Whilst overlanding around England a good friend of ours - a true classic car enthusiast - invited us to join him on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the ‘Concours of Elegance’ which is held annually in the beautiful gardens of Hampton Court Palace on the River Thames.
Hampton Court Palace is always worth a visit when in England as we both enjoy medieval history - and the spectacular gardens made the drive there worthwhile.
The very first vehicle we spotted was a lovingly restored Mercedes 0317 van – being Mercedes Benz Sprinter fans more about this historic racing car transporter later.
The building of this stunning palace began in 1515 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a favourite of King Henry VIII. In 1529 the King seized the palace for himself and later enlarged it especially the impressive gardens and lake.
Along with St James's Palace in London, it is one of only two surviving palaces out of many once owned by King Henry VIII.
Our favourite classic vehicle on show was the actual Mercedes 0317 van used as a transporter for the Gulf-Wyer Porsche 917 to travel to and from the Le Mans race track in 1971.
Only three Mercedes 0317’s were ever built. One is believed lost, another is in the US painted in another livery and this is the only survivor painted in the famous Gulf Oil colours.
Not only do transporters have to drive reliably with very valuable cargo on board but they must also look the part and serve as a rolling billboard for both the racing team and their sponsors.
The famous ROFGO Collection by Roald Goethe & Adrian Hamilton is a remarkable accumulation of globally-significant racing cars comprising 24 of the most important racers and single-seaters ever to compete in the legendary Gulf Oil livery. https://classiccars.credit-suisse.com/en/rofgo-collection
To make this racing car collection complete they needed an original Mercedes van and after extensive research one was tracked down to Florida USA. In a terrible condition it was shipped back to the UK to WHF Ltd a specialist company supplying support & hospitality trailers for famous racing teams and whose clients include Red Bull and McLaren racing teams. Fourteen months and a full mechanical and body restoration later the Mercedes 0317 was back to its original condition with the correct Gulf powder blue & marigold colours.
Based on a chassis from Mercedes and powered by a 10.8-litre straight-six motor producing about 210bhp the attention to detail makes this a stunning restoration.
When you climb up into the cabin and sit in the sprung driver's seat you’ll immediately notice the near-horizontal steering wheel, vinyl door cards, chrome-edged sun visors and perforated boarding behind the two immaculate bunk beds. So dedicated has been this Mercedes 0317 restoration been that the correct fuel gauge had to be sourced from Russia to ensure every detail was perfect.
This Mercedes 0317 is now a working vehicle within the ROFGO Collection and this year was loaded with a Porsche 908/3 and Porsche 917 and driven to the 2017 Le Mans Classic. Our congratulations to Roald Goethe & Adrian Hamilton for rescuing this amazing Mercedes transporter and still using it to carry classic racing cars to important historic races around Europe.
Being able to get up close to these famous classics in the historic Hampton Court Palace gardens on a beautiful sunny afternoon was one of many highlights of this enjoyable road trip and one of the many reasons why overlanding around Britain presents you with so many opportunities to enjoy both ancient & contemporary history – even if you need to drive on the ‘wrong side’ of the road!
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