Donington Historic Festival – May 2014

The first Donington Historic Festival was held in 2011, and it proved an instant success, combining many of the attributes of the much larger and better known Silverstone Classic with the attributes that make Donington such a popular venue, all without quite the same overwhelming feeling of scale or cost of tickets. That means a Festival which offers a varied entry of historic racing and rally cars from the ages competing for honours on the track, an array of ll the attractions of a circuit with excellent spectator vantage points, and an impressive assembly of Car Club displays. The organisers have built on what they created four years ago, and it is now an unmissable event in my annual calendar. As it held on the early May Bank Holiday weekend, it does sadly clash with an another important event, the Brooklands Auto Italia meeting, so it’s not proved possible to attend all of what is now a three day meeting, which is a pity. I had to confine my visit to the Sunday, now in 2014 the middle of three days which comprise 18 races, displays of historic rally cars and karts and over 1000 interesting vehicles in the Car Club Display in the infield. Needless to say, I very much enjoyed my day at the 2014 event, even though I struggle to take in everything that was going on, as there is simply almost too much to see. Although there are no pictures of track action, I did get to watch some of the racing, but there are 566 photos here from the Pits and Paddock, and the various displays, which should give you a good impression of the event.


Guest of Honour at the Festival, attending on both the Sunday and Monday was John Surtees OBE. The only man ever to have won World Championships on two and four wheels was at Donington Park as part of the year long celebrations of the 50th anniversary of his famous 1964 F1 World Championship win. A special display of cars connected with John were presented in the paddock, and I was delighted to learn that when I saw one of them doing demo laps at lunchtime on the Sunday, it was none other than John himself behind the wheel. And yes, he was going at some speed! The car he was driving was this 1965 Lola T70 Spider Can Am.

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By the early 1970s, the Surtees name was on the cars rather than on the driver, and this 1973 TS15 is an example of the F1 cars that were competing.

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This 1961 Vanwall VW14 is the last car that bore the legendary Vanwall name. The car normally resides in the Donington Collection, a few hundred yards away from the track.

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1969 BRM P139 GP Car

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Alongside the Surtees display was one which celebrated 50 years of the British Formula 3 Championship, with 4 different machines from the last 50 years and one which could be considered a “prequel”, a 1952 KieftKF2

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1963 Cooper

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1970 March BMW 732

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1972 GRD

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This 2009 – 2011 VW Dallara is an example of the modern type of F3 car

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With 18 races spread out over three days, there was always going to be plenty to see in the Pits and the Paddock. To give you an idea, the racing on Saturday included not one but two Touring Car races, covering four decades of this ever-popular genre, with Motor Racing Legends’ Historic Touring Car Challenge for 1966-85 Touring Cars kicking off the weekend’s race action, and the HRDC ‘Celebration of the BTCC’ for Touring Cars 1958-1965 providing the finale for that day. In between, the Pre-63 GT race  showcased one of the most beautiful and valuable grids of the whole Festival, while the HSCC Historic Formula 3 delivered fast and furious single-seater action, with evocative ‘screamers’ from 1964 to 1970 and the HSCC Martini Trophy with Supersports featured two-litre sports cars of the type that competed for the late ’60s and ’70s FIA European Sports Car Championship. On the Sunday, Historic Formula 3 and the Historic Touring Car Challenge opened the race action, with each series having its second race of the weekend. They were followed by a superb variety of grids, including the D-types and C-types, Aston Martins and Austin-Healeys of the Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy pre-56 sportscars and the pre-66 under two-litre Touring Cars of U2TC. Sunday also saw the first parts of the Festival’s two feature races – the Motor Sport 90th Anniversary Trophy for pre-War Sports Cars, featuring such legendary marques as Bentley, Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Frazer Nash, BMW, Vauxhall, Riley, MG and Talbot, and the Maserati Centenary Trophy, showcasing cars from the 1930s to the 1960s powered by engines built by Maserati or OSCA. And the day ended with 60 glorious minutes of the FIA Masters Historic Sports Car Championship for Le Mans-style sports cars and ‘Group 4’ cars from 1962 to 1974. The Bank Holiday Monday would feature yet another magnificent array of historic racing cars of all ages, shapes and sizes. The competitors in the Motor Sport 90th Anniversary and Maserati Centenary Trophies were out in the second parts of their respective races, while the Mustangs, Lotus Cortinas and Ford Falcons of the Masters Pre-66 Touring Cars will also be put through their paces. The Stirling Moss Trophy for pre-1961 sportscars would doubtless have proved hugely competitive and entertaining, and the Festival ended in high style, with a 90-minute Masters Gentlemen Drivers pre-66 GT race. Although the cars were very much the stars, a number of famous drivers were to be seen behind the wheel of some of them. 1969 Le Mans winner Jackie Oliver was out in a Ferrari 250 SWB and a BMW 1800, while former BTCC stars Steve Soper, Robb Gravett and Patrick Watts were behind the wheel once more for some truly authentic ‘tin top’ action in the Touring Cars and Steve Soper stepped away from Touring Cars at one point to campaign a Ford GT40. And there was even a literary connection, with crime novelist Peter James driving a BMW 1800Ti. With unrestricted access to the pits and paddock, it was great to be able to get a close up look at some truly splendid machinery, and to see, hear and smell what was going on as the cars were prepared for action.



