NEC Classic Car Show – November 2012

Purely by chance, earlier in the year I met the organiser of the annual NEC Classic Car show. He told me that he had some ambitious plans to take what was already a sizeable and successful event and try to move it up another gear or two, to rival the great European Classic shows such as Retromobile in Paris and TechnoClassica in Essen. Core to his ideas was the need to get more Car Clubs to participate, and to be able to offer them more space. That meant dissolving the link with Top Gear Live, which had run concurrently with the NEC Show for some years, and getting a different combination of the 20 exhibition halls on offer at the NEC. He did also warn that he would have to raise the ticket price, but assured me that it would be “worth it”. Having spent a complete weekend at the NEC, I was able to assess how successful he was in delivering against his objectives, and present this report of what I saw and was able to capture on camera. With over 1500 cars on show, I missed some things for sure, despite my best efforts, but even so, what follows is an incredible collection of old and interesting vehicles, may of which were once commonly sighted on our roads and now have all but disappeared. There were plenty of rare versions of individual vehicles, and ample evidence that despite what any politician may try to tell us, the love of the car, but new and old, remains as strong as ever.


Three of the ill-fated ME3000s starred on the AC stand.


With this being its 50th anniversary, it was no surprise to find plenty of Cobras on show, including a fabulous recreation Shelby Daytona Coupe



The Alfa Owners Club had a large stand, but had decided to limit the number of cars on show, so there was plenty of space around each. They took the 50th anniversary of the Giulia as the theme, so most of the cars on the stand had a link to that model with everything from a Berlina to a couple of the Duetto spiders, the lovely 1750GTV, a rare van version and the enlarged 1750 Berlina which was probably my favourite of the whole display.


There were a couple of lovely models in the Silverstone Auctions display.



Several examples of these British sports cars, which had large V8 engines to make them a sort of precursor to the TVR.



A rather nice TD21, on offer by Silverstone Auctions



The car elected as best overall in show (and what a formidable job that must have been to scrutinise over 1500 vehicles!) was this, the one-off Atom, a prototype built after the Second World War, which never entered production.


As a design, the Aston I liked rather more was this lovely 1930s 1.5 litre saloon.


Other Astons on the stand included the racing DBR9 and a lovely V8 Zagato Volante


There were a few other Astons elsewhere in the show including this lovely DB5


The Audi Owners Club had three cars on show, two of which were sufficiently blinged up (and one was an S5 Sportback like mine!) as well as being very recent cars that I wondered why they could not have found vehicles more in keeping with the theme of the event. This 80 Cabriolet was more like it.


One of the most spectacular vehicles of the whole show was this, the Auto Union D Type, and it was to be found on Classic & Sports Car’s stand at the entrance to Hall 9. Driving this V12 monster at 180 mph must have required more than a few brave pills!


Also interesting was this, the Ugly Duckling which was recently recreated from 1930s drawings. Bizarre to say the least.



Odd to think that the Montego, my first car, is now a “classic”, but judging by the reaction to those on show, it certainly is, in its own little way. Most splendid of those on show was this low mileage late model 2.0 GSi which, apart from a bit of evidence that the driver’s seat had been used, looked immaculate. There were other models on show including the earlier Vanden Plas version.

These days there are Maestro in evidence than Montego, though they are also not a common sight.


There were plenty of Allegro on show, of course, as this car achieved an infamy some years ago.


Also a strong showing from the Maxi Owners.


On the Metro Owners Club stand, I came across my friend Rev Colin Corke, who told me that he is currently on sabbatical, doing some research for a book on what really happened at BL in the 1960s and 1970s. Quite a lot has emerged which will go against received wisdom about who were the “good guys” and who were the real culprits. Meanwhile, I was able to enjoy the cars on show which included one of the 500 or so pre-production models.


Over on the Princess stand, there were 4 cars, including a recently discovered example of the Princess 100-Six, a special car made for BL dealers who exceeded their sales targets. It is very distinctive in its two tone paint, absence of vinyl trim on the C pillars and plusher trim.



