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Old 11th September 2014, 15:13   #1
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Default Chantilly Arts and Elegance Concours - September 2014

The Chantilly Art & Elegance concours took place near Paris on September 7, 2014 amidst much fanfare.

Incidentally it is of particular interest to note that the winner of Best of Show went to a car of Indian provenance, the sublime Delahaye 135 bodied by Figoni & Falaschi. The Delahaye was entered by prominent collector Peter Mullin, and had recently showcased the car at Retromobile, Paris, earlier this year.

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Here is note carried by Zigwheels


A car of Indian provenance, the stunningly beautiful Delahaye 135 with Figoni & Falaschi coachwork, owned by famous American collector Peter Mullin, won the Best of Show at the first Chantilly Art & Elegance concours near Paris on September 7, 2014. This is probably the first time that a car of Indian provenance has ever won the top prize at a top level concours d’elegance competition internationally. But then this beautiful car, the Delahaye 135, which spent most of its life in India, is indeed a very deserving winner, what with a shape and style that makes it one of the most exclusive and flamboyant of all automobiles ever made.

Conceived by Sylviane and Patrick Peter of Peter Auto to revive the true tradition of the concept of rewarding the design of beautiful cars, the first edition of the Chantilly Art & Elegance Richard Mille combined the gems from the finest of classic and vintage car garages and collections across the globe with an array of exciting modern day concept cars and one-offs. With the intention of developing a top level European concours competition and bettering the world famous Pebble Beach do, Patrick Peter has designed the Chantilly Art & Elegance event along the lines of a pre-war gathering of the most beautiful of hand-built cars, with women dressed in matching haute couture wear from leading Parisian fashion houses, such as Paco Rabanne, Thierry Mugler and the recently in-vogue On aura tout vu, amongst others.

The lieu itself was stunning: the Chantilly chateau, completed in 1882 (though some bits go back to the 14th century) and the adjoining Les Grandes Ecuries stables (dating from 1740), with the beautifully designed gardens and water bodies surrounding the chateau, is unmatchable for sheer class and elegance, providing for a fantastic setting that gave enough space around each car on display, bringing out the best of each design and showcasing the workmanship and the quality of restoration.

With over a hundred cars competing in ten different classes, ranging from cars built before December 31, 1904, to up-to-the-minute concept cars, including the stunning DS Divine concept from PSA Peugeot Citroen, which had its world premiere at Chantilly, the 40 judges had a difficult time choosing the winners of each class and the overall Best of Show. But then the judges – ranging from luminaries such as Rahim Aga Khan, French philosopher and ex-Minister Luc Ferry, Alfieri Maserati and Adolfo Orsi, to well known experts like PSA’s design chief Jean-Pierre Ploué, Rodolphe Rappetti, Philippe Gombert and notable Indian automotive journalist and classic car veteran, Gautam Sen – with much debating were able to narrow down the choice to that one Delahaye, one with a strong Indian connection.

Commissioned by Indophile Frenchman Paul Jourde, this car was shipped to Bombay in 1939, where it was sold to the Maharaja of Nawanagar. Some years later, the car was acquired by the Maharaja of Jaipur, who seems to have passed it on soon thereafter. The car, in a very poor state was rediscovered by an English dealer, who had the Delahaye, or whatever remained of it, spirited out of India in about 1982. Peter Mullin, an enthusiast of pre-war French cars, acquired the car in 1992, and since then the car has been starring at various shows, the most recent being last February’s Paris Retromobile’s Maharaja Cars special expo, curated, incidentally, by Gautam Sen.
Our very own Gautam Sen was a class judge at this event - a matter of great prestige and honour I would say. He has shared his thoughts on being a judge with the Zigwheels team.


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.

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. T

he 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.

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.
Besides Gautam and the Delahaye, a third Indian connection was was a very impressive Delaugère et Clayette 24/40 HP from 1904, owned (and driven to the podium) by Daniel Ghose, as this extremely rare and, for its time, luxurious and expensive French car won a special prize in the oldest class, that of veterans made before December 31, 1904. Gautam tells me Delaugère were into horse-carriage coachbuilding from 1840 to 1890, when thy diversified into steam engines and automobiles. In 1903 engineer Maurice Clayette brought in much-needed technical support (and funding) and the company changed its name to Delaugère et Clayette, and at the same time moving to bigger, more luxurious vehicles, of which the 24/40 HP, designed by Clayette, was one of the bigger car in the range. Also known as the Type 4A, the 24/40 HP featured an all-metal chassis and the engine was a 6.3-litres 4-cylinder rated at 24 CV(hp in French). Apparently, just 26 Delaugère et Clayette survive and this one is the only Type 4A.

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