Well that was quite a year. From a world events point of view, most of us are probably glad to see the back of 2021. But from an automotive point of view, there was a lot to be thankful for. Events, auction sales, restorations, personal achievements… it was all there. Here are some of our highlights – just click on each one for more.
Let’s start with the events. After a slow start to the year, the traditional Florida season openers of Cavallino Classic and Amelia Island Concours took place later than usual and with fewer visitors – but they still managed to impress with the top-level cars and attractions. More events followed, but what was going to happen to Pebble Beach Concours? And if that didn’t take place, could the rest of Monterey Car Week take place? No one knew.
In the UK, things were also quiet but, just as in 2020, the London Concours managed to take place and provide reassurance that events could still take place. But how about the Goodwood Festival of Speed? With four weeks to go there was still no definite answer, but finally the Government approved it as an official trial event – and once again it provided a spectacular showing of F1, WRC, Historics and much, much more. There was even a rare appearance (but not the last, as initially suspected) of the Stirling Moss Mille Miglia-winning Mercedes-Benz 300SLR ‘722’, encased in glass in a strangely mausoleum-like display in tribute to Stirling, who passed away in April 2020.
No Rétromobile in Paris in 2021 sadly, but other European events did go ahead eventually. In Italy, the early events such as the Mille Miglia and Villa d’Este were sensibly postponed until later in the year, but a promising new event did take place – the all-Ferrari Cavallino Classic Modena. There was initially talk of it being a one-off, but its future now looks assured.
As the year went on, the COVID situation improved, temporarily perhaps. In California, there was great relief when it was announced that Pebble Beach Concours would go ahead, albeit with fewer visitors and barely any from the UK and Europe, due to the US still being closed to them. But with special displays for the Porsche 917, Lamborghini Countach and Pininfarina, as well as a celebration of the 70th anniversary that included 38 previous Best of Show winners, it was one of the best yet.
Similarly, the accompanying Monterey Car Week was lower on visitor numbers but equally high on excitement, particularly at Laguna Seca Weathertech Raceway, which a few weeks later also saw an impressive debut at the famous track of the Velocity Invitational. Other prime US events included Greenwich Concours, which demonstrated promising signs of growth under its first year under Hagerty ownership, and the second Audrain Newport Concours and Motor Week.
Back in the UK, The Classic at Silverstone went ahead as planned, maintaining its status as the world’s largest historic racing festival. In September, arch rivals Salon Privé and Concours of Elegance Hampton Court went head-to-head again, both showing impressive signs of growth and improvement. Salon Privé even included a rally sprint this year, previewing next year’s plans for a full rally stage.
Of course, Goodwood excelled, with arguably its best-ever Goodwood Revival including a tear-jerking parade of Sir Stirling Moss’s cars. A month later it was the turn of the Goodwood Members’ Meeting, postponed this year from chilly early spring to equally chilly October. Speaking of chilly, the 125th London to Brighton Veteran Car Run managed to stay free of rain and snow, instead revelling in early winter sunshine as the pioneer cars chugged and steamed to the south coast.
Finally, we’re looking forward to great things from the new Segerstrom Shelby Event Center museum in California. Looks like a must-visit venue.
2021 cars of the year
So many cars emerged in 2021, perhaps thanks to the concentrated efforts allowed by earlier lockdowns. Fisken’s revealed its sympathetically restored HWM Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz produced a superb video of 722’s last-ever drive, through London to Sir Stirling Moss’s house, and the new BRM V16 continuation was revealed.
As unlikely as it seems, one of the other great drives of the year was Team Valkyrie and Renée Brinkerhoff’s epic 356 miles across highly dangerous, sub-zero Antarctica in a Porsche 356 specially converted to tracks and skis, raising money and awareness of human trafficking.
The restored Aston Martin Bulldog seemed to be everywhere, having been unveiled at the Concours of Elegance, then appearing on an aircraft carrier, at Savile Row and in initial high-speed tests, in readiness to attempt 200mph in 2022. Another car to make a long-awaited reappearance at the Concours of Elegance was the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost AX201, now privately owned after decades tucked away under the ownership of Bentley Motors.
Lamborghini’s recreation of the prototype Countach LP500 took the world by surprise, built to original specification for a private collector. It was no easy task, because this first-ever Countach was very different from the production LP400 that followed. A later model also made the headlines, when the Cannonball Run Countach was inducted into the National Historic Vehicle Register, appearing on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
Continuation cars continued to grab headlines, with first drives of the Blower Bentley Continuation and the reveal of the Jaguar C-type Continuation. There were plenty of interesting new car launches, too, but our favourite has to be the surprising but strangely logical Morgan CX-T.
Plenty of high-profile cars for sale as well, including the Baja 1000 Ford Bronco Big Oly, the very special trio of Aston Martin DB5s offered by Nicholas Mee and the Bugatti Royale thought to have been sold for a new pre-war car record by the Blackhawk Collection.
How sad that every year we lose more legends. This year was no different, of course, and early on we lost the characterful race and rally driver John Sprinzel, who was best known for his exploits in Austin A35s and Sebring Sprites, and who went on to become a professional windsurfer, subsequently settling in Hawaii.
Citroën SM designer Robert Opron was another great loss. It’s easy to forget just how forward-thinking his designs were, aside from the SM, as our obituary revealed. We also lost Tonia Bern-Campbell, widow of Donald Campbell, and Hazel Chapman, widow of Colin Chapman and co-founder of Lotus, a brand that it’s fair to say wouldn’t have survived (or even started) without her tenacity and business acumen.
In the UK, auctioneer Robert Brooks and dealer Adrian Hamilton passed away within days of each other, both too young. They were rivals and friends, both huge characters, as historian Doug Nye explained in his tribute in issue 12 of Magneto. In the motor sport world there were more losses, including rally team boss David Sutton, Formula 1 team owner Sir Frank Williams and, of course, the much-loved racer and performance-driving instruction pioneer Bob Bondurant.
2021 collector car market
So much going on, not least the way traditional live auction companies quickly adapted to online sales, before re-adapting to hybrid events with live and online elements. But digital relative newcomer Collecting Cars proved how the market was changing with its £10m online sale of the Leonard Collection.
Hagerty continued to grow at a remarkable rate, buying the Amelia Island Concours before partnering with an investment company before debuting on the New York Stock Exchange. Meanwhile, we watched in interest as a number of execs at RM Sotheby’s disappeared from view – to resurface in a new collector car sales company named the Broad Arrow Group.
Ever-aware of the need to give back, event organiser HERO-ERA teamed up with a new green initiative to help carbon-offset any model of classic car with its Net-HERO scheme.
Magneto in 2021
It was quite a year for Magneto, too, which grew in pagination and, we hope you agree, quality, too. Its third year was marked with a record number of award wins and nominations. And the team grew as well, with new staff writer Elliott Hughes among others joining up, as you can see here.
After two previous cancellations due to the pandemic, Magneto’s all-new event Concours on Savile Row in London is now due to take place in June 2022. It will pair car manufacturers with tailors, for a two-day event that will be free to the public with special VIP areas for guests of sponsors and exhibitors.
Another new Magneto initiative was the Magneto Briefing, the first of which concerned the Bluebird K7 ownership battle. It took place at the Royal Automobile Club, bringing together protaganists from both sides, for an audience of Magneto subscribers.
What next? More of the same, including another edition of The Concours Year and a few surprises… Stay tuned folks!