Not to be left out, the “LandCrab” stand featured an array of the ADO17 cars, including an Australian model “Ute”.


There were several of the ADO16 1100/1300 models, too.


The “Counties” stand featured 4 open topped cars, with examples of the A40 Sports, the A40 Somerset Convertible, as well as the earlier A40 Devon and larger A70 Hereford


Pre-war Austins were also much in evidence, with a large display of Seven based cars, ranging from the regular models through several vans and sports models.


Larger pre-war Austins were also on show


This A110 Westminster was a reminder for even the larger cars used to be used for rallying in the 1960s.


Among the display of Big Healeys was one with a fastback roof.



Surprisingly few Bentley on show, but there was this rather nice R Type.


Two cars in the Bitter display: the CD coupe and its replacement the SC.



Considering the huge interest in BMW, it always surprises me how few of their cars ever appear at classic shows. This was no exception, though there were some nice machines on show. None were nicer than the duo of 3.0 CSLs.


I also liked the 635CSi.

Representing the very varied past of the marque were the pre-war 328 sports car and the 1950s Isetta bubble car.


There was a 600 and a 700 on the Bubble Car stand.


This E36 model M3 was a Meguiars concours winner.


A couple of the Isabella model, coupe and convertible



An array of Bristol cars ranged from the early 401 models through a 402 and a 405 convertible to the more familiar 409-11 machines.




A fascinating display of these small cars from the 1950s included a number of Heinkels, a Berkley, Goggomobil and a Zundapp, among others.



A splendid display of Bugatti models through the ages ranged from a Type 13 Brescia though a Type 39, a Type 53 and a Type 57 to the wacky EB110SS. I did spot Ian Patton, General Manager of Prescott, on the stand at one point.



The early Camaro is one of my favourite American cars, and this SS model was very nice indeed.


1960 Impala.

The Corvette Owners Club had a display covering all the 6 generations of America’s sports car



Some splendid old Chryslers included the 300D and the slightly earlier 1957 Imperial (which was actually sold as a brand all in its own right).



Lots of variety in the Citroen displays. The cars that really took my eye were the Ami models, which sat next to an early Dyane.


Of course there were plenty of 2CVs, as well, with the Van featuring as well as the regular model.


Another favourite was this GSA, now a very rare car.


Even the later BX has all but disappeared, so in honour of its 30th birthday, several of these Bertone designed cars were on show.


The Xantia is 20, and so is also headed towards Classic-dom.

There were Traction Avant as well, as you would expect.

Completing the displays were examples of the H Van, the DS and a lovely C4 Rosalie.



A nice display of the once popular vans, with one looking like a lot of hard work in store for its owner. As a very rare survivor of the early van, it is clearly of historic significance.



Lots of V8-250, the close relative of the Mark 2 Jaguar.



Pantera, Guara and Deauville were the De Tomaso on show.  The Guara is one of just 12 Barchetta versions that were made alongside the 50 “regular” models



Once again the Irish DKW Owners Club had come over, with three vehicles, an Auto Union 1000,  a Kombi and a DKW SchnellLaster van.





Slightly surprisingly, access to the Ferrari Owners Club stand was readily granted, and it never appeared as busy as you might expect. Star for many people was this absolutely gorgeous 196 Berlinetta Touring.


There were plenty of other fabulous machines, ranging from a 250GT Lusso through the 330GTS to the 246GT Dino and  more recent Testarossa and F355 .


This 250 GT SWB was one of the concours winning cars in the Meguiars display.


Silverstone Auctions had a number of Ferrari for sale, with an Enzo as the centrepiece of their large display area.



Not a familiar name? This was a 1950s prototype that used 4 wheel drive ten years before the same Harry Ferguson worked with Jensen to produce the FF model. The car lives in the Coventry Motoring Museum these days.



