The Concours d’élégance Paleis Het Loo has been Hollands most prestigious classic event since 1999. For this 12th edition the gardens surrounding the former royal summer palace once again make a magnificent decor for the crème de la crème of the international classic scene. Robbert Moree saddled up and enjoyed the ride.
Was a concours the place to be for the happy few to gather and enjoy, show and compare each others thoroughbreds for a long time, since the arrival of the automobile, they had found a new toy to outmarch one another. The judges were no longer presented with Hackney’s or warm blooded harness horses, no, instead the latest showpieces of well known coach builders were the new showstoppers. The thoroughbred underpinnings of Bentley’s, Rolls Royce’s and Hispano Suiza’s cladded with the most extravagant of bodyworks. Chauffeurs had dozens of mechanical horses at their feet. Sometimes whispering delicately, often growling like tigers. Horsepower was no longer synonymous for the achievement of the fastest horse on the steeplechase.
The early years of automotive history also knew a different habit going back to the era of horse drawn carriages. Factory’s delivered chassis’ and engines to which coach builders crafted bodies to customer specifications. These usually one-of pieces of art needed a venue to be shown, the concours d’élégance was born. Europe knew several of these prestigious concours’ d’élégance, of which the Villa d’Este concours might well have been the most famous example. Now don’t you even dare thinking these beautiful bodyworks were bolted to their underpinnings for eternity. No, as they ran out of fashion pretty quickly, it wasn’t uncommon for them being scrapped in favour of a new, even bolder bodywork to adorn the noble technique. In its new livery the car was kept up to date, its owner in the right fashion. Denominating the cars new body after the concours it debuted on was more common than the cars themselves would ever be.
The rise of the motorcar as a mass product quickly announced the demise of these high class, often one-of pieces of art. The concours’ d’élégance followed the same sorry road to oblivion. Until it was revived by the classic scene. Prestigious concours’ like the world famous Pebble Beach and the Dutch Paleis Het Loo are now presented as the place for owners and audience to enjoy the beauty of these wonders of classic heritage together. Beautiful Lagonda’s, a name well known for their excellent cars for exactly 110 years today. 100 years of BMW hasn’t been forgotten, nor the introduction of the Bugatti type 57 now 80 years ago. The Ferrari Dino, the Renault 8 Gordini, the Alfa Romeo Giulia, the Gentlemen Sport Cars from the 50, 60 & 70’s, they all had their well earned spot on the 2016 edition of the Concours d’élégance Paleis Het Loo.
Winner of this years concours was a Ferrari Daytona prototype in a stunning grey metallic. The prototype still sporting the front end of the Ferrari 275, making it unique in the world. Next to the beauty on display, we find more competition spirit in the Vredestein Sprint. A regularity trial for mainly pre-war cars. It might look easy behind the wheel of a modern car, but racing a 60 to 100 year old motorcar is something else entirely. It’s a spectacular thing to watch, as is the vast display of beauty on the now legendary classic car park. Its name says it all, this is where visitors park their own classic vehicles near to the main event. Making this car park one of the most spectacular parts of the entire event. The amount of cars and their versatility make the classic car park into an event of its own every time.
The Concours d’élégance Paleis Het Loo lives up to its reputation. It truly is the old fashioned competition between the fairest, the richest and the most powerful. A competition that knows only one winner, the audience.
text and pictures: Robbert Moree
translation: Marc GF Zaan