Salon Privé 2020: Blenheim Palace, September

The only show this year? We weren’t sure, so we popped along.

Words and photography by Matt

The Salon PrivÉ is a car concours event primarily, however, with the worldwide issues, shows have been cancelled and more and more vehicle launches were touted to be taking place at the Salon Privé, so I found myself on a damp Wednesday having a look.

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Cars are the main theme, with many marques introducing new models, including Rolls Royce. There were helicopters for sale, incredible yachts and even a flying car – from the Netherlands, of course.

Away from the status symbols though were some simply incredible classic cars, which were a joy to see up closely.

Thanks to the virus, space was everywhere and numbers of people were limited, meaning you could really get close and have a good nose around.

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I appreciate this is a bike magazine, but there arenot many of us that would not enjoy looking at the craftsmanship on show.

The bikes, around 25, were all concours winners in waiting – but when everything is special, nothing stands out! Judges included TV’s shed-dwelling Henry Cole and racer, Steve Parrish, who took a particular shine to Richard Duffin’s Suzuki RG500, which sounded wonderful once started up on the rollers – a four-cylinder two-stroke at a predominantly car-oriented show was a sound to behold!

Then there was a terrific collection of Ducatis, sitting together. The 1975 900ss sat next to a recently restored 1976 750ss, which was slightly outshone by one of the 401, 1974 Ducati 750SS ‘green frame’ models, all hand-built and overseen by Taglioni himself.

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These first bikes had right-hand gearchange and were the celebration of Paul Smart’s famous Imola victory.

An AJS Model 2A V-Twin looked a tremendous machine, and in keeping with the super cars around it; while the MV Agusta 750 needed no introduction, bringing colour aplenty.

The only (?) Norton P6A prototype took me some time to take in all those details and differences that never made it into production; I wonder what it’s like to ride compared to the Bert Hopwood-designed Model 7 that came out instead, in 1948.

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My favourite was the stunning Ducati 851 owned by Simon Turner. Previously owned by John Surtees, it was bought new by none other than Oscar Rumi, frame builder extraordinaire in the 1980s and 90s, to study the frame geometry and set-up; ‘though for which engine we’re not sure’ explains Simon.

After 20 years it was sold to Gianni Pironi, who was a friend of John and swapped it for a Manx Norton!

It is fitted with an 888cc Corse motor, but the bike has never, ever been started!

In fact it has rarely been outside, as even the white cable ties were not yellowed, nor the original brake discs scored.

“Are you tempted to ride it?” I asked Simon. “Six months ago I took all the fairings off, stood back and thought – wow.

Every single nut and bolt put on there are exactly where they were put in the factory in 1989. And I thought, what gives me the right to start that? So I left it. But I have other toys!”

This was my poster bike growing up, I built a model of one and to see such a unique example was worth the trip in itself. Thank you for letting it get wet so everyone can see it, Simon!

Read more News and Features online at and in the November 2020 issue of Classic Bike Guide – on sale now!

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