With all the mammoth classic car events, shows and meets which we’re spoilt with these days, it presents the question: “Is there still a place for the small, entirely informal and very local meet?”
As our hobby has grown in size, so has the events which we attend. Witness for example the vast expansion of the Goodwood Revival from a small grassroot gathering to a world renown legend in the twenty years it has existed. We have huge exhibitions throughout the winter months such as the well-established Techno Classica in Germany, Rétromobile in France, Auto e Moto d’Epoca in Italy, the NEC in the UK and many, many more. Also the summer shows which we so enjoy driving to with our own classics have expanded to the point of almost overflowing. The local to me two-day Tatton Park show sees more than 2,000 cars on their lawn (and that’s twice every year!), Tony very recently reported from Bromley Pageant which despite a slight decline in recent years is still reporting some 3,000 cars attending, and of course I’ve just returned from the excellent Super Scramble which I’m guessing would have equally had well above 2,000 classics inside their gates – though I admittedly didn’t count. And it’s the same on mainland Europe – just look at Classic Days at Schloss Dyck in Germany, while even my home country, tiny little Denmark, manages a small handful of events each summer which claim to exceed 1,000 attending classic vehicles – which is really quite impressive for a country which has yet to reach a population of 6 million.
But in a classic car calendar which is positively bursting at the seams, does that leave any hope for the small and very local classic car gatherings? To investigate the matter further, the very next day after returning home from the Super Scramble at Bicester Heritage, my Danish mate, Steen, and I started up my Scimitar GTE again and headed out into the scenic High Peaks to pay the Hope Motor Show a visit…
Needless to say, this charming little meet is something entirely different from those mammoth shows – and that’s not just down to size either. For starters, it’s held on a Monday afternoon with cars showing up from 6pm onwards. Secondly, the attending classic cars are parked up in a field next to the Travellers Rest, thereby making it a bit of a pub meet similar to the one Dave reported from at the Bluebell Inn a bit more than a month ago.
Organised by the Sheffield & Hallamshire Motor Club and situated bang-smack in the middle of the ever-so-idyllic Hope Valley, the meet attracts somewhere approximately 300 cars and motorbikes each year – all of them living quite local and no doubt enjoying the scenic drive both to and from. But besides the beautiful location, what can such a small show offer us?
Well for starters, there’s the atmosphere. Not that the Revival or the Bicester Heritage is in any way lacking atmosphere – quite the contrary. But with meets this small, there’s a sense of intimacy which is really quite appealing. The money-making corporate blanket has been cast aside, and though 300 vehicles is of course plenty to bring in a bit of a crowd, you still almost feel like your buddies with everyone there.
As for the cars, the numbers speak their own clear language – there obviously won’t be the same immense variety and there’s certainly also not as many – if any – truly exotic bluechip classics in our company. But even with Steen and I having had the full palette only the day before while at Bicester, we still found plenty in Hope which caught our interest and put a smile on our faces. In fact, there were even a few surprises in there!
Back home in Denmark, Steen happens to be the lucky owner of a rare and fabulously cool 1968 Simca 1200S Coupé. Well, neither Steen nor I were expecting to encounter any Simca siblings during his UK visit, and if it really were to happen, Bicester Heritage would have been the more likely setting for it. So imagine our surprise as we spotted a French Blue Simca 1200S Coupé sitting on early finned Minilite alloys! Needless to say, I immediately lost Steen for a good half hour as he fell into a nerdy conversation with the owner Kevin Ward… Not least because parked next to Kevin’s Coupé was his brother, Mick Ward’s Simca 1000 Berline in full race trim.
All of two Simca’s at a local show? Nope, wrong again. Because out in the field we also came across a beautifully presented 1971 Simca 1204 Special. Who would have thought it possible outside of France? And the French rarities just kept coming as we spotted a genuine Group B homologation special in the form of Chris Robson’s quirky Citroën Visa Chrono with a charming and very genuine motorsport patina to it. I can’t really explain why, but I’ve always found myself fascinated with these crazy little buzz-boxes – so much so, that we featured a pristine example as one of our Prime Finds some time ago. According to the owner, this particular car is the only one remaining in the UK, and we saw it in Hope Valley.
Of course, as with any British classic car show, there were also plenty of the mandatory Minis, MGs and Fords. Not that this is a bad thing, as many of them looked fabulous. Especially the very purposeful ‘66 Cooper with a discrete Speedwell sign on the driver’s door, an excellent ’69 MGB GT presented in flawless Iris blue and not least that perfect clone of a European-market Capri 2600RS which an enthusiast had painstakingly built on a UK Capri 3000 GXL.
Several Jaguars looked great as well with the black XK150 fhc being nothing short of concours. But it was the Mk II 3.4 MOD which truly blew my mind – never before have I been quite so attracted by any other Mk II. Much of that probably came down to that fabulously drab dark olive green colour, but the period correct numberplates and colour-coded steel wheels wearing chromed trim rings no doubt played their part as well. Space, pace and grace at its very finest…
But if it’s something truly rare you desire, how about a truck-sized Sheffield Simplex LA2 45HP from 1910. This huge – yet elegant – vintage car is claimed by its owner to be the only one of its kind to survive to this day. It’s deeply fascinating engine is made up of three separate blocks of two cylinders which add up to give the 1,800kg. heavy machine a 7-litre 6-cylinder engine with dual ignition from Bosch pushing out 100hp at a mere 2,000rpm. Delivered new to Adelaide in Southern Australia, it was repatriated to the UK as a collection of parts in 1979 and finally returned to the road in 1985. Since then, the Simplex has entered many rallies and shows and has among several other achievements driven from Land’s End to John O’Groats using only top gear.
But of course, rather than get all worked up about rarities and favourite classics, you could also just attend a small, local classic car show with a couple of mates and relax with a leisurely picnic. That seemed to largely be the approach of three mates, Corin, Richard and Simon, who respectively parked up their ’55 T-bird, ’69 Duetto and MkI Midget together and then proceeded to chill with a few snacks and a drink from the cooler. What better way to spend a Monday evening? Something to consider while Steen and I sampled the burgers which Travellers Inn were serving from an outdoor grill to all at the show.
So is there still hope for the small, local classic car meets? Well, in Hope Valley there certainly is. Of course, it goes without saying, that it’ll never be the overwhelming sensory overload which the huge shows often are. But maybe they don’t have to be. Maybe they have something entirely different but equally satisfying on offer. And maybe you ought to seek out you most local small classic car show and make a point out of attending next time….