The Classic Motor Hub (or CMH as I will call it) in Bibury, Gloucestershire, may already be known to the esteemed ViaRETRO readers, but this was my first visit to one of their monthly Coffee and Classics mornings.
The CMH is a former World War II airfield, but it stopped being used as one in 1949. In recent years, it’s five-acre site has been home to the Classic Car Hub. With much of the original site remaining in use, there’s also space for the Cotswold Collectors Cars showroom, a coffee shop, a very evocative clubhouse and a shop. It’s open every weekday for drop-in visits, and as well as hosting the monthly Coffee and Classic events through the Spring/Summer months, it also plays host to car clubs (the next event is for Porsche owners) and even occasional Drive-In Movies. If I were to compare it to anything, it would be a mini-Bicester Heritage, and it’s a really splendid venue.
Enough about the background – on a bright Sunday morning I set off in the Lemon with my lovely partner Carolyn, who had graciously agreed to tolerate a morning of me going ga-ga over old cars in exchange for a pub lunch afterwards. We were aiming to get to the CMH for 10am as the event runs from 10.00 to 13.00, and thus doesn’t tie up a whole day. Once you leave the A40, the last few miles to Bibury consist of a lovely drive along narrow country roads, and once there, we were directed to park on the hard-standing towards the back.
I parked next to one of my favourite Italian cars, a Lancia Fulvia Coupé 3, and fortified by a coffee, set off on a general walkabout around the site. New arrivals were turning up throughout the first hour, so it was necessary to go around again, which of course meant having to look at some cars more than once, but I managed…
Among the cars driven to the event (about 250 in total, which is the most the site can handle – the event was fully booked) were some real beauties, as well as some examples of what might be considered more mundane classics, but classics nevertheless. I confess I find it hard to get very excited about yet another MGB, but a white MGC GT was a treat, parked in a row among several generations of MG.
Indeed, MG’s in general were well represented, going back to a lovely pair of MG P Types from the mid- 1930s, through to MGA, B, C, TF, YT and Midgets, with a bright red open-topped 1954 MG TF allowing a good look at its achingly cool octagonal instrument dials.
A lovely surprise was a very original 1968 4.2-litre Daimler Sovereign, driven in by its (second) owner of 40 years, and with only 50,000 miles on the clock. Never restored and still wearing the dark blue finish it left the factory in, complete with the odd small ding and dent, it was proper original, and all the nicer for it. A true survivor.
Also well represented were Porsche, with some gorgeous early 70s examples – a bright orange 912, a 1970 2.2 911E and a 1972 2.4 911E, both white, as well as a brutal 911RSR and a dark blue 993. To break up the variations-of-911, there was even a US-spec 914. The 1972 car is on my lottery-winning list…
Less well represented were the other German marques – one Audi Quattro, and only one Mercedes Benz, but that one was a very lovely Ponton 190 in excellent condition.
Italy was possibly the best mainland European country in terms of attendance – two stunning red Alfa Romeo Spider’s, one a Giulia 1600, the other a Giulietta 1300, stood out, plus a couple of GT Bertone’s. A dramatic silver Lamborghini Jalpa screamed 1980s. Yet the most glamorous, an utterly gorgeous was surely the 166M from 1958, while we were equally blessed with the presence of a dark blue Dino 246GT and other sundry products from Maranello.
There were goodies everywhere you looked – an elegant and stately metallic blue Alvis 3-litre, and in contrast, the last of the “wedgie” TVR’s, one of only three 430 SE’s built, with the 4.3 litre Rover V8 engine. As per Claus’s piece on the wedge TVR’s, this might not have been a sexy car, but it is most definitely cool!
Neither cool nor sexy was a modern Morgan Aero Coupe – I’m not a fan of Morgans generally (if I want an old-looking car, I’ll buy an old car), but this is an abomination. Many of the details are exquisite – the rear tail lights, for example, and even the Corvette-inspired split rear window, yet somehow it looks like Picasso designed it. I particularly dislike the cross-eyed front. Painted a vivid light blue, there’s no arguing it made quite an entrance, but it’s not for me.