Lots of variety in the Fiat Owners Club display, ranging from the 1938 500 Topolino Siata Smith Cabrio, through an 850 Spider, a classic Nuova 500D, a rare 132, a Uno, several X1/9s and a collection of Pandas.


Silverstone Auctions had a couple of 500Ls up for sale, one of which is the car which David Cameron bought for his wife some years ago. It sold for £18,840, double the estimate.



The majority of one of the Halls was given over to Ford, and with a vast number of model Clubs represented, this is no surprise., Even so, there were some absences, with no representation of the Puma, the Mark 1 and 2 Zephyr and surprisingly few Escorts. There were lots and lots of this ever popular marque though.

Oldest cars were the pre-war machines, and there were several of these, with both the Model A and later V8 cars, the smaller Model C and Prefect as well as some Commercial Vehicles on show..


Some of the immediate post wars on show included the V8 Pilot along with the E93 Popular.


The Anglia owners had plenty of these now very basic looking machines on show. The idea of one of these as your company car or van really does not bear thinking about


Not that the early Cortinas were much more luxurious, at least in basic trim, though Ford quickly figured out that people would pay for plusher trim, and bigger engines as these cars evidence.


Mark 2 and Mark 3 Cortinas were shown on separate stands.


There was also a trio of the Crayford converted Cortina Convertibles to see.


Crayford also turned their attention to the Corsair and a number of these were on show.


Until Ford started to make their own estate models, it was Abbott of Farnham who obliged and there were Corsair and Zephyr models that they produced on show elsewhere. The firm had previously produced other body styles as well.


The Classic was not a sales success, either in saloon form or the Capri Coupe. The show example of the latter was one of a small number trimmed by Hooper, with luxury fittings and a price tag nearly double the initial starting price.


A big presence of Capri with all three generations well represented.


The Mark 3 Zephyrs were also much in evidence.


No sign of the Mark IVs, but the replacement, the Consul/Granada starred on yet another stand.


There was no official presence of the Mark 1 and Mark 2 Zephyrs, but I did come across this Mark 2 parked up in one corner of one of the halls.


These early Escorts were attracting a lot of attention.


More recent cars included a number of XR3 Escorts and XR2 Fiesta


There was one Escort Cosworth, hemmed in where it was difficult to photograph, and a Focus ST170.


Among the American Fords on show were a 1964 Falcon Futura and a 1973 LTD as well as a few Mustang


This RS200 was up for sale as was this GT.


There were a number of GT40 recreations.


A duo of these Welsh sports tourers, with the early GT and the later Invader on show.



A wide range of Ginetta from the MGB based G11 through the G16 racer to the more familiar G4.



A single Gordon Keeble was joined by the brave 1969 effort to modernise the vehicle, as exhibited at the 1969 New York Show.



Lone example of a late 1940s Healey.


A collection of Minx models from the 1930s gave a rarely seen glimpse of Hillman’s offering in the 1930s.


This was the 40th anniversary year for the GLS version of the Hunter, a Holbay tuned top of the range car which competed against the Dolomite and the Cortina 2000.


Most striking were the 2 Avenger Tigers, both finished in Sundance Yellow. There was also an Estate car on show.


Expect to see far more of the Imp in 2013 as it celebrates its 50th, but for now there were a few cars including an early model.



It’s not uncommon to find a display of the diminutive S800 based sports cars at a show like this and there were some nice examples on display, along with the N600 saloon.


A stand backing onto this had some far less often seen old Hondas, a trio of early Civic models, a first generation Prelude and a 360 CarryAll.



There were a lot of Jaguars in the centre of one of the halls, but as it was busy whenever I passed through, I suspect that I failed to do justice to everything that was on display. Nonetheless there were plenty of cars I did see and photograph. Centre of attention for many, of course, was the XJ220.

There were a number of the popular Mark 2 saloons.


I don’t recall seeing many E Types


Among the XJS cars was a rather neatly created hatchback. So neat that one wonders why Jaguar never thought of it themselves.


The XK models remain popular.


