Gallic charm galore at the 2015 Chantilly Arts & Elegance

The second running of the Chantilly Arts & Elegance was the subject of much enthusiastic anticipation, after an exceptional first year in 2014. As with the inaugural event, there were a great many ‘highs’ but also some areas that could be improved, as Rémi Dargegen reports…

Location, location, location

Among the ‘highs’, there is of course the location: the Château de Chantilly is an amazing place in which to hold a concours – let’s say the ideal place, wonderfully scenic and big enough to accommodate all the cars, along with a vast number of visitors. The downside is that it’s almost impossible to see everything, what with the concours cars and parades (not to mention the Saturday Tour, the day before the main event), the awards ceremony and the clubs, where many more wonderful cars are on display. 

Lost in translation

Another strong point is the selection of cars in the concours, but we did have a few reservations: some cars didn’t seem to fit the Chantilly ethos, such as the De Tomaso Pantera that was not entirely ‘correct’ – or the Voisin Aerosport reconstruction. It’s hard to put your concours on the world map when you select a recreation. Wouldn’t a better approach have been to invite the car, but to have made it ineligible for judging? 

Citroën specialities...

Again falling short of the standards of a world-class concours, some categories comprised just three or four cars... but on the positive side, the very Gallic Citroën DS and SM line-up was most impressive, even if the characteristic French cars aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Almost all the special bodies built on the base of these two models were at Chantilly, from the famous French Presidential cars (the enormous DS and 4-door convertible SM), to Chapron’s stylish transformations. There were even two shortened DS prototypes built for rallying, and the unique SM V8 prototype. 

Strength (or lack of) in numbers

Meanwhile, the ‘Iconoclastic Interiors’ class included some gorgeous cars but perhaps they didn’t sit too well in this category... can we really consider the interior of a Ferrari 166 MM or 250 MM to be iconoclastic? And it might seem harsh to complain of having three Cobras in the same class but, if you’re aiming to be talked about in the same breath as the world’s top concours, this criticism is likely to be levelled by entrants and show-goers. Creating a great many classes is not a problem, as long as you have the cars to fill them; and at Chantilly, this wasn’t always the case. 

Saving grace?

But let’s end with some of the many positives: the atmosphere was terrific, helped by Peter Auto’s dress code that everyone respected, and the Sunday lunchtime was a real highlight, truly memorable, with the opportunity to walk around the club displays. There are the club members, enjoying highly organised picnics, either on the grass, on rugs, or at tables, but all with great elegance. And as always, there was a sense of joy that gave the event a very special flavour... the unique flavour of Chantilly.

Photos: Rémi Dargegen for Classic Driver © 2015