The inaugural Chelsea AutoLegends has been hailed as a great success by all involved. Staged at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, the new car-themed festival featured one of the most comprehensive collections of road and track sportscars ever displayed; drew a vast crowd and raised significant funds for the Chelsea Pensioners via a charity auction and other fund raising activities.
Undoubted highlight was a glittering grid showcasing more than 50 iconic race cars from the Le Mans 24 Hours. The comprehensive line-up spanned nearly 90 years of history and embraced many of the true greats. Aston Martins, Audis, Bentleys, Ferraris, Ford GTs, Jaguars, McLarens, Porsches and a host of other equally evocative machines were all on show. Adding to the special occasion a host of renowned Le Mans drivers were also in attendance - many appearing on stage recounting their personal experiences of racing right through the night for 24 hours. Five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell MBE, Sir Stirling Moss OBE, who officially opened the show, and Richard Attwood, the man who gave Porsche its first victory 40 years ago in 1970, were among those sharing their memories with show-goers. Other famous faces enjoying the friendly atmosphere included TV chef James Martin, music stars Jay Kay of Jamiroquai and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd plus BBC presenter Kate Silverton.
While Le Mans cars were on pole position on the Royal Hospital's spectacular South Grounds - home to the annual Chelsea Flower Show - they were surrounded by hundreds of classic and supercars, the majority driven to Chelsea AutoLegends by enthusiastic owners from London and much further afield. All the renowned marques were out in force: Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, Corvette, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Lotus, Maserati, MG, Porsche and Rolls Royce alongside creations from more specialist manufacturers such as Abarth, AC, Ariel, Bristol, De Tomaso, Lagonda, Lola, Marcos and Tesla. The result was one of the broadest collections of sports and performance cars ever assembled in UK.
The new event proved to be an instant success with visitors, too. More than 5000 flocked into the Royal Hospital's grounds to savour the spectacle and help to raise much-needed funds for the refurbishment of the Chelsea Pensioners' home. Two auctions overseen by Bonhams raised more than £11,000 in donations.
What they said…
Sir Stirling Moss OBE:
"I'm very honoured to be opening such a fantastic event. I've lived in London all my life and have always believed it to be the greatest place in the world. There's no other city like it - even more so now it finally has a high-class motoring event like this. I do feel a bit of a fraud, though, as I never won Le Mans!"
Derek Bell MBE, five time Le Mans 24 Hours winner:
"What a fantastic show! I don't think I've ever seen quite so many Le Mans cars in one place before outside France. It was also the perfect place to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the making of Steve McQueen's Le Mans movie. I have so many great memories of the months we took making the film with Steve back in 1970 - he was a true legend."
Dominic Lancaster, general manager H.R. Owen Plc:
"Congratulations on putting together such a fantastic show at the Royal Hospital. Clearly you have a brilliant event on our hands and we hope you will be able to build this into a major annual attraction. Feedback from our customers who attended has been universally excellent. Aside from the amazing collection of cars, the visibility of so many great drivers to the public and the variety of trade stands all combined to make this a very special event."
Major General APN Currie CB, Lieutenant Governor Royal Hospital Chelsea
Michael Scott, Chelsea AutoLegends founder:
"As a lifetime Chelsea resident, I've always dreamed of bringing Le Mans cars to London but, from a standing start just a few months ago, what's been achieved has exceeded even my wildest expectations. It's clear we have created an event that now can grow over the years and become a regular diary date in early September. I'd like to thank all those who've made Chelsea AutoLegends possible, not least the public for turning up in their many thousands and playing their part in helping us to raise funds for the Pensioners. We hope to see everyone again at the second Chelsea AutoLegends on Sunday 4 September 2011."
Pictures: © Photos Chelsea Auto Legends Show