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Salon Privé, Blenheim Palace 2023

World firsts and iconic classics, worth millions of pounds, were on show at the stunning grounds of Blenheim Palace.

Theon Design 911

Theon Design 911

This year’s Salon Privé, the 18th, and the eighth held on the stunning grounds surrounding Blenheim Palace, once again delivered an eye-watering selection of world firsts and iconic classics.

While centre stage was the Yellow Collection of rare cars totalling more than £30 million and parked carefully on the hallowed cricket pitch belonging to the Duke of Marlborough, visitors were spoiled with the choice of new hypercars and diminutive electric cars.

Here’s just a selection of some of the cars with turned heads at this annual automotive extravaganza in Oxfordshire.

Theon Design 911

Oxfordshire company Theon Design revealed its latest bespoke Porsche 911 (964), and its first commission for a UK customer. Finished in iconic Slate Grey, it's the same colour as Steven McQueen’s iconic 911 in the film ‘Le Mans’.

Created to represent the pinnacle of the enhanced air-cooled 911, the carbon-bodied GBR001 features ‘visual’ carbon bodywork elements, warm chrome brightwork and wheels, semi-active suspension, and a pleasurably raucous 3.8-litre naturally aspirated flat-six.

Taking a Porsche 911 (964) as its base, in this case a 1990 C4, the donor car was taken back to bare metal before restoration was started. The body is all carbon (aside from the doors which remain steel for side impact protection) with each panel digitised and modelled in 3D design software to ensure a perfect fit. These carbon body panels add stiffness and shed weight, meaning GBR001 tips the scales at just 1163kg with all fluids.

Thinking of making the switch to electric?

Not surprisingly, the same care has been lavished on the air-cooled 3.8-litre engine – a flat-six work producing 390bhp at 7350rpm and 290lb/ft at 6000rpm. With over 100bhp per litre, GBR001 packs the highest specific output of a Theon commission to date.

Of course, as you would expect, such standards don't come cheap. Prices for Theon Design commissions start at £380,000. Each car is a totally unique collaboration with the customer and takes 18 months to build. Oh, and worth just mentioning, that price doesn't include the donor car, shipping, or local taxes.

Ferrari 250 LM

The star exhibit in the £30 million Yellow Collection, which took pride of place on the Duke of Marlborough’s personal cricket pitch at Blenheim Palace, was this stunning 1965 Ferrari 250 LM that famously led the Le Mans 24 Hours for 23 hours in 1965 ... before suffering a puncture. The incident opened the door to its sister car which went on to take the win (fortunately, it still finished second).

How significant is this car? Well, we all know that Ferrari won this year's 'Centenary' Le Mans, but the last time the Italian supercar maker won the 24H race was back in 1965, when this 250 LM finished second in the hands of the Ecurie Francorchamps racing team.

The 250 LM was launched in 1963 as a coupe version of the 250 P, which was a response to the FIA's new prototype class in the World Sportscar Championship. It was the first time a V12 was mounted in the rear of a Ferrari sportscar.

Electrogenic 1929 Rolls Royce

As the world's leading car manufacturers are beavering away to create the new generation of electric cars, internationally renowned British EV technology company, Electrogenic, took the opportunity at Salon Privé to unveil its latest stunning bespoke conversion; a show-stopping 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom II with coachwork by HJ Mulliner & Co., converted to clean all-electric power.

Commissioned by a private collector, it is thought to be the most complex classic car EV conversion yet completed. The company has sympathetically modernised this piece of British motoring history. One of just 1681 Phantom IIs crafted between 1920 and 1935, it now packs a whisper-quiet, effortlessly powerful electric powertrain, featuring Electrogenic’s proprietary EV technology.

The car was originally powered by a gargantuan 7.7-litre pushrod straight-six, producing between 40 and 50bhp, bolted directly to a four-speed, non-synchromesh manual gearbox, with a claimed a top speed of ‘well over 80mph’.

