Zoute Concours d'Elégance: Not So Well Known But Brilliant
Images: James Nicholls
Knokke-Heist on the north coast of Belgium is a popular seaside resort during the summer months. However, on the first weekend of October it was more popular than ever with literally hundreds of thousands descending upon this small affluent town for the Zoute Grand Prix ‘22.
Four days of intense automobile fun took place with a rally featuring 225 historic cars, 21 luxury car brands showing off their latest models in Prado Zoute by Kindy Capital, the world's fastest electric car, the world-renowned Zoute Concours d'Elégance by EY, and the Zoute Sale worth over 22 million euros by the auction house Bonhams. And this all under the dazzling autumnal sun! Just perfect!
Being a member of the Jury once again was a fantastic experience and we were treated like Kings and Queens by the organisation in our endeavours to find the two cars which would become the Best in Show for both the Pre-war and Post-war periods.
Wonderful Ruinart Champagne flowed like a veritable river and the haute cuisine was not left behind in comparison, with its more well-known for foodies-neighbour France—it was so much more than the frites and mayonnaise of the stereotypical view one perhaps might form if one were not a VIP guest.
The sun shone like summer, people came from far and wide to the extent that the centre of town had to be closed by the police, and ticket sales to view new cars shown for the first time at the amazing Prado Zoute, a veritable beachside motor show, were maxed out. There was simply no more room for any more visitors!
The Bonhams Auction was also one of the places to be seen with more than a thousand in the room, and a bank of telephone and internet bidders contesting fiercely for the opportunity to purchase a vehicle from the array of catalogued cars which were shown off to stunning effect in the hugely impressive marquee structure erected upon the beach itself.
At the slightly calmer venue of the Royal Zoute Golf Club founded in 1909 and its marvellous clubhouse, the concours jury was set to work to earn its extravagant suppers (the Gala Dinner catered for more than 1,000 guests and the after-party continued until 4am!).
The Jury was conspicuously and beautifully dressed in matching three-piece navy suits and bowler hats with a nod to John Steed from The Avengers TV show, and of course to the famous Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte and his painting The Pilgrim from 1966—this was not just a concours!
Very early in the morning away we went in teams of three, each to judge two of the 14 classes. I was working with Michael Bock, the former Director of Mercedes-Benz Classic from Germany, and Christoph Grohe from Switzerland, an Advisor to Collectors, who both helped me not only by their extensive experience and knowledge but also by communicating in English for my benefit.
In the morning we worked on the Post-war Class from 1965–1985 which was narrowly won by the 1969 Mercedes-Benz 600 which pipped the fabulous 1968 Citroën DS 21 which had been driven to the event from Switzerland.
After luncheoning it was on to Michael’s speciality, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL class—I looked, listened and learned about the amazing 1957 car, one of the first 30 roadsters built and delivered new to the Crown Prince SAR Moulay Hassan who became King Hassan II of Morocco in 1961; the stunning restoration of the 1957 roadster which arrived in Portugal new in January 1958; and the amazing story of the class winner from 1961 in the rare and unusual colour of uranium yellow and with the current owner even having the original owner’s Rolex watch!
The judges then all regathered to discuss each of the merits of the class winners to decide the best in show, and a host of special awards. Pre-war Best in Show was between the 1913 S.P.A (Societa Piemontese Automobili), which nearly 110 years after it was built still has some original paint on its body created by VINET in Courbevoie in France, and the very pretty 1938 BMW.
The unanimous winner was the Edwardian period S.P.A which has had only three owners from when it was shown at the 1913 Salon de l’Automobile in Paris. The winner of best in show for post war was a much more difficult decision with several cars in contention before it boiled down to a shoot-out between two Ferraris in the marque’s 75th anniversary year.
Both cars were amazing, and the jury was split down the middle in deciding between the 1952 Ferrari 212 Inter Coupe with its gorgeous original Vignale coachwork, and the 1965 Ferrari 500 Superfast Speziale, a one-off first owned by HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. It was the subtle Vignale with its incredible attention detail finally taking the honours.
And then it was more champagne, another beautiful lunch at the awards ceremony before more dancing, more champagne and lots and lots of smiles all round. Congratulations to all involved, or as the Flemish say in this part of the world, Gefeliciteerd!
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