Here in the UK, we are currently deep in the midst of autumn. Along with that come a few things: it gets dark at 4:00pm and the sun generally does not emerge from an omnipresent cloud cover for weeks on end, with frequent foggy mornings or persistent drizzle. This means that any events held at this time of year either have to be indoors, or are at the mercy of the weather.
Thankfully, the Classic Motor Show at NEC Birmingham falls under the former.
After last year’s Classic took the form of an online event due to the pandemic, it thankfully returned as an in-person event this year. The NEC took great care to ensure that Covid safety measures were in place, and the mood across the event was predominantly positive, with clubs, traders and general show-goers alike all happy to be back.
For those of you who have attended the event in previous years, you’d be largely familiar with the format. Seven huge halls (the largest of which is approximately 18 football pitches in size) barely contained 3,000 cars on 650 club stands, along with hundreds more on trade stands or within the Silverstone Auctions component.
It took me some time to figure out why the show is as successful as it is. After all, the Classic’s format has remained largely unchanged for numerous years.
Generally speaking, people often expect something fresh and exciting at an event – think new model launches, groundbreaking products or international driver appearances of some sort. The Classic Motor Show rarely has any of the above.
Now before you think I’m being dismissive, allow me to explain. I truly believe that this degree of consistency and familiarity is what appeals to the 70,000+ people who attend. The format just works, and as the old adage goes: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
If a car has been sold in any numbers, be it affordable or expensive, there’s likely a club for it, and they were likely at the NEC. More than 300 clubs had a presence over the weekend, and as much as time allowed, I made the effort to chat to some of the members in attendance.
Every club had people more than happy to talk about the ownership experience, but more importantly, the bonds that had been formed within the respective clubs.
Granted, not every car is to my personal taste, but the sheer variety is what makes British car culture so fascinating. This will also likely be the first and only time you see a Bond Bug on Speedhunters.
For those who favour a more hands-on approach to their automotive lifestyle, live workshop sessions covering a myriad of skills ran over the course of the event.
With restoration being a key proponent of the show, numerous stands had cars in various stages of completion to display their talents. This included Porsche Classic, which had a 911 shell split down the middle – one half fully restored, one half untouched.
If collectibles are more your flavour, a huge auto-jumble provided ample opportunity to spend on anything from pre-war manuals to scale models or other memorabilia.
Question: What if you crave the look and feel of a classic, but want all new? MST have an answer…
They do this by taking a completely new Mk1 or Mk2 Escort shell and building it up with carefully selected components. The cars are put through an IVA test (which allows low volume manufacturers to register cars, provided they pass a set criteria) before being registered as a MST Mk1 or Mk2, ready for the road or rally depending on your preferred spec.
If you were in the fortunate disposition to find a large sum of money burning a hole in your pocket, Silverstone Auctions would gladly relieve you of that displeasure in exchange for one of many automobiles being auctioned off over the Saturday and Sunday. And there was everything from old F1 cars to rally-bred 4WD imports up for grabs.
Red or blue Tommi Mäkinen Edition Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI? Why not both if you’re feeling particularly flush.
A 996.1 GT3 is definitely a dream car for me to own one day, and this one dressed up in German police livery certainly made it stand out.
This Renault Maxi Turbo 2 was originally the company car of Derek Warwick during his time as a Renault F1 driver in 1984.
One of the more controversial topics in the automotive landscape currently are EVs, and more specifically, the electrification of classic cars. Paddy touched on this in a recent SEMA article.
This topic has divided opinions on forums, blogs and YouTube videos alike for a little while now with more and more companies offering this type of service. With the number of big cities in the UK clamping down on emissions only increasing, some view it as a means for having your cake and eating it too – being able to enjoy your classics with a higher degree of reliability and accessibility – while others believe it to be outright sacrilege.
Almost all the conversions carried out are non-invasive, meaning the EV drivetrain simply bolts in on existing mounts with no additional cutting of the shell. Should the owners ever wish to revert back to a combustion engine, this could be done with little effort. The 911, Westfield, Beetle, Lotus 11 replica and BMW 1602 are all EV-powered (the 1602 is the owner’s daily driver in London).
With major manufacturers investing heavily into electrification, time will tell what the aftermarket does, but the technology will definitely trickle down as costs drop.
Having something for everyone spread across the vastness of the seven halls is what really makes the NEC Classic so special. It allows show-goers to be selective to their interests, yet it’s varied enough to cater for everyone.
An oxymoron, I know, but since first opening its doors in 1984, the Classic Motor Show has evolved into a staple of the UK automotive events calendar, and I don’t see any sign of that changing. Many clubs have had a presence at the show for well over a decade now, and it really is the sum of its parts that makes the event great.
A word for the wise though – if you intend to see it all, wear comfortable shoes.