10 European Historic Events You Must Visit Before You Die

Thinking about the ultimate automotive holiday to Europe? Mick Walsh of Classic & Sports Car selects the must-see events.

If you’re planning an overseas trip to Europe to experience some of the most talked-about classic car events, even years are the best times to do it – and 2008 is no exception. In addition to premier annual historic festivals at Goodwood and Silverstone in the United Kingdom, 2008 also sees two wonderful biennial events in mainland Europe – the Le Mans Classic and the Grand Prix Historique de Monaco. If you attend the Goodwood Revival, the Silverstone Classic or the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, be sure to stop by and say hello to Hagerty International. As with all dream vacations, planning is the key to getting the most out of these spectacular gatherings. And for the most dedicated enthusiasts, there’s the possibility you could take in two or even three on the same trip.

Here’s our guide to the 10-finest events on the European collector’s car calendar:

Techno-Classica Essen
Essen, German
March 26-30, 2008
With more than 1 MILLION square feet of exhibition floor space, this is the world’s largest classic car fair, hosting more than 150,000 visitors. The event features virtually all aspects of the classic car industry under one roof, and can offer everything for the enthusiast, including complete cars, spare parts, accessories, models, literature, art, tools and clothing.

German manufacturers turn out in force with stylish heritage-themed stands and car club stands. This is a must visit for all Mercedes and Porsche fans. Comfy shoes are essential for the long haul around this mega event. The nearest airport is Düsseldorf and the taxi ride to Essen is about 40 Euros.

Concorso D’Eleganza Villa D’Este
Cernobbio, Italy
April 25-27, 2008
Not even Pebble Beach can match the history and location of Europe’s premier concours event. Set in the grounds of one of Italy’s most famous hotels against the mesmerizing backdrop of Lake Como, this automotive beauty show dates back to 1929. Since 1999, the concorso has been supported by the BMW Group. The number of American entrants grows every year, and 2007 saw fashion magnate Ralph Lauren scoop “Best of Show by the Jury” with his stunning ex-Count Trossi 1930 Mercedes- Benz SSK 2-seater Willi White.

As well as dazzling classics, Italy’s most illustrious stylists also showcase their latest concept cars. Sunday, the official public day, is based at the ex-Visconti lakeside mansion Villa Erbais and admission is a bargain 10 Euros. A rental car is essential, so extend your trip to enjoy a heavenly tour around Lake Como and a visit to the Riva factory.

Grand Prix Historique de Monaco
May 10-11, 2008
The chance to live those childhood fantasies inspired by John Frankenheimer’s epic movie Grand Prix and drive one of the most glamorous race tracks guarantees the Automobile Club de Monaco gets a spectacular entry for this historic event. Held every two years, it is staged the week before the main Formula 1 race – and you’ll see more overtaking and sideways action in the historic races. The six groups range from prewar Bugattis to 1970s Cosworth-powered GP greats. And there’s no better place to hear those glorious exhausts than around the streets of Monaco. Grandstand seats are essential and the best view is in Casino Square. Forget about driving to this event. Best to stay down the coast and catch the train.

Mille Miglia
Brescia-Rome-Brescia, Italy
May 15-18, 2008
This long-established rerun of the epic Italian road race together with the historic Monaco races could be the ultimate motoring holiday this year. Starting this year, Mille Miglia will change the stage in Rome, with the cars stopping in the center of the city rather than the suburbs as usual. It’s a challenging event to fully experience but best to spend Thursday in Brescia enjoying scrutineering, visiting the new Mille Miglia museum and then witnessing the dramatic night start. If you’re keen, head to Tuscany and watch the cars roar over the famous Futa pass between Florence and Bologna on Saturday.

Le Mans Classic
Le Mans, France
July 11-13, 2008
Masterminded by Peter Auto, who also runs the Tour De France revival rally, this epic historic race meeting on the full Le Mans circuit is a massive undertaking. The format of five race groups repeats throughout the 24 hours from Saturday to Sunday. As well as getting the unique chance to see GT40s and Cobras battle at night, there’s a huge car club area, an automobilia village and a Coys auction. Also, don’t forget the superb circuit museum. It’s essential to book hotels in advance, or bring a tent or motor home and stay at the circuit to really soak up this event’s special atmosphere. Don’t miss the Le Mans-style starts on Saturday or the high-octane fever out at Arnage at night.

Silverstone Classic
Towcester, Northamptonshire, United Kingdom
July 25-27, 2008
The United Kingdom’s best-known circuit – and home of Hagerty International – celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2008, so expect something special at this premier historic racing festival. Racing greats from every era, a magnificent 600-car race entry, a host of car club displays, an art tent and an auto jumble all make this weekend a mecca for British classic fans. Highlights include a twilight enduro race for 1960s prototypes and GTs on Saturday evening. The Hagerty International team will be out in force, so come over and chat.

Vintage Weekend at Prescott Speed Hill Club
Near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
August 2-3, 2008
For pre-war car fans this wonderful hill climb event organized by the Vintage Sports-Car Club is heaven. Staged at the home of the Bugatti Owners’ Club in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold region, the weekend attracts myriad early machines, from aero-engined specials to thoroughbred sports cars. Jazz band entertainment, a stunning prewar spectator car park and a film show each evening make this a uniquely English weekend. A strong turnout of Bugattis is guaranteed at the historic venue. Plus, there’s the Bugatti Trust museum to visit. Other close attractions are a steam railway, Sudeley Castle and many fine English pubs.

Goodwood Revival
Near Chichester, Sussex, United Kingdom
September 19-21, 2008
If you go to only one European event, this should be the one. This year’s magical time warp event celebrates the 60th anniversary of the first Goodwood race meeting, so the atmosphere will be even more nostalgic, with a dream grid of cars and star drivers from the circuit’s illustrious history. No modern vehicle is allowed within the track perimeter, so as well as race machinery there’s a wealth of classic cars, motorbikes and commercials in use.

The action isn’t limited to the ground, as the airfield’s World War II flying history is celebrated with a dazzling display of war birds. Be warned: It’s essential to book your accommodations early.

London to Brighton Veteran Car Run
London-Brighton, United Kingdom
November 2, 2008
The start of the famous veteran car run from London’s Hyde Park at dawn is an amazing spectacle. With more than 500 pre-1904 machines ready for the 60-mile challenge to the South coast, this is the world’s largest gathering of early cars. All types of power, including steam, electric and internal combustion engines, make for an amazing sight as they gather in the dark for the 7 a.m. start.

New features include a special concours on Saturday on Regent Street in the centre of London. During the event, there’s also a special bus service to follow the hardy entrants to Brighton.

February 2009
This long-established indoor show has a unique style of its own, featuring a dazzling display of cars, a marvelous auto jumble (a flea market), a model car village and the best automotive art section of any event. The opening day is a great social occasion that draws collector car luminaries every year. Such is the number of American visitors that Sports Car Market even hosts an informal party at the show on the first night.

It may be only one hall, but it’s packed with automotive attractions, including a Bonhams auction. Bank on two days to see everything.
To see this article in its original format, view the pdf version of the Spring 2008 issue of Hagerty magazine.

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