Race Retro – February 2014

In January, motor sports enthusiasts in the UK head to the NEC for the AutoSport and Performance Car Show, where they can catch up on many of the latest products and see displays that cover everything from Formula 1 to AutoGrass cars. And then in February, there’s another show to enjoy, this time focused more on historic aspects of the racing and rallying scene. This is Race Retro, an event launched a little tentatively 10 years ago, but which has gone from strength to strength ever since, with not just three halls of the Stoneleigh Exhibition Centre complex packed with a wide variety of cars and motor sport related content, but an array of famous names from the past who are put on the spot to answer questions from their interviewer and the audience, whilst outside there is a rally special stage which is enjoyed by drivers of more than 50 historic rally cars who put their cars through their paces twice a day over the three day event. It’s a deservedly popular event, and one I have not missed since first visiting in 2007. It does tend also to be one where you need to be well wrapped up, but for 2014, a break in the rain also coincided with some southerly winds, making it far less chilly than it has been in previous years. There was plenty to see, as this report will evidence:


Abarth UK have supported this event ever since the relaunch of the brand 5 years ago, and they have always brought along a mix of brand new and historic Abarths to occupy a large and usually busy stand. 2014 was no exception. With production of the Abarth Punto Evo having (allegedly) ceased, the new cars were all 500 based, with a 595 Competizione, a 695 Edizione Maserati and one of the limited edition Fiat 595 Abarth 50th anniversary cars that were produced to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 595 model.

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Needless to say, there was an example of the original 595 present as well.

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Other Abarths included the 1000TCR, a 1000 OT and a 1971 Abarth Osella PA2

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There were no pre-war Alfa on show this year, sadly, and next to no post war models, either. My eye was caught by this superb 1961 Giulia Sprint Speciale, however.

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A much modified A30.

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Much earlier was this 1920s Austin Seven.

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Surprisingly few Austin-Healey in evidence, though there was this Lenham bodied Sprite.

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This mid 1950s S2 Continental was supremely elegant, and represented all that is good about British craftsmanship. Fabulous!

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Very special indeed was this fabulous “Batmobile” 3.0CSL racer. It looked absolutely pristine.

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The VSCC had a rather lovely 1936 Frazer-Nash BMW 319 on their stand.

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This Series V Bristol 411 was a perfect example of what makes Bristol so special. Some clever design features, such as locating the spare wheel and battery under separate panels in the front wings, combine with the gentleman’s club ambience of the leather seats, but also some limitations, such as the relative lack of space for rear seat passengers, and some awkward detailing in what was always a very hand built car.

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Historic race transporters have acquired something of a niche cult status. You only have to look at how much people have spend restoring them, and what the larger Ecurie Ecosse transporter fetched when auctioned off in December 2013 to see that. This is a much smaller support vehicle from the early 1960s.

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A special treat was to find 2 of the 18 ERA cars in attendance. These were purpose built racers in the 1930s, and every car is different.  A series of four A-Type ERAs, R1A through R4A, were built and raced by the works team in 1934 and 1935. For the first privateers, a slightly revised B-Type chassis featuring a more reliable engine became available in 1935. 13 of these were built, R1B through R14B. Chassis number 13 was not used for superstitious reasons. The most famous of these is this one, ERA R5B, known as  “Remus”. It was made in 1.5litre form in 1936 for owner Prince Chula and driver Prince Birabongse Bhanubandh, ‘B.Bira’ of Thailand and painted in their team colours of light blue with yellow wheels. As the White Mouse team had already got ERA R2B in their stable, they named R2B “Romulus” and R5B “Remus” after the Roman Twins. Prince Bira won the Albi Grand Prix in what was otherwise an unsuccessful year in terms of the high standards expected by the “White Mouse” team. “Remus” is now one of the best known of all the ERAs and it was a real treat to find it in pride of place on the VSCC stand.

