Have you ever been to a car show intentionally packed with the some of most undesirable cars ever made?
I have, now.
See, Hagerty’s Festival of the Unexceptional is a concours event with a difference. It’s a celebration of the mundane, the everyday and the drab. These are the cars that used to fill our roads in the thousands upon thousands, but are now almost a non-existent sight.
Sounds terrible, right? I was sceptical too, but the clincher here is that the cars you’ll find at FoU are unequivocally more rare (and less desirable to the unwashed masses) than any supercar parked outside any other stately home at any other concours show.
That makes it pretty interesting, in my eyes.
The image above pretty much sums up how FoU differs from your average concours show. McLaren 720S? Yeah just park it over there in a bush next to the toilets mate.
Festival of the Unexceptional is such a superbly odd and unique event that you’ll see things that either bring back waves of nostalgia, you entirely forgot existed or you’ve simply never even seen or heard of before.
Are these cars powerful? Or incredibly capable? On average not at all – the opposite if anything. When they were new they were little more than appliances, and the fascination here is that some of them still exist at all. FoU is an eye-opener, that’s for sure, but it’s an event that we’ve never Speedhunted before, so it had to be done.
Of course, just because something is rare doesn’t mean that it should automatically be worthy of attention, does it? Cars are generally coveted en mass when they’re great as well as desirable, sure, but that’s missing the point of FoU – some, nay many, of the cars here are just outright bad.
They’re cars that were bad when they were new, let alone 20-30 years down the line, and many of them are rare now for all the wrong reasons – they’ve either dissolved and blown away with the wind, or aren’t good for anything more than propping up a pile of scrap at a breakers yard somewhere.
Undoubtedly, the UK governments ‘Scrappage Scheme’ that was in force back in 2009 played a major part in unnecessarily removing cars just like this from our roads (the government backed a £2,000 grant if you traded in any used car over ten years old against a brand new model). Ironically, many of the engines from the scrapped cars were exported, and are probably still in existence elsewhere in the world, and/or the cars are sat filling up old airfields around the country. What’s worse, dealers used the £2,000 discount to hike up prices on new cars, or avoid parting with their existing profit margins.
But then our government has a pretty impressive track record when it comes to stupid decisions.
I digress. See, for whatever reason and against the odds, cars survived. Someone saw fit to preserve their example. That means that, to them, it’s important. You don’t simply maintain a 37-year-old beige Peugeot 305 SR estate because you have to, you do it because you want to, and it brings you joy. In doing so, and thanks to FoU, others are able to enjoy them too. Who is anyone to begrudge that?
Many of the cars here were produced en masse, and now exist in such small numbers simply because they were run-of-the-mill. Take the Simca 1100 GLS, for example – of the two million they made, just 20 are left in the UK.
Or this minter-than-mint Chrysler Horizon 1.3 GL. There’s just three of these in existence in the UK, but perhaps most impressive is that this example has just 300 miles on the clock. It’s like it has been kept in a time capsule since 1978.
On the flip side, and exponentially more impressive (depending on your disposition), is this Yugo 45 Top Hat cabriolet. A truly terrible car, I’m 99% sure of it, but one that they really didn’t make many of at all. The fact that 20% of the total production still exist in the UK (and you’re looking at it – you do the math) I guess means they’ve got a pretty high survival rate?
If anything, FoU gave you the chance to witness some of the quirky features that made these cars unique. Take this Toyota Crown Custom estate’s rear-facing seats and sunken boot footwell, for example.
Or this duo of two-wheeled oddballs. The Honda Super Cub C50 is the highest production vehicle in history, with 86 million churned out. The Honda Zook scoot, on the other hand I’ve never seen before. I can’t imagine those tyres are easy to come by now, either.
The show itself was split into two sections – a judged Concours de l’Ordinaire in front of the main house, and then a ‘classic’ public car park. In all honestly, the car park is where the gems were to be found.
And nostalgia has a lot to answer for in swaying my bias for what I shot here.
I got way too excited to see this white Vauxhall Nova GSi. This was the car to have when I first passed my test many years ago. I still get excited when I occasionally see a base-spec Nova on the road, but I’ve not seen a GSi in years.
There were a few not-quite-as-unexpectional-as-others to be seen here too. I’d say Golf GTi and 106 Rallye are pretty well-appreciated modern classics still, if a little niche.
Obviously being a major Audi fan I was drawn to this 80 too. The Audi 80 was the last car my grandad had before he passed away, so I know where I inherit all my cool points from, at least.
Elsewhere there were cars that had me scratching my head, or looking for badges and clues as to what the heck I was looking at.
Festival of the Unexceptional was certainly a journey into the unexpected for me. It was the perfect mix of oddball cars and characters, nostalgia and British quirkiness. I expect the gallery below will be a bit of a mind-boggle for our overseas readers, but I hope you guys enjoy it and spot a few hidden gems in there too.
I anticipating a lot of ‘what car is this’ questions in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer them with as much as I know!