In between chasing Paganis through the Tuscan countryside and inhaling tire smoke at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, I spent a couple of weeks in London. It’s a city seeping with history and culture—and some very good cars, if you know where to look.
The architecture around London make it one of the most unique and recognizable cities in the world. It’s also hailed as one of the most diverse cities, with people from cultures all over the world calling this city their home.
For all its culture, heritage, and importance I didn’t spend much time in London going to museums or trying out the cuisine. Instead, during the free days I had, which were most days to be honest, I dabbled in the local car spotting scene there.
Anyone with access to the internet and with an interest in cars would’ve seen all the photos and videos of cars “spotted” in and around London. There’s no doubt as a car spotting city London is one of the most famous, right next to Monaco and Dubai. So on my European trip, I couldn’t resist going around and see what’s what, particularly how spotting in London compared to Tokyo. I should’ve done a Tokyo street spotting article before doing, this but you can look at Daikoku, Tatsumi, and Daikanyama to get some sort of idea of what the car scene is like around Tokyo.
The first thing I noticed in London was how close the main hotspots were to each other. The most popular areas in London to spot exotic cars are Knightsbridge, Mayfair, and South Kensington. From Knightsbridge, Mayfair and South Ken are no more than a 20 minute walk.
Compare this to Tokyo where walking between the main spotting areas would require a minimum 30 minute walk to each one. That’s where Tokyo’s public transportation system comes in handy. Using London’s Underground by comparison was like jumping out of a Lexus LFA and straight into a horse and cart. I could rant about the flawed subway in London and the lack of air conditioning, but now’s not the time and place.
According to the local guys I had come at a bad time. Mid-to-late summer would’ve been the ideal time to go. London is a prominent vacation spot for wealthy car owners from places like Dubai, but when I went it was smack in the middle of June, right during the Muslim fasting holiday of Ramadan. That meant all the loud and exuberant visiting cars from the Middle East were all in hiding. I still had high hopes for the local cars though.
Car spotting has been around since people could take photos of cars but it’s only with the rise of social media and having cameras on handheld devices that’s escalated its popularity. More and more people have started doing this regularly, especially since 2014. There are countless pages on Instagram and Facebook dedicated to this hobby, with many having several thousand of followers.
As you can see from the photos most of the cars you can expect to see around London are a mix of the latest supercars with a handful of classics scattered around. Within the time I was there I had seen at least one of each of the hybrid hypercars (LaFerrari, P1, and 918) driving out on the road as well other hypercars like the new Bugatti Chiron and Koenigsegg Agera RS.
Most of the other supercars you could see in any other large city in the world but there were a couple of standout cars for me. The Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato, a car limited to 99 units, is the perfect example of blending the best of British and Italian design. It was great to see one of these outside and not inside a dealer or at a show.
Then there was a 911 reimagined by Singer. For all the 911 fans Japan has, I’ve yet to see or even know of a Singer car in Tokyo; this was the first time I had laid my eyes on one. It’s a beautiful piece of work and its massive price tag is almost justifiable. Almost.
Last but not least, a Lexus LFA Nürburgring. With only 50 of these in the world it’s a rare car to see, regardless where you are. I’ve yet to see one on the road in Japan; only at meets and on track. This particular car came from Canada and is the only LFA Nurburgring in the whole of the U.K. The owner also has the blue carbon Koenigsegg Agera RS seen here and a blue Pagani Zonda S Roadster.
For all the exotics that you see, some people have to get bold specced cars to stand out. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The light blue Ferrari 458 Speciale with gold wheels, grey and blue Aston Martin GT8, and the Italian registered McLaren P1 were particular highlights in terms of unique spec.
However, if it’s unique you want then there was nothing quite like the wrapped “Lamborghini Murcielago” parked outside a restaurant in Mayfair. After some investigative work (i.e. a friend looking it up online) we found out it’s a replica based on a Toyota MR2. I mean, as replicas go this one was pretty damn good. Certainly had me fooled.
A special mention has to made to the Smart Fortwo shipped over from Saudi Arabia, complete with Saudi plates. I don’t know if the owner was trolling everyone. Maybe he’s got a Bugatti Veyron (or several) as well but decided to take his Smart to London instead. Whatever his reasoning was, the cost of shipping it must’ve cost the same or more than the actual car. That’s pretty baller.
A big difference between car spotting in London and Tokyo, or indeed anywhere else I’ve been to, is the ease of it. You could literally go out on any given day of the week and as long as you go to one of the main areas you’re guaranteed to see a supercar of some sort.
One of the big advantages of having literally hundreds of people out spotting in the same city is the #liveupload on Instagram. This shows (mostly) all the photos of cars taken live around the city. It’s a good way to know where to go or even if it’s worth going out to spot. Certainly it works in a city with as many spotters as London.
As great as it was seeing all the different cars London had to offer I did miss the “lol cars” Japan had to offer. England’s a lot more straightforward, while the Japanese scene takes itself a lot less seriously. I’d say in terms of the quantity and quality of supercars London is hard to top. But it doesn’t quite have the same sort of diversity as Tokyo. I’ll talk about that more about that soon.
Ken Saito is a writer based in Japan. A Car Nerd’s Guide To Japan is an ongoing Jalopnik series.