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ERA R8C was on the Shelsley Walsh stand, and it was whilst admiring this that I had a conversation which allowed me to put a face to a voice, as one of the commentators whose distinctive tones can be heard not just at the Worcestershire Hill Climb, but also at Prescott and Goodwood, among others. He told me that they are hoping to have an ERA Class at the VSCC meeting at Shelsley in July, which will be yet another good reason to attend, as if the general delight of that event is not reason enough. R8C is one of the cars that I have seen at this venue in the past. Like most cars of this era, it has had a chequered past. Originally, it was R8B, and was bought new by Earl Howe in 1936. After some successes with the car, he joined the works team in 1937.  After a serious crash at Brooklands that year the car was upgraded to C specification and Earl Howe continued to enjoy success with it, now called R8C, until  right to the end of his racing career at the outbreak of WWII. It was rebuilt in 1983 to the 1938/39 specification. The car’s long standing owner died last year, and it has passed to his son, so should still be seen in action.

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One of the places to see it, and indeed an event that any ERA enthusiast should ensure that they don’t miss is the VSCC Spring meeting at Silverstone on 12/13th April, as the plans for an all ERA race are well advanced, and the VSCC person I spoke with said that they have now got 16 of the 18 cars built confirmed to be attending. Should be epic!


Fords have long proved popular in almost all forms of motorsport, and there were quite an array of different models that had been converted to a more energetic than road car life, including Mark 1 and 2 Escorts and Capris, as well as the Sierra Cosworth and Puma, and even the Mustang.

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The RS200 was purposed designed for Group B, with plans to build just enough road-going versions to meet homologation requirements. Timing was unfortunate, as just as the car was really ready, Group B was cancelled.

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This Mark 2 Zephyr Ute was, not surprisingly, originally an Australian model, reflecting the popularity in that market for this body style. This one had been modified, so the engine now puts out over 700 bhp, thanks in no small measure to the nitrous oxide which it requires. The standard of workmanship on the whole vehicle was second to none, and yes, that paint is an original colour.

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The Mark 2 Jaguar was popular a racer when it was new, and it has retained its reputation in the era of classic saloon car racing.

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There were several of the classic XK models, ranging from the XK120 to XK150. A couple of beautifully presented road cars were offered for sale, and I gathered that these had been subtly upgraded with disc brakes and power steering which would make them so much more usable on today’s busy roads.

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There was a rather nice replica D Type on show.

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Needless to say, there were of course a number of E Type models on show.

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It was interesting to see this XJR9, in stripped down state.

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The Lancia Owners Club always put on an impressive display at this event, focusing on the rallying heritage of the brand. This year was no exception with a display which included a couple of road-going Delta Integrales, an 037, a Fulvia HF Coupe and Stratos.

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The Stratos featured in other displays as well, as did the 037

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This Fulvia Zagato Coupe was to be found on a stand all by itself.

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A nice mix of historic Lotus included a Type 18 and 19

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This lovely 3 litre GT was on a stand promoting overseas classic rally tours.

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Highlight for many attendees would be the special McLaren display, which was put on to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this much loved marque. The first car that everyone would see inside the main entrance was an example of the M23B, a Formula 1 car which first appeared in 1973 and which McLaren raced for 4 seasons, ultimately taking James Hunt to his famous Championship victory in 1976.

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Inside one of the halls was a spectacular assembly of 4 more cars, showing the variety of different machines that have come from the Woking-based firm. Three of the cars were sourced from the RofGo Collection.

There was another of the M23 Formula 1 cars. Initially driven by Denny Hulme, Peter Revson and Jodie Scheckter, the car came good in 1974 when Emerson Fittipaldi secure not just the driver’s title in it in 1974, but also the constructor’s championship, a first for McLaren.

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This 1995 McLaren F1 GTR ‘Short Tail’ chassis no. 15R, was built for GTC Motorsport to contest the BPR Global GT Series and the Le Mans 24 Hour race. One of 7 that were built, the cars dominated at Le Mans, coming in 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 13th places.

