If attendance figures were, in isolation, the deciding factor pointing at success, the Footman James Classic Motor Show’s organisers deserve an enthusiastic pat on the back: for, this classic car weekend (12-14 November) saw the NEC Birmingham five halls decked with wall-to-wall enthusiasts – unofficial figures put attendance at some 46,000 over the three days – plus more than 200 clubs with some 1200 cars of all historical backgrounds on display.
New car sales may barely hold their own this year, with forecast growth pegged at 1.5%; however, as auction houses like RM Auctions and Bonhams can vouch, top condition classic models keep fetching impressive prices. The phenomenon has a water-ripple effect: as the few and rare draw the classic car market’s lustful attention, it is the more ‘common’ classics which end up on the shopping list of those who look for affordable pieces of history.
The Classic Motor Show reflects the market thermostat: fine examples of cars which were once ‘common’ road models, Ford Escorts and Capris, were on display on the relevant club’s stands: Twin Cam Mk1 Escorts now fetch greater prices than some super cars, as they are a rarer sight to behold: when did you last see a Mk 1 Capri on the M25, let alone a 3000E or a RS? Even with the vile vinyl top, Capris start to edge away from the buying potential of many.
Sheer crowd entertainment was provided by the Live Stage (Wheeler Dealers show), the Meguiar’s Club Showcase (best concours vehicle, this year won by a 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso which beat 16 entries to first place) and the Restoration Theatre (a live stage demonstration of how to look after your classic car), but even more impressively and ingeniously than last year the halls were filled with the widest range of classic offerings: from desirable American muscle cars to a unfortunate and sombre looking Triumph GT6 on the Hagerty Insurance stand, a reminder of how classic metal, too, can be twisted and bent by accidents.
Hagerty, the classic car insurance specialist, said that they found many classic car owners’ feedback to be quite positive. ‘We asked hundreds of people how they were feeling about 2011, and the overwhelming response was that these cars provide a unique escape from the seemingly constant stream of bad news in the papers. Both current clients and people enquiring after classic car insurance services seem focused on specific club tours and events’ said Angus Forsyth, Managing Director of Hagerty
The Classic Motor Show brought together new and old, in some glamorous cases: the unpainted Cobra, in all its bare aluminium nakedness, was a thing of beauty lurking in the Gardiner Douglas stand, side-by-side with a new rear-engined racer.
TVR, Scimitar and Gilbern marques were on display too, showing how GRP (glass reinforced plastic) continues to be a medium producing pleasing and rust-proof bodies for such small (ish) car producers. Ownership of that Scimitar SE5 is an inexpensive affair, albeit the chassis is made from iron oxide!
Drop-top Triumph TR7’s values continue to languish at the bottom of the price lists, but Triumph was well catered for at the show, with both club and part supplier stands busy throughout the weekend. Perhaps an increase in interest, value and demand is on the cards.
In fact, as a strong reminder that the UK is a nation of classic car lovers who tend to lavish care and skills on their vintage metal, there were an amazing number of associated classic car part, tool and product suppliers at the show, doing brisk business. English wheels, polish and hand tools clearly prove to be too much of a temptation for classic car owners. Interestingly, two Italian students attending the classic car restoration course at Leeds City College plan to do their studying and training in the UK before returning to Italy where ‘there is no real classic car restoration culture or know-how’ to bring back much needed and rare skills.
Perhaps the Classic Motor Show halls next year will show one or two well-appointed samples of Italian restoration craftsmanship. Well, one can dream.
Car award winners were:
Meguiar’s “Club Showcase”:
1963 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso
Classic Car Weekly, Classic Cars and Practical Classics’ “Classic Car of The Year”:
1954 Jowett Jupiter SC
Classic & Sports Car Club Awards 2010:
Club Website of the Year: BMW Car Club of Great Britain
Most Improved Club Magazine: Morris Monthly (the Morris Register)
Club Magazine of the Year: Legend, The Land Rover Series One Club
Best Club Run/Rally: Cumbria Old Skool Ford Lakes Tour
Best Club Show/Event: World Cup Rally 40th organised by Triumph 2000/2500/2.5 Register, Landcrab Owners Club International, and Austin Maxi Owners Club
Club of the Year: TR Register
Club Personality of the Year: Keith Andrews, Membership Secretary of Jenson Owners Club
Most Interesting Selection of Cars: Lancia Motor Club
Best Themed Stand: Capri Club International, Mansfield and Notts branch
Best Small Club Stand: Vauxhall FD Register
Best Medium Sized Club Stand: Veteran Car Club of Great Britain
Best Large Club Stand: Maserati Club UK
Special Award for the car that stole the judges’ heart: Ken Robbins’ 1959 Turner 950s
Car of the Show: Kees Smit’s 1937 Tatra T77A