The Morgan wasn’t the most bonkers vehicle there – note, vehicle, rather than car, since I don’t think a Carver can accurately be called a car. It vied for bonkersness with the one-of-a-kind Millyard motorbike – check the photos and you’ll see what I mean! It’s not as old as it looks, and the engine is a 5-litre V-twin! I would not fancy riding it…
More spectacular machinery included a two-times Le Mans overall runner-up, in the curvy shape of an Aston Martin DB3S. A fantastic Jaguar D-Type impressed just as much, and a registration check comes up Jaguar, manufactured 1962, so I’m assuming it was the real deal (there wasn’t anyone around to ask, but as proof of my attendance there yesterday, there is a photo of your correspondent taking a photo of it!!). And no less impressive was the genuine 1965 AC Cobra 289. So often, cars like these at such shows turn out to be recreations or kits, but not this time.
There were also some mind-boggling examples of how sports cars have grown in size over the years – the 912 was parked next to a very recent 911 Convertible, which had an arse (and an engine) twice the size of its ancestor. The 1970 911 looked positively dainty next to a new Alfa Romeo 4C. And most telling of all was a Lotus Elan alongside an Evora – the Elan was completely dwarfed by its newer cousin, and I know which one I’d prefer to take home. Hint; not the Evora.
Finally, from the cars that were driven to the meet, there was a beautiful red Citroen DS Decapotable, built by Henri Chapron…which leads me nicely to the showrooms, where if anything, some of the cars were even more special!
We weren’t supposed to take photos in the showroom, something I hadn’t realised initially, so I did take a few, but would have taken many more. I’ll highlight just my absolute favourites, starting with the stunningly beautiful blue-and-white 1937 Frazer-Nash BMW 327, which simply took the breath away – it’s incredible to think this car dates back so far. There was a dreamy pair of Ferrari convertibles, a 275 GTS and a 330 GTS, a delightful Vignale-bodied Ferrari 225, and no less than two Ferrari Testa Rossa’s; one, formerly Innes Ireland’s car, the other, from 1965, an ex-Donald Campbell car. These were and still are the dashing, stylish Ferrari’s of my (sadly unattainable) dreams, not the bloated supercars they churn out today.
Further amazing historic classics, some on loan from collectors or being stored on their behalf, included a magnificent Alfa Romeo 2300 8C from 1934, a 1932 Aston Martin 1.5-litre Le Mans car, and the oldest car in the building, a 1912 5-litre chain-drive Bugatti.
Perhaps the single most fabulous car among so many, was a quite fantastic 1939 Bentley Derby 4.25 by Andre Embiricos, and last but definitely not least, a wonderful Citroen DS Coupé by Chapron again. I’d never seen examples of either of the last two, or even heard of the Embiricos Bentley, so I did a little digging. It turns out, this incredible Bentley was a one-off built by Pourtout Carossier for Greek gentleman racer Andre Embiricos – little wonder I’d never seen one before.
A mosey around the shop selling vintage prints, CMH mugs, clothing and other related merchandise also unearthed a couple of gifts for the boy (or girl) who has everything – an electrically powered Aston Martin for £14,000, and an electrically powered Bugatti for a mere £15,000!! I wasn’t tempted, not least since my son is 18 years old and 1m 90cm…and if I had a spare £15k, I’d put it to an actual car…maybe that Fulvia…
This was a terrific way to spend 2 or 3 hours, and we rounded off our trip with a stop for lunch at the lovely Swan pub in Swinbrook before letting the Lemon complete the 130-mile roundtrip home, which it did without complaint. The CMH hosts these Coffee and Classic events on the first Sunday of each month; there’s no cost and they’re open to classic cars, bikes, and other sundry interesting machinery. But it’s popular, so you need to register in advance if you want to go – which I can highly recommend that you do if you can. I’ll be returning for sure, probably in August.