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The 1972 M16B-2 Can-Am is definitely one of the all time great Indy cars. Mark Donohue took this car to victory in the 1972 Indianapolis 500.

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The 1970 M8D is notable not least because Bruce McLaren lost his life driving one in pre-season testing. Following that tragedy, though this CanAm racer, which featured a 7.6 litre engine which put out 680 bhp went on to be a very successful racer in the hands of Denny Hulme, with him securing 9 wins out of 10 in the 1970 Can Am series and hence claiming the title that year. This particular car, chassis no. M8D/4, is understood to be an M8E prototype rebuilt to M8D specifications and raced to victory by series winner Denny Hulme.

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The other special theme for the 2014 event was the 30th anniversary of the MG Metro 6R4. A duo of these cars were assembled on a stand in Hall 3, and there were plenty of others to be seen in action outside.

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On a stand advertising the Sywell Classic, an event that was new to the calendar in 2013. was this rare special bodied K3 Magnette; the ex-reg. Parnell K3, which was fitted with a McEvoy twin-cam head in 1937. The car started life as a regular two-seat K3 and was successfully raced before and after the war.

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This very smart MGA was offered for sale.

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There were a number of race cars on show.

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This converted fire tender was once again dispensing drinks and food from the middle of Hall 3.

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The Morgans on show were all race-converted models.

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Displayed separately was one of the 1930s Three-wheelers.

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A separate display outside the main halls comprised 4 brand new cars. The duo of GT-R models were the ones that attracted most attention, of course, but we also had a look at the 370Z Cabrio and the surprisingly popular Juke Nismo.

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Oldest vehicle at the show was this, Joy Rainey’s 1904 Curved Dash Oldsmobile. This is the car which she drove coast to coast across America last year. Joy was on hand, along with a supply of the book that she wrote to describe the experience.

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One of the more unusual cars of the day, this Fissore bodied Osca-Maserati 1600 GT2 Coupe is one of just 23 such cars built. It was offered for sale, and I would be fascinated to how much it would be deemed to be worth, as rarities like this are not easy to value.

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This 917 was definitely one of the more special cars of the day. What a shame that its owner – perhaps in a misguided and failed attempt at humour – had put a sign in front of it enumerating the so called answers to all the questions which bore him with a set of “yes” and “no”s. Listening to him, when he was actually engaging with the attendees, he clearly does not enjoy the 21st century, either! So whilst he might not have been enjoying the day, at least we could delight in his car!

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Alongside it was a racing 924.

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Needless to say, the 911 was also present in the show.

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The little 4CV was adapted to be a rally car in the 1950s, improbably that they may seem.

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Another slightly unlikely racer was the SD1 Rover, though this with long memories will recall that it was to be found on the grid of the Touring Car races in the 1980s.

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The Sunbeam Lotus was a very successful rally car, arriving on the scene just as the Mark 2 Escorts started to fade, and before the all-conquering dominance of the Audi Quattro.

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Toyota may be better known these days for the Prius range of cars, but in the 1980s and 1990s, the Celica was part of the rally car scene, as this example reminds us.

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A special display in the corner of one of the halls comprised three Triumphs, which included the original ‘ADU1B’ 1964 Le Mans Spitfire as well as two replicas. Jigsaw is aiming to enter the trio as a team into the 2014 Le Mans Classic, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Standard Triumph entry to Le Mans.

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Outside, the 1964/5 ex-works Triumph Spitfire once driven by Terry Hunter and Rob Slotemaker was to be found. This one bore the registration plate ‘ADU7B’, and also celebrates its 50th anniversary in European competition.

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There was also an example of the TR7 rally car.

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The TVR Car Club had a number of race-converted cars to enjoy.

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Once a popular car for entry level motor sport, the ranks of Novas have been thinned out more than somewhat, I suspect.

