The London Concours has lifted the dust covers on the latest display at this summer’s must-see event: the ‘Carnaby Street’ class. The grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company are the perfect historical setting for this celebration of the excitement and optimism of Britain’s ‘Swinging Sixties’, with a display of cars favoured by the glitterati of the era, from rockstars and royalty to legends of the big screen.

Running from June 4-6, the London Concours will once again unveil a stunning array of rare machinery in the heart of The City, for three days of automotive indulgence. The Carnaby Street class is a celebration of cars mostly owned or driven by the stars who helped shape an unforgettable decade – the Sixties.

Few models sum up the spirit of the era better than the dune buggy, especially the one that started it all: the Meyers Manx, based on a Volkswagen Beetle chassis. And the one in the Carnaby Street collection is the very one driven by actor Steve McQueen in the movie The Thomas Crown Affair, with co-star Faye Dunaway; the one in which he raced up sand dunes and splashed through waves. Also a keen racing driver, McQueen got involved in the design of the movie car, and had it fitted with a ‘flat-six’ Chevrolet Corvair engine producing three times the power of the VW one, as well as a speedboat-style wraparound windscreen, headlights faired into the bonnet and American Racing wheels.

Guitarist, singer and songwriter with the Yardbirds and later Cream, Eric Clapton’s music was a key note in the soundtrack of the Sixties. The display will feature the 1969 Ferrari 365 GTC Berlinetta he bought after falling in love with the one owned by friend George Harrison of the Beatles. “I’d never seen one in the flesh before, and my heart melted,” he said, likening the experience to seeing “the most beautiful woman on earth”. Styled by Italian design ace Pininfarina, the car is fitted with a 4.4-litre V12 producing 320bhp – good for 150mph. Except Clapton couldn’t drive at the time… but, duly inspired, he soon mastered his clutch control on the Ferrari.

Aston Martin’s DB5 might have been synonymous with screen spy James Bond, but its successor, the two-door DB6 coupé, was the choice of Britain’s real-life stars of the Sixties. The Beatles’ Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger had one, as did model Twiggy as well as actor and comedian Peter Sellers. And the then Prince Charles, now HRH King Charles, was given the DB6 he still owns, as a 21st birthday present from his mother the late Queen. Featuring improved aerodynamics including a racing-style ‘Kamm’ tail, and powered by a 4.0-litre, twin-overhead-cam, six-cylinder engine, the 282bhp DB6 was a high-speed cruiser that could carry four people in comfort and style.

If it was glamour and sophistication you were after, then the Mercedes 190 SL roadster, with its low-slung looks and distinctive ‘eyebrows’ above the wheelarches, fitted the bill like a Givenchy gown or Saville Row suit. Fresh from an extensive restoration, the pristine 1961 example in the Carnaby Street collection was driven by Welsh singing star Dame Shirley Bassey during the 1984 recording of her studio album I Am What I Am at Olympic Studios in London, and later owned by founder member of the group Manhattan Transfer, Tim Hauser. A rare right-hand-drive model, and one of around just 1000 built, it has a removable hardtop and is fitted with a 1.9-litre, four-cylinder engine and a manual gearbox.

Novelist and actress Jackie Collins loved her cars, perhaps none more so than her silver Ford Mustang fastback. Rebellious as ever, and wearing an orange mink coat, jeans and sunglasses, she’s said to have driven it to visit her daughters at the school she herself was expelled from. This year celebrating its 60th anniversary since its 1964 launch, the Mustang embodied Ford’s ambition to appeal to the younger market with a sporty-looking but affordable car with room for four. Buyers had the choice of a two-door hardtop, fastback or convertible, with engine options ranging from a 2.8-litre straight-six to a 4.7 V8, with manual or automatic transmission. But whatever the specification, the Mustang captured the imagination of young America. Chuck Berry sang about it, as did Wilson Pickett. Little wonder that 22,000 Mustangs were sold on the first day.

Yet the Sixties weren’t all about flashiness and fast cars; luxury and tradition continued to be represented by prestige marques such as the 1965 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, which will look right at home on the HAC’s manicured lawns – although it might well have cruised Carnaby Street or the Kings Road in the day. While not as shocking as John Lennon’s psychedelic treatment of its Phantom V sibling, its rakish quadruple headlights may still have surprised traditionalists. But inside it was still all leather, elegance and old-world charm. Secreted behind a radiator inspired by the Pantheon temple in Rome whispered a 6.2-litre V8 allied to an automatic gearbox, which could waft the Silver Cloud to more than 100mph – albeit at the cost of just 13 miles per gallon.

Andrew Evans, Managing Director, London Concours, said: There’s never been a better time to remind ourselves of the decade when Britain captured the imagination of the world with homegrown talent that spawned a vibrant new era of music, fashion, film and cars, which led to Time magazine dubbing London the ‘Swinging City’. The cars of the rich and famous on show in our Carnaby Street display are a drive back in time to those halcyon days of innovation, prosperity and optimism.” 

Evans continued: “Guests to the HAC will be treated to an unprecedented array of cars, along with a decadent range of food and drink options, and a carefully curated line-up of luxury brands and boutiques. London Concours 2024 is set to be another occasion of total automotive indulgence.”

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