Film star Delage joins Heveningham concours entries

Heveningham Hall Concours d’Elegance has confirmed the appearance of a Gene Kelly Delage alongside Nick Mason's Ferrari 250 GTO and Maserati T61 Birdcage

A 1939 Delage D8-120 Cabriolet that appeared in 1951 Hollywood movie An American in Paris starring Gene Kelly will make its UK debut at this year’s Heveningham Hall Concours d’Elegance in Suffolk, UK.

The Delage, which has recently taken top honours at the 21 Gun Salute Concours in India and will appear at Villa d’Este later this month, belongs to Peter and Merle Mullin of The Mullin Automotive Museum in California.

The event takes place over Saturday June 30 and Sunday July 1. The emphasis is on displaying 50 of the world’s rarest and finest cars, once again on the dramatic Kim Wilkie-designed grass terraces in 5000 acres of Suffolk’s parkland.

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Separately, but on the same date and within the same grounds, an aviation concours is also set to take place – showcasing some of the world’s scarcest seen aeroplanes.

Other cars recently confirmed include a 1931 Invicta Low Chassis; a 1938 Riley Sprite; a 1963 Lister Costin Coupe; a 1964 Ferrari 500 Superfast; a 1993 Ferrari F40 LM; and a 2003 Pagoni Zonda – as well as Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason’s Ferrari 250 GTO and Maserati T61 Birdcage.

Here are a few of the star cars:

Delage D8-120 Cabriolet

This was designed by Chapron as a four-seater cabriolet with a three-position top. It was reportedly commandeered by a collaborating French general of the Vichy government during the early stages of World War 2. In 1946, once war had ended, the general sent the car to California when he was unable to obtain a visa for himself (he fled to Argentina). He subsequently sold the car to RKO Studios, one of the ‘Big Five’ studios of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

In Hollywood, the car’s styling earned it a role in 1951’s MGM classic An American in Paris. For the film, the producers commissioned changes to the car’s design, including taillight modifications and a new green paint job. The film showed Gene Kelly being chauffeured with actress Nina Foch.

After the movie, the car was returned to Los Angeles where it was acquired in 1955 by Thol 'Si' Simonson, a member of the RKO Studios production team. He took the car in lieu of pension he was owed by RKO after the studios were taken over by Howard Hughes. Si drove the Delage around Arizona before putting it up for auction in 1987, when it was purchased by Peter Mullin.

1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

Evolving from Ferrari’s highly successful 250 series and consisting of a limited series of 36 cars geared up for the championship of makes series regulations – the ‘O’ standing for ‘Omologato’ (homologated), this 250 GTO holds more history than your high school textbook.

This car, chassis number 3757, was completed in June 1962, supplied new to the Belgian Ferrari racing team, Ecurie Francorchamps. Competing at Le Mans in 1962, finishing second in class and third overall, 3757 was driven by Blaton and Dernier – finishing third in both that year’s Coupe du Salon and Tour de France.

The following season saw victory in major races including the Spa 500km (with a new lap record), driven by Willy Mairesse.

Brought to England in 1964, the new owner – Peter Clark – took first place on two occasions at Oulton Park and even clinched a class win at Daytona. Restored by Bob Houghton in 1977, the Ferrari has since been extensively used by Nick Mason and his family.

Racing at the Goodwood Revival and the Festival of Speed on numerous occasions, finishing second in the TT during 2011’s intense rain, the latest exploit was in Tuscany for the 55th GTO Rally. Having recently undergone light restoration with Ten Tenths, it really must be seen to be properly admired.

1959 Maserati T61 Birdcage

Although Maserati had effectively retired from motor racing by 1957, due mainly to expense, technical director Giulio Alfieri successfully persuaded his management to build a new sports car; employing the components already existing for sale to private customers.

Alfieri had wanted a monocoque structure but with no experience of stressed skin construction, and to help minimise costs, Maserati opted for the multi-tube frame that led the the car to gaining its 'Birdcage' nickname.

Launched in 1959, the first incarnation utilised a two-litre engine and disc brakes. Following for 1960 was the T61, with a larger 2.9-litre powerplant. Otherwise, it was identical in every other aspect.

While many T61s were simply converted T60s with larger engines, this example, chassis number 2457, was built new with a 2.9. The owner of the last car constructed in the first completed run of T61s – Kentucky based Dave Causey, had the tail modified to soften the rear deck.

Before Nick Mason took ownership, it successfully completed the Sebring 12-hour race; running in third until gearbox issues caused an early retirement. It is still campaigned regularly at various historic events.

‘Last year’s concours set a new standard in world-class entries displayed on the terraces with top honours in the pre-war category going to a 1935 Frazer Nash twin-supercharged single seater, a 1966 Ford GT40 in the post-war category and a 1971 Lamborghini Muira in best supercar plus an exacting recreation of a 1918 Sopwith Snipe winning the aviation concours,’ said Max Hunt, chair of the judges.

‘This year we are pushing the bar even higher with some exceptional early entries with many more to come.’

You can find out more and purchase tickets here.

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