Saying that Chantilly Art & Elegance is the French Pebble Beach would be missing the point. Sure, on the one hand you could say that it’s marginally less impressive, because it doesn’t share (yet) the American event’s worldwide exposure. But at the same time, it is so much more than a simple copy of Pebble Beach.
The event is like a big car-centered party, which contains different attractions.
First of all is obviously the Concours d’Elegance in itself. What I loved about that one was how wide-ranging it was. Sure you had your lot of incredibly rare pre-war cars, as is always the case with this kind of events. Cars from unrestored Bugattis to the tailor-made Alfa that won (very deservedly) Best In Show. Even if pre-war machines are not usually my cup of tea, boy were these mindblowing.
But what I found most incredible about the main show was the diversity of it. There was a whole section about the history of Zagato, panning all the way from the 1920s to the most recent creations, including what is definitely on top 5 prettiest cars of all time: the Aston Martin DB4 GTZ.
Then, another aisle of the garden was dedicated to pre-war French cars, another one to BMW, celebrating a 100 years of the marque’s history, and finally, a sample of all the racing cars that made Jean Todt’s career, from the Peugeot rally cars to the Ferrari F2007 which won Ferrari’s last F1 title. As a motorsport drug addict, that was one of the best thing I’d seen all year.
So that’s the Concours in itself. But as I said, Chantilly Art & Elegance isn’t only that. The Concours’ cars were presented in the gardens just in front of the Chateau, but the rest of the park was filled with multiple clubs. With the sheer scope of it all, the variety and the atmosphere among those clubs, you could even say it was the main event.
Covering the vast area around the Chateau, the clubs were ranging from Amilcar to Rolls-Royce, from Morgan to Ferrari, from Alfa to the Bugatti Veyron owners’ club (yes that’s a thing - I never thought I would one day have to actually count Veyrons).
Wandering through the clubs was like visiting many different scenes,
especially during lunchtime. Some where enjoying a cup of Champagne, some were sat on the ground eating sandwich, but all seemed to be passionate, and more importantly, having a great time.
It really felt like a big party. The surroundings were magnificent, almost everyone was overdressed, but it never felt obnoxious.
Actually, I found many families and kids just enjoying the atmosphere more than the cars themselves.
There were some activities other than cars, like some wooden games, the National Guard playing some music, a steam boat going up and down the canal, and of course the Chateau itself. So even if you didn’t like cars, there was plenty to enjoy, and especially the whole fancy party atmosphere.
Everyone was respecting each other, and you could clearly see how impressed everybody was with the whole event. What struck me is how relaxed it all felt, despite the fact that everything (including the ladies’ hats) looked so fancy, and that some of the rarest cars on the planet were there. There was something for every one, from the hardcore pre-war enthusiast to people who were just here to overdress.
Next year is already planned, and if you’re in the area, I can’t recommend it enough.
Many more pictures I took at that gorgeous event can be found on Flickr there: