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The British Classic Car Meeting 2024 brought safari style to St. Moritz

From bullish restomod Landys to go-anywhere Jaguars and real Camels in the lobby of Suvretta House, last weekend’s British Classic Car Meeting celebrated old-empire Safari car culture in extravagant St. Moritz style.

England might have kicked Switzerland out of the Euro Cup on Saturday night – but the air was still full of love for Britain and its automotive culture in the ballroom of the Suvretta House in St. Moritz. After all, the elegant gentlemen in their tuxedos and ladies wearing animal prints and safari suits had gathered in the Swiss Alps to celebrate their shared anglophilia at the 30th anniversary edition of the British Classic Car Meeting. Held every summer at the Suvretta House grand hotel, the BCCM traditionally attracts owners of Switzerland’s finest Aston Martins and Austin Healeys, Bentleys and Jaguars, and Land Rovers and Rolls-Royces. This year’s edition certainly defended the event’s reputation as the most elegant, stylish and creative tribute to British car culture outside the realm of the United Kingdom. 

For the 30th anniversary edition, Chairman Peter Egli and his team had announced a BCCM “Safari Edition”, paying tribute to the adventurous spirit we associate with the Camel Trophy, the Paris-Dakar, or the East African Safari rallye. After all, British explorers have always steered their automobiles beyond the comforting bubble of London's Mayfair and Kensington, seeking adventure in the world’s roughest and most remote places, preparing their 5 o’clock tea on stoves in the jungle of Borneo or sipping gin & tonic to combat malaria in India. And while T.E. Lawrence and his armored Rolls-Royces ruled the Arabian desert, the Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition in 1955 established the Land Rover as the ultimate go-anywhere offroader we still admire today. There is hardly a spot on the globe that the Brits haven’t driven a Landy to.   

For the occasion of the British Classic Car Meeting, an impressive line-up of 111 cars ‘Made in the UK’ hit the road for St. Moritz. Covering almost one century of motoring culture, the starter field included a 1927 Bentley Open Tourer as well as the latest Aston Martin Vantage AMR. In between, you could marvel at some of the most iconic and alluring cars ever designed, including the Jaguar E-Type in all variations, Aston Martin DB6s and V8s, or the mythical Bentley R-Type Continental. And wasn’t that brown Range Rover a replica of the famous open-top car from the James Bond movie ‘Octopussy’? Rarer and less well-known cars included an Alvis TD 2, a Lagonda 3 Litre, a Bristol 411 and a Trident Venturer. 

But not all cars were what they appeared at first glance: this beautiful 1965 Land Rover Series 2 we spotted at the BCCM might have worn the patinated armour of a deserving warrior. However, below the battered surface beats the heart of a contemporary super SUV. Commissioned by a discerning Land Rover collector from Switzerland, the almost 60 year old car was restomodded from the ground up by Landy Point and now features a 242 hp Rover V8, the 5-speed gearbox of the last classic Defender generation, as well as a cable winch, auxiliary heatin, and many other features known from contemporary SUVs. And what could have been a better car to celebrate offroad adventure culture at this weekend’s British Classic Car Meeting than a mountain lion in a camel’s clothes?

Another car customized for the occasion was the 1976 Jaguar XJ 3.4 upgraded to full rally spec by Philipp Husistein, President of the Jaguar Drivers Club Switzerland. Had one of the other gentlemen challenged the owner in a wager to set off immediately and circumnavigate the earth in 80 days, he would not have had an excuse – as his Jag was ready to get on the road! Luckily, the BCCM had set a slightly smaller radius for their Safari Rally: leading from St. Moritz to Zernez over the Ofen Pass to Val Müstair, the road book directed the participants over the Umbrail Pass to Bormio and back to the Engadine over the passes Passo del Foscagno, Forcola di Livigno and Bernina. And even if the weather was at times slightly too ambitious to mimic the famous English climate, the cars mastered the trip in true British style. 

While speed and a good sense of timing were crucial for the road rally, the jury of the BCCM’s concours of elegance around Marco Makaus had to pick the most stylish automobile. The ‘Best in Show’ trophy was rightfully claimed by a stunning black 1937 Jaguar SS100 from the collection of Peter Kappeler, while Nicolas Lehner’s 1963 Aston Martin DB4 Convertible and a 1986 Daimler Double Six owned by Sivert Kupfer each scored a class win. 

But that was not all: to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the BCCM, the organizers had arranged a variety of attractions, from clay pidgeon shooting to a fireside chat with legendary rally driver and East African Safari veteran Rauno Aaltonen. On Saturday night, RM Sotheby's specialist and house music DJ Duccio Lopresto took over the turntables in front of one of only 25 limited-edition Land Rover Defender Works V8 Trophy models inspired by the iconic Camel TrophyAnd when even two real camels in full desert regalia casually trotted through the lobby of the Suvretta House, all guests were finally certain that they had attended the most spectacular British Classic Car Meetings St. Moritz had ever seen. 

Photos: Pietro Martelletti, Rosario Liberti, Davide De Martis