Awards ceremonies - seemingly every industry has too many of them and the motoring world is no different. In any given year, car manufacturers enter a frenzy of pushing out press releases to announce that one of its products has been awarded some sort of recognition by the people whose job it is to judge them against their competitors.
Jaguar's trophy cabinet has recently been straining under the weight of various awards, and rightly so, because the cars it's making these days have put the once-beleaguered company back where it belongs: ahead of the competition. And it's time for another one: the Louis Vuitton Classic award.
Whatever you think of Louis Vuitton's luxury leather goods, the French fashion giant has certainly been around a while and knows a thing or two about attention to detail and the demands of a discerning clientele. The company used to run its own Concours show but has since scaled back and, for five years now, it has been hosting the Louis Vuitton Classic awards, where just two categories are recognised: the Classic Concours and the Concept.
Concours shows can be mind-numbing yawn-fests at times. Lots of wealthy collectors showing off their rare classic cars, having been polished and buffed to death. The cars are usually quite shiny, too. But they're mostly static displays, like some open air museum where the collective throngs ooh and aah over machinery that rarely gets any exercise on the open road. What the Louis Vuitton judges do, though, is pick the very best of the Concours winners and bestow upon its owner what has come to be seen by many as the ultimate accolade. They attend these shows so you don't have to.
And the 2010 winner of easily Europe's most prestigious (and, unusually for an event of its type, extremely enjoyable) Concours, Villa d'Este's Concorso d'Eleganza, has been chosen by Louis Vuitton as best of the best. Quite right, too, because the 1938 Talbot-Lago in question is without doubt one of the most beautiful manmade objects I have ever clapped eyes on. It's a Super Sport T150C with a stunning teardrop-shape body that was truly years ahead of its time. Impossibly glamorous, impossibly expensive - its American owner, a serial classic car collector, said being given this award made it the happiest day of his life. Not sure what his wife made of that statement - there may have been words later at the hotel.
Fittingly for an awards ceremony that celebrates such a glamorous automobile, the assembled guests are also extremely beautiful and talented. Apart from yours truly, of course. They're the movers and shakers in the fashion and design industries, including such luminaries as BMW's controversial former stylist, Chris Bangle, the British design and cultural expert Stephen Bayley, possibly the world's most handsome man in the form of male supermodel David Gandy and Rolls-Royce's design chief, Ian Cameron. For a car to be lauded by these guys it really has to be very special.
In charge of proceedings is one Christian Philippsen, who also chairs the panel of judges. He started the Louis Vuitton Classic after attending the Pebble Beach show in the early 1980s. Stunned by what he saw, he reasoned that Concours d'Elegance is a French concept so he became determined to put his country back on the classic car map by conceiving the most prestigious awards of them all.
Back to the cars. The other one, as mentioned earlier, is here to pick up the gong for best concept and, this year, Jaguar deservedly won for its jaw-dropping C-X75. Apparently, the Concept award is presented to the one car of the year with the best chance of winning a Concours show in years to come and, surely, the C-X75 will continue to astound onlookers decades from now. Not only does it look like something from Dan Dare but it manages to combine colossal power with the greenest of credentials, running as it does on pure electric power with twin gas turbines to charge the batteries. It's a jet car and nobody saw it coming.
Built to celebrate 75 years of Jaguar's heritage, Ian Callum's team has crafted a supercar that looks futuristic yet still contains the occasional nod to the company's previous output without even a hint of retro naffness. It may never enter production but there's no doubt that it will serve as a pointer to future Jaguar design language.
As Callum gets up to accept the award, he smiles genuinely despite having done this hundreds of times. But this trophy is, as he points out to me later over dinner, the ultimate seal of approval. He couldn't be happier and neither could Jaguar's PR machine, which goes into overdrive sending out Twitter and Facebook updates and press releases before the trophy is even put back in its leather (LV-branded, naturally) case. Callum and the Talbot-Lago's owner will be on the judging panel for next year's awards and I, for one, can't wait to see what wins. A wonderfully low-key show, this - it could teach the rest a thing or two.