14th November 2009
The NEC, Birmingham
I am personally a classic car enthusiast, although more known as a VW Beetle anorak. I have owned 4 of them now and even though I haven’t owned another classic car apart from a VW, my interest and knowledge has spread to many other classics and I was thoroughly excited at what I was going to see today.
As soon as we head into the NEC, we grab our press passes and head straight for the exhibition. We were greeted by Vauxhall’s, MG’s, Bentleys and even some old motorbikes, but the first car that caught all our eyes was a 1958 356 Porsche. It was beyond stunning and in fantastic condition, and in a lovely Turkish red colour. It weighed just 846kg and had a top speed of 134mph. For me they really are King of the Porsche family, and one the nicest classic Porsches’ you could buy.
We move on and it’s not long before something else catches my eye – an Alvis. If I was honest, it wasn’t actually the car itself that made me stop; it was what was on the front of it. It had an eagle on the bonnet, which is a Louis Lejeune design. Louis is famous for his bronze creations, and has even produced custom mascots for The Queen and Prince Charles. Needless to say the owner of the Alvis took the mascot home every night, and who could blame him. It really was the nicest bonnet mascot I’d ever seen.
I carry on looking round and I’m impressed by what I’m seeing. There are two things that most car owners are interested in: 1, a nice looking car, and 2, speed. Although not necessarily at the same time, but it was apparent today, and I was surprised that the owners still had use of their arms after seeing how shiny most of the cars were.
Carrying on and although we’re only halfway through we’ve already seen many cars such as Porsche, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Ford, MG, Jaguar, Jensen, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin.
We were stopped dead in our tracks, again. It was a 1988 AC Cobra, and we drooled, lots. The guy who currently owns her, Dallas Poley, originally took her in 2 years ago to do restoration work for the previous owner. It was requested that she was updated to a 1960’s period, so she went from a Volvo blue colour to black, with a kidney red interior. Although this car is not the lightweight version, the dash board from a lightweight was fitted in, which then was followed by many custom made creations. Such as the 3” exhausts each side, the rear lights that were taken from a MK1, of which the bottom flashes orange when you indicate and red when you break, and they can also work at the same time. There is also a custom made indicator stalk, which has now been made into 1 stalk to give it a more classic look. She is rolling on 15” rears and the tyres had to be imported from America. To top it all off she is packing a 5 litre stage 3 engine, with a 5 speed gear box. The car is now up for sale, along with many other restorations that have been completed by Dalas Poley, Clinton and Jonny Haigh. More information can be seen here: http://www.graemehunt.com/
At this point we are now working up an appetite, and it’s not just to head out a burn rubber. We head for some food. As we do so we sit and look through the programme, at which point we only just realise that there isn’t just 1 hall to the exhibition, there’s 4. We eat faster and head back for some more.
Just when I think I’ve worked up enough adrenaline from the cars I’ve seen so far, it just started to rise again. What was in front of me? It was in fact the Jaguar XKR. But not just any Jaguar XKR, no. It was in fact the one that was driven by James Bond villain Zao in Die Another Day. I couldn’t contain my excitement when I realised I was able to sit in it and have my photo taken. Why is it that it’s always the bad guys that get the nicest cars in films?!
We carry on around the rest of the show, with Hunter and Matt still feeling as snappy happy as when we first walked through the door. There truly were some real classics to be seen, and of which all the owners were proud of. So they should be too, because any car owner will tell you what a money pit owning a car is, but when you have such interest, love and passion it really doesn’t matter. Not only is it nice to see cars that have been saved from the dreaded scrapper, but it’s nice to see that hardly any cars go down in history as extinct.
As we carry on swimming through the masses of shiny cars there’s one in particular that catches my eye. It was indeed another Porsche, but this one had racing stripes on it, used tyres and an oily engine. As a previous classic car owner you wouldn’t believe how happy I felt seeing a car doing what it was intended for, being driven. I fully respect those who like to keep their restorations under cover until the show seasons starts, and understand why they would cry at the sight on rain dropping on their vehicle, but at the same time for me it’s like keeping a toy in its box forever. There’s no need, let the damn thing breathe. The owner, John who has owned the car for a year and a half admitted to not doing anything to it since owning it apart from buying new tyres and driving it. I told him about the classics that I had owned, and once he started telling me about his, it must have been the excitement in my face that shown him how much I wanted to sit in his car. The one bit of advice that always sticks in my mind that was given to me when buying my first car was that you need to sit behind the wheel of it to realise how much you want it. I sat there, and I wanted. Even though there was no way I could move the seats forward, as they were bolted down I was still able to get a nice feel for being behind the wheel of that car. John, if you’re reading this – Thank you!