I recently made a quick trip to Europe and brought back a treasure trove of exceptional CC fodder, which I will share forthwith. As an amuse-bouche for my forthcoming series/report on the concours d’élégance itself, here’s a little look at the CCs that caught my eye in the adjoining parking lot…
There were a number of interesting cars in this field, located in the Swiss village of Coppet. It was reserved for the event’s premium ticket-holders and VIPs – just across the road from the main concours. This early ‘70s 3.5 litre Mercedes W111 cabriolet was definitely snap-worthy, but there were a number of unusual cars I didn’t even bother with, including the Bentley S1 parked right in front. But then, this was right after seeing (and documenting) a plethora of Bentleys at the concours just minutes before. Besides, I had spotted a promisingly bulbous black shape further afield.
I was not disappointed. It was a pristine French-registered Jaguar 2.4 litre saloon, also known as the Mk 1. I’m thinking the rear spats and the eight-bar grille make this an early model, but I’m not sure of its exact vintage – something like 1956-57.
I stand by my previously-stated view that these look better than the Mk 2. Yes, they’re chunky and austere, especially in this early-model version, all black and bespatted, but it’s a far more elegant design to my eyes. In the latter half of the ‘50s, this new breed of baby Jags was the cause of many a Deadly Sin by their panicked competitors.
There was no escape from the Jaguar’s hungry maw, unfortunately for Armstrong Siddeley, Alvis and many others. This is the face of success. The XK120 put Jaguar on the map, but they conquered the world with the Mk 1. Nice photobomb by that early ‘90s Firebird, too. I did see it, but went in the opposite direction, where a far more appealing red sports car beckoned.
Not far from the Jaguar was another French-registered car (from the Marseille area, over 400 km away) in this exquisite Volvo P1800. I’ve always had a serious soft spot for these, especially the earlier models like this one. While not as flawless as the Jag, this Volvo still looked amazing for its age and was obviously still in regular use.
The killer detail on these are the horn-shaped bumpers. These denote an early model P1800, one of around 6000 units assembled by Jensen, using Pressed Steel bodies, from 1960 to late 1962. This most British of Volvos was deemed subpar by the Swedes, who terminated the Jensen contract ahead of time. By early 1963, the P1800 became the 1800S (for Sverige or Sweden) and straightened its mustache. The 100 hp B18 engine was later swapped for a 118 hp 2-litre and there were minor trim changes, but the Volvo coupé never fundamentally changed – except at the very end of its life.
I never understood why Volvo kept making these well beyond their ‘50s styling’s sell-by date, but it does give one several options to choose from. For a bit more oomph, try this 1970 model. Based on looks alone, early model coupés like today’s featured car certainly get my vote, but build quality is reportedly quite inferior to later Swedish-built cars. In any case, it would be extremely difficult for me to choose between one of these and the astounding 1972-73 shooting brake.
And finally, I saw this and immediately thought of CCFF (Curbside Classic Founding Father) Paul Niedermeyer. This locally-registered saloon was perhaps the cleanest 404 I’ve ever seen, looking like it just came out of the Sochaux factory, located just across the Jura mountains. It’s almost Swiss-made.
I’m not too good at pinpointing the exact vintage of these cars, but this seems like a later 1971-74 model with a 73 hp carbureted 1618cc engine. The interior looked almost like new too, but due to the sun, it was difficult for me to get a decent photo – this is the best I could manage.
The deep Burgundy colour fits this Peugeot perfectly – it looks ready to celebrate its first half-century on the road with grace and aplomb. I photographed another very interesting car on this field, but it really warrants a stand-alone post, which will follow the ones about the concours.
See you tomorrow for Part One thereof, where we will gawk at some of the most beautiful pre-war cars ever made.