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The Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, 4 September, 2011

After the great success of the inaugural Chelsea Auto Legends show in 2010, the second running was held on 4th September 2011, with the main theme being “The Swinging Sixties”. Unfortunately the weather was rather inclement during the mid part of the day, which turned the “Swinging Sixties” into the “Sodden Sixties”! However, it did not deter the vast majority of attendees from braving initially light precipitation then a squally rain storm, seeking shelter where they could, to get the full benefit of the great selection of cars and motorcycles on display. Other themes of this year’s event included a tribute to the private entrants of the sixties, like Colonel Ronnie Hoare, Tommy Sopwith, Rob Walker and John Coombs, plus the 80th anniversary of the Low Chassis Invicta, and the 50th anniversaries of the Jaguar E-Type and Mini Cooper. A further feature was a Supercar drive-in from the RAC headquarters in The Mall, with the likes of a Bugatti Veyron, numerous Ferraris including F50s and Enzos, a pair of Pagani Zondas, and even a pair of the new McLaren MP4-12Cs. For motorcycle enthusiasts there was a ride-in from one of the sixties major motorcycle crowd congregating points, the renowned Ace Cafe on the North Circular Road.

Apart from the themed displays containing a mouth watering selection of classic cars, including Bentleys, Porsche 906, 910 and 911 GT1, a McLaren F1 GTR, a Ferrari Dino 206 S and a 250 LM, a quartet of Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinettas, plus an Audi R8, a Lola Aston Martin and a Peugeot 908 HDi Fap representing the more modern era of sports car racing. The celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Invicta Low Chassis, provided a beautiful selection of the model, which between 1933 and 1936 (when the company ceased production) were built quite literally “a stone’s throw” from the Royal Hospital in Flood Street, Chelsea. Elsewhere around the show there were some rare and interesting cars, ranging from a special Mini area to celebrate the birth of the Mini Cooper, with an eclectic array of variants, a number of Bristol models from the marque’s heyday, including an elegant 1941 401 Touring coupe, plenty of Italian machinery, ranging from a humble Fiat 126, through Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati to a wide range of Ferraris both old and new, plus French rarities like Alpine and Facel Vega, and the list goes on.

Fans of rally cars were well catered for, with a rally car feature, which included an Audi Quattro Sport, Ford RS200, Escort RS Cosworth and Focus WRC, Lancia Delta S4 and 037, Subaru Impreza WRC and VW Golf Rallye G60. If touring car racing was your thing, then how about a BMW CSL “Batmobile”, a Jaguar XJS or the renowned Datsun 240Z “Big Sam” which started life as a rally car, before being turned into one of the best known track cars of the seventies on circuits all around the UK.

Apart from all the main and peripheral displays, there was a funfair for the youngsters, a silent auction in aid of the Royal Hospital, numerous trade stands selling a variety of motoring related products ranging from scale models, through books, luggage and artwork, to period clothing and accessories. A number of classic and modern car dealers also had sales displays, including H.R. Owen, whose stand featured another Bugatti Veyron, Ferraris, Lamborginis, Maserati and Rolls Royce. The Bonhams auction display also featured some interesting cars, including an Austin Healey “100” Special Test Car in “barn find” condition, which was the example hit by Levegh’s Mercedes in the 1955 Le Mans disaster, and has been in storage for the past 42 years. They also featured a Jaguar E-Type semi- lightweight roadster, originally specially built for Sir Robert Ropner, an Aston Martin DB4 GT and a Lister Jaguar “Knobbly”. Thus it can be seen that was a wide variety of classic and modern machinery, which should have kept even the most hardened petrol head happy, despite the vagaries of the weather.

Keith Bluemel