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After a throwaway comment about Luton Hoo being a good spot to host a classic car show, nobody would have guessed how successful it could be.
Classics in the Walled Garden kicked off the midsummer season of mid-week evening events that have now become a firm fixture on the calendar. The five-acre octagonal Walled Garden at Luton Hoo was designed by Capability Brown in the 1770s for Lord Bute. It went into decline after WW2 and eventually became somewhat dilapidated, though plans are underway to restore the garden and listed buildings to their former glory.
Peter Madden is hugely experienced at organising evening events, having been at the helm of the incredibly successful 'Classics on the Common' at Harpenden for longer than he cares to remember! A chance visit by Peter to the Luton Hoo estate in 2008 saw him walking through their expansive grounds. 'When I came across the Walled Garden, I casually mentioned to the management that it would make an ideal place to hold a classic car show,' remembers Peter. 'Around two weeks later I received a telephone call from Luton Hoo, asking if I could organise a show for them!' The first one took place in 2009 and now it looks set to become a regular event. It’s the most relaxing and chilled out show imaginable. Simply park-up, picnic, look at some fabulous vehicles ranging from veteran and vintage, though to classic and supercars. There are no stalls, traders, or autojumble, only a bar, food vendor, and a Dixieland Jazz band. What better way for avid car enthusiasts to enjoy a quintessential balmy English summer’s evening!
Also on display were a number of cars from the nearby Vauxhall Heritage Collection at Luton and Nigel Gray arrived in his 1905 Vauxhall 7/9hp, the first model to be produced at the Luton factory and the 36th car off the production line. Nigel came across his car as little more than a pile of bits at an auction and has spent the last five years restoring it to full running condition. There’s another 7/9hp model in the Vauxhall Heritage Collection and another is known to reside in Holland. Other ‘golden oldies’ included a 1914 Morgan Three-wheeler, believed to be the 5th oldest to have survived and powered by a two-cylinder aircooled JAP engine. This matching numbers Morgan has been restored to perfection and is now very much enjoyed by its owner who says a cruising speed of 35mph is possible!
There were plenty of exotic Italian sports cars on display, from the stables of Lamborghini, Iso and Ferrari. A 365GTB/4 Daytona convertible was one of a batch of cars converted by Autocraft in the early 1980s and originally owned by racing driver Bond. A 365GT 2+2 was originally owned by Gerald Thomas, producer of the popular Carry On... films and made a brief appearance in one of them. Interesting vintage cars included a 1937 Talbot AZ 100 built originally as a limousine, later converted to a hearse and in 2006 rescued as a pile of parts, sans bodywork and following an extensive rebuild, has emerged in the style of the 1934 Alpine Trial Team cars. A 1953 Frazer-Nash Targa Florio in mint condition also attracted many admiring glances. Handbuilt and incredibly expensive, it was the price of a MkVI Bentley when new!