A nice Series 3 XJ6

Not an original, but a beautifully crafted replica, this is the XJ13.

Also very nice is this early SS model.



An array of cars from the CV8 including a rare convertible, through Jensen Healey and Interceptor to the ill-fated SV8.



This splendid 1935 model won Classic Car magazine’s award for Classic of the year. A deserved winner.




Nestled in a corner next to Ferrari were the Lamborghinis. Great events are planned for 2013, as this is the marque’s 50th anniversary, and there was plenty to wet the appetite here, with an example of the tractors that the founder was making before he turned his attention to cars, all the way to the latest Aventador. The display included Countach, Murcielago, Uracco, Espada, Gallardo and Jarama, so covering most of the different body styles offered by the marque in those 50 years.


This 400GT was up for sale.


The BetaBoyz had a space allocated which backed onto a wall, allowing them to park their cars in a line. There were examples of each of the body styles of the Beta, from Berlina to Coupe, HPE and Spider.


The main Lancia Owners Club area was opposite the BetaBoyz and contained a wide variety of machines ranging from a 1913 Theta though an Augusta Tourer to the Appia Fuorgonicino that has appeared at quite a few events in the past couple of years, a Fulvia HF Coupe, the much loved Delta Integrale and even a Thesis.



A very nice Gamma Coupe was on one of the dealer stands.



A nice display of classic Landies.


This prototype “Velar” Range Rover bore a £72,500 price tag.

There were several other Range Rovers.



The Lynx. What can one say? Intended to be star of the 1960 Earls Court Motor Show, this rather oddly styled car, displayed in its original colour was a complete flop, getting panned by the critics. No orders at all were received. Just three were built, of which at least 2 survive.


There were some earlier, and rather more visually attractive, models on show as well.




Plenty of the original Elan, including some Plus 2 models.


The original Excel was on show, celebrating its 30th anniversary, and it was joined by some more models.


There were also a number of Esprit models.


Two separate displays of Marcos, with a number of cars in each. The Owners Club showing included an example of the ill-fated TSO model that promised so much just when the firm went out of business.


It was joined by examples of the traditional body shape showing some of the evolutions from the 1500/1800 cars of 1964 through to the later Mantula and Mantara cars.


Wackier by far were the LM600 cars



Some really lovely cars on this stand, of which the Bora was probably my favourite.


Not that the Khamsin, the Ghibli, the Indy, the Merak, the Mexico and the modern GranTurismo were at all bad.


One of the cars that Silverstone auctions were selling was this, the rare Karif. Reserve price was in 4 figures, which could mean a bargain. On the other hand, Maserati of this vintage can just be a financial drain.



Lots of very lovely cars on the Mercedes stand, with the centrepiece being the 300SL and the latest SLS Spider.


Other cars included a 220S Cabrio, a 230SL a 300 SE Convertible and a pre-war 170V.


Elsewhere there was a dealer with a vast number of the R107 based SL models, and a couple of the far rarer SLC cars.



There were a number of these very colourful 1950s machines, based on Austin components that were primarily aimed at the American market.



An interesting display of military vehicles must have taken some setting up. When I was there some of the other show go-ers were startled to see movement on top of the HumVee, the camouflage having clearly done its job!






I had to do a double take to determine what this model is. It is based on the MGB.

At the entrance to Hall 9 was this Magnette, property of Alastair Clements, editor of Classic & Sports Car, and very nice it is too.

The latest MG6 was joined by Jason Plato’s BTCC version.



The original Mini has become quite a cult, with a surge in interest in the very early cars. This pale blue 1959 model, still with its original bodyshell belongs to Quentin Wilson. It is stunning.


This pickup is one of few survivors.

There was a whole stand of Mini Mokes.

There were also some examples up for sale.



A varied collection of Morgans ranged from the classic Plus 4 through the recent Aero model to the latest Three Wheeler. There was also a special bodied racer for added interest.




