Thousands flock to Chelsea AutoLegends

| 3 Sep 2012

Boasting some of Le Mans' finest racers, a dedicated supercar display and a spectacular line-up of rally icons – along with a wide array of Italian exotica and umpteen impressive dealer stands – the third Chelsea AutoLegends proved a huge hit with petrolheads yesterday.

More than 10,000 visitors packed into the one-day classic racing spectacle, held in the grounds of London's Royal Hospital Chelsea on 2 September to take in the 500+ strong turnout of cars. As ever Le Mans icons, including the1983 La Sarthe circuit-winnng 'Rothmans' Porsche 956 and one of the 2003winning Bentley Speed 8 team cars, dominated the show's central display but there were plenty of side-line attractions, with standouts including the ten-strong turnout from the Slowly Sideways rally enthusiasts club.

The group's display was headed by an ex-Jimmy McRae 1986 MG Metro 6R4, a Audi Sport Quattro S1 (in final E2, 550bhp form) and one of the UK's most famous liveried rally icons - the 'Andrews Heat for Hire' 1980 Opel Manta 400 that Russell Brookes clinched the 1985 Open Rally Championship with.

Other stars from historic rallying's past included a trio of Mini Coopers, complete with the 1963 S in which racing legend Barrie 'Whizzo' Williams (who's owned it from new, barring a couple of in-between guardians) won the 1964 International Welsh Rally - the first international title for Issigonis front-drive wonder.

Also capturing visitors' attention on the immaculate lawns of the famous Chelsea venue was the variety of pre-war racers on display including a Talbot 105 Fox & Nicholl Alpine Team Car, BGH 23. It famously managed 129.7mph at Brooklands in 1938, an achievement that makes it the fastest four-seater to lap the historic banked race circuit. The 3.3-litre straight-six powered Tourer was parked alongside another Brooklands icon - John Cobb's  24-litre aero-engined, 143mph Napier-Railton (which C&SC's Mick Walsh drove last year).

And the pre-war theme continued with a strong turnout from the Vintage Sports Car Club which fielded a diverse range of cars, from James Elphinstone's 1914 Lagonda 1914 11hp Tourer to Matt Borowiecki's 1929 Austin 7 Chummy and John Pott's 1936 Alta Norris Special, with all three cars actively campaigned in VSCC events by their owners.

The show celebrated speed in a big way too, with a full scale model of the the Bloodhound SSC – the Land Speed Record contender that LSR guru RIchard Noble is masterminding in an attempt to break the 1000mph mark at the hands of current LSR-holder Andy Greene later next year - and a display of dragsters, including the recreation of Sydney Allard's 354 Chrysler Hemi.

Other recreations included a built-from-parts-and-drawings take on Briggs Cunningham's 1953 C4-R, with which the American privateer famously built to win Le Mans but only managed a fourth and two third places between1952 -and '54, while celebrities at the show included David Piper.

The famous Le Mans film pilot and racer fielded two of his well-known cars:  his 1969 Lola T70 Mk3B - the 450bhp Chevrolet-engined monster developed to take on Porsche's 917 and Ferrari's 512 – and his 1965 Ferrari 330 P2 in which he won the Kyalami 9 Hours and Angolan GP a year later.

The classic turnout was bolstered by a diverse Italian theme, with Lancia Aurelias (in both B20 and B24 form) on show along with Robbie Webb's Touring-bodied Alfa Romeo 1900 C Super Sprint, a Giulietta Sprint Speciale and several Lamborghinis – including a couple of Silhouettes and a Jarama. Less exotic Italian highlights included an immaculate 38,000-miles-from-new Lancia Beta and an Integrale.

The show's Suerpcar convoy, arranged to celebrate the British Women Racing Drivers Club, fielded a Bugatti EB110, Ferrari 458 Italia and Lamborghini's latest product, the Aventador. Also commanding attention was Jonathan Root's Apple Green 1970 DeTomaso Mangusta – which has only had one previous owner – and a couple of pre-war Alfa Romeo's including Roger Buxton's 1939 1750 GS Zagato.Next year's Chelsea AutoLegends will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lamborghini and 110 years of Harley Davidson.