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2003 Concours d'Elegance Paleis 't Loo
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The world's Royalty have traditionally owned some of the world's most exotic and glamorous cars. Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands was no exception. He has owned exotic cars since the 1930s and is especially fond of Ferraris. He has been a customer and a personal friend of Ferrari almost from day one. Taking this in consideration, it is more than appropriate that The Netherlands' finest
historic event is held in the gardens of his palace.
Held for the fourth time, after an absence of one year, the Paleis 't Loo Concours d'Elegance was bigger than ever. Covering two days, the event included an International Concours, a National Concours and a Christie's auction of exceptional motor cars and automobilia. The difference between the International and National Concours was not so much the country of origin of the cars entered, but the nature of the cars. The International Concours' participants have been exotics since the day they were constructed, whereas the National Concours' entrants are the finest examples of more common cars.

The International Concours
Well over 100 cars, divided in no less than 22 classes, were entered in the International Concours. With four separate classes Alfa Romeo was the featured marque of the event. A coach-builder that has always been closely connected to Alfa Romeo, Zagato, was also honoured with a class of its own. One of our personal favorites was the class dedicated to the eccentric French constructor Gabriel Voisin. The four cars entered gave a perfect impression of Voisin's work. Contemporary French work was displayed in a class dedicated to the finest pre-1940 French cars and coach-builders.

Alfa Romeo 6C
In the first forty years of the Alfa Romeo's existence, the company focused completely on producing racing cars. Although road cars were also produced, they shared a large number of parts with the successful racing cars. Because of this, Alfa Romeos did not come cheap. One of the last in the line of these road-going racers was the 6C 2500 SS, introduced in 1939. Miraculously Alfa Romeo managed to keep most of its factory equipment and workers in one piece during the War and commenced production sooner than most of its competitors. Right after the war, the 6C 2500 SS was the finest and most expensive car available. A complete class of the Concours was dedicated to this classic Alfa Romeo. Included was a Touring bodied Villa d'Este, which was the most exclusive of all 6C 2500 SS model.

Alfa Romeo Corsa
As mentioned before, racing was what Alfa Romeo was and, to a certain extent, is all about. Five of the finest racing or 'Corsa' Alfa Romeos were assembled to form their own class. Of particular interest were the two 6C competition cars present. They are Alfa Romeo's final pre-war and the first post-war sports racers. The unique 6C 2500 SS LeMans of 1939 was still fairly similar to the road going 'SS', with a custom berlinetta coachwork and a slightly tuned engine. The second was the 6C 2500 Corsa, one of only two competition 6C 2500s constructed after the War. Compared to the LeMans Berlinetta of 1939 it featured a shorter wheelbase and an all new drop-snoot design. Although special in their own way, these cars never managed to achieve the success of Alfa's earlier racers, which were represented by a 1934 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Le Mans.

Alfa Romeo Production
When taking a look at the 'production cars' class, it is clear, that when Alfa Romeo started to focus more on road-cars, it did not loose any of its racing pedigree. Throughout the 1950s, the four cylinder was developed into a race winner. When, in 1.6 litre form, this engine found its way into a Tubular chassis, clothed with a Zagato body, the TZ was born. With an extremely low weight and powerful engine, the TZ was more than a match for any of the competitors in its class, taking class victories at LeMans, Sebring and many other grueling events.

Alfa Romeo Prototipo
Only two cars formed the fourth and final Alfa Romeo class; the Alfa Romeo Prototipo class. From 1956 comes a Bertone styling exercise for the then upcoming Giulietta Spider. Livered in light-brown and white, it is a very pretty sight. Alfa Romeo rejected the Bertone design in favour of a Pinin Farina design. First seen at the 1962 Turin Motorshow as a convertible, the 2600 Pinin Farina Special was rebodied as a coupe for the 1963 Brussels Motorshow. Although it is little known, styling cues first seen on this custom 2600 can be found on many later designs of Pinin Farina, including the later Corvette Rondine concept.

Although Gabriel Voisin produced cars for only a short period of time, he is remembered today for his unique approach both with styling and technical solutions. Almost all Voisins were fitted with ultra-quiet engines following the Knight patented sleeve-valve design. Outwardly Voisin's eye for detail was very apparent, especially in the radiator ornament. To emphasize the use of aluminum in the cars' construction, the ornament was made up of 12 slabs of aluminum. Present at the concours were two early C3s, a C14 and a C28. These four cars perfectly showcase the creation of a unique style, with the C3s being quite conventional and the C28 Ambassade unlike any of its contemporaries.

In its 80+ year history, Zagato always focused on creating the lightest of bodies especially suited for competition use. Only very rarely were production cars fitted with Zagato designed bodies, making Zagato not as commonly known as Pininfarina or Bertone. When fitted with a Zagato body the cars usually had the edge over similar cars with bodies designed and constructed by others. In the early 1950s Zagato bodied and prepared cars were almost unbeatable in the Italian championship. Two of these incredible racers, both Fiat 8Vs, were present at the Concours, showing that the Zagato designs were not only quick but also breathtakingly beautiful. Most Italian manufacturers were customers of Zagato's, except for Ferrari. Only a dozen or so Ferraris were ever clothed by Zagato. Present at the Concours was the tenth Ferrari bodied by the Milan coach-builder, the Ferrari 3Z Spyder. Even a talented artist can have a bad day. Andrea Zagato, grandson of the company's founder was on the field judging the cars bearing his name.

French Cars
A final class we want to place special attention on is the French Car Class. Although Italians are generally accredited as being masters of design, they were more than matched by the French in the 1930s and 1940s. Coach-builders like Figoni & Falashi, Chapron, Letourneur & Marchand and Gangloff produced some of the finest designs ever. These bodies were mostly fitted on chassis constructed by Delahaye, Talbot Lago and Delage. France's fourth great manufacturer, Bugatti, used their own design for most of their models, except for the Gangloff designed Type 57 Stelvio Cabriolet. Fine examples of these grand French cars were present, making this one of the most aesthetically pleasing classes of the event.

The Rest
Of the many great cars entered a few more deserve mentioning. Entered in the German Car class was the ex-Prince Bernhard Mercedes Benz 540K Cabriolet. Two of the 240 Lancia Aurelia B24 Spyders constructed were entered in the Sportscar Class. Modern supercars were also present with a separate class, of which the Lamborghini Diablo GT was a clear highlight. Quite a collection of Ferraris were entered, spread over the various classes. Two of these really stood out; the completely
restored 1955 Ferrari 250 GT Europa and the 195 Inter Ghia Coupe.

Many of the fine cars participating in the Concours were entered by Dutch people, showcasing that The Netherlands deserves a Concours d'Elegance of this magnitude annually. Only a few days after the event the organizers announced the dates for next year's event; August 29th and 30th! To give you an impression of what this year's event was like, we have compiled a 60-shot slideshow, with the best-of-show winning example featured in the last three pictures!

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Report and images by Wouter Melissen.