" Pio Manzini (Manzu to his friends) was Italian to his bones, part of a venerable and artistic Milanese family - but decided to persue his studies at the Hochschule in Germany's Ulm. This technically-focussed university was perfect for his interests "
British Classic Car Meeting
One of the greatest meetings of classic British metal occurs far from the British Isles
150 British classic cars, 135 miles of driving, a Concours d’Elégance and a gala dinner.
You would be forgiven for thinking we’re describing an event in the UK. But you would be wrong. The British Classic Car Meeting is an event that takes place in St Moritz and this year I was fortunate enough to take part in the event travelling in a 1955 Austin Healey 100S Sebring.
Aston Martin and Lagonda, Bentley, Jaguar and Daimler, Rolls-Royce, Austin Healey and Healey, some modern cars and true rarities for mainland Europe such as a fully restored Riley Elf Mk II or a 1937 Rolls Royce Phantom III, have been meeting in the Engadine region since 1994.
The focal point of the British Classic Car Meeting, which is what makes it a unique event that any British car collector would like to attend, is undoubtedly the rally, which took place last Saturday.
The start and finish line are in the centre of St Moritz and the route reaches along the most beautiful twisty roads for which Upper Engadine is famous. The Maloia Pass, Bregaglia Valley, crossing into Italy, then climbing the Spluga Pass with the snow-capped mountains in the background, the ancient Via Mala road down the valley along the river and the final rise and downhill of the Albula Pass.
The total distance of 135 miles is divided into two stages, where time, a speed test, some ability trials such as reverse parking as near as possible to a taut cord without the help of modern parking aids, or a two-mile in hillclimb in seven minutes (average of 17.7mph which puts engines in danger of overheating).
Being part of the British Classic Car Meeting is a special experience for the breathtaking views it provides, and for the passion shared by all the participants. A couple travelled from Scotland driving their 1967 Jaguar E-Type S roadster, while another one came from South Africa, with a 1954 Rolls Royce Silver Dawn Radford Countryman saloon, already in Switzerland. Perhaps a challenge for a majestic car designed for transporting royalty in comfort – and it was not the only one so big on the curves of alpine passes!
Running in the British Classic Car Meeting rally was like a dream come true, not least because of my seat in an Austin Healey 100 S Sebring, a competition car of which only 50 were built and just 37 are left, and thanks to Vic Jacob’s driving skills. The 100 S Sebring proved itself to be a reliable car, with legendary speed and agility, tirelessly tackling long hillclimbs and demonstrating remarkable fuel efficiency. Throughout the race he only consumed half the tank, helped from its aluminium body –tipping the scales at less than 900kg – and its 2,660cc engine delivering 132hp.
After six hours’ racing, the 24th British Classic Car Meeting was won by Lorenz Martin driving a 1968 Jaguar E-Type S1 FHC, followed by Peter Kruse in a 1955 Austin Healey 100 S Sebring and Marco Zolin-Meyer in a gorgeous 1934 Bentley 3 ½ litre DHC.
But that’s not all. The British Classic Car Meeting is an event that makes elegance and class its standard, and on Sunday the cars are displayed in the central streets of St Moritz for the Concours d’Elégance.
The iconic British classic cars blend perfectly with the Suvretta House, the venue for the gala dinner, and ranked as one of the best hotels in the world, a perfect destination for any car or travel enthusiast who aims to fully immerse themselves in the magnificent era of these vehicles.
Next year will be the silver jubilee of this event and surely it will deliver more surprises. A relatively young event, perhaps not as famous as it deserves to be, but worth a visit! I’ve already booked my place for 2018.
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