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Historic Alfas are usually a staple at an event like this, but there were surprisingly few on the entry lists this time. There was a fabulous Disco Volante taking part in the first race of the day on Sunday, but it was into a transporter before my camera got near to it,  meaning that the only Alfa photo I have from the day is this one of a GTA.

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Rudiger Friedrichs’ Alvis Speed Speed 20 SA has to be one of the most well-travelled of all the cars that was at the Festival, as Friedrichs has driven over 150,000 miles in this 1932 machine, including no fewer than three Peking Paris rallies. This dearly loved car is seldom raced, so it was particularly exciting to see it out at this event.

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A number of DB2 were in action.

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Far rarer was this, one of the long tailed DB4 cars.

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I’ve seen this car at various historic events over the years. It is a Coupe version of the DB3S.

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This Camaro was up for sale. Priced at £50,000, it had plenty of racing pedigree and would surely give its new owner plenty of fun.

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This Corvette competed with the Lolas and other cars of that ilk. It seemed to make at least as much noise as they did and was not outclassed on power, either.

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There were plenty of Lotus Cortina in evidence.

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American Fords were also here aplenty, including the Mustang, the Falcon and the much larger Galaxie.

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The Ford Capri was a successful entrant in Touring Car races in the late 1970s.

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I first saw this car out on the circuit, without knowing quite what it was. It turned out to be a Frazer Nash, and is nicknamed “the Owlet”. It has a canvas body, which clearly does not add much weight to that of the open cars, and it is clearly quite nimble out on track.

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There were plenty of more traditionally bodied Frazer Nashes from the 1930s as well.

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Frazer Nash also produced a small number of cars after the Second World War, and a couple of these were also in evidence.

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There were some lovely and very well known historic Jaguars present.

D Type

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C Type

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The XJC 5.3 Coupe promised much, but never really delivered on the track, as it was too big and heavy, as well as somewhat lacking in reliability.

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This Lister Costin was the outright winner in its race.

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Also putting in a good performance were a number of the very distinctive Lister Knobbly cars. Two of them were Jaguar based, with the same mechanicals as were found in a D Type, whilst there was also a Chevrolet powered model.

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The spectacular, and incredibly noisy T70 was a dominant performer in the class for Le Mans-style historic sports cars.