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This is not quite one of the original Lotus-Carltons, despite appearances, but a recreation based on a rebuild of a damaged car, designed for open road racing. It managed to achieve 160 mph for 90 miles.

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A duo of models on this stand, comprised the Westfield Eleven, a close relative of the Lotus of the same name, and one of the Lotus Seven-type cars.

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As ever, there were a vast array of motor bikes on show in Hall 3. We walked past them, en route to some other part of the show, and never found the time to come back and have a proper look, and to get some photos, so the only trio I can depict here are some particularly zany machines where the rider would have to swallow more than a brave pill to ride them. That rider was on hand, and he did not seem to think that they were that scary. Rather him than me.

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One of the highlights of this event is that there are always an array of historic rally cars to be inspected, and thanks to the creation of a special stage not far from the halls, most of them can be seen in action, with the unmistakeable voice of Tony Mason providing a running commentary. The cars are mostly owned by the members of “Slowly Sideways” these days, and although their members tend to do most of the driving, the event is also marked by the reappearance of a number of former rally drivers. That was true for the 2014 event, with Russell Brookes taking to the wheel of the Talbot Sunbeam and Opel Manta, and John Price in the Renault 5 Maxi Turbo, though when we went outside to see the cars, none of them were behind the wheel, sadly. Even so, there was plenty to enjoy, especially as there tended to be up to 10 cars out on the short stage at once.  The cars on show and in action ranged from Rauno Aaltonen’s Mini Cooper, the Rothmans Audi Quattro, the Brookes Sapphire and ex-Auriol Ford Sierra Cosworths, the ex-McRae Lotus Cortina and the ex-Alister McRae Hyundai F2 Coupe as well as some rather more obscure cars such as a VW Beetle.

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Locally based Silverstone Auctions had amassed a sizeable collection of cars, along with some vintage wines and watches which they were auctioning off over the three days of the event. As is usually the case when an auction house attends an event, your standard admission ticket is not sufficient, and you have to pay extra to see the auction content. This time, however, thanks to a professional connection between one of our group and the Auction House, we were supplied with a pile of catalogues which were the magic for getting into the separate buildings to see the cars that were up for sale. In fact, there were several separate buildings, and as it was late in the day, we could gain admittance without the catalogue to see some of the cars, but then we discovered that the auction was still underway, so in the main hall, we had to take great care not to make any form of gesture which could have been interpreted as a bid. Not that there was not plenty that was worth bidding for, as there certainly was, but they would have expected payment in return!

2001 AC CRS Cobra Mark IV

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1964 Alfa Romeo Giulia 1600 Spider FIA Race Car

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1975 Alfa Romeo Giulia Berlina

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1978 Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV

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Sold without reserve, this 1987 Audi 100CD was probably one of the cheapest cars on offer. These C3 generation Audi are rare now, but created a lot of interest when they were new with their aerodynamic body style (and a then lowest drag coefficient ever seen on a production car of 0.30) and distinctive 5 cylinder engines. It still looks good now, thirty years on.

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There is massive interest in early Minis, with the 1959 cars fetching ever more improbably sums of money. This pair of 1960 Austin Mini Se7en were both in stunning condition, having had fastidious restorations of both body and mechanicals.

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1961 Austin FG700 Transporter Truck

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1990 BMW Z1

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Only four Ferrari P4s were ever made, one P3/4 and three  330 P4s, so if you want one, then you are likely to be out of luck. However, a number of replicas have been made over the years, some of rather higher quality than others. This one was made in 1992 by Noble, and features the Renault 2.7 V6 engine and five speed gearbox, and was purchased by a Design Director of the Ford Motor Company. It was gradually updated during the 1990s with new suspension, radiator and finally a new front end design, covering very few miles during this time. It would appear then to have spent at least 10 years in Germany before returning to the UK.

