The best cars at the Salon Prive 2021 luxury car show

Some of the world’s most exotic and desirable cars went on display at Blenheim Palace for the 2021 Salon Prive. Here’s our pick...

This week, the 16th edition of one of the UK’s most prestigious car events, the Salon Prive Concours d’Elegance, is being held at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. Conceived by brothers Andrew and David Bagley, Salon Prive is inspired by the extravagant concours events held in the US and Italy, which bring the world’s rare and exotic cars together to be judged by experts for their originality, historical provenance and quality of restoration. 

This year’s event gathers an eclectic range of cars in the palace grounds, from pre-war luxury Mercedes models to one-off vintage Ferraris, alongside the latest hypercars from contemporary marques. The event has gained significant traction in recent years, inviting brands such as Rolls Royce, Aston Martin and McLaren to occupy the lawn and showcase their latest metal. More ‘boutique’ style hypercar manufacturers such as Hispano Suiza, Pininfarina and Touring Superleggera also made an appearance this year. 

Having spent hours at the show pouring over some of the finest cars in existence, we’ve narrowed down our favourites. So from meticulously restored classics, to concept cars and resto-mods, here are the stand-out cars of Salon Prive 2021.

Kimera EVO37

It takes a brave manufacturer to attempt to recreate, and better, a landmark rally hero, but with the EVO37, Kimera has done exactly that. In 1983, the Lancia 037 saw off the formidable Audi Quattro to become the last two-wheel drive car ever to win the World Rally Championship, and cemented its place in rally folklore. The Kimera EVO37 is a tribute to the 80s icon, with 500bhp, even more muscular looks and a £414,000 price tag.

Aston Martin Project Vantage

Most will recognise the Vantage moniker from Aston Martin’s entry-level sports car and a series of brutish, V8-powered models from the 1970s. However, the name is also attached to one of the most important cars in the firm's history: the Aston Martin Project Vantage, which appeared in 1998. 

The concept car was a glimpse into the brand's future, with an F1-style paddle-shift gearbox, an aluminium chassis and a design that eventually found its home with the Vanquish flagship three years later. Project Vantage planted the seed for the series of VH-platform Aston Martins that ran on until 2019 and arguably saved the company.

Ferrari 275 GTB Competizione Cliente

With just 10 built, the Ferrari 275 GTB Competizione Clienti is one of the Italian brand’s rarest and most sought after models. Built as a substitute for the mid-engined 250 LM, which was outlawed from the GT sportscar category in 1965, the Competizione Cliente is an alloy-bodied racer that remained close to the standard car to ensure entry into the racing class. The Competizione Clienti treatment included a lighter, tubular chassis, extra cooling fins and a more powerful Columbo V12 engine fed by six Weber carburettors.

McLaren F1 GTR

One of the McLaren F1s defining traits is that it was, first and foremost, a road car. It was never designed to hit the race track, and was a joy to drive on the road as a result. How then, did it take overall victory at Le Mans in 1995? With this: the McLaren F1 GTR. A more aggressive aero package, stripped out interior and a new suspension setup ramped up performance, despite FIA restrictions pegging power to below 600bhp. It was enough to cement the F1's place in motorsport history. 

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Jaguar XJR 15

The Jaguar XJR 15 is something of an unsung hero among 90s exotica, but this is a model with all the hallmarks of a supercar icon. Just 53 examples of the XJR 15 were built by the firm’s motorsport subsidiary, JaguarSport, and it stands as the first production road car made entirely from carbon fibre. Taking the Le Mans-winning XJR-9 as a base, the XJR 15 was designed as a road-going racer, powered by a 6.0-litre naturally-aspirated V12 engine and weighing little more than a tonne.

DeTomaso Mangusta

In 1967, Italian marque DeTomaso combined an exquisite, Giugaro-designed body and a thunderous Ford V8 to dramatic effect. Sitting still, the Mangusta (Italian for mongoose, a cobra-killing animal) is a symbol of contained aggression, with a wide, low-set stance, bulging hips and a distinctive split-hinged engine cover. When fired up, the noise is unadulterated V8 fury. The restoration of this particular car was completed just hours before the concours began - the driveshafts were fitted on the morning of the event. 

Pagani Zonda F Clubsport

The arrival of the Pagani Zonda in 1999 sent shockwaves all the way to Maranello and Sant’Agata, and during its 18-year lifespan, the supercar contender was continuously tweaked and upgraded, to the point where it produced an incredible 750bhp in limited-run 760 form. However, the Zonda F Clubsport, released in 2005, is arguably the sweet spot. 

The F Clubsport retains the clean lines of the original car, with a low rear wing and exposed carbon panels bringing added purpose. The main draw is the engine - the 7.3-litre AMG-built V12 produces 641bhp, and drives through a six-speed manual gearbox, as opposed to the paddle-shift unit fitted to later cars.

Porsche 962C

Among the motorsport icons on display at this year’s Salon Prive is none other than Derek Bell’s Porsche 962C, which he drove to victory at LeMans in 1987. The 962, here painted in the Rothman’s colour scheme, was a pioneering car for ground-effect aerodynamics, and remained competitive on the sportscar racing scene some ten years after its conception in 1984. 

Ferrari 250 GTO

The Ferrari 250 GTO is arguably the pinnacle of classic sportscar racing. Just 36 were built, and the front-engined V12 challenger went on to win the FIA International GT Championship three years on the bounce, between 1962 and 1964. Two 250 GTOs are on display at Blenheim Palace this year, one of which is painted in a unique solid green paint colour. Previously owned and raced by British privateer David Piper, chassis number 3767GT was reunited with its former driver at the show.

Eagle Speedster 

When creating the Speedster, renowned Jaguar E-Type specialist Eagle set out to improve upon the British icon, while retaining its defining character. To that end, distinctive details such as the long bonnet, low waistline and faired-in headlights remain, but there’s bespoke metalwork to emphasise the E-Type’s curvaceous body.

Under the skin, the Speedster uses a 4.7-litre bored-out straight-six producing 330bhp, with revised brakes and suspension - the blend of classic style and choice modernisation makes it one of the most desirable cars available.

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