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A special highlight for me was always going to be the assembly of a number of historic racing Maserati which would go head to head in a race exclusively for the marque, in honour of Maserati’s centenary year. The Italian marque’s history in motorsport goes back to 1926 – 12 years after its foundation in 1914 – when Alfieri Maserati took his Tipo 26 to class victory in that year’s Targa Florio. This would be followed in 1927 by Maserati winning the Italian constructors’ title and Alfieri’s brother Ernesto taking the Italian drivers’ title. In the subsequent decades, Maserati would drive into the motorsport history books with a series of iconic models and success in Grand Prix and sportscar racing, two Indy 500 wins and victory in the 1957 Formula One World Drivers’ Championship for Fangio in the 250F. Maseratis have raced at Donington Park ever since the circuit opened in the 1930s. Later the track became the host to the annual Shell Ferrari Maserati Challenge so assembling a mouth-watering array of cars from all over Europe for the Donington Historic Festival seemed appropriate. Many of these valuable cars are now consigned to private collections and museums, so it was a rare opportunity to see a grid of cars from the 1930s to the 1960s all powered by engines built by Maserati or OSCA. Of course, with the unrestricted pit access, it was also possible to see the cars before they went out on track, and splendid they all proved to be.

Oldest car present was a 1935 4CS, a car which I have seen at Prescott and Shelsley many times before. This time I got the chance to talk to Ken Painter, the man responsible for recreating it after purchasing little more than a few parts in 1969, and he told me a lot about the car’s history. This particular car won its class on the 1935 and ’36 Mille Miglia. Later in 1936 this car, chassis number 1126 was sold to Ignazio Radice Fosatti who recorded a second in class run on the Coppa Mercanti run on the Stelvio hillclimb before going to Monza for an attempt at the 1100cc 12 hour distance record. Unfortunately Ignazio was killed in the 9th hour of the attempt after hitting a dog that strayed onto the track. The car was badly damaged, but once repaired it was sold on. Between 1937 to 1939 it was owned and raced  by Count Giovanni (Jonny) Lurani and Luigi Villoresi, and Ken showed me a long type-written letter he has from Lurani, dated 1970 which records Lurani’s memories of the car from the time when he raced it. Subsequent research has revealed that not everything recorded there is quite accurate, but this is still a splendid piece of history to go with the car. However, it was what happened next that makes its history particularly fascinating. By 1942 the 4CS was in Singapore, and was confiscated by the Japanese army and its then owner killed. The late owner’s family recovered the car, and had it dismantled and buried for the remainder of the War. The last recorded competition entry for the car as at the 1950 Jahore Grand Prix, by which time a 3.5 litre SS Jaguar engine had been fitted. Some time after this, a De Soto V8 motor replaced this, and the body work underwent several changes. Ken acquired the car in 1969, and spent 18 years restoring it. More recently he gave it to his son, Adam, who now owns and races it. It may not be seen much in the UK this year, as it is headed for the Maserati celebrations in Modena in September, so he is keen to ensure that the car does not incur any damage before that momentous event.

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The Maserati Centenary Trophy race includes Stephen Bond’s ex-works 250S, which was campaigned by Scarlatti and Bonnier in the 1957 Sebring 12 Hours. There were a number of other 250S and 300S cars competing as well.

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Musician Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame was the lucky person driving this Maserati 300S, though his race came to an early end when he went straight on and into the gravel.

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No Maserati race would be complete without the legendary 250F and there were three of these in action.

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One of the most distinctive designs of its era was this, the Tipo 61, commonly known as the Birdcage, as its tubular construction under that elegant body resembles just that. This car put up a very creditable performance coming second in the race overall.

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Race winner was this, the Cooper Maserati T61.

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The car that ran at the back of the race from start to finish – not perhaps surprisingly, given is comparative lack of power was this – but which was ultimately unplaced in the official results, was this, an Osca-Maserati 1600 GTZ Zagato.

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The little Mini Coopers always put up a good fight against much larger and more powerful opposition. There were lots of them present.

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Just three of the SLR model were made, with a much more aerodynamic body on top of a familiar Morgan chassis. All three survive, and two of them were in action at this event.

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More traditional looking Morgans were also in evidence.

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Nice to see the SD1 Vitesse in action in ex Touring Car guise.

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Competing alongside it was this much earlier P6 model.

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Yet another distinctive car that was to be seen was Jonathan Turner’s 1935 Squire Short Chassis, a very rare piece of British motoring history. The Squire Car Manufacturing Company had a tiny production run, building just seven beautiful, rakish cars before it was wound up in 1936. Squire’s founder, Adrian Squire, who was just 26 years old when the company closed, had worked up the initial designs – even producing a six-page catalogue – while still at school. At its launch, the Squire was the most expensive sports car in Britain. Sadly, I don’t appear to have a photo, even though I was sure I had taken one.