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2011 Ferrari 458 Challenge Race Car

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This 1967 Fiat Dino Coupe was sporting “sold” signs on it, having featured in the first of the 2 auctions during the event, so that saved me from an impulse decision to bid for one of my favourite cars of the 1960s. This one has spent some of its life in the US, and returned only recently. Dino Spiders are now worth well north of £50,000, and whilst the Coupe will never catch up, it can only be a matter of time before prices for the closed car increase beyond the current £20k type mark.

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1964 Ford Anglia 123E FIA Race Car

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1968 Ford Mustang Coupe S Code “Big Block”

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1969 Ford Escort TwinCam

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Starting life in Norther Ireland, this immaculately presented 1979 Ford Capri 3.0S has covered just 14,000 miles. I doubt you are ever going to find a more original or lower mileage example.

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1988 Ford Sierra Cosworth Group N Rally Car

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1995 Ford Escort RS Cosworth Group N Rally Car

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This 2000 Ford Mondeo SuperTourer is one of 4 that were built by Prodrive to contest the 2000 British Touring Car Championship. In the hands of Alain Menu, Anthony Reid and Rickard Rydell, the Mondeo absolutely dominated the championship that year, winning most of the races. One car was written off, one is in Prodrive’s museum, one is active in historic racing now, leaving this one, which was originally Rydell’s car. It sold for £91,000.

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This 1994 Harrier LR9C Group C is probably the most famous of all the cars built by this race car manufacturer. it took part in the 1994 le Mans in the open top LMP class, though sadly retired half way through with suspension failure. it was then converted to closed Coupe configuration and GT2 spec and entered in the BRDC British GT Championship for the next three seasons. Since then it has starred in a film, competed in the historic Group C Championship and various other races.

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1960 Jaguar Mark 2 3.8

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1966 Jaguar E Type 4.2 Series 1

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1970 Lotus Elan Plus 2S

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1972 Lotus Elan Sprint DHC

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1969 Marcos 3 litre

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This 1993 Maserati Shamal is an example of my favourite of the Biturbo family of cars. 369 Shamal were built between 1993 and 1996, and this one started out life in France.

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This fabulous 1967 Mercedes 250SL is a rare example of the California option which means that the car has a hard top, but no soft top. The space that is usually used for the folding soft top is then freed up for a small rear seat. Surprisingly, although this option was largely intended for the eponymous market of California, it was orderable in the UK as well. Originally painted in silver, this car has only had 2 owners in its 47 year history.

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1969 Mercedes 280 SE Coupe

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1988 Mercedes 300SL

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1966 Mini Cooper S

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1989 Mitsubishi Galant Rally Car

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This 1984 Nissan 240 WRC Group B Rally Car was owned and driven by the late Colin McRae in 1987, and he competed in a number of rallies in it, winning the Tweedies Daihatsu Rally in July 1987. Now presented in its early livery., it did for a while also appear in Rothmans colours.

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1977 Porsche 911SC

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1977 Talbot Sunbeam Ti Works Rally Car

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1957 Triumph TR3 and 1960 Triumph TR3A

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1962 Triumph TR4

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1978 Triumph Stag

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1977 TVR 3000M

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1992 Vauxhall Carlton 3000GSi 24v

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This 1959 VW “Beetle” 1200 was sold new in Belfast, and remained in the hands of the same owner until 1993, when he gave up driving. A 10 year rebuild followed, leaving the car looking at least as good as it was when new.

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1978 VW Beetle LE

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At events like this, there are always more than a few interesting cars in the general car park, but sometimes it is hard to grab enough time to wander out and see what is there. When we went back out to the car to grab the sandwiches which had been left there, the rest of TheMotor.net’s attendees swooped on Dan’s newly acquired Mercedes, and as I had been chauffeured to the event in it, I took advantage of this time to meander amongst the other visiting cars. Following the incessant winter rains, parking was scattered over quite a large area, with almost everyone allocated space on hard-standing, so I was gone for quite a while. Needless, the inspections of the Mercedes were still ongoing when I got back to report on what I had seen, which included the following:

The Alfa 155 is one of those cars whose reputation has steadily improved as the years go by. Not that well regarded when new, it now engenders plenty of enthusiasm from its owners. This is one of the last models before a facelift transformed the car with its quick steering ratio and reworked engines.

