The Louis Vuitton Classic in Paris recently celebrated its sixteenth year, and has grown to be one of the premier automotive events in Europe. This year the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud, replaced the Parc Bagatalle as the hosting venue. Over the last three centuries, the 'Domaine' has grown out to over 11,000 acres that include a magnificent mansion, spacious lawns, large forested sections, and a number of beautiful fountains. In the 19th century, the 'Domaine' was a popular pleasure spot and the host of many parties for Paris' rich and famous. Inspired by the park and its parties, Louis Vuitton founded his luxury fashion and luggage company in 1854. The close connection between them was again emphasized in 1999, when Louis Vuitton made a considerable donation after a storm destroyed 17,000 of the park's trees.
The art of travel without limits
The 'Domaine' has not only played a role in the founding of Louis Vuitton, but it has been important for many aspects of travel. The visitors could access the park by several means. They arrived by carriage, by boat, or by rail when a train station opened in 1864. France's major airplane manufacturers were also located nearby in Saint-Cloud. Taking this into consideration, the theme of this year's event, “The art of travel without limits”, is quite appropriate. The Concours d'Elegance was divided into nine classes for veteran and classic cars and one class for modern prototype and concept cars. Of the ten classes, one is closely related to the event's theme, featuring luxury limousines and some of the first large ‘people carriers’.
Varying in age over 90 years, the cars in the Voyage class were the most diverse. All of the cars had one thing in common; they seat at least four persons in great comfort. Highlights of this class were the 1993 Bugatti EB 112, and the 1992 Italdesign Columbus, designed to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Americas discovery. Awarded best-in-class was the revolutionary Stout Scarab, being one of the very first mini-vans constructed.
Open motoring was celebrated in the Grand Air class, which featured glamorous cabriolets produced in the 1930s and 1940s. Of the nine cars entered, the Voisin C30 fitted with custom coachwork by Dubos was the rarest. Constructed in 1938, it was the last Voisin built. It is a Voisin by name, but with a regular side-valve engine and Dubos coachwork it lacks the ingredients that made the earlier Voisins special. It was a stunning car nonetheless. Another noteworthy car in this class was the Pinin Farina bodied Lancia Astura, powered by one of the first production V8 engines.
Some of the most beautiful cars were created in the late 1930s. Designed with aerodynamics in mind, they featured very sleek bodies. The most famous of these is the 'Teardrop' coupe designed by coach-builders Figoni & Falaschi and fitted on a small number of Talbot Lago T150C SS chassis. Bugatti's solution to cheating the wind was to construct an ultra-low chassis. The very first example of this construction was the Bugatti Type 57S entered. Despite its lofty present value, the owner drives it regularly on Swiss roads.
Racing improves the breed
Three classes were dedicated to competition and competition-derived cars. In the competition-derived class, two examples stood out above the rest. The first is the Bentley Speed Six 'Blue Train Special', fitted with stylish Gurney Nutting bodywork, and one of the best known Bentley chassis constructed. Its first owner was the two-time LeMans winner and Bentley-boy Captain 'Woolf' Bernato. Equally beautiful was the Figoni & Falashi bodied Talbot Lago T150C, which was one of three Talbot Lago racers used in the 1936 season.
The two race car classes featured cars with a palmares, or competition history. Two early Aston Martins were the stars of the pre-war class. Constructed in 1924, the Sidevalve is one of the very first Aston Martins constructed. Its first owner raced this particular example into the 1960s. An Aston Martin International 'LM7' was driven down to Paris from London by Chloe Mason (daughter of Nick Mason of the rock band Pink Floyd). In 1930, this LM7 competed in the Brooklands Double Twelve, 24 Hours of LeMans and Tourist Trophy Races.
In the post-war class, the Talbot Lago T26 GS with a Chambas coupe had the longest history. Between 1949 and 1953, it competed in five LeMans races. The most powerful car entered in this class was the 830 bhp Lola T222, which raced in the 1971 CanAm championship, driven by Peter Revson. The successful OSCA MT4 Morelli Spider present was driven to class podium finishes at the 1956 and 1957 Mille Miglia races.
A wide variety of coupes and cabriolets formed the final class. One of the extremely rare Jaguar XKSS roadsters entered was driven daily by racing car driver and actor Steve McQueen in the 1960s. The Alfa Romeo TZ based Giulia Sport entered was first introduced at the 1965 Turin Motorshow and was fitted with ultra-low and sleek Pininfarina bodywork. As well, one of the most beautiful Ferraris ever constructed was represented by a perfect example of the 250 GT Lusso.
A number of recently launched concept cars were shown in this class, clearly displaying the epitome of automobile design evolution over the last 100 years. To celebrate Corvette's 50th anniversary, Italdesign Giugiaro presented the Corvette-based Moray which premiered at this year's Geneva Motorshow. Pininfarina offered a highly modified Lotus Elise, dubbed ‘Enjoy’, which also initiated in Geneva. Also on hand was Cadillac’s stunning surprise from earlier this year at the Detroit Motorshow, the Cadillac Sixteen, which featured a 13.6 litre V16 engine.
Conclusion and Slideshow
As always, each and every one of the cars in the field was of the highest excellence, both in condition and in provenance. I feel the differing layouts between Bagatalle’s grand circle and Domaine’s four row arrangement may have lost some individuality to the concours as a whole, however the Louis Vuitton Classic lost nothing of the overall quality it has always been known for.
To provide you with a perfect impression of the cars and the event, we have compiled a 60 shot slideshow
. Our three personal favourites are featured in the final fifteen shots, including the Bentley Speed Six 'Blue Train Special', which was awarded 'Best of Show'.