Tuesday, June 28, 2011


The ex-Steve McQueen 1931 Indian Scout
The Vintagent is proud to début correspondent Julian Balme, legendary English graphic artist and gearhead, enthusiast of both cars and motorbikes, whose album art for The Clash  and other British bands is legendary. Julian sends his perspective on last weekend's Salon Privé Concours d'Elegance, which for the first time included motorcycles in the judged display. This is a watershed year of high-end car shows realizing that two wheels are fascinating and sexy.
Egli-Vincent with custom alloy bodywork
"Truth be told, the British are much better at using their toys than standing back and admiring them…a cultural flaw where Concours events are concerned… yet there's no doubt that for the size of this island, the quality of kit that resides here punches well above its weight. Thus, the content of our Concours isn't, and never will be, an issue…but the staging and motive behind such events remain unconvincing.
The Louis Vuitton Concours, started in the Nineties at the Hurlingham Club, had a simple agenda - get as many pictures in the celebrity press as possible. Everything else was a bonus. After LV packed up the show, Salon Privé took over the vacated venue, with less focus. Yes it was full of glamorous women and desirable machines, but so is the car park at most Premiere League football clubs. Now, after 5 years, Salon Privé has moved to Syon Park on the outskirts of West London, where its goals appear, if anything, even sketchier.
While Syon House is a beautiful pile, there are no glimpses of Lake Como (or the Thames) through the trees surrounding the site, nor are there blazer-wearing officials guarding every inch of their golf course. Instead there are 2 lawns of exhibits, the first inhabited by purveyors of contemporary, high-buck frippery, the second tucked around the back, and badly sign posted, containing various classes of classic cars and bikes, all luxuriating under the Heathrow flight-path.
Very rare Cotton with JAP PTOR v-twin engine
 Luckily for the organisers (and anyone interested in motorbikes), the two gents who assembled the 2-wheeled classes, Malcolm Clube and Mike Jackson, know exactly what they are up to. While all around them might devolve into chaos, they remain rock solid. The bikes of Steve McQueen class were a bit pony (hasn't this guy’s currency been run dry yet?), but the ‘100 Years of the Isle of Man TT’ class was inspired.
Apart from the breadth of history covered in their impeccable choices, how great was it that they included this year’s Senior TT winning Honda?  Complete with fly splattered fairing (above), all of whom died at an average speed of 131mph, under the guidance of the 'Morecombe Missile', John McGuinness. Sammy Miller scooped the main award with his amazing 1939 watercooled V4-powered AJS, but every entry was a contender. Notables included a 1930 Cotton-JAP ohv v-twin and an EGLI Vincent.
Mike Jackson was justifiably proud of his contribution and thought he and Malcolm Clube were well on the way to eclipsing their work for the Louis Vuitton Concours… whereas 'Cluby' was simply grateful to “get out of the house and look at the [synonym for cat]'..."

All photos c.Julian Balme 2011, except the bottom photo, courtesy Fluid Images.


occhiolungo said...

Now that's a breath of fresh air. cheers Julian, and I look forward to reading more of your writing.

camerabanger said...

The '31 Scout is beautiful. I remember going to the Guggenheim show a number of years ago and a Scout was both my and my son's pick for the "bike we'd most like to own". This example certainly is "spiffy".

Brad said...

"Truth be told, the British are much better at using their toys than standing back and admiring them..."
Excellent priority! I must post this reminder on my garage door.

Paul Thompson said...

Julian sums up my feelings exactly. I would love to see a great concours event in London but this is not it. The old Louis Vuitton events were great, and C&SC used to give away free tickets!

Grandpa Jimbo said...

...and 3267 (I counted'em) dead flys from the IOM are immortalized for ever. Jim A., Tucson, AZ

anton (netherlands) said...

maybe I read it wrong, but your comment about Steve McQ sounds as if he is still alive?