Refreshingly Unstuffy: Heveningham Car Show

SLIDESHOW: With a soapbox derby and a ‘wall of death’, Heveningham Car Show is billed as “refreshingly unstuffy”.

Nothing behind a rope. No burly bloke telling you to keep back. And a ‘wall of death’. Welcome to a concours d’elégance event with a difference.

Andrew Hall was given six weeks to, as he puts it, “work my contacts book very hard”. But by the time last summer’s Heveningham Hall Country Fair opened its gates near Halesworth, a country town in the British county of Suffolk, the charity event also had the makings of a world-class concours d’elégance event.

“We’ve made a rod for our own back, of course,” jokes Hall, who directs the fair’s car element. At least Hall has had more time to prepare for the second, upcoming fair (8–9 July). Last year saw some 50 cars on display, including a 1936 Aston Martin Sports Tourer Red Dragon, a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 190SL Aluminium Gullwing and a 1964 Porsche 904 GTS, as well as a clutch of supercars, including a McLaren F1, a Ferrari GTO in ‘BP’ colours of green and yellow, and not one but three derivatives of the Ferrari F40. This year will see assorted pristine vintage cars from the 1920s and 1930s, as well as a new idea — what Hall calls “car pairings”, including a Ferrari LaFerrari next to a LaFerrari Aperta.

“It’s a way of showing the evolution of the car, how it’s changed,” Hall explains. “But they also speak to the quality of show — most people haven’t seen a LaFerrari and the Aperta only started being delivered a month ago.”

This year the event will also start with a gentle Suffolk-to-Norfolk rally, as well as (thanks to sponsorship of the show by aircraft-crazy watch entrepreneurs Nick and Giles English, of Bremont) the additional attraction of vintage aircraft, including a Spitfire and Messerschmitt Me109. But it’s the cars, arranged across a tiered garden set within the 18th century hall’s Capability Brown-designed grounds, that are the stars.

“Planes and cars go together, as cars and watches do,” says Hall. “Yet what really makes Heveningham special as a concours event is that you can get right up close to the cars. Nothing is roped off. There isn’t some big bloke in a black suit telling to you keep back. Concours events of this quality tend to be very serious. But this is refreshingly unstuffy.” One can hardly imagine a soapbox derby or a wall of death at Pebble Beach. They will both be at Heveningham.

That quirkiness has surely played a part in persuading the owners of such rare cars to show. Hall says the appeal last year was in being able to take part in the inaugural event. “It’s like saying you were at the first Glastonbury,” he adds. After last year’s success getting entries has been considerably easier. Next year, Hall hopes the event will pull in even more cars from around the world.

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