In Photos: France’s Most Fabulous Classic-Car Concours

Unlike many modern concours, Chantilly celebrates contemporary cars, too.

Wouter Melissenwriter, photographer

This weekend, the fabulous Chateau Chantilly just north of Paris hosted the fifth Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille. Now organized every other year and alternating with the Le Mans Classic, "Chantilly" is a concours d'elegance in both the original and modern forms. As in the old days, there is a Best of Show award for contemporary cars in the field; this is in addition to the two trophies for pre- and postwar classics. As a warm-up to the main event on Sunday, a short rally for the entrants was staged on public roads through a nearby national park. Around three dozen cars braved the scorching heat, with the driver of a Gulf-liveried Porsche 917 the bravest of all. We were at the French event throughout the weekend; below you'll find not only our picks for the most interesting cars on display but also a large gallery of the proceedings. Enjoy!

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Bentley 8-Litre Freestone & Webb Foursome Coupe

Among the featured marques at Chantilly this year was Bentley, which is celebrating its centenary in 2019. There were three classes dedicated to the British marque, including one for closed prewar examples. One of these was this mighty 8-Litre fitted with a coupe body by Freestone & Webb. Whereas most fixed-head (read: enclosed) cars of this period were later converted to more desirable open tourer coachwork, this car survived unmolested thanks in part to a 43-year period of single ownership. Not only did it win its class, the Chip Connor-entered car was also awarded Best of Show in the prewar category.

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1949 Talbot Lago T26 GS Figoni & Falaschi Coupe

The Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport was one of the most exclusive rolling chassis available immediately after the war. This particular example was acquired by a wealthy industrialist who had made his fortune in the zipper business. To reflect his, he asked coach-builder Figoni & Falaschi to include references to his day job. Among these are the chrome strips trimming the central headlight. It was recently restored in the Czech Republic and finished as runner up at Pebble Beach in 2018. At Chantilly, it completed the rally and was awarded Best of Show in the postwar group.

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McLaren Speedtail

The third Best of Show picked by the specialist jury was chosen from a lineup of contemporary design studies and limited-production road cars. Taking top honors was McLaren's futuristic Speedtail. This three-seat hypercar is a modern interpretation of the legendary McLaren F1. Accordingly, production will be limited to just 106 examples. Needless to say, all of these $2.5-million-plus machines have already been sold.

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Porsche 917K

Among the anniversary celebrations at Chantilly was the 50th of Porsche's 917 Le Mans racer. Three very interesting examples lined up for a dedicated class. One of them was the unique, fully road-legal example that was road-registered in 1975 by the state of Alabama under the one condition that it would never actually hit the streets of Alabama. It was recently acquired by a French collector for what was reportedly the highest price ever paid for a 917.

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Bertone (Ferrari 308GT) Rainbow

The 2019 Chantilly Arts & Elegance highlighted the fabulous work of Italian designer Marcello Gandini. He was invited to attend, but ever the perfectionist, he did not feel his work was good enough to celebrate. That is a real shame, considering his portfolio includes the Lamborghini Miura and Lancia Stratos. An even rarer sight was the striking Ferrari 308GT Rainbow. This was Bertone's design study for a two-seater 308, but Ferrari picked the Pininfarina-designed 308 GTB instead.

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McLaren M16C

One of the big stories at this year's running of the Indy 500 was the failure of McLaren driver Fernando Alonso to qualify for the race. The car used by Alonso sported a livery that was reminiscent of this M16C that not only qualified for the race in 1975 but also took the victory in the hands of Johnny Rutherford. It spent many years in private hands but was recently acquired by McLaren to join the British manufacturer's impressive collection.

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Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Thanks to the advent of the internet, crowdfunding is a popular method of raising capital these days. More than two decades ago, famous Corvette tuner Doug Rippie used this very method to finance a Le Mans entry for this Corvette ZR1. It was powered by the potent four-valve competition engine that Rippie was famous for. Unfortunately, the unique car lasted just two hours in the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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Pagani Zonda

It seems hard to believe, but the Pagani Zonda is 20 years old already. The brainchild of Argentinean-born designer Horacio Pagani, the Zonda was the first production road car built almost entirely from carbon fiber. To mark its first two decades, the very first Zonda, which was used in period for crash testing, was completely restored. It was shown at Chantilly alongside several subsequent models as well as one of just a handful of survivors of the original-specification Zondas.

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Voisin C11 'Duc'

Combining his experience engineering airplanes during the Great War with influences from contemporary art and architecture, Gabriel Voisin was quite the singular designer. This C11 'Duc' is a great example of his work with art deco-inspired exterior design and the typical fabric patterns of Paul Poiret. The 'Duc' was the rare convertible version of the more common 'Lumineuse'.

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Aston Martin DBR1

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Aston Martin's first and to date only outright victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car used in 1959 was the DBR1, of which a total of five were built. The final one was displayed at Chantilly and holds the distinction of being the only one sold new to a privateer racer. It is also the sole example not raced at Le Mans in period. Today, it is part of a formidable stable of Aston Martins and is regularly vintage-raced despite its huge value.

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Ballot 3/8LC

During the 1910s, Ballot produced engines for others before turning to producing complete cars. Powered by one of the firm's exquisite engines, the very first Ballot debuted at the 1919 Indy 500 where it qualified on pole. Real success was found when this three-liter version of the twin-cam, eight-cylinder machine won the inaugural Italian Grand Prix in 1921. Shown in the special Ballot centenary class, the highly original car was presented with beautiful patina at Chantilly.