These are privileged times for us classic car enthusiasts as there seems to be constant increase in the number of classic car events on offer. Every spring sees new and exciting events launched leading to a calendar which is absolutely bursting at the seams with choice. It’s all too easy to simply continue attending the usual events that we’ve each been going to for the past decade or more. But our very own Tony Wawryk has in fact dedicated this summer to visiting and not least reporting from as many new (to him) events as possible. Very admirable and an approach which many of us could probably benefit from copying. Yet, there are just some events which have become pillars within our classic car scene. They seem to have been around for ever, in some cases they have almost become a defining element of the scene, and they are still going strong despite the competition for vacant summer weekends. The classic car shows held at Tatton Park in Cheshire just south of Manchester are precisely such events.
This past weekend, Tatton Park hosted their 33rd Classic Car Spectacular. As in previous years, it’s a 2-day event with many cars attending both days while others settle for only the Saturday or only the Sunday. Sadly, this year I had to settle for only Saturday as work commitments had me engaged elsewhere on the Sunday. Still, this 2-day concept leads to more than 2,000 classics being on display over the weekend, while the event also hosts the Cheshire Autojumble with a variety of stalls selling anything from your typical cheap China-produced tat to that rare NOS part you need for your next restoration project. And yes, I’ve religiously attended every Tatton Park classic car show since I moved to the UK. Yes, I should really seek out some new events too. But the Tatton Park shows are just such an integral part of the northern classic car scene. I couldn’t bear miss it…
Of course I realise that if I’m attending every year, then others will be too. As such, if you were to look through previous year’s ViaRETRO reports from Tatton Park, you would no doubt come across pictures of the same cars. There’s an element of the usual suspects. But even so, with an event quite this big, there’s bound to always be plenty of new stuff too. Either in the form of regulars arriving with their latest purchase or newcomers attending Tatton Park for the first time.
And with that comes the aspect which I most enjoy about Tatton Park: the variety! With so many classic cars in attendance, it doesn’t really matter which niche of classic cars you’re into, you will find something here which makes you smile. Whether you are into pre-war vintage cars or youngtimers, American Yank-tanks or yesteryear’s ordinary everyday heroes, the mandatory rows of MGs or true exotica; you will not walk away disappointed.
In previous years, I have always arrived at Tatton in one of my BMW 02’s. However, it was time for a change. Whatever your choice of classic car, I’ve always been a big advocate for joining the owner’s club for that marque or maybe even specific model. So having purchased my Reliant Scimitar GTE less than half a year ago, I had obviously joined the Reliant Sabre & Scimitar Owner’s Club and now hoped to make a few new friends by joining their club stand at Tatton. They were a little short of cars on the Saturday but more were signed up for the Sunday. Even so, my SE6a was in good company with another SE6a, a rare GTC, three of the newer SS1’s and not least a stunningly attractive Sabre Six representing the early years of Reliant sportscar production.
Bringing my wife and two daughters along was another change for 2019. We only got a few meters from the RSSOC stand before my dear wife proclaimed that if I were buying another classic (hmmm… I wonder where she got that idea from?), it would simply have to be a pink Cadillac. While that wasn’t really in the script, I can see why she suddenly felt so inspired by Bernie Murphy’s landyacht of a ’57 Cadillac Coupe DeVille. If nothing else, it’s most certainly a statement! Bernie has spent the last three years on a still ongoing meticulous restoration of a ’59 Ford Galaxie Convertible, and while he seems to be enjoying the process, he also admitted to feeling a little downhearted at attending the many classic car shows without a classic of his own. The solution was obvious: buy another classic which needed to be roadworthy and ready to go. So about a year ago, Bernie purchased this huge 6-litre fifties Cadi – a model which he believes there are only two of in the UK, with this particular car having lived the majority of its life this side of the pond. He now drives the pink Cadi extensively during the summer attending as many shows as he can possibly press in between continuing the Galaxie restoration.
After this, it wasn’t long before my two daughters fell in love with two Trans-Am Firebirds – one in gold and the other in “Banditt” black with a golden bird. If I’m to listen to my family, it would appear that I soon need to realise my dream of owning an American classic of some sort. I really must sell something else first though…
We hastily moved on, passing all the other car club stands and eventually ending up in the field for individual entries. I quickly came across my 02 friends and felt a little guilty for not joining them this year. As always, Paul Wilson and Chris Smith were there with their Granat red 2002 and Inka orange 2002tii respectively. But this year they were joined again by Andy Sals who had just finished a full restoration on his round rear light 2002. Next to Paul and Chris’s stock examples, Andy’s looking decidedly menacing with its reasonably subtle yet effective Alpina wheel arch extensions covering period deep-dished 7” alloys and a suitably low suspension set-up. I was especially pleased to witness how his new Fjord blue paintwork was near on flawless, as it’s the same painter who will soon be applying a fresh coat of paint to my Green Devil.