Now, the petrol engine and gearbox have been carefully removed, replaced by 93kWh of batteries which have been carefully integrated into the existing structure of the car. The batteries feed an electric motor mounted between the chassis rails via a custom single-speed direct drive transmission, delivering 150kW and 310Nm of torque to the fixed reduction gear, which in turn delivers 1000Nm to the prop shaft. The systems are all seamlessly linked and managed by a bespoke suite of software, all developed in house by Electrogenic’s software engineers.

Inside the Rolls-Royce, Electrogenic was careful to retain the wonderful original features of the beautifully patinaed leather and wood lined cabin. The original controls have been repurposed and the standard gauges have been creatively re-worked. The fuel gauge, originally a vertical sight glass, is now an LED state of charge gauge; the amp meter is a power gauge, showing the rate of power draw when accelerating, and power harvesting under regen; oil temperature gauge shows charger temperature, and the water temperature gauge shows the temperature of the electric motor.

The modernisations also extend to the audio setup: the cabin now houses a state-of-the art, high-end multi-speaker HiFi system, with integrated sub-woofer under the rear seat and full Bluetooth connectivity. All of this is discreetly hidden from view.

And the eerie, wonderful thing is, as this big beast of a car glides passed you ... it is completely, and utterly silent.

Totem Automobili

Making its exclusive UK debut at Salon Prive, Totem Automobili lifted the covers from its headturning Totem GT. Inspired by the classic Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA, the new Totem GT presents “a new aesthetic and technological concept of Gran Turismo”, according to Totem Automobili founder, trained automotive designer Riccardo Quaggio.

The Italian company has spent several years crafting and perfecting the design and, finished in carbon fibre, there's no doubts it was one of the stars of the show. Hand-built, there are two versions available.

The Totem GT Super has an all-new 2.8-litre twin-turbo V6 engine, the most compact and lightweight such powerplant ever. A dry-sump design with a unique two-stage supercharger, it offers 600hp in Stage 1 guise, or a thrilling 750hp in Stage 2 form.

The Totem GT Electric is the zero-emissions alternative, producing more than 500hp for 0-62mph acceleration in just 2.9 seconds. It has an 81kWh battery, allowing a range of at least 295 miles, and offers the excitement of launch control and exciting ‘drift engine braking’ that uses the regenerative braking to initiate a drift.

The Totem GT Electric also feels and sounds authentic. This is aided by a comprehensive external sound system comprising 13 handmade speakers, capable of delivering up to 125db.

Just 20 electric and 20 petrol models will be built. As for prices. Think €600,000.

Electric Bentley Blower Jnr

Making its European debut at Salon Privé, the Bentley Blower Jnr is an 85% scale recreation inspired by the 1929 Team Car No.2, the world’s most famous, valuable — it's insured for £25 millon — and iconic Bentley. All-electric, with a 61-mile range and a top speed of 45mph top speed, the Bentley Blower Jnr is fully road-legal in key global markets including the UK.

Created by Bentley Motors and The Little Car Company, the 20hp Bentley Blower Jnr will seat two adults in tandem, and has dedicated luggage space to boost its city centre credentials. Built entirely by hand, it uses authentic materials to match the original 1920s car, and the 99 First Edition cars will be colour-matched to the legendary 4.5-litre Supercharged original. The Bentley Blower Jnr still has a supercharger mounting too, only here, it’s used to house the charging port.

Measuring 3.7 metres long and 1.5 metres wide – similar in size to a Fiat 500 city car – the new Bentley Blower Jnr isn't cheap: it'll set you back around £108,000 in First Edition guise. Expensive, yes, but considerably less than the £1.8 million charged for the similarly hand-built full-size Bentley Blower Continuation cars.

Clive Sutton Shelby Cobra CSX10000

There was a world first at Salon Privé when Clive Sutton unveiled the first ready-to-go UK turn-key Shelby Cobra in almost 60 years, the CSX10000. Marking 100 years since the Carroll Shelby’s birth, the Cobra CSX10000 is powered by the five-litre Coyote V8 from the current Ford Mustang. In naturally-aspirated form it produces 460bhp and 420 lb/ft of torque, but with an optional Whipple twin-screw three-litre supercharger the engine delivers an astonishing 700bhp and 550 lb/ft of twist.

