This time last year I attended the Flywheel event at Bicester Heritage, a favourite venue of mine and the team at ViaRETRO, and it wascompletely fabulous. This year, Bicester held a “Super Scramble” instead of Flywheel and our own International Editor went on behalf of ViaRETRO. For me, it was another in a summer of firsts as I spent the day at the Bromley Pageant of Motoring, sponsored by Peter James Insurance, at Norman Park, a few miles south of London, giving me the option of either a 100km drive around the M25 or 70km through some of South London’s suburbs. As I was setting off early on a bright Sunday morning, I thought I’d take a chance on a trip through the suburbs, as there is no viable country route from my home to Bromley.
Running for over four decades, the Bromley Pageant of Motoring bills itself as “one of the world’s largest one-day classic car shows”, claiming an attendance of over 3000 cars (!!), as well as a large number of commercials and bikes.
An event this big obviously needs to cope with a lot of visitors – besides the cars there was the usual autojumble, trade stands, live music, parade ground, fairground rides and a vast number of catering stands and vans offering all manner of food and drink. It’s a huge family day out (as opposed to a day out for a huge family…).
Cars were spread across two sections of the park, divided into club stands, one-make displays, a “For Sale” section and individual entries, and a so-called “modern classics” area for cars made between 2001 and 2009 – stretching the idea of a classic car well beyond my personal boundaries, but there we are. There was also one notable anniversary being celebrated – notable, that is, if you like the Mazda MX-5, which is, unbelievably, 30 years old this year. Japan’s most successful sports car – in terms of sales, at least – has received pretty much universal praise for its performance and handling, but I have to say it does little for me and seeing many of them together didn’t change my view. Hence why I forgot to take any pictures of the Japanese roadster…
I had registered with the BMW Car Club and after a thoroughly pleasant suburban journey – early summer mornings are among the best times to be on the road – arrived at about 8:45 to see a field already filling up with vehicles. Disappointingly, die Zitrone was the only ’02 on the stand – indeed, the only ’02 at the entire show as far as I could tell – but among the newer BMW’s on the stand were several E28’s including a couple of particularly smart M535i’s.
Now as ViaRETRO readers will know, I always eschew the practice of frantically buffing and polishing die Zitrone after arriving at a show, and this time was no different, except for one thing – I had spent the previous morning washing, polishing and generally making die Zitrone gleam in the sun, so this time I arrived with my car already buffed and polished.
Moving on around the club stands there was much to savour, but it took a little searching out at times. Many of the local clubs – manufacturer-affiliated and otherwise – had well-supported displays. There were literally dozens of Mini’s – in both the club and one-make fields, but of all the Mini-based cars, my favourites were the very cute row of Riley Elfs and Wolseley Hornets, particularly the blue 1968 Elf.
As you might expect, there were Fords in abundance in both fields, with the Cortina Mark 2 1600E club in particular coming through with a very nice set of the Executive models, and a menacing black 1988 Sierra Cosworth RS500 representing the peak of fast Fords at the show.
Vauxhall were also well represented, in particular by a row of four Cresta PA’s, as well as a variety of Cavaliers and Astra’s across the generations, most of which, to be honest, do nothing for me at all.
The Mercedes-Benz Club stand included a very imposing 1983 W126 500SEL in metallic pale green, a smart pair of W107’s and two gorgeous Pagoda 230SL’s, but the undoubted three-pointed star of their display for me was a fabulous blue 1957 190SL. Mercedes-Benz really hit a hot streak with their SL models from 1954 through to 1989, after which it all went a bit wrong to my taste. While not out-and-out sports cars (obviously with the exception of the original 300SL), they were superbly stylish and elegant machines, ideal for leisurely open-topped cruising in the summer, preferably in Southern France, and I still fantasise of a Pagoda – any engine – parked in my garage alongside my dream yellow 1972 Porsche 911…
Directly opposite the M-B Club were both the Triumph Sports Six Club and the 1100 Club – the former included an excellent turnout of TR’s and Vitesse’s while the 1100 Club showed the full range of what used to be Britain’s best-selling car, with a bright orange 1300GT the stand-out for me.
Nearby there was an exceptionally rare car on the Reliant Sabre and Scimitar Owners’ Club stand in the form of a very tidy 1963 Sabre Six convertible – one of only two made, it has a hint of Triumph Spitfire Mk 1 about it to my eyes; with the exception of the GTE, I find Reliants attempts to design sports cars somewhat ungainly, but this Sabre I quite liked, especially the functional sporty interior.
The Stag Owner’s Club also had a good turnout and put on a colourful show, though I’m not quite sure what a Dalek was doing in the middle of their stand…
To be honest though, the one-make field held far more interesting nuggets to discover, including my Car of the Day, of which more, later. Arranged in convenient alphabetical order, this field was a mixture of the sublime and the exceptionally ordinary, as well as a handful of oddities and rarities.