This Sunbeam which won the 1914 Tourist Trophy.

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The Dolomite Sprint was a successful competition car in the mid 1970s, seeing action in the Touring Car Championships of the era.

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Back in the 1980s, Donington Park was an RAC Rally stage and, in a short but significant era from rallying history, Group B cars dominated the world of international rallying. Introduced in 1982, Group B regulations resulted in outrageously fast performances from cars such as the Audi quattro, MG Metro 6R4, Ford RS200, Lancia 037, Porsche 911 RSR and Peugeot 205 T16. Lightweight composite panels, four-wheel drive systems, complex turbo and supercharging combined to produce cars which, with in excess of 600bhp at their command, could out-accelerate Formula One cars of the period on gravel. As well as the introduction of Group B, 1982 also saw the start of the fledgling historic rally movement, when the RAC ran the Lombard Golden 50 Rally to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the first-ever RAC Rally. As a follow-on from this event, a group of enthusiasts decided to set up the Historic Rally Car Register and, over the next two years, historic rallying rapidly gained popularity. The HRCR has been at the forefront of historic rallying ever since. In 1987, following a number of high-profile accidents and prominent driver deaths, Group B was banned, meaning that enthusiasts’ only chance to see the cars in action became restricted to demonstration events. With one of these iconic machines, the Metro 6R4 celebrating its 30th birthday this year, all these factors come together to make it particularly appropriate that a special display of iconic rally cars was assembled by the Historic Rally Car Register (HRCR), and many of them then burnt considerable amounts of rubber with spectacular demonstrations out on the Melbourne Loop, several times a day during the Festival. When the rally cars went in for a rest, over 80 historic karts gave a hugely entertaining reminder of how so many of the biggest names in motor racing got started, as the British Historic Kart Club presented demonstrations that included Ayrton Senna’s 1979 DAP and several unique machines such as the 1960 Mayler suspension kart.

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Parked with the cars that saw action were a number of other display cars which included an early Sunbeam Alpine, and the later Tiger, which were prepared by the Rootes Competitions Department.

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There was an array of other cars in this area, including a couple of Ford Escort Mark 1, a Mark 1 Cortina, an E30 BMW M3, a Fiat 124 Coupe, an MGB, a rallying Rover 2000 and a Triumph TR4.

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As well as the Maserati Centenary Trophy, there was a special display of road cars which were assembled at one end of the Paddock.

Rarest car was one of the 13 examples of the Quattroporte 2 that were made in 1974.

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Perhaps my favourite of all of the cars on show was this lovely Ghibli.

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Dating from the late 1960s, the Mexico is very elegant, too.

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Precursor to that model was the Sebring, and this was a lovely example.

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Earlier still was this lovely 3500 GT.

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There were plenty of the 3200/4200GT generation cars, and these still have massive appeal.

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There were also a couple of Biturbo generation cars, with a Ghibli joined by a 222 Coupe.

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Quattroporte was represented not just by that second generation car, as there was a 4th generation and several of the more commonly seen 5th generation models as well and one of the very latest cars.

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Worthy of a section of this report all for itself was this splendid 288 GTO that we came across parked up with some lovely historic Jaguars.

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Elsewhere in the Paddock were a couple of FFs and a 458 Spider.

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On the Sunday when I attended, I had accumulated 13 Abarths to fit iinto quite a small display space. Even though these are not large cars, they did all fit, and as ever they seemed to be attracting plenty of attention. Of course, Mike Foster’s splendid 1000TC was a star attraction, but the variety of 500 based models, which included regular and C models, and 595 Turismo and Compeizione cars as well the lone Punto SuperSport of Gary Miles made for an eye-catching display.

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I also had the invidious job of selecting just one car on each day to take part in the lunchtime Parade Laps. Sunday’s lucky individual was Gary Miles, and I gather that his son did not stop talking about the experience to his friends for days after!