The Minor remains a very popular classic car, and there were separate displays from the Minor Owners Club and also a collection of Vans.


The J Type van was a mainstay of small businesses in the early 1950s, and although the vehicles look unbearably basic and are also embarrassingly slow, they have quite a following. Several nicely presented examples were on show.


There were plenty of larger Morris Commercials, too.


The Marina Owners Club included one of the rare Mumford Convertibles.


This Six is an example of the late 1940s top of the range Morris, joining a pre-war model and a Series IV Oxford.



Sporting cars were represented by a 240Z and the much rarer (in the UK at least) Fairlady 1500 Sports. This car, a close competitor to the MGB was never officially sold in the UK and it is believed that there are only a couple of them on these shores. A second example of the model was on the Attwell Wilson Motor Museum stand.


The Cedric and Gloria Register had a display of three cars, for once not including the ex Zimbabwean 2000 model. This time the cars were more recent with the 300C from the 1980s and a President.



One of the famous 1903 “Curved Dash” models


Most striking Opels were the quartet of the GT cars, a small coupe sold in the late 1960s.


The Manta Owners had a number of second generation cars on show.



A good mix of the Lima and Kallista as well as the earlier J72 cars.



The main theme on the Peugeot Owners Club stand was the evolution through the generations of the 20x model, with 202, 203, 204, 205 and the latest 208 on show. Variety came from the fact that the 204 was an Estate and the 205 was the wacky Turbo 16 model.


Elsewhere there was a Rally Raid 405, along with the regular 405 saloon in T16 form (never sold in the UK) and several 205 GTi and CTi.


This Bebe Peugeot was on display among the Vintage Cars.


Two of these diminutive sports cars on show, both of which are cars that make regular appearances at the Silverstone Classic.


The Satellite was Plymouth’s mid-sized vehicle offering in the 1960s.


An interesting display of former Police cars comprised a number of different Fords, including the Lotus Cortina Mark 2 which apparently saw brief service in a couple of Forces, along with the Range Rover.



Parisienne Convertible.



Not that well regarded when new, the 911 Speedster is now a valuable classic. There were three at this event, one on the Porsche Owners club stand, and a couple of cars offered for sale.


There were plenty of other 911s of all generations.


The front engined cars were much in evidence, too, with 924, 944 and 928 on show.


There was also a rather nice 356.


The most recent SS1/SST model was a colourful sight on one corner of the Reliant stand.

There were plenty of the earlier Scimitar GT Coupe and GTE hatches on show.


The display was completed with a number of three wheelers, with the Regal and later Robin range both represented.



Some of the the most interesting cars on this stand were the prosaic models, and none more so than this beautifully presented R11. Few of these cars have survived and it is mostly the Turbo models that you see, so this is a real time warp car.


The same could be said for this R5 “supercinq” which joined a first generation model.

And the same again for this lovely R12 saloon. There was a second one of these in the Meguiars display area.


Other Renaults included a couple of 4CVs, an R4 Van and an R8.


Oldest Renault was this 1914 EK model

The Alpine-Renault was not ignored, with a separate stand for this model, and it featured examples of the A110, A310 and the GTA/A610.



The Kestrel was Riley’s version of the ADO16 model.




A display of SD1 cars included an example of the US spec model. The larger bumpers and round headlights did this elegant car no favours.


The P6 cars included a US spec model, as well, and also a Talago, one of the prototype cars.


There were P5s, too.


Among the P4s was this one-off estate model as well as the Marauder sports convertible.


More recent was this 216, a popular model in the 1980s.


Later still were the 400 Cabrio, an array of 200 BRMs and a whole series of 800s.



This stand included an example of the first and last, a 92 and the very last 9.5, with the 99 Turbo and 900 sandwiched in between.


There were plenty of early Singers, all of them rare cars now.

This SM sports car dates from the late 1940s and was a direct competitor to the much more successful MG


The Hunter was the last all Singer design before acquisition and integration into the Rootes Group.


