Classic Motor Show – Birmingham NEC, 13th Nov 2010
Posted by Kuang on Wed, 17 Nov 2010.
Discussions about cars and motoring tend to focus on what’s happening right now, and often forget that we have over one hundred and twenty years of motoring history to dive into. The face of motoring has changed dramatically since the first steam powered monsters of the 18th century rolled into view, frequently switching direction over the course of just a few years. Visiting an event such as the Classic Motor Show is a great way to refresh your memory and discover things you never knew.
This year’s event, backed by Footman James, is a huge, sprawling petrolhead paradise, spanning four halls of the NEC and containing some of the greatest driving machines ever made. From classic British roadsters to American muscle cars, just about every niche is represented and getting around in one day is a challenging prospect.
This year we assembled a crack team of three hardcore petrolheads with a diverse range of vehicular preferences, just to make sure we tapped the full flavour of the show.
- Bugrach - Expert on all things Teutonic and aircooled
- Hunter – heavily into hardcore Japanese machinery
- Yours truly, with a penchant for Italian exotica and American muscle
Faced with the astonishing race of exhibits, we decided that the best thing to do was just to dive in and see what would happen.
Right from the start we were faced with a stunning lineup of classic British machinery, from Ford Zephyrs and Austin Healeys to Frogeye Sprites. Jaguar always make a strong showing at UK classic shows and today is no exception, with the pink Barbie XJS forming a strange contrast to the brand new XJ. We spot a range of glorious E types and a factory fresh 1970s XJ coupe in face-melting red. There’s also a spectacular bronze XK120, one of the all time greats and at one point the fastest car in the world. All good stuff.
There’s a strange interloper perched off to one side, looking like a classic British roadster from the very front but then becoming stranger as you travel towards the rear. The Allard J2X is a modern remake of a British design first seen in the 40s, but with styling details from American wartime fighter planes. Strange looking thing.
Meanwhile Bugrach’s spider sense has started to tingle, and she’s homed in on a spotless powder blue Karmann Ghia originally imported from California. The warm, dry climate was kind to these cars so many look as good as the day they left the factory and this one is no exception. There’s a great display of vee-dubbery nearby with a cracking custom 1970 bug, and a range of splittie campers and classic beetles of all ages, but I find myself unaccountably drawn to a Westfalia Synchro. This was a strange experiment by VW to stick a 4wd powertrain in a transporter van, but this one has had the full camper treatment added on top of that. It’s strange to see a high-lift mobile home with monster tyres delicately balancing on three wheels.
It’s good to see the Italians out in force today, with a exception display of Lancias and Alfas. We have a beautiful Lancia Flaminia with an everyday patina that somehow looks far more appropriate that if it had received a thorough a spit and polish, and a range of immaculate Betas including a Spyder and a Monte Carlo. Hunter gleefully points out a drip tray underneath a Lancia Fulvia HF, but he’s a philistine so I ignore him. Alfa are represented by, among others, a sweet little Junior and possibly the nicest Montreal I’ve ever seen. Further along there’s an amazing Fiat Abarth 1000 looking absolutely tiny among the crowd, and an original Fiat Multipla minivan to add a bit of contrast.
As you might expect, there’s no shortage of Ferraris to choose from – the F40 is lined up next to it’s successor, a Testarossa lurks off to one side and my personal favourite – an extremely rare 288 GTO – looks absolutely gorgeous and surprisingly delicate next to the more modern machinery. Hunter tries to take advantage of my Italiana-induced haze at this point by asking me to lend him £48,000 for a Honda NSX he’s spotted with only 2500 miles on the clock. It sold the next day so I can only assume he got the money from someone else.
We pass a range of strange and unusual exhibits including a collection of Bitter sports cars, a stand of microcars including the tiny Peel P50 made famous by Top gear, and a display of weird and wonderful Tatras showing the lineage of the Volkswagen Beetle quite clearly.There are also a great range of Saabs to drool over including a rally prepped bright orange V4 with the most Swedish (i.e. perfectly laid out and compartmentalised) engine bay I’ve seen.
The next hall is dominated by classic Fords, with a storming display of Escorts (including a Lotus engined MK1), a Sierra Cosworth R500 and a brace of Granadas and Cortinas. I spot a convertible MK2 Lotus Cortina, which I didn’t even know existed until that point. Other gems from the racing world include a Metro 6R4 (which has Hunter running around in circles) alongside its normal counterpart, and a selection of classic touring cars bearing the blue oval.
It’s impossible to ignore the noise coming from the far end of the hall, so we wander over to see what’s happening. The Sporting Bears Motor Club are holding a fundraising initiative where they offer ten miles rides around the grounds in a car of your choice from as little as a tenner. All proceeds are donated to childrens charities, and the club hope to hit their million pound target by 2015. There’s an amazing range of metal to choose from, ranging from modern motors including a Nissan GT-R and KTM X-Bow, to classics such as the Alfa GTV, Dino and even a humble MGB. The sound of Scuderias blipping their throttles on the way out of the hall is something to behold…
We’re flagging at this point, but the sight of the Classic American area proves too much to resist, and after a brief stop for munchies we get stuck in again. It’s impossible to miss a monstrous Mustang GT350 drop top in Grabber Orange, which nearly overshadows the C2 and C3 Corvettes lurking just behind. There are the usual 1950s Caddies, which take a surprisingly long time to walk around, and a great Chevy step side pickup serving a dual purpose as exhibit and mobile DJ booth. Over to the side we have a pair of evil black beasties in the form of a 1972 Dodge Challenger and a 1968 Dodge Charger, lining up ahead of the ‘Color Me Dodge’ wheelie truck in full-on pose mode. It’s surprising that, next to this display of classic horsepower and audacious styling, the A Team van, Ghostbusters Ecto 1 and the General Lee sat in the middle seem plain by comparison. Of course, charging a tenner just to have your picture taken in one doesn’t help.
Even though we’re now shattered, we drag ourselves through to the next hall to check out the Top Gear MPH show. This is a far more chaotic affair, with computer game stands and ICE demos thumping out across the modern supercars and customs on display. A good selection of the vehicles from Top Gear are on show, including James’ Triumph sailing boat, Officer Barbie’s jeep, Jeremy’s moped and the USA themed monkey bike from the Vietnam episode, the Lotus mobile home, and the Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust. There’s also a nice little Evo Magazine stand featuring Harry Metcalfe’s recently acquired Lamborghini Countach and a very smiley Vicki Butler-Henderson signing copies of her new book. For some reason there’s the usual selection of odd stalls around the edge selling everything from office chairs to radio controlled helicopters – I’ve never understood how these fit in so don’t pay too much attention. We’re aware that the Classic Bike Show is happening in two more halls off to the side, but we’ve had it for the day and so decide to leave this to others more qualified than us.
What was particularly heartwarming about this year’s show was that every piece of floor not occupied by cars was crammed with spectators for the whole weekend – this demonstrates above all that the British love of the car is still alive and kicking, and the number of younger people mesmerised by vehicles four times older than themselves has to be a good sign for the future. Overall the Classic Motorshow 2010 was a blast, and a perfect day out for any petrolhead – put next year’s show in your calendar!
Thanks to Andrea and the team at Poppyseed Media