Heveningham Concours 2024

Ferrari SF90 XX Stradale

As P.G. Wodehouse wrote: “The cup of tea on arrival at a country house is a thing which, as a rule, I particularly enjoy. I like the crackling logs, the shaded lights, the scent of buttered toast, the general atmosphere of leisured cosiness.”

There was all that and more at the Heveningham Concours last weekend: perhaps the best-kept secret of the British motoring summer season – and it is very much a season these days, with the British Grand Prix and Goodwood Festival of Speed following in quick succession, not to mention Formula E in London.

However, the secret is probably out by now, with the top stars of the motoring world flocking to this remote corner of Suffolk every summer – including, this year, Sandra Button: the chairman of the renowned Pebble Beach Concours in the United States. This is the standard to which all automotive events aspire, and it’s got to be said that Heveningham comes pretty close.

Other visitors came from as far afield as Hawaii and Australia. All of them were united by a passion for the breathtaking classics showcased on the landscaped grass terraces behind the 18th century Heveningham Hall: one of the most stunning settings for any motor show, anywhere in the world.

Renault 5 Turbo and cars at Heveningham

Around 50 of the world’s top cars were displayed: ranging from a four-horsepower 1899 Panhard & Levassor to the latest 2024 Ferrari SF90 XX Stradale, which puts out around 1000 bhp.

As well as some stunning road cars, several competition cars were represented on the immaculate lawns, from a 1932 Alfa Romeo Tipo Monoposto that competed in the Indy 500 five times, to the current Ford Puma WRC hybrid – which was also the star of Heveningham’s ‘Horsepower Hill’ live action demonstration run.

One of the competition cars that had travelled furthest – at least in recent days – was a magnificently beaten-up Sunbeam Tiger that has just completed the epic Peking to Paris rally in the hands of touring car driver Patrick Watts over 39 gruelling days. The obvious battle scars picked up during the 9,000 miles only added to its beauty.

Perhaps the most famous car shown was an ex-Nigel Mansell Ferrari 640 from 1989: the very first Formula 1 car to feature a semi-automatic paddle-shift transmission. This is technology we take entirely for granted now, even on relatively modest cars, but like many innovations it was first seen in F1. And now on the terraces of Heveningham.

Lancia Fulvia 1600 Zagato

Often there’s a theme to Concours events like this one, but at Heveningham the unifying trend was simply the milestones of automotive design, showcasing a number of cars that had rarely or never been displayed before. One good example was the incredible 1937 Delahaye 135 MS Coupé, making its very first appearance after a painstaking restoration.

The judges faced a tough task to determine the 10 winners – which included one plane, as an Aviation Concours is also held every year alongside the main show – not to mention the prize for the best-dressed owner.

However, they were at least well-qualified to make the right calls, with the panel made up of legendary car designers Peter Stevens and Tony Hatter, as well as racing driver Marino Franchitti, Prodrive chairman David Richards, and Magneto editor David Lillywhite, chaired by Max Hunt.

The oldest car to win an award was a 1922 AC Works Racing car, which back in the day was the very first 1.5-litre car to cover 100 miles in one hour, while one of the more modern cars to pick up a prize was the 2015 Jaguar C-X75 stunt car – with just five examples built, only one of which is road legal.

Jaguar E-Type

My personal favourite, being a child of the 1980s, was the loud (in every sense) Renault 5 Turbo 1 from 1981. The appeal of this car was enhanced by its peerless originality: the red paint was even slightly faded on one side compared to the other, on account of it having stood for so long next to a Renault dealer’s window as the pride of the showroom.

Anyone who has watched the excellent Harry’s Garage series on YouTube might also be familiar with Harry Metcalfe’s 1972 Lancia Fulvia 1600 Zagato with a remarkable story behind it. This was another favourite, and a worthy prize winner.

But the coveted ‘best in show’ award eventually went to an achingly beautiful Jaguar E Type Series 1 from 1961 in British Racing Green. One of the former keepers of this very early example was none other than racing legend Jim Clark, with the car recently returned to its former glory following a 4,500-hour restoration.

All the winners received trophies commissioned from renowned local sculptor Laurence Edwards, underlining Heveningham’s philosophy of supporting and promoting the Suffolk community, with all profits from the event going to local charities.

Heveningham Concours cars

The Concours also sponsors a scholarship from the Royal College of Art, helping a promising student make their first steps towards a career in car design and follow in the footsteps of the eminent Concours judges, who have penned some of the most iconic models from McLaren, Jaguar, and Porsche – to name just a few.

The whole unique atmosphere of Heveningham is what makes it so special. If you get a chance to go to just one motoring event every year, make it this one: it’s really that good. Think of it as the Goodwood Festival of Speed with extra style, added exclusivity, and without the crowds. Buttered toast and crackling logs are optional though; it’s the British summer after all.

For more information, please visit: www.heveninghamconcours.com.

Author Bio:

Anthony Peacock works as a journalist and is the owner of an international communications agency, all of which has helped take him to more than 80 countries across the world.

Photographs courtesy of Heveningham Concours

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