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Heythrop Park, 09 September 2011

The majestic Baroque architecture of the garden front of Heythrop House, deep in the Oxfordshire countryside, provided the backdrop for the 2011 Ferrari Owners’ Club concours. The house was designed by the architect Thomas Archer, with heavy influences from the Italian Baroque style of the period, as both he and the client, Charles Talbot the 1st Duke of Shrewsbury, had travelled extensively in Italy, and were joint admirers of this grandiose architecture. Building work commenced in 1706, and although able to be partially occupied, was still incomplete upon the death of The Duke in 1718, but remained in the family. The interior of the house was burned out in 1831, after which it lay derelict for nearly 40 years, until bought by the Brassey family, when it was refurbished and remained in their ownership until 1926. From then until 1969 it was a Jesuit college, then being sold tothe National Westminster Bank, who used it as a training and conference centre until 1999, when it was sold to a development group who turned it into the hotel, country club and golf course that it is today, with the addition of a Crowne Plaza hotel in 2010.

A dismal weather forecast for the weekend was probably the reason that the overall attendance was down on recent years, but that didn’t stop stalwarts like Bernard Worth and his wife from driving to the event in their 166 MM/53 Vignale Spider, chassis # 0308 M. Similarly, other owners of rare and valuable cars, like Clive Bate in his 166 Inter Touring Coupe, chassis # 017 S, Richard Colton, who made the journey in his 250 GT SWB Berlinetta, chassis # 1995 GT, and Clive Beecham in his 275 GTB/4S NART Spider, chassis # 10749, braved the predicted poor weather. However, as is often the case, the forecast proved inaccurate, at least for the grounds of Heythrop House, as it was predominantly sunny with a few threatening dark clouds, and only the most minimal spots of rain. The club was fortunate with the weather pattern, as upon leaving the event, it was obvious that some places quite close by had experienced some heavy rain.

Notwithstanding the lower than average turnout, there was still an interesting array of cars on display, as apart from those previously mentioned, there was a 750 Monza, a 268 SP and a 575 GTC representing the competition Ferraris, plus a varied selection of road cars. Amongst these was a “barn find” Dino 246 GT, chassis # 00496, which was the 1969 London Motor Show car, and was then exported to Barbados in 1971, where it remained until this year, when the current owner managed to purchase it. Another new to the UK car was a 250 GTE 2+2, understood to be a prototype for the second series, chassis # 2713 GT, which was first registered to Ferrari SpA in 1961, and then exported to the USA in 1964. During its life there it had engine problems, and in 1968 it was fitted with the engine from chassis # 3225 GT. There were also a couple of cars that had people scratching their heads, as they didn’t resemble any Ferrari production model! In fact they were a dark blue berlinetta and a black spider, both based on 400i running gear, commissioned privately in the UK for Sir Anthony Bamford, as bespoke forms of transport. Another one-off in attendance was the only right hand drive 550 Barchetta Zagato, chassis # 124138, but this made an early departure.

Renowned motoring artist Dexter Brown was in attendance, hard at work painting an alluring study of a 250 GT SWB Berlinetta in oil, which was to be auctioned for the benefit of the FOC designated charity, the Bob Champion Male Cancer Research Trust. The awards ceremony was held on the garden terrace, with the H.R. Owen Trophy Best of Show award going to the magnificently restored 275 GTB/4, chassis # 10835, of Nigel Allen, which was finished in Grigio Mahmoud with a Bordeaux red leather interior, a really stunning combination. Proceedings culminated with a spectacular aerobatic display by club member Peter Teichman in his P51 Mustang.

Keith Bluemel