp and regular racer at Le Mans Classic; Thierry Cohet, the editor of classic car magazine LVA; Gilbert Marchini from the French federation FFVE; the mayor of Dinard, Arnaud Salmon; and Sylviane Peter, the wife of Patrick Peter, and between them they organise Chantilly Arts & Elegance, Le Mans Classic and some six other major events!), I also had to decide which car captured the essence of FIVA.
And that was the amusing little runabout, the Zagato Zele, a long-before-its-time electric two-seater that the Italian coachbuilder built between 1974 and 1976, soon after the first oil price shock. With barely 500 made, very few survive.
David Whale’s (who also happens to be the president of the British federation FBVHC) Zele is even more remarkable in being an extremely low mileage car which is beautifully well preserved. Not only is it a great case of superb conservation, but also makes a very fine case for being an electric historic vehicle—yes, FIVA isn’t against electric vehicles if they are more than 30 years old!
What makes Dinard Elegance very different from the Villa d'Estes and the Pebble Beaches is the emphasis on presentation. Instead of bothering too much with the sparkle of the chrome and the gloss of the paint finish and the merits of the (over!) restoration, the Dinard Elegance scoring system is simplified to a max 20 points for the quality/state of the vehicle, another 20 for the design/form of the car, and the last 20 for the clothes and presentation of the two presenting the vehicle, whether they are in appropriate period costumes, or if their ‘storytelling’ is consistent with the car or the time or place.
Which was why Nisha and Rajiv Kehr dressed in traditional Indian outfits, he in a gold brocade achkan with ruby-studded buttons, Nisha in a red saree, with beautiful gold necklaces and a gorgeous emerald-encrusted maang tikka on the forehead. Dressed like a maharaja and a maharani!
Of course, the most outlandish of these ‘fancy dresses’ was the 1970s look that Barbara and David Whale chose to match with their red Zagato Zele. Most of the others though went for the classic 1920s and 1930s look, with fancy wide brimmed hats, or dressed in typical Charleston attire, the men all looking like Great Gatsby.
The organisation was excellent, what with the full involvement of the Cohignac family (Denis, Juliette, Marie, and Justine), Patrick Le Guen, Aurelie Saillard, Emmanuel Bacquet and the bike-mad Frank Huard, and his biking gang who managed the traffic brilliantly well. Former FIVA President Patrick Rollet was, as always, a brilliant master of ceremonies, explaining and providing the background to each of the participating cars.
The scoring was difficult and extremely tight, with decimal points separating the winners and the also rans. The car that received the highest amongst all was the astounding Delage D8-120 de Villars, which was given the Grand Prix d’Excellence, or what the Americans will term the Best of Show.
For the rest of the classes, the results are there to see at the bottom of this article. Dinard Elegance also had a concours for some very rare and special motorcycles - we well feature a separate report on that soon.
Grand Prix d’Excellence (Best of Show)
Delage D8 de Villars (Fritz Burkard)
The Vintage Class (pre-1930)
Winner: Stutz Vertical 8 Boattail (the Dolléans)
Runners-up: Packard 740 Roadmaster (the Bassez)
The Post-Vintage Class (1931 – 1940)
Winner: Buick 50 coupe chauffeur Fernandez et Darrin (the Houdayer)
Runners-up: Bentley 4 ¼ Litre James Young (the Schröter)
The Classics (1941 – 1960)
Delahaye 135M Chapron (the Bauchet)
Alfa Romeo 6C 2500SS Touring (the San Giorgi)
Post Classics (post- 1960)
Alvis T21 S1 DHC (the Fischling)
Aston Martin DB4 Volante (the Bellier)
Prix de l’Élégance 2023
Packard Eight Series 1101 (Nisha & Rajiv Kehr)
Prix Ville de Dinard
Alfa Romeo 6C Aprile (Chatuna Bacquet & Anthony Missounis)
Prix du Public
Avion Voisin C25 Aérodyne (Mr Rey & Mrs Thsibola)
Zagato Zele (the Whale)
Autobianchi Runabout (Sabina Spaziani & Giuseppe Dell’Aversano)
Avions Voisin C25 Aérodyne (Mr. Rey & Mrs. Thsibola)
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