It’s one day before National Alfa Day and, at 4AM on a Saturday morning, I leave London going in the opposite direction. Have I gone mad? Maybe. There is a chance I have just been intoxicated by the lure of a techno monster. And the anticipation of encountering it on the banks of a pedicured Le Notre pond.
In the tranquil surroundings of a splendid French castle, the elusive Carabo made a rare appearance. We just had to be there. A green predator with dystopian nuances, sitting still in a sea of grass and water. The menace was cutting the air like an assassin’s sword. It is just beyond belief how much awe this car still inspires. And it was built in 1968. Mind blowing. Age really is just a number.
When I finally got some feel in my limbs, released from the invisible grip of the green monster, I found myself in the indulging embrace of one of the most charismatic car events on the planet. It’s a recipe that combines haute couture with supreme coachbuilding. On the majestic Domain de Chantilly, Patrick Peter and Richard Mille imagined what is, in my eyes, the ultimate Concours d’Elegance. It’s a very bold statement, but I really think they finally made it true to their dream.
Yes, the cars are fantastic, yes, it is immense, yes, it has a magnificent castle as its base. But none of these made me feel this is the ultimate Concours. It’s the people. I noticed an almost surreal thing happening. Whether you were in the rarefied air of the central ring, or deep inside the clubs area, or at the Bonham’s enclosure, or, indeed, even just outside the grounds, on the adjacent cobbled streets, this thing still happened. The people all moved in the same way. They all adopted an elegant, effortless demeanour. Actually, we all adopted an elegant, effortless demeanour.
Le Grand Bleu was also there, putting its massive weight behind the French flagship event. Bugatti rightfully decided to make Chantilly its home. No matter what you think about the ownership of the company corrupting its soul, I believe you should put those fears to rest. After more than a decade of feverish worship of Ettore’s values, no human being can ever be left not imbued with the man’s character. Alfisti, remember, he was born in Milan.
In such a favourable ecosystem, there is no wonder that the Alfas were thriving. A fully original GTV even won the special prize for the best Italian car in the show. An Alfa, not a Lambo, not a Ferrari, not a Pagani… Why? The jury was crystal clear. The car was exquisite, but the attitude of the owners made the difference. We couldn’t agree more.
Away from the Concours action, the club’s section was immense. Alfa had its own club participating, with a stunning display of the usual and the not so usual suspects. A Mostro just by the gate, right next to a Junior Zagato. Separated by decades, yet the Zagato flavour is just as distinct. Then, the ball expanded to include just about every legendary Carozzeria, as well as the Centro Stile creations. There were also many incredible Alfas dotted around in the other clubs, as well as the wonderful Sprint Speciale in the Bonham’s area.
I lived through that weekend in a state of half awakeness. Partly it was due to the sleep deprivation, as the early hours of the ferry took their toll and the long summer days in Paris proved too tempting to just do the sensible thing. On the other hand, I think there was more than a part of me that indulged in that state, looking beyond what the physical world has to offer, allowing the brain to connect the present to the history, the legend to the reality. Now, a couple of weeks later, the dream itself must go through a long hibernation, as the next Chantilly Arts and Elegance is not one year, but two long years away. It will be worth the wait.