The Gazelle was Singer’s designation for the Hillmans of the 1950s and 1960s. This Gazelle Convertible was based on the “Audax” Minx and the later Vogue estate car shown here was based on the Super Minx.


Stars of the Skoda stand were an Octavia rally car and an S130R racer. They were joined by a number of road cars from the 1980s, including the Rapid Coupe.



The display here included the Pennant, a Vanguard “Ute” and a rather splendid 1930s model.




This car was badged Arrow, which I had also known to be the codename for the Rootes Group upper medium offering of the 1960s and 1970s, but it turned out that whereas the UK market had Sunbeam models with this body shape, called Vogue, in some export markets even the basic cars were called Sunbeam and they took the model name Arrow. Here is a rare survivor.


The much loved Alpine and Tiger sports cars were much in evidence with separate stands for each model.


There was also a stand for the earlier 1950s car, with a diaroma to recall the glory days of success on the Monte Carlo rally.


There was a Stiletto, example of the upmarket Coupe version of the Imp.



There were four of these TR2 based Doretti sports cars.



Born a Chrysler, the Sunbeam took on Talbot badges when the marque was rebranded in 1979 following the Peugeot acquisition. In among the Sunbeam Lotus was the limited edition Trio hatchback.


Other Talbots on show included the Solara, Samba and Horizon, none of which are cars that appeal to anyone much these days, though in their day they had their merit and would have had more had they not been inflicted with the rattly old Simca engines.


No sign of a Rancho, but there were Murena and Bagheera sports cars on show.



Lots of Triumphs on the different Club stands, as you might expect for such a popular classic marque. The TR Register had a sizeable stand, and this was where I spotted Dave Gibson, who kindly offered me cups of coffee whenever passing. The cars alone would have made the stand worth visiting, of course, with examples of each generation of TR on show.


The Spitfire is 50 this year and I was surprised that there was not more being made of this, as this little sports car remains very popular. These were the examples of show.


Among the Herald based cars were two variants that were never built: a Vitesse estate and  a Coupe.


The 1300 tends to get forgotten, but there was one of these luxury small saloons on display.


No danger of forgetting the larger 2000/2500 cars, with several of these on show.

An interesting array of pre-war Triumphs included everything from the fabric bodied Super Seven of the 1920s to a number of Gloria models and the Dolomite Roadster.


There were a number of Triumphs on other stands, with this TR6 and a rallying 2000 a couple of such instances.




The TVR Owners Club had a huge stand, with two distinct halves to it. One side contained a series of TVRs ready for the race track.



The other side had road cars ranging from a Grantura through the M Series to the Tuscan 2 Convertible and Tamora.




There were lots of individual model specific Vauxhall Clubs in attendance, and these were complemented by a few cars from Vauxhall’s own Heritage Collection. These ranged from the very first 1930 model, through the sporting 30/98 to a series of sporting Astra, with an example of the latest VXR among them. Perhaps most unusual, though was this concept XVR car from 1966.


Time was when the Cavalier was a ubiquitous sighting on our roads, and that the SRi models were the object of desire of many a company car driver. That’s a long time ago now, with the newest models being at least 17 years old, and the car is quite a rare sight. There were examples of all three generations of the car on show, with the oldest Cavalier, a yellow 1.6 GL model and doyen of classic car events, among them, along with the rather unpleasantly body-kitted Calibre, a crass attempt to inject desire into the second generation car at the end of its life, an SRi and a third generation model.


This facelifted Senator was an example of the mid 1980s luxury Vauxhall


Earlier examples of the genre came in the guise of the FD and FE based Victor ranges, with the sporting VX4/90 and luxury Ventora models featuring in the displays.


Earlier still were the Cresta models, with the PA, PB and PC cars all on show as well as the earlier mid 1950s model.


Early Astras are rare now, and there were several of these on display, including the Celebrity limited edition two tone first generation car.


Precursor to Astra were the Chevette and the Viva, and there were several of these, too. There was also the high end Magnum model in estate guise.


