The Cheshire Classic Car & Motorcycle Show returned to Capesthorne Hall this past weekend with Jaguars as the featured marque on the Sunday, whereas Mercedes-Benz took over the throne on the following bank holiday Monday. ViaRETRO were there on the Sunday and can testify that those Jags had certainly tempted the sun to come out full strength.
The event at Capesthorne isn’t one of these massive shows that has everything. Instead, it’s one of these medium sized shows which prove that bigger isn’t always better. The venue is spot on with a truly charming manor house, well kept gardens and a picturesque lake off to the side. I’ll have a rough guess that there were probably at least 400 participating classic cars on the Sunday and perhaps close to 100 classic bikes in addition. Again, it’s not huge but it’s certainly big enough to display a great variety of vehicles. The atmosphere is very relaxed and pleasant with several participants bringing picnic rugs and / or chairs along with a packed lunch. Alternatively, there are the mandatory mobile food stalls to raid for a burger and some coffee. Of course, the astonishing weather only added to all that pleasantry with temperatures well into the mid-twenties and the sun burning from clear blue skies.
With the Jaguars taking centre stage on the Sunday, they were given the privilege of parking up within the courtyard fronting the hall. They definitely looked the part with the stately home as a backdrop. If I were to allow myself a moment of critique – which I will – I personally feel that there were too many relatively modern Jaguars in the display. By all means, bring on as many series 3 XJ6’s as you can. In fact, being quite the youngtimer-fan, I’m even quite happy gawking over XJ40’s. But I really struggle to see how XJ8’s and XK8’s from the late-naughts can be justified as classic cars. Nonetheless, there was plenty of proper classic Jaguars to keep me largely distracted from the presence of the too modern. E-types galore, Mk.II’s, the S-types which I so adore and even a fabulous Mk.VII and a couple of Mk.IV’s.
But it was the beautiful 1956 XK140 fhc of John & Christine Astill which truly blew me away. Truth be told, any XK 120 / 140 / 150 is of course a piece of art, but it was possibly the steel wheels sporting rare full-size stainless steel trim which made the Astill’s coupé really stand out. Yes, wire wheels look great on these, but sometimes it’s just nice to experience something a little different. John’s father had bought the XK140 as a retirement restoration project back in 1976. During the late seventies, John restored the bodywork for his father who then proceeded to enjoy the Jaguar up until his death in 1999. By this time the cellulose paint job from the seventies was looking rather second hand, so as part of taking over his fathers Jaguar, John had the XK140 resprayed again in 2001. Besides the tired paint, nothing else needed doing, so the car is basically still on its first restoration. Since then the Astill’s have simply driven and enjoyed their Jaguar on countless social events most often with the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club.
Continuing out into the park, there were multiple classic cars which drew me in for a closer inspection. A Gordon-Keeble GK1 has always been one of my all-time-favourites, and the light blue metallic one at Capesthorne Hall looked decidedly delicious. A black 1972 Toyota Crown SuperSaloon put a smile on my face as it reminded me of the blue one which we recently featured as a Prime Find – there can’t be many of these on the road in the UK. Several hot Escorts sparkled in the baking sun, but none quite as much as a bright orange 1600 Sport mk.2 in remarkably unmolested condition. And when did you last see a Vauxhall Carlton 3000 in the flesh? That’ll of course be an Opel Omega 3000 to all of our readers on the continent. Well, imagine my surprise when I came across not one, but two(!!) of them at Capesthorne – a perfectly original black 12 valve and a slightly modified red 24 valve. The Stag Owner’s Club was out in force as well, and a vibrant Sunbeam Avenger Tiger looked thoroughly stunning.
But while the variety was huge among the British contenders, it was a bit disappointing to see just how scarcely populated the park was with French and Italian classics. I counted a mere four and three examples respectively comprising a Traction Avant, 2CV, R8, A310, 500L, 124 Spider and Integrale. Mental note to self: Must buy either a Panhard 24CT or an Autobianchi Primula Coupé so I can do my part to increase their count.
Luckily there was a bit of Nippon Steel in the park, but none quite as pleasing as 25-year-old Luke Edwards’ perfectly unmolested 1989 Isuzu Piazza Turbo. Luke had dreamt of owning a Piazza since… well, forever. Bizarrely though, the first time he actually saw one in real life was when he bought his late “Handling by Lotus” example about three and half years ago. Now that he has got it, he is determined that it’ll be his lifelong keeper. He started by going through all the mechanicals leading to all new suspension bushings, new shocks, a new headgasket and complete exhaust plus various general servicing. Now Luke is saving up for a little bit of tidying of the bodywork which will be finished off nicely with a complete respray in the original colour. Luke intends to keep his rare Isuzu thoroughly stock as well – a notion which I can only agree with as it’s just so wonderfully Jap-80’s-hightech the way it is. The headlights are brilliant and I generally like the whole design, but the very best part has to be the pure Transformers-era dashboard with big chunky multi-functional pads either side of the steering wheel, which can be adjusted in distance from the steering wheel to ensure that you never have to take your hands off that three-spoke leather wheel. Yet the rear-wheel-drive is of course pleasantly traditional for the eighties coupé, and the Lotus developed suspension along with the force-fed 4-cylinder should ensure plenty of smiles per mile. Having watched prices of early seventies Isuzu Bellett GTR’s and Isuzu 117 coupés head northbound and out of reach, I can now rest assured that there might indeed still be a worthy Isuzu for me to own…
Strolling on through the unusually hot and sunny weather, it wasn’t long before I was drawn in by yet another familiar shape. Granted, I’m heavily biased having previously owned a Sunbeam Imp Sport and regretting bitterly that it’s not still in my possession. I frankly adore the little rear-engined Imp for all its charm, Climax inspired engine and engaging handling characteristics. Gary Mathews example, a 1968 Singer Chamois Sport, was the best I had seen in a long time! He already owns a beautiful red Sunbeam Imp Sport which he bought 14 years ago as his first Imp, but when he was given the opportunity to add the even rarer Singer version of the Imp Sport to his garage, he simply couldn’t resist. Gary has only owned the Singer for 18 months now, during which time it has been through a full restoration with Gary doing every little bit of the work himself in his double garage at home. The result is astonishing with the Chamois presenting more like a classic car which has just gone through a professional open check book restoration. Gary only finished the work in April, but he now wants to get out and enjoy the Singer as much as possible, before work continues to improve the it even further. Currently there’s a stock 875cc Sport engine in the back, but plans have already been put in place for a modified 998cc engine to take its place in the near future. What a little gem…
And what an altogether great day out! If you were there on the following Bank Holiday Monday, please share with us any highlights. And if you missed out on the meet at Capesthorne altogether, then fret not as there will be further opportunities later this season. Just get onto www.classicshows.org and sign up for the next event on either Sunday the 22ndJuly or on Sunday the 26thof August. Hopefully we’ll see you there.