According to early figures, and Spinal Tap logic, the 2013 NEC Classic Motor Show was 5000 better than last year’s event – taking visitor numbers up to a sizeable 65,000 ambling bodies.
As we hot-footed it around the halls filming – the vids will be up soon – it soon became clear, that this show was no longer ‘do-able’ in two days. Not since a few years back, when we faced up to the realisation that it had grown beyond a day of roving, have we felt that we were incapable of seeing everything.
This year, the Classic Motor Show didn’t coincide with the rather underwhelming Top Gear show, and rather than being quieter – it was noticeably busier. On a personal note, I did get stuck in a human traffic jam on more than one occasion – and the last time this happened to me was at the Motor Show when Jaguar unveiled the V12 4×4 XJ220 show car. One suggestion which did bubble up, was that perhaps given the visitor number and the number of clubs, organisers might have to start being more selective with those who exhibit.
The quality and professionalism of the stands was certainly on the rise, which made it all the more frustrating for those who could not afford their own lighting rigs – because the NEC lighting is only suitable for those wishing to conjure up the atmosphere of a dingy Seventies sodium-light street.
Sufferers of The Illness were well served, thanks to a large gathering of BMC/BL/ARG clubs marking 100 years of Morris. The centre of this display was a the first Morris car assembled, but unfortunately due to it being on a rotating stand – and the aforementioned NEC gloom – it was more or less impossible to get a sharp, nicely lit photo.
As an old-car junkie, it is always the unusual classics and oddities which really hit you. Machines like a pre-production Wolseley 2200 which didn’t wear a grille, a pre-production 18-22 series Morris 1800, a mint Morris Marina TC Jubilee and a Speke-built Triumph TR7 automatic. The last striking us as to when it was that we last saw a mint TR7 FHC without a Webasto-shaped hole hacked into it.
Nearby was a freshly imported Austin 3-litre Ute which had been converted into a panel van, and given a midly modified appearance with chrome alloys and deep metallic green paint. If you’ve got a copy of Jeff Daniels’ British Leyland: The Truth About The Cars, then it is remarkably close to an 1800 van which Austin contemplated developing.
Talking of books, I had a chat with Paul Jefford who’s written a book on one of my favourite cars, entitled There’s Something About a Maxi. It’s very much an endearing, nostalgic recollection of the car, which also touches on its development and production history. It’s certainly doing unhealthy things for my urge for one of BL’s pioneering hatchbacks.
Away from BL and closer to home, there was a beautiful Touring-bodied Bristol 401 on the Bristol Owners’ Club – which got a lot of attention from Touring staff (they were taking notes for a restoration) – and a beautifully restored 400 on the neighbouring Bristol Owners’ and Drivers’ Association. One day, perhaps…
Well-known faces as varied as David Soul, Sir Stirling Moss, Mike Brewer and designer Harris Mann – who we sadly missed – were also to be found in the halls.
Other random four-wheeld attractions? An ex-Bellevue MG C-type Midget hillclimber on the MGCC stand, a prototype of the rare and never-to-see production Maserati Quattroporte II, a Zakspeed Capri replica near a Perana and a trio of RS3100s, a fantastically prepared Savage MkII Cortina shell, almost-there 1971 Nissan 2000GT Skyline, the Allard Palm Beach MkII prototype from the 1956 Earls Court Motor Show, a gaggle of Austin Champs, a trio of Le Mans Spitfires, an Abbott-bodied Jowett Jupiter coupé, a clutch of minty Maxis, a gorgeous 1949 Fiat 1100S Mille Miglia Berlinetta and an early square-lamp MkI VW Scirocco which were not offically imported into the UK.