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There are an awful lot of Cobra replicas and recreations out there, so telling a genuine one can be quite difficult, but this is one.

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This Shelby Daytona Coupe is for sure a replica, as only a handful of these cars were made in the mid 1960s and they are immensely valuable.

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A diverse collection of Aston Martins included a duo of 1950s DB3S sports cars.

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From the long running V8 generation were an early DBS as well as a lovely Vantage as well as the “regular” V8 Coupe and open-topped Volante car.

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There were plenty of more recent cars, with V8 Vantage, DB9, Vanquish and DBS all represented.

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There was a very impressive gathering of the urQuattro, with around 20 cars on display.

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A separate display from Audi Owners Club included a regular front wheel drive version of the urQuattro along with an 80 Cabrio and the less than well regarded S2 Quattro Coupe.

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There was a comprehensive collection of Big Healey cars, with a good mix of the 100 and later 3000 cars on show.

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There were also a few of the smaller Sprite models, as well.

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A small group of the DS250 “Dart” sports car was presented.

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This 412i had been at Brooklands the day before. Red is not a common colour for this shape of Ferrari, but actually suits it quite well.

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On the other hand, red absolutely suits the 550M Maranello, one of the nicest V12 Ferraris of recent times. There were grey and maroon 575M present as well.

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Later in the day, some V8 engined cars had arrived including a nice 328 GTS.

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There was a superb display of some sporting Fords from the 1980s. Usually when you see these cars, they have been much modified, but these were all very original looking machines in stunning condition. Most of them were Escorts with the XR3, and XR3i, in pre and post facelift guise all present.

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There was also a lovely first generation Fiesta XR2, a rare car indeed, as well as a second generation model.

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The Capri Owners Club had an interesting array of the three generations of the “Car that you always promised yourself”.

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A Mark 2 Escort RS2000 was an interloper among the Capris.

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Among the recent Mustangs were a regular car and a Boss302 version. They were joined by some older models as well.

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I saw this nice Escort Mexico as it was waiting to head off in the lunchtime parade laps. The Daytona Yellow car was parked up on the Ford AVO Owners Club stand.

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The Ford GT40 Owners had a number of cars on show, though as far as I could tell, none of these were actually original Ford factory cars, but more recent replicas.

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There were a trio of the Scorpion models on show here.

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The S2000 Owners Club had a small number of cars on show.

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There were only a couple of the NS-X present this year.

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This event provided another chance to see a very special XJS. A hatchback model, no less. Created by one man with a vision for something really rather elegant, the starting point was a regular Coupe model which he bought quite cheaply on eBay. He then set about transforming drawings that he made in the early 1980s when he worked at Jaguar into a reality. He decided to keep the rear side windows and to change the profile of the car as little as possible, and the end result looks very neat indeed. It’s a shame that he did not shout louder at Jaguar and get them to build it themselves.

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There were plenty of other XJS cars on show.

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There were lots of E Types, too. Still a stunner, more than 50 years after the car was first launched.

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Its precursor, the XK range of cars was also well represented with some nice cars from the XK120, XK140 and XK150 ranges.

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There were plenty of saloon models, too, ranging from the Mark 2 through the various generations of XJ.

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More recent GT cars from the XK8 and current XK ranges were also on show.

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The very striking Diablo SV.

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There were not many Italian cars present, but this Delta Integrale was one of those which was.

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A number of Lotus Clubs put together displays with some iconic Lotus models for everyone to enjoy. I especially liked the various Esprit models on show.

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There was also an Excel.

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The Elan and Plus 2 cars were nice, and yet again reminded everyone just how small they are, as was the earlier Elite.

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More recent Lotus were not forgotten with the front wheel drive Elan and the Elise on show.

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The Mercedes-Benz Owners Club had a varied collection of cars, which included some modern, and, to be perfectly honest, rather prosaic machines, but there were also some older and more interesting cars. One of them was this W116 S Class. This was a 280SE which probably makes it rarer than the 350SE and 450SE that are more commonly encountered.

