It’s been a bit of mad day for shows – we know there have been major events for Mini, Ford and Triumph at various venues around the country. But in a classic piece of Dep-O calendar management, I found myself at the Cotswold Wildlife Park for the 2013 Historic Specials Day organised by the Fairthorpe Sports Car Club. And it was brilliant.
I have to admit, I’ve always had a soft spot for these odd bods, spawned in the postwar austerity era, where petrolheads longed for something sporty or exotic, but had to make do with pre-war designed (and in a lot of cases, built), sidevalve equipped old wheezers. Their salvation came in a growing band of small scale manufacturers who used the new wonder material – GRP – to make exotic looking bodies which would fit over the chassis of pre-war Fords and Austins. Slightly bonkers. But wonderfully so.
History records that a lot of these cars were of variable quality, and when in the hands of amateur builders with more enthusiasm than skill, the finished products could range from just passable to downright dangerous. But judging by the quality of the cars on display, it would appear that history doesn’t mean a great deal to the owners at the Cotswold Wildlife Park today.
Amblin, Ashley, Buckler, Fairthorpe, Falcon, Rochdale, Tornado – all were represented, along with others who may not fit so firmly under the Historic Specials banner, but were welcome all the same (including an impressive display of early Lotus).
Seeing so many of these fascinating vehicles in one place has got me wondering, isn’t it about time they were welcomed in from the fringes and into the heart of the old car movement? Aren’t their stories just as fascinating as the often regaled tales of the mainstream offerings of Ford, GM and BMC, and the more specialist but still highly regarded offerings of companies like Lotus and TVR…?