Many motorcyclists may not have heard of the ‘Salon Privé Week’ because it is primarily a prestige car concours event similar to Pebble Beach in the USA to name just one similar gathering. Here you can normally expect to see the latest and rarest prestige and sports cars ‘in the flesh’, as opposed to the pages of glossy magazines, alongside some very rare historic cars. Cars like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley, and Bugatti abound alongside some lesser-known high-performance cars that showcase automotive engineering at its best and in most cases it must be said, expensive! Ian Kerr heads off to the historic grounds of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. st and in most cases it must be said, expensive! Ian Kerr heads off to the historic grounds of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
Motorcycles have always played a key role in the event from its inception and, despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, it managed to run in late September giving a few owners of some rare and desirable motorcycles the chance to exhibit alongside some very expensive and unique classic cars (and the odd helicopter!) in a splendid, relaxed setting.
This year, due to a slightly depleted field caused by Covid-19, the judges just had three classes to examine, Ducati Icons, Exceptional Street Motorcycles and Exceptional Competition Motorcycles with an additional award for the ‘Most Spectacular Motorbike’ being granted by the host, the 12th Duke of Marlborough.
The very difficult task of judging was carried out by Mike Jackson, who held a number of key roles in the British Motorcycle Industry, television presenter Henry Cole, journalist and Concours judge Dennis Frost and commentator and former Grand Prix motorcycle racer Steve Parrish.
The Ducati class was dominated by twins and was in fact won by a 1974 Ducati 750SS ‘Green Frame’ round case model which is just one of only 401 produced. It was up against a 1976 750SS and a 1975 900SS and two immaculate 250 singles.
In the Exceptional Street Class, a fairly original 1914 4 ¼ Triumph roadster rubbed shoulders with a very shiny 1939 AJS 2A that went on to scoop the Duke of Marlborough’s award. The class was won though by a unique 1965 Norton Unified Twin prototype that never made it to production.
The Exceptional Competition Class saw an ex-works BSA B50, an ex-Vic Eastwood CCM and a very shiny 1971 Ducati Desert racer go up against a 1981 Suzuki RG00 and a Ducati 851 and a rare and unusual 1950 Husqvarna Drombagen Dreambike sports bike.
However, as one might expect, with one of the judges – a certain Mr Parrish being an ex-Suzuki works rider having raced a few RG’s in his time – it was the Suzuki that took the chequered flag for first place.
It is not all about classics though as Krazy Horse, probably best known for their custom bikes, were exhibiting new machines. Although a mainstream dealership for a number of brands including Indian, Paton and Morgan to name a few, they chose to highlight the legendary Italian marque MV Agusta who are celebrating their 75th anniversary as their main exhibit.
Bolton-based manufacturer, CCM Motorcycles, who originally started with off-road machines, were showcasing their current Spitfire range. The motorcycles looked right at home amongst the unique, low-volume, but very expensive sports cars, as well as entering the concourse event to highlight their impressive competition past!
Lastly, a brand-new British manufacturer, Langen Motorcycles, publically launched its beautifully engineered ‘Two Stroke’ machine which, according to its designer Chris Ratcliffe, has been inspired by the café racers of the past.
The Langen Two Stroke is handmade and uses laser-cut aluminium tubing, with bonded and machined connection points. Light front forks from Ohlins with British K-Tech rear shocks, control the suspension. The bodywork is carbon fibre. Langen try to use components from UK sources as much as possible. However, the engine comes from the Italian engineering company, Vins. The 250cc V-twin CNC-machined engine produces more than 75bhp (56kW) and 45Nm (33lb.ft) and is fuel injected. It revs to 14,500 with the traditional two-stroke powerband coming in at 10,000rpm. Below this, Chris claims the bike is very linear in its power delivery and very rideable on the pubic highway!
Just 100 of these bespoke road-legal machines will be built in the first year with a further 150 in 2022 completing the run of the individually numbered machines which will cost £28,000 plus VAT.
Salon Privé is well worth a visit to see automotive engineering at its best, and for most of us, the motorcycles are at least within our financial reach. Besides, it is a great day out!
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