Salon Privé 2012: Motoring’s luxury lifestyle event comes of age

salon-prive-2012

There are places and events which remain in the collective imaginary for eternity: La Tour Eiffel; the Northern Lights; il Colosseo; Cirque du Soleil; Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival; Wimbledon.

Some are better known in certain circles, like motorsport and automotive shows: Goodwood Festival of Speed (UK); Villa d’Este (Italy); the Monterey weekend (California).

But what do they have in common?

Passion, for a start: some architectonic masterpieces and venues may have objective beauty on their side, but it is always the people involved which make an event, or a place, memorable. Building memories takes time, and so does developing and nurturing an annual ‘luxury lifestyle’ party.

Supermodel Harriadnie Beau Phipps graced the Tushek stand [Image: Max Machu Photography].

London-based Salon Privé (literally, “private room”) is therefore anything but ‘private’. It is a public party, which retains the Privé aura only insomuch as it is open to a select number of guests, who come to share in the delights of special, rare and usually expensive motorcars and other objets d’art.

Two main challenges arise from a summer party of this magnitude: one, the practical matter of organising the event itself. Managing those involved, finding the ideal backdrop, persuading classic and supercar owners as well as luxury brands to participate, creating the perfect blend of desire and attainment, dealing with pedestrian needs such as food and drink by lifting them to the status of premium entertainment (lobster and champagne, of course)… these are all activities which weave the very fabric, but – on their own – do not make the outfit.

  • The Disco Volante 2012, from Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera is a two-seater coupé based on the rolling chassis of the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione and powered by its Maserati-built 4.7 litre, 444bhp V8 engine.
  • Norfolk based Trident Vehicles used Salon Privé for the world premiere of its 6.6-litre turbo-diesel powered Iceni. The £75,000 Iceni packs 660bhp and 1050lb-ft of torque and is said to achieve 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 193mph.

The second challenge is infusing an event with the personality it needs. To become THE summer party of the year, in a country as sophisticated as the UK and in a city as demanding and spoilt for entertainment as London, a luxury social event must involve its guests on an individual level, either by proxy (hence the success of shows such as Goodwood Festival of Speed, where spectators enjoy, ‘second hand’, the fun had by those who race, or ogle celebrities at the same event) or directly, by stimulating the guests’ interest and passions.

Salon Privé makes no excuses about being privé in its deliverance. The entrance price is high, but so are the stakes. There is nothing democratic or tugging at the family heartstrings. You won’t find a single merry-go-round or helter-skelter on the beautifully manicured lawns of Syon House, where, incidentally, the event moved last year, after a longish relationship with the Hurlingham Club (which – ironically – does have a private playground for the members’ children).

Visitors were treated to a stunning display of seven Bugattis at Salon Privé.

Salon Privé talks the language of luxury with a cut-glass accent; and why shouldn’t it? It has spotted a niche, an empty corner in the confusing and crowded room of events, shows and festivals. It has taken seven years to turn that corner into something unique and handcrafted.

True, there are no straw bales at Syon House to protect the public from the dangers of motorsport. There are no smoking tyres, no smell of Castrol R. Then again, it is hard to see any racing or real action from behind those straw bales and the crowds elsewhere: therefore, the only true enjoyment ultimately belongs to those who race, and spectators may just partake in the atmosphere.

  • Aston Martin brought an impressive collection of its latest models to the event, including a V12 Vantage Roadster, One-77, New Vanquish and V12 Zagato.
  • Despite a lawn full of supercars and priceless classics, Overfinch still managed to catch our attention with its luridly coloured Evoque GTS and Range Rover Sport based GTS-X.

That’s where Salon Privé excels: there is plenty of atmosphere, and it is all created and nurtured by the people involved. It is secluded, yet real and close; exclusive, yet easy to touch, see, and talk to.

As it branches out, and its Concours d’Elégance transmogrifies into a 21-mile Tour d’Elégance, a moving tableau of exceptional metal which then settles back again into a catwalk of vintage beauty, Salon Privé gets another step closer to belonging to the collective imaginary. Our very own Villa d’Este.

Credits: Images of Harriadnie Beau Phipps courtesy of Max Machu Photography.