This is the fifth time that the La Vie en Bleu event has taken place, and although the basic concept – a celebration of all things French – has not changed, the organisers have consistently managed to ensure there is an apposite balance between things that they know will appeal to the event attendee and some new things that they hope will have similar appeal. In 2011, just as in previous years, they succeeded, making for an excellent weekend, with more to see than you could fit into the available hours. PADDOCK DISPLAYS
In the promotional material for the event, we were promised a SuperSport, and indeed there was a very striking example of what is officially the fastest production road car parked up in the paddock.
It was joined by three other Veyrons, only one of which, the GranSport, was a factory owned car. All the cars made sorties up the hill on both days. With little audible warning that they were coming, and more than a modicum of speed in evidence, they proved quite challenging from my photographic vantage point. EB110:
There were two of these cars on show as well. Although still very striking, they were attracting far less interest than their younger relatives.
Although I struggle to find the French connection, there is no doubt that this was a real crowd puller. Indeed, when it arrived, and for long after, it seemed to attracting more attention than the Veyron SuperSport which was more ore less next to it. It certainly beats the Bugatti on aural appeal, as this car makes a noise like no other, whereas the Alsace machine is almost too quiet.
This is one of my favourites of the whole weekend. A 1953 Ferrari 166 Mille Miglia. The proud owner told me that he bought it in 1960 and has had it ever since. He found it in the small ads of “The Autocar”, had some money (he did not reveal how much, but he said it was not expensive!), noted that four weeks later the car was still advertised and made the vendor, who happened to the chief engine designer for Rolls-Royce, an offer, and the car was his. It has a 2 litre V12 engine in it, though early in his tenure, when he raced it, he installed a Ferrari 3.0 V12, which he said was the same physical size as the engine you see here.
Lot of people were getting very excited about this GullWing Mercedes. I must have disappointed at least a couple when I pointed out that it was not an original. If the wide tyres were not the first indication, the automatic gearbox would certainly cause you to ask the question. Nice, even so.There were plenty of vintage French cars on show. This duo from 1928 are a Citroen 5CV Cloverleaf, from the last year of production of the car, and a Peugeot 172.Slightly earlier than that pairing were these two: a Renault and a Senechal.The Sandford was based on the three wheel Morgan design of the time.We have seen this car before, and it still amuses. the Leyat Helica. On the Sunday afternoon, it emerged from the awning, and was (briefly) fired up and running. In the Bedelia, the driver sits behind the passenger.This 1996 Formula 1 Renault was not in action at all, remaining a static display.,Audi R8Jaguar XK120VoisinLancia LambdaThis imposing Hispano Suiza arrived mid morning on the Sunday.HRGThis 1935 Aston Martin was absolutely fabulous. Restoration work had taken 10s of years, and was finally completed just in time for the owner’s daughter’s wedding last weekend. Splendid!I loved this Peugeot 405 T16, and even more the tale that when Ari Vatanen was competing in the 1991 Paris-Dakar in it, he was kidnapped. No ransom was paid, and although he escaped, it was without the car, which was found some years later on a rubbish tip! MORGAN
Morgan had a display of their current range of cars, including the familiar Plus 4 and Roadster models, as well as a SuperSport. It was the new three wheeler which was capturing the bulk of the interest, though. Already there are orders for around 500 cars, At £30,000 this is an expensive – but not impossibly so – toy.
Those who were feeling more affluent could have availed themselves of one of the Bugatti Type 35s that Bonhams were offering for sale. Estimate sale price around £500,000.It was not all about cars, though. There were onion sellers and mime artists wandering around, there a couple of stilt walkers and at regular intervals, the CanCan girls were in action.CAR CLUB DISPLAYSBUGATTI
Many of the Bugatti were competing up the hill, but some were lined up for static display purposes, and an impressive sight they were, too.
Of all the marques, the Citroen displays were the most comprehensive on both days, with some really rare cars in evidence.
Rarest of the lot has to be this Visa Decapotable. The owner has had this one from new, and I was astounded to discover that it has covered 4850 miles only. He said that when he bought it, his wife did not really like it, and the children refused to ride in it, but he could not bear to sell it. It really did look like it was straight out of the showroom. It is believed that only 37 right hand drive cars like this were sold, so I was surprised when I postulated that it must be the only survivor and was told that there are a few more left.
On the Sunday we came across two regular Visa models, both of which were the 2 cylinder cars. There are only 6 of these currently road registered in the UK.Equally rare is this LNA. Recently acquired from the proverbial one elderly lady owner who has given up driving. Less than 10 of these are still on UK roads.Far more numerous is the 2CV, and there were a number of these on show.Equally numerous at the event were the Traction Avant cars. The Acadiane van was based on the Dyane.Two of the much admired C6 cars appeared, one of which sported the rare manual gearbox.This GS saloon was joined on the Sunday by a Break version, and a van version. The orange GSX that arrived at The Royal Oak just before we left, on the Saturday evening, was nowhere to be seen. Maybe it was pure coincidence that he had such a car in the vicinity?There were several DS cars, too. The Safari was for sale, at a rather eye-watering £26,000. There was only one CX and a lone BX represented this Bertone styled car from the 1980s.The latest models were represented by a DS3 Racing, and on the Sunday the yet to go on sale DS4 appeared.DELAHAYEMATRA
Two Ranchos on show. The white one had a huge bonnet bulge, as well as particularly unpleasant wheel trims. Further research revealed that the former change was made as the car is now powered by a Fiesta XR2i engine, and presumably needed the extra height so it would fit. The reason for the latter is unexplained. The car was for sale at about £15000.