Having just written about the Renault Dauphine in our Prime Find series, it was a happy coincidence to find one here that was also for sale. Not so different from our featured car, being in pale green, albeit an earlier 1957 model, with an asking price of £7,500, which looked reasonable value.
In among the regular – yet nonetheless delightful – selection of E-Types, XK’s and XJS’s, XJ6’s and XJ12’s, Mark 1’s and II’s in the Jaguar section however was the car that delighted me most on the day – an absolutely stunning Mark V Drophead in Old English White. Owner Roger Tomlinson has owned the car for six years, having found it via the internet in Australia while originally searching for an SS100. He had it checked over by a friend resident there, who gave it a clean bill of health – unsurprising when you see the car – and had it shipped half-way around the world for a surprisingly reasonable £4,000. Roger spends half the year in Agios Nikolaos in Lasithi, Crete, to where he moved in 2007, and the other half in Kent, driving the Mark V to and from his Cretan home each time, his exquisite Jag turning heads along the way – what a way to travel!
This 1951 built 3.5-litre is one of just 108 RHD versions built (out of a production total of 685) and is very well known in Jaguar circles. It truly is a beauty, in superlative condition – it even has most of its original tool-kit. Roger estimates its value to be around the £80 – 90,000 mark, but he isn’t looking to sell it, and who could blame him?
What other delights did I find? Well, in the Porsche section, a superb 1986 928S in Guards Red and a 1972 914 1.7 stood out, though the latter’s colour scheme didn’t do it any favours.
In the FIAT row, a metallic blue example of a car I’ve always coveted, FIAT’s lovely 130 Pininfarina Coupé with period-correct orange velour upholstery caught my eye. This was an unusual example in that it was both manual and RHD – I don’t know how many there are of this specification, but when you consider that fewer than 4,500 were made in total during its seven-year production run, I’m sure it must be a low number. The owner bought the car eight years ago for just £8,000 and it gets driven regularly, covering approximately 5,000 miles a year, which was good to hear! Just a few metres away, another fine and equally exclusive Italian coupé, also in blue – a 1972 Alfa Romeo Montreal; I can’t imagine one could ever tire of seeing these superb cars.
There was much more; for fans of Japanese classics – you know who you are! – a dark blue second-generation Datsun Laurel Six on what looked like Dutch plates and a slightly scruffy around the edges (or nicely patinated, if you prefer) white 1971 Toyota Crown were reminders of the early attempts by the Japanese to build executive saloons. Staying with Toyota, two small Vauxhall Tigra-like cars that were unfamiliar to me were parked together – a pair of mid-90’s Sera coupés, with distinctive glass roofs and butterfly doors, later mimicked by McLaren, no less. Just under 16,000 were built, exclusively for the Japanese market, but grey imports into the UK – assisted by the fact that the Japanese drive on the correct side of the road and therefore their cars are all right-hand-drive – means that there are supposedly about 100 of these neat little coupés in the UK. Still, seeing two together must be very rare indeed. A very late first-generation Honda Civic from 1979 also attracted attention – even mine.
Moving over to the American continent, there was a decent spread of land-barges and muscle cars. Among the former, a huge red and white 1960 6.3-litre Chrysler Saratoga for which the owner was asking £20,000, an equally huge ’66 7-litre Oldsmobile Delta 88 in a lovely shade of deep blue and a 1959 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer stood out. A 7.2-litre ’68 Dodge Charger R/T in orange and a variety of Mustangs and ‘Vettes provided the muscle.
There were dabs of my beloved yellow scattered around the park like buttercups – a vivid yellow 1981 Ford Escort 2000RS Mk2, a primrose ’67 4.2-litre Plymouth Barracuda (cooler than a Mustang, in my view), a Giallo Fly Dino 246GT carrying the very appropriate plate DNO 246E. But also among the less exotic, I came across a first-generation Vauxhall Cavalier 1600L, one of the Stags, an Avenger wearing a period vinyl roof as well as one of the Scimitars. Yet there was none more yellow than a banana-yellow banana-shaped M100 Lotus Elan.
While there was evidently a great deal for the classic car fan to enjoy at this event, I found the numbers of modded and rodded cars (some of whose owners persisted in demonstrating their ludicrous sound systems – yes, I know what that makes me!), modern “classics” (not even old enough to be Youngtimers) and vast numbers of Mini’s and MX-5’s in particular less than riveting. Having said that, the show describes itself as a Pageant of Motoring, not just a classic car show, and while the word “pageant” conjures images of medieval jousting and royal parades, it also signifies a celebration, in this case of motoring as a whole. So on that basis the event succeeds. However, a number of people told me they thought the show was in steady decline – it was certainly hard to believe there were 3,000 cars there, though I confess I didn’t count them. This is a shame, but with so many classic events now competing for our time and money, perhaps not surprising, and in a perverse way, an indication of the broadening interest in our old car hobby.