“DroopSnoot” models included the Firenza, a Chevette HS and the Sports Hatch.



Lots of Type 2 based VWs, in every guise from Minibus to Van and Pickup


Among the passenger cars, there were plenty of Beetles, as you would expect.


There were also a number of Golfs including the first generation Cabrio.


A strong showing from the Scirocco Owners with some nice first generation cars ranging from a very early car to the later Storm.


This lovely Karmann Ghia was one of the concours winning cars in the Meguiars display area.



A wide variety of cars in the Volvo display, starting with a 1931 model, and ranging through the PV544 and P1800 to the Amazon based cars all the way up to the acclaimed 850R.


There was a rather nice P1800S in the Silverstone Auction area



A reminder of East German vehicles came from this mix of the Wartburg and the Barkas van.



These Serbian built machines, based on Fiat mechanicals enjoyed moderate popularity in the UK in the 1980s. Build quality was pretty poor though, so it is always a surprise to see any examples of cars that are now between 20 – 30 years old surviving, but here were both the small 55 models and the larger 128-based 511 on show.



One of the most eye-catching vehicles featured on the National Street Rod Association’s stand. Paul Bacon’s beautifully fabricated Cosmotron was inspired by Ed Roth’s Beatnik Bandit and – not that you’d ever guess – is based on a BMW Z3, though you could spot a straight-six beneath the induction gear.

In addition to the vast number of Car Club stands, there were a number of dealers with cars for sale. Huge brickbat to Silverstone Auctions, though, who had a vast display and wanted to charge people £5 to go onto their stand to have a look. Late on the second day they would not even allow access in exchange for money. Fortunately, there was a gap around the side of their area on Sunday morning and I was able to sneek on and get close up to their offerings, so they are included in the report above. There were a lot of trade stands as well, so I amassed everything from free magazines and newspapers to a nice Memory Stick, pens, balloons and a supply of mints. None, of course, can compare with the cups of coffee given to me by Dave Gibson on the TR Register stand! I did enjoy the opportunity of catching up with Dave, not having seen him for a couple of years. Further interest came from a live restoration area, with demos conducted throughout the day, a stage inhabited by Mike Brewer and Edd China, and the Sporting Bears had a large group of cars in which they were taking people out in exchange for a donation. My friend Shirley Hennessy was there with her KTM x-Bow, and whilst it might not quite have been the best temperature for such an exposed ride, she had several passengers during the day. Even the food was better than you sometimes get with a Hog Roast, some very good (and well priced) home-made Pies to keep one fed without having to succumb to the standard NEC fare of overpriced and tasteless burgers (they were still on offer if you wanted them!). As if that was not enough, there was also a motorcycle show, which occupied one complete hall right in the middle, necessitating ticket checks to pass through on either side, which was a bit of an inconvenience for show goers and security staff. There was plenty to see in that hall, too.

So, did the organiser achieve his goal? I think he did. You could not possibly absorb everything that was on display in a single day. With over 1500 cars on show, spread over 6 halls, there was just too much to do that. Even two complete days walking my legs short meant that there were some things I did not see, or only saw briefly. The event did in fact run for 3 days, and over 58,000 people came, which represents a significant increase on previous visitor numbers. It certainly did get very busy – almost unpleasantly so – around lunchtime on the Saturday, and it may only have been the lovely autumn sunshine which kept the crowds to slightly lesser numbers on the Sunday. Not only was there a lot to see, but plenty of it was rare or unusual, as well as providing a wallow in nostalgia. I lost count of the number of times I heard variants of ” I used to have one of those….. ” or “My dad had one of those…” and the slightly misty eye tale that went with it. That’s exactly what a show like this is all about. And on that basis, a ticket price of £18.00 per day (plus the rather iniquitous, but commonly applied booking fee) makes it seem like decent value. I certainly enjoyed my weekend and just hope that in 2013 it does not revert to clashing with the Los Angeles Auto Show again.

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