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This Audi S4 reminded me of the example that I owned from 2003 to 2005. It was even painted in the same shade of Nogano Blue.

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Precursor to the S4 was the S2, initially sold only in the Coupe model as a replacement for the much loved urQuattro. This duo were parked together and there was a third example elsewhere in the parking area, and there was an urQuattro as well.

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The R8 has been around for several years now, but it still attracts lots of attention, and this one was no exception.

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Looking pretty imposing was this massive Bentley 4.5 litre. A full four seater, this car appeared well used.

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Also massive is this brand new X5. I’ve still not seen many of these on the roads, and am pretty thankful, as it seems rather more bulbous than its predecessor. The early UK cars were all top spec models, but this was an xDrive 30d, the likely best seller in the range.

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From the “when did you last see one of these” list was this third generation Daihatsu Charade. The GTti version was well regarded as an affordable pocket rocket when new.

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The only Ferrari I came across was this California.

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Dating from the last year of production of the first generation Mustang was this 1973 Grande model. I have to say that compared to the elegance of the original cars from 1964, this one had evolved quite a long way, mostly in the wrong direction, in my opinion (though Mustang II that debuted the following year was far worse!). It still made a striking impression, parked up near the main entrance, though.

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The Focus RS is one of those “instant classics”.

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Dating from an earlier period was this Mark 2 Escort, as well as one of  Ford’s uglier creations, the 1990s Scorpio.

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The Jaguar XJS is now well regarded as a member of the classic car fraternity. This is a relatively late model.

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This first generation Lancia Delta is unusual in that it is not an Integrale. Closer inspection revealed that it to be an HF Turbo, a hot hatch that was at the top of the range and a left-field alternative to the Golf GTi that completely left the limelight once the better known 4WD models premiered in 1986.

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This Lancia Fulvia Coupe was parked up separately. One of the prettiest small coupe models from the 1960s, in my opinion.

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Although the classic Mini is a common sight at classic car events, the Clubman Estate is not the version you see very often. No danger of missing this one, complete with its Snapdragon paintwork.

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How history will view this MINI, though, is something we will have to wait and see. It’s not high on my list of favourites, for sure.

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This is one that many would have to rely on badging to be able to identify, and I will confess that the grille threw me. It is, of course, a Nissan Stagea, a large estate car a few of which have come to the UK as grey imports.

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No problem in identifying the other Nissan in this grouping, a 300ZX.

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The Noble M12 remains a very striking car, though no-one is ever likely to call it “pretty”.

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There were a number of Porsche 911 parked up, with examples from each of the different generations from “pure” 911, through 993 to 996 and 997.

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This SE5 model Reliant Scimitar GTE looked really rather petite compared to the more modern cars parked around it.

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The Toyota Celica was a popular rally car, and at some stage, this one was modified to make it look like the rally version.

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Modified is also the word for this Supra. Hmm!

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Among the Triumph in the car park were a late model GT6 and a Stag

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There were several TVR too, including this Cerbera and the much earlier 3000M

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Looking rather in need of some TLC was this Volvo 145, once a common sight on our roads, but now a rare minor classic. Elsewhere was its much younger brother, the 850, which someone had modified to create into a replica of the BTCC version which Rickard Rydell piloted in the mid 1990s when the Volvo Estate surprised everyone with its turn of speed and agility on the race track.

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This was an excellent event, as ever. There was lots to see, and although it got moderately busy during the morning, the crowds quickly reduced and so it was easy to get to see what you wanted, and to get some decent photos. That I was joined by three good friends during the day and for a very congenial evening with some tasty food at the nearby Saxon Mill just made for a truly Great Day Out. Here’s to the 2015 event!

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