Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille Classic Car Exhibition Makes A Comeback
Chantilly may be known for its famous whipped cream, lace, and horse racing, but since 2014 this town in northern France, an hour’s drive from Paris, has played host to the most beautiful cars on the planet.
The brainchild of Patrick Peter, founder of prestige automotive event organizer Peter Auto, Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille is a car lover’s garden party uniting both classic and contemporary cars. This concours d’élégance has not only established itself as the equal of those at Pebble Beach in California and at Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como, but also renewed the great tradition partnering high fashion with the art of coachwork.
Back for the first time in three years – the 2021 show had been postponed due to the pandemic – the sixth edition on September 25, 2002 offered a magnificent spectacle that will remain etched in my memory for a very long time. Set in the Château de Chantilly – once home to the princes of Condé, cousins of the kings of France – and its French-style park complete with canals and ponds designed by André Le Nôtre (the gardener of Versailles), the collectors’ car event attracted a record 20,000 spectators and 800 automobiles.
“Together with my friend Richard Mille, we have created not only a competition for lovers of vintage cars, but what is essentially also a true celebration of the French art of living in terms of gastronomy and decoration,” stated Peter. “This year, we particularly wanted children to take part, and there were a large number of attractions specifically aimed at them.”
Imagined as a fun family day out, children enjoyed traditional games, pétanque, rides on a vintage merry-go-round, horse-drawn carriages, ponies, sailboats, a hot-air balloon, a puppet theater show, concerts by strolling musicians, and clown and acrobatic performances. There was even a demonstration of sheepdog rounding up flocks of sheep and geese. But the main attractions were the three motoring competitions: the Concours d’Élégance, in which nine manufacturers participated with a concept car matched with a fashion house, the Concours d’État for close to 100 historic cars from the world’s greatest collections, and the Grand Prix des Clubs honoring the best of the 40 participating car enthusiast clubs.
“France was the birthplace of the concours d’élégance in the 1920s, creating these highly popular gatherings where exceptional cars of the time, often customized by famous coachbuilders, were displayed in the company of elegant women dressed in the latest clothes of the great names of French fashion,” described Peter. “One of the first ambitions of Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille was to resurrect this glorious era by inviting car manufacturers and designers to show the public their concept cars, interpretations of their brand’s future models, by associating them with models dressed in the fashion houses’ most beautiful outfits for a unique fashion show that was highly acclaimed by the public.”
Judged for their elegance and beauty, the competing concept cars paraded around the central fountain escorted by mannequins dressed to the nines. The aggressive Bugatti W16 Mistral topless roadster was paired with a black Dylan Parienty gown; the 18-piece limited-edition Bentley Mulliner Batur grand tourer, the company’s most powerful road car and heir to the Bacalar, partnered with Balmain; and the royal blue-and-white De Tomaso P72 teamed up with Gemy M.
Meanwhile, McLaren Automotive’s recent release, the next-generation Artura hybrid supercar designed by Rob Melville, was given a rainbow-colored treatment by British abstract artist Nat Bowen and coupled with a model in a black Lanvin tailored suit. However, the real showstopper of the contest was the muscular Aston Martin DBR22 – a V12-engined, two-seater, coach-built design concept created to pay homage to the marque’s exceptional lineage of open-cockpit sports racers – accompanied by a glittering silver evening dress by couturier Ozgur, which took home the coveted Concours d’Élégance and Best of Show prizes.
“Richard Mille and I have known each other for almost 40 years, before the Richard Mille brand existed, and we have always worked together with the utmost confidence,” said Peter. “This is what allowed us to create Le Mans Classic and then, naturally, Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille, then the Rallye des Légendes, and finally the Rallye des Princesses.” Reflecting his passion for cars since childhood, Richard Mille has been title sponsor of Chantilly Arts & Elegance since its inception eight years ago.
“Chantilly is a celebration of over a century of automotive designs and it unites both vintage and the latest concept cars over a weekend for all to see,” noted Timothée Malachard, Richard Mille’s marketing director. “Gathering such rare cars in public is the centerpiece of Chantilly as today many of these cars are stored in private collections.”
In addition, as Richard Mille supports the charity Les Hérissons au Coeur d’Or in aid of boys and girls in the hospital and their families – established in 2021 from the encounter between Anne-Olivia Berthet, Amanda Mille, and Alexandre Mille – it welcomed children for an afternoon of tea and games with Chantilly Arts & Elegance’s competitors. Symbolizing the association’s mascot, small hedgehogs called Lucky made of paper from recycled books and folded by the disabled and containing comforting messages of hope written by health professionals were sold to raise money to build “Lucky Houses” in France, medically equipped centers where severely ill children can come with their families to rest and recover between treatments. The sales proceeds also serve to provide toys and child-friendly spaces in hospitals.
Chantilly Arts & Elegance Concours d’État
Composed of 17 all-new competition categories, the Concours d’État featured cars that were hand-picked by a selection committee, then judged by an international jury of over 60 personalities from the fields of automobiles, art, fashion, design, cinema, and theater among others. Criteria for scoring included traceability, original configuration, authenticity, history, rarity, design, elegance, internal/external condition, and operational status.
As part of festivities leading up to celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2023, two classes linked with the world’s greatest endurance race were introduced. A 1971 Ferrari 512 M and a 1956 Panhard Monopole X86 drove away with first prize in these two categories. On display was the 24 Hours of Le Mans centenary trophy in bronze measuring over one and a half meters tall, which was manufactured by the Paris Mint, France’s oldest institution responsible for the production of the nation’s currency.
The ultimate Best of Show award for pre-war cars went to a silver 1938 Hispano-Suiza H6C Dubonnet Xenia – an aerodynamic, retro-futuristic moving sculpture inspired by aviation and Art Deco owned by respected American car collectors Peter and Merle Mullin – while a 1950 Talbot Lago T26 GS Barchetta Motto won Best of Show for postwar cars.
The top two accolades of the Iconoclastic Cars class were conferred to a 1966 Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale “The Posti’’ and a 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400. Bugatti, Alpine, De Tomaso, and Touring Coachwork received their own categories. Mindful of a milestone, Chantilly Arts & Elegance feted the platinum jubilee of the legendary Bentley Continental with its own class, and a 1953 Bentley R-Type Continental took first place.
“After the COVID-19 period we all experienced, this event is firstly about spending time with all our customers who are very loyal and totally engaged in the brand’s universe,” Malachard concluded. “Chantilly Arts & Elegance is about sharing the values and spirit that the brand embodies and its passion! Classic car events such as this unite like-minded people who are passionate about cars and, for us, it makes complete sense to create and activate such events, especially in the spectacular gardens of the Château de Chantilly.”
After an unforgettable, elegant automotive Sunday in the French countryside, we already can’t wait for the next edition in 2023.
For more information, please visit www.chantillyartsetelegance.com.
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