Twice every summer, Tatton Park just outside of Knutsford open up their gates for a full weekend classic car bonanza.
This year the first event happened on the 3rd & 4th of June, and with 79 different car clubs attending plus a vast area reserved for enthusiasts signing up individually too, the event saw well in advance of 2000 classic vehicles attend the show on both the Saturday and again on the Sunday. Further to that, more than half the cars attending on the Sunday were new compared to the day before, so over the full weekend there was an impressive 3000 plus classics on display. Needless to say, if you’re a classic car enthusiast, then no matter what your taste, you would no doubt come across plenty of eyecandy to get your dreams kick-started!
On the Saturday, I meet up early with two good BMW-friends, Paul Wilson and Chris Smith, and parked my Derby grey ’66 BMW 1600-2 next their Granatrot metallic ‘74 BMW 2002 and Inka orange ’75 BMW 2002tii at the front of the field with individual entries. The weather was treating us well with largely clear blue skies and pleasant temperatures, so it was ideal for a stroll through the park while admiring all the diverse classics. A pleasant chat with David Evans from Classic & Sports Car is always a treat. He had driven up in his Citroen GSA which is an identical car to the one his father owned many years ago. David had recently spent a fair amount of time and cash on bringing the GSA back up to scratch again, and it was indeed looking very smart now.
Wandering on through the park, the many club displays clearly showed the strong devotion that the classic car community enjoys. Both the Jaguar Enthusiasts Club, the Jaguar Drivers Club and the Mercedes-Benz Club had put on huge displays with a beautiful variety of each marque. But also smaller clubs such as the Ginetta Owners Club were out in force, and plenty of northern classic car clubs which span across all brands had displays in the park too.
Besides the usual MG’s, Triumph TR’s, E-type’s and 911’s, it was some of yesteryears daily heroes which really caught my attention. It’s all too easy to make jokes about the Allegro, but how often do you come across a perfectly restored example nowadays – and even more so, the range-topping Equipe with huge funky stripes down the flanks. Merely a few yards from it was another stunningly well-presented range-topper in the form of a dark green 4 door Morris Marina 1.8 GT sporting a vinyl roof, Lucas spotlights and period Dunlop alloys. While many no doubt turn their noses up at these now very rare classics, I couldn’t help but dream about cruising through the countryside in either one of these two lovely oddities.
But the sheer broadness of all the classics on display was even more obvious among the individually signed up cars, where a ’61 Dodge Phoenix was parked up next to a series 2 E-type, a Silver Shadow kept a 1st generation Honda Civic company and a pre-war Citroen along with a Ford T Runabout were lined up only yards from a poster-hero red Testarossa. While we all love a ’64½ Mustang convertible or a ’69 Mustang Boss, it was a beautiful example of the much less loved ’72 Mustang Grande which really stood out. Steve Plant from Buxton has only owned his 351 Mustang Grande for about 18 months, but before that the Mustang spent its first 34 years with its first owner in the US – a lady who was the daughter of the Ford dealership Cline-Moore Autos who first sold the Mustang. Amble documentation was still with the car which had clearly lived a very protected life, presenting itself thoroughly unmolested and unrestored right down to its factory applied Mid-Green Metallic paint.
A bit further on, it was the ’63 Lancia Flaminia Pininfarina Coupé of Paul Bishop from North Wales which stopped me in my tracks. While it’s always Zagato’s Flaminia Sport and Touring’s Flaminia GT which grab all the headlines, I have always been very fond of Pininfarina’s Coupé version as well. It’s of course a physically bigger car than its two twin sisters and perhaps doesn’t possess quite the same amount of light elegance, but it somehow still manages to be every bit as stylish. This particular Flaminia Pininfarina started life in Nice in the south of France. It’s first owner later immigrated to Belgium bringing the Lancia with him. The second owner imported the car to North Ireland, and recently Paul managed to acquire this well-travelled Lancia for his little collection. Paul is clearly a diehard Lancisti having owned an amazing 132 different Lancia’s! But he assures me that this one is a keeper, as it will keep his controversially styled Flavia Zagato Sport company in the garage, when Paul isn’t using the Flaminia to tour all of Europe…
On the Sunday, I returned to Tatton Park, but this time in my Verona red ’73 BMW 2002. The weather unfortunately didn’t treat us quite as well as it had done on the Saturday, instead dropping a couple of typically Mancunian summer showers on us. Luckily it didn’t seem to deter either the enthusiast owners or the many visitors at the show from enjoying the day. With less than half of the classics attending both days, there was plenty of new exciting cars to dream about on the Sunday. The previous day I had already spent a significant amount of time admiring the two Firenza Droopsnoots parked next to a Chevelle HS and a Chevelle HSR at the Vauxhall display. But it just got even better with a very rare Firenza Sports Hatch in the signature colour Extra Dark Wine parked up and looking utterly delicious! Right across from the Vauxhalls, a weird and wonderful ’71 Marcos Mantis 2+2 had joined the party, making the other Marcos’s look almost ordinary – which is really quite a feat!
On the Ford Popular stand – of all places! – I came across what to me has to be the most exciting classic car of the whole weekend. It’s beautifully styled, it’s extremely rare, and this example has an amazing history. Arthur Speakman from just outside Liverpool bought his Falcon Caribbean mk. 4 in component form back in 1961 when he realized that he sadly couldn’t afford any of the sports cars he really lusted after. With Ford Popular underpinnings and a sidevalve 1172 engine, Arthur spent the next 18 months assembling his new pride an joy, and registered it for the first time in June 1963. It was Arthurs first car and initially also his only car, so once registered it was immediately put into service as his daily car tackling both the commute to work, shopping and several driving holidays throughout the UK. By 1975 children meant the Falcon was parked up and garaged for the next 20 years. But in 1995 Arthur resurrected his Falcon again and now enjoys it on drives and at shows on just about every weekend between April and October. Arthur tells me, there are only four known Caribbean bodyshells known still to exist, and his is the only one of those which is still on its original build.
Arthur believes he has put about 80,000 miles on his Falcon to this day, and that number will – despite the rarity of this beautiful specialist sports car – continue to rise. I must confess that I couldn’t quite help but feel a pinch of jealousy to see Arthurs grandson now enjoy the Falcon Caribbean with his grandfather. It is however a privilege to experience our passion for classic cars get passed on to the next generation, and I couldn’t possibly dream up a better “next chapter” for this Falcon, then if it was to be passed down to the next enthusiast within the Speakman family…
Strolling back to the individually entered classics, it was the sporty yet boxy little ’65 Renault R8 Gordini of Jean & Rob Woodall from Nantwich which lured me in. I had admired the bright blue Gordini on the Saturday as well, and felt compelled to know more. Rob’s first car was his father’s Renault 4CV which Rob restored himself. The 4CV ended up being so nice that Rob bought a cheap R8 to use as his daily, and Jean & Rob have since owned several of them. During the late 70’s Jean even drove a rare R8 Gordini 1300 as her daily. About 20 years ago they bought this R8 Gordini 1100, though it wasn’t until 2012 that Rob got around to finishing the restoration. The charming Gordini is now restored to factory specifications and is even one of the few R8 Gordini’s to still feature its original 1100 engine in the back. I’m sure it’s a real hooligan on a twisty back road, and Rob did also admit that despite also having two 64½ Mustang’s in the garage, it’s the Gordini which is his favourite toy.
Not many classic car shows manage attract this many diverse cars, and more importantly the atmosphere and camaraderie at the show is excellent.
In case you missed this one, the next classic car show at Tatton Park will be on the 19th & 20th August. I hope to see you there…