Standard fit is a six-speed Tremec manual transmission, while new 18-inch wheels, designed to replicate the original Cobra’s 15-inch rims are also installed. Chunky Continental Extreme Contact Sport tyres are 275/35ZR18 are sized at for the front and 335/30ZR18 for the rear.

Power steering and Wilwood power-assisted four-calliper brakes provide stopping power, while the cabin is trimmed in diamond-stitched leather. Its gauges are based on the very first Cobra.

Available in left- and right-hand drive, every CSX10000 sold will be recorded in the Shelby Cobra Register, recognising it as a genuine car, not a replica. Prices start at £195,000.

Ferrari Purosangue

When is an SUV not an SUV? Apparently, when it's the Ferrari Purosangue. The Italian supercar company's first ever four-door, four-seater model, according to Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna, is not actually an SUV. “It’s unlike any other car,” he said. “It’s a sports car opening a new segment.” Right. That clears that up then.

The Purosangue is 4973mm long and 1589mm tall, making it only slightly shorter and lower than the Lamborghini Urus. By comparison though, the Ferrari’s bootspace is 473-litre, compared to the 616-litre of the Lambo.

But let's face it, if you're buying a Purosangue you're not going to be all that bothered by its bootspace. Performance is what this is all about. Under the clamshell bonnet sits a new 6.5-litre naturally aspirated V12 engine producing 715bhp and 716Nm of torque ... all without even a hint of electrification. Power is fed through an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox (with the first seven having deliberately short ratios) to the rear wheels. But a power transfer unit can shift power to the front wheels to give four-wheel drive if needed.

As you would expect, it's no slouch. From standstill, 62mph comes up in just 3.3-seconds and the Purosangue will max out at 192mph. Price? Yours from £313,120 ... but you're likely to be closer to £400k by the time you've ticked the options list.

Lotus Eletre

Lotus returned to Salon Privé with a wide range of cars. But its star attraction was its new Eletre electric Hyper SUV. A 'Hyper SUV'? Why so? That'll be because it's a 4x4 with at least 603bhp.

Available in three trim levels, with prices ranging from £90,805 to £121,305, all models have the same 109kWh battery under the floor, running at 800V and able to charge at rates of up to 350kW. The generous 373-mile WLTP range is aided by a competitive aerodynamic rating of 0.26Cd.

Measuring 5.1-metres in length and 1.6m tall, it's also available as a four- or five-seater. The base car and the S trims get the same 603bhp via two 302bhp motors, one at each end, with open differentials. Top speed is 160mph, and it'll cover the 0-62mph sprint in 4.5sec. The R meanwhile gets a bigger rear motor with 603bhp for a 905bhp total.

Lamborghini Islero S

Of all the classic cars on show, my own personal favourite was the stunning, bright yellow Lamborghini Islero S. The successor to the Lamborghini GT 400, the Islero originally debuted at the 1968 Geneva Auto Show. And it's a rare beast. Production of the 2+2 Coupè stopped after just 225 models, of which the last 70 were put on the market in 1969 with a few changes to the body and luxurious interiors in the Islero S version.

Powered by a 325bhp Lamborghini 3.9-litre V12 engine — as was also used in the 400 GT, Miura, Espada and Jarama — the Islero was fitted with a Lamborghini-designed five-speed manual transmission was equipped with synchromesh and a hydraulically operated dry clutch. Top speed was 154mph and 0-62mph could be covered in 6.4 seconds.

The Islero S, however, had its engine tuned to 350bhp, with the torque figure remaining the same as its sister car. Benefitting further from tweaks to its rear suspension, the S had a top speed of 161mph and shaved 0.2 seconds off the 0-62mph time.

About the Author

Jim McGill

Jim is an award-winning motoring correspondent with more than 30 years' experience in the industry.