Other highlights included a golden Triumph TR7 convertible which was on Belgian number plates. Was this a UK roadtrip in the making? I would have loved to hear the owner’s story, but he must have been admiring the many classics on display as he certainly wasn’t to be found near his car. An early fifties Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkII dhc looked absolutely fabulous with its rear wheel spats creating a beautiful teardrop rear end to the British convertible. Further on, a perfectly presented Gilbern 1800GT looked fun with its Peter Burgess fettled engine sitting proud under the open bonnet, while a MkIII Capri 3.0S was proving that brown metallic is indeed the coolest colour for a proper seventies classic. A charming little pre-war Frazer Nash-BMW 319 roadster was understandably attracting a bit of a crowd every time I passed it. And yet, typically, it was a small Imp – or rather, in this case a Singer Chamois Coupé with headlamps from a Stiletto – which stopped me dead in my tracks and immediately sent me off to a dreamland of returning to Imp ownership one day. Granted, it’s no pink Cadillac, but my wife would just have to learn to live with it…
Keeping with the Rootes theme, I was casually passing the crammed stand of the Sunbeam Alpine Owner’s Club when I was drawn in by a design which I had never come across before. I was immediately intrigued – especially as it was quite an appealing design too. To those who insist on every classic car being left entirely factory spec, you may want to look the other way at this point. To be entirely honest, I’m usually not a great fan of classics with radically altered bodywork myself. Not so much because I feel every classic must be left untouched, but more because I feel the end result usually ends up being a lot less harmonious than the original. But clearly, with umpteen years of experience building Austin Seven based specials, David Gregson doesn’t quite share my point of view. And thank God for that, as we otherwise wouldn’t have been blessed with this gorgeous creation.
Having decided that it was time to move up from the diminutive pre-war Sevens to a classic which would better keep up with modern day traffic while offering both better safety and comfort, David purchased a ’67 Sunbeam Alpine Series V in May 2015. It was fundamentally sound and running but in need of some tlc. Well into the restoration of the Alpine, David then decided that this time around, he wanted a proper GT, i.e. a closed coupé. This added another 12 months to the project as he started constructing his own design of a fixed roof for the open roadster.
A Britax folding sunroof was salvaged from an E-type and the framework of the sunroof thus ended up dictating the shape and curvature of the roofline. David did all the work himself, creating an elegantly slopping roof entirely from steel. It was blended into the Alpine’s rear bodywork with the original bootlid being shortened by about 7 inches to make space for the C-pillars. While the rear window from a Suzuki Jimny proved to be the only window small enough to suit the narrow roof, the rear quarterlights were constructed by David himself. As a finishing touch, a “Rootes 1725” badge was modified with David Gregson’s initials and suitably placed on the rear of his stylish Alpine Coupé.
To my own surprise, I found this one-off Sunbeam Alpine DG Coupé a much better executed design than the Alpine Coupés which were built in period by Harrington.
Next up, my father having a past as co-owning a BMW & Honda dealership back in Denmark, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia as I approached a small row of classic Honda’s and found not just one, but two of the now ultra-rare MkI Honda Prelude. I’ve always adored these handsome little coupés, and while rust-proofing was as much an issue on the Preludes as on any other Japanese car from that era, the rest of the build quality was nothing short amazing. Bear in mind that when the Prelude was introduced in 1978, Honda had only been building cars for a measly 15 years, yet you really needed a period Mercedes-Benz to find a car which had a higher standard of assembly! If that’s not enough for you, just look at that instrument binnacle: I love the warning light bezel placed within the tacho which itself is placed within the speedo – funky!
Simon Alexanders’ very first car was a MkI Honda Prelude which he bought in 1995 and owned for four years. Being quite the Honda fanatic, he now owns two first generation Civics and is currently also restoring a first generation Accord saloon. But back in 2005 he was finally able to find and purchase this manual Prelude in silver so he could relive his early days of car ownership. Owning his own body workshop helped when he subsequently put it through a full restoration, and since then it’s been enjoyed out on the roads where it belongs every summer.
Jay Spendlove did things the other way around. He started off on Mk1 Civics and when Simon was helping him work on his, he also got him interested in the early Prelude. About two years ago, Jay bought his white Prelude with a Hondamatic transmission and a charmingly pleasant blue interior which now keeps his Civic company.
But of course, whether a late seventies coupé from the Land of the Rising Sun rocks your boat or not, there was so much else on display which no doubt would. If you missed the fun this time around, keep in mind that they actually put on a second show – the Passion for Power event – later this summer on the 17th & 18th of August. On that note, I’ll leave you to enjoy a small gallery representing just a little portion of this past weekend at Tatton Park…