Several Murena were joined by a trio of Bagheera and a far rarer 1960s car, which was so just so tiny.PEUGEOT
No sign at all of these cars on Saturday, but what turned up on Sunday more than made up for this. Oldest car was the nicest of the lot, a beautiful 202. This car dates from 1938, and had similar styling to the larger and more commonly seen 402 of that era.
This 304 Convertible represented the 1960s/70s era when Peugeots were styled by Pininfarina and appealed to the bourgeoisie.I was delighted to see not one, but two examples of the supremely elegant 604. The owner of the UK plated one admittedly ruefully that keeping it going it a bit of a challenge, but I am glad he is doing so. Another rarity is this 104 in mid-spec GR trim.This 205 was immaculate. The non-GTi versions of these cars are vanishing fast from our roads now.Other Peugeots did indeed include the 205 GTi and this rather nice 306 cabrio.RENAULT
Most unusual car here was the R4 Plein Air. Believe it or not, this is a genuine original UK market car, first registered in 1968. Only 6 right hand drive cars were made, and three survive. This one belongs to Renault UK who ought it back about 3 years ago and restored it.
This R5 TX was absolutely pristine. Other R5s on show were the more rapid cars, ie the Turbo models.This R12 Gordini is a regular at events like this.Clios were represented by the Williams, a number of the mad V6 cars and a few of the latest model.A couple of Megane R262R cars on show. The perspex rear windows really do flex. A lot!Sport SpiderR21 TurboSeveral AlpinesA reduced contingent of Avantimes, with just three cars at the event. It would seem that the keen owners of a few year ago have all sold them on. Where are they now?This R16 was not in the main Renault display, but was close enough to count.The same can be said for this late model R4SIMCA and TALBOT
Lone examples of each of four cars: Aronde
1000 Rallye1100 – once the best selling car in FranceSamba TVR
Not French, but the TVR Car Club had a display area on the Saturday, and as these cars are always worth looking at, who could complain at including them here?
Just one of these lovely cars in attendance this year
IN THE PADDOCK
With a full program for both days, and different classes on the Saturday and Sunday, there was always lots to see in the paddock. The Ferrari class suffered a couple of casualties. There was a TVR class, as well. The Invicta Owners Club had a strong presence, with several of the famous S Type cars competing for honours on the hill Lots of Bugattis, of course The pre-war class is always fun, with a wide variety of machines from the Austin Seven based specials, through MGs to some very early machinery, where you can see exactly how an engine works, as everything is exposed. French cars Not competing on the hill, as far as I could tell, but parked up at the top end of the Paddock was this, a simply splendid 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Sport Zagato. ON THE HILL THE CAVALCADESDespite lengthy delays caused by numerous accidents, there was time on both days to fit in a series of Cavalcade runs. The Motor participated on both days, though on the second day we were limited to 5 cars On Saturday, the large group of bikes, most of which were Ducatis went up the hill en masse On Sunday, it was mostly an opportunity for French vehicles to ascend, and many did. IN THE CAR PARKS
At events like these it is always worth doing a tour around the car parks, as there is always interesting stuff to find parked up among the more prosaic vehicles.
There were a couple of Abarth 500s
Alfa Romeo 1750 GTVAlvisAn Amilcar in among the caravans and tentsAriel Atom, with the hood erectedA couple of Austin SevensA couple of Austin-Healey 3000BMW 840Ci, complete with spurious Alpina badgesSome more Citroens Daimler SP250 “Dart”Ferrari 599Ford Model T and a splendid V8 F100 PickupAmong the older Jaguars were this SS100 and an XK140 Complementing the Invictas that were competing for honours on the hill, were a series of the touring cars, parked up in prime viewing slot. This Lamborghini Miura had managed to traverse an entire bumpy field on he first day, and he climbed up the slopes on the second. Brave! Lancia Aurelia GTThis Lotus Estralle was something very different. A conversion of the more common +2, it was a well engineered hatchback. You would have to learn to duck hard when you lifted the boot though! Lotus ElanA Matra Murena hiding from the othersMercedes 280 SL “Pagoda” and an elegant 220S Coupe Among the MGs were an MGA, an MGB GT V8 and this 1930s VA Nissan SkylinePorsche 911An early Range RoverAnother real rarity was this Renault R14. This car was really very tatty and would need a lot of work to restore it, but when did you last see one? Rolls-Royce Corniche ConvertibleAmong the Rovers were the now rare 213S and a Rover 3500 A couple of vintage SunbeamsA few Triumphs, including a GT6, a Vitesse and a Dolomite SprintThere were a few TVRs including this Vixen and a 350iThere were quite a few Vauxhall VX220s at the event.Volvo 240 GLT.A top weekend, then.