Most of us all go through this annoying period called fall and winter when the weather turns to worse and all we can do is keep our beloved classics safely inside and dream of the return of nice weather come springtime. But that only heightens our anticipation of that final event in the year, when we visit our fellow collector car aficionados and have some fun with those cars for who knows how many months.
In Belgium this major blow-out event has become a main fixture on the European classic car scene. It’s held in early October, after most people will have had their holidays, children are back in school and the tourist season is mostly over. All of which means there is space in time and on the roads to come out with the cars in a huge way.
Billed as five events in one, the Zoute Grand Prix is mostly a social party with top notch food in great scenery and with loads of amazing cars.
What started as a classic car rally with over 200 cars covering around 500 kilometers over the Flemish countryside has now grown to such proportions that it includes a showcasing of all the major luxury car manufactures, a small and successful Bonhams auction, a GT Tour and, last but not least, a high profile Concours d’Elegance that ranks among the top such European events.
The rally itself is divided in two groups, with the majority going for a regularity course, or driving against preset “legal speed” time and, of course, timed stages. Another 100 cars went for the more touristy drive, including different routes that cross the regularity course, to enjoy more relaxed no stress driving and just enjoying the scenery and the car.
Naturally, many of the entries are the more typical rally cars such as the vast numbers of Porsche 356s, Jaguar’s XKs and E-types, or Mercedes 190SL or 300SLs. Yet luckily several of the entrants showed up in a pre-war vehicle. There even were several post-war sports cars of the sort you usually see only occasionally, such as on the Mille Miglia.
Yet one of the biggest draws nowadays is the concours that has clearly formed into major European event. On purpose they keep the field to around 60 cars. A nice number so that you still can have a good look at them all.
One of my favorites was the all-original and unrestored Voisin C23 with a Graber coachwork. Only rediscovered last year and with a non-factory coachwork, this car is a real treat and a rarity.
Yet the big crowd pleasers this year where undoubtedly the Fiat OttoVu (8V) class. With no less than eight of these special coachbuilt cars lined up, this class grabbed the most attention. And to find bodywork by Rapi, Zagato, Ghia, Vignale and Bertone was just the cherry on the icing.
Although it was still a bit of a surprise that one of them, the OttoVu Rapi Corsa, one of four specially built for the 1953 Mille Miglia, became the Best in Show considering the strong competition on the entire field.
With such a high success this year, it will be interesting to see what the organization will come up for next year to top this. Although it announced over the weekend that they plan to duplicate the show, but in Sotogrande, Spain, and in May, when the weather definitely will be warmer.
Photography by Dirk de Jager