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The W201 is now quite a rare sight, so I guess it is what the Germans would call a “Young Timer” classic.

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No questioning the classic credentials of this fabulous W111 280SE 3.5 Coupe. Very elegant indeed, and super desirable.

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No doubt the W124 will acquire status in years to come, but given the solidity of the build, plenty of these are still in everyday service on our roads.

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There were 5.0 badges on the back of this W123 Coupe, and there was an explanation on a board in the car. It did not leave the factory like this, but it was apparently quite easy to get the V8 engine in, as it is believed that Mercedes had been toying with the idea of offering this as a production car, and had modified the chassis accordingly. A veritable Q car, then.

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This was a rather nice R129 SL model, and it was joined by its predecessor the R107 model.

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There were plenty of MGs present, which is hardly a surprise, as these are among the most popular classics of all. Most numerous, of course, were the B models, with Roadster and GT both much in evidence.

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The Midget was also well represented.

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There were plenty of other sports cars ranging from the TC and MGA to the F and TF

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There was even an MG6 Magnette, the latest saloon version of a car that scored rather well in Auto Express’ 2014 “Driver Power” survey.

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Most of the classic Minis present had been, erm, “modified”, and just were not to my taste (or photographic appeal) at all. This one was largely original.

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Plenty of classic Morgan models, most of them Plus 8 cars, though there were some earlier Plus 4s as well.

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The majority of the cars on show were Z models, with every generation from the first 240Z to the more recent 350Z and 370Z all present.

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But among these familiar cars were two very rare vehicles indeed. Tucked away at the back of the group was a 1600 Roadster, the small sports car that was launched at more or less the same time as the MGB. Never officially sold in the UK, the car did sell well in America, and you do see them at classic car events there, but I can’t recall when (or even if) seeing one in the UK before.

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Even more rare was this, the original Skyline. Developed by Prince Motors, a company that was then acquired by Datsun in the mid 1960s, these cars were aimed at the enthusiast market then just as the (relatively much more complex and expensive) Skyline is now.

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A separate display was put on by the Figaro Owners Club.

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A number of Porsche Owners Clubs tend to congregate at this venue, thus meaning that there are a vast number of Porsche of just every model that has ever been sold all on show. The 911 is. of course, the most numerous, and there were representatives of all the generations from the early cars, through 964 and 993 to 996 and 997 and the latest 991.

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The 356 generation was here, too.

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As were the front engined cars from the 1970s and 1980s, with 924, 944, 968 and 928.

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There were plenty of Boxster and Cayman cars, too, including the Boxster Spider.

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Just a trio of Reliants: a Scimitar GTE and a couple of the small spots cars made in the 1980s, the SS1 and later Sabre.

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Nice to see an example of the A310, as well as an A610 Le Mans.

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There were a number of RM models, with the open topped cars joining the regular saloons.

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A number of nice Tigers were on show including the rare Series 2 car.

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A nice pairing of the little known Swallow Doretti, one of which bore French plates.

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The Stag Owners Club had a very colourful display, showing most of the different hues in which this elegant grand tourer was sold in its 7 year production life.

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Elsewhere the TR Register had an impressive showing of models, most of which were TR4/5 and TR6 cars, but there were a few earlier models and a couple of TR7s and a GT6 as well.

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A large and  colourful display of TVRs was dominated by the cars of the 1990s and 2000s, with examples of every model type offered during this successful period of the Blackpool maker’s history.

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There were a few earlier cars, too, including a 3000M and a Tasmin as well as a couple of S cars.

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This was a nice example of the “droop snoot” Firenza, a short lived high performance version of the mundane Viva.

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As ever at events like this, there are plenty of other things to catch both the eye and the camera lens.

In the pits we came across an Aston Martin Vanquish and a Mark 1 Jaguar 3.4.

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There were some historic vehicles used for ice cream and food vending, such as this lovely Morris Commercial.

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This was an absolutely Top event. I’ve enjoyed every Donington Historic Festival to date, and in many ways, this was the absolute best yet. There was more to see than could be fitted in a day, so perhaps next year I will have to look at how to take in a second day.

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