A late change in ViaRETRO arrangements following the unavoidable detention in Cancún of our International Editor (no, he wasn’t arrested – the culprit was an aircraft fault) meant that I was able to attend the Southern Bedfordshire Classic Vehicle Show taking place in Pulloxhill. Where, I hear you ask? Well, it’s a little under 20 miles east of Milton Keynes, an English “new town” infamous for its roundabouts and fake cows (as opposed to fake news) scattered around the town’s outskirts to give it a more bucolic feel. Opinions vary on whether this works or not, but Pulloxhill is definitely not in need of any fake cows, being as typical an English country village as you are likely to find.
It has a population of just about 1,000 souls and is one of the oldest villages in England, being recorded in the Domesday Book in 1066. On the face of it, you wouldn’t expect Pulloxhill to be a particularly suitable location for a classic vehicle event, but you’d be wrong!
This was the 5th incarnation of the show, organised like so many others in the UK by a local group of Rotarians raising money for good causes. It really is impressive that classic car shows are deemed to be such good vehicles (see what I did there?) for fund-raising, but I have a slight concern that there might just be too many of these shows and not enough cars to go round – have we reached “peak show”?
For the previous few days, much of the UK had been beset by high winds and heavy rain, but the organisers of the South Bedfordshire Classic Vehicle Show had clearly got a hotline to a very influential entity, as Sunday remained bright and rain-free for most of the day. For die Zitrone and I, this was one more of our summer of firsts as we followed a pale green 1956 MG Magnette ZA into the showground behind one of the village’s two pubs, the Cross Keys, a few minutes before 9:30 to take up our spot for the day. Shortly after, we found ourselves flanked by a dark blue Rover P5 and a replica Porsche 356, but we won’t mention that… oops, too late…
The majority of cars were still to arrive, so I took the opportunity to have a brief walk around the village, visiting the Church of St. James the Apostle – parts of which date back to the mid-13th Century – and a slightly sinister looking disused water tower, before taking up a position near the entrance to the site to snap a few of the cars on their way in.
After a quiet start, the showground began to fill up as local owners realised that we were in for a dry if blustery day, and yet again, for a relatively modest local event, there were many classic delights to savour. So after the obligatory restorative cup of tea, I set off around the grounds to pick out some highlights.
Pretty much the first car greeting visitors as they walked in was an orange 1962 Messerschmitt KR200 micro-car. This 191cc, 9.1bhp two-seater – the passenger sits behind the driver in a tandem arrangement – has had just two owners, with its current custodian having completely restored it to its present superlative state. These idiosyncratic little three-wheelers are now attracting serious money, fetching as much as £35,000 in top condition.
The dominant marque at the event was unquestionably MG, which was less of a surprise when I heard that the local MG club is involved in the organisation of the event. Still, they contributed a varied and colourful line up of A’s and B’s, roadsters and GT’s, as well as a couple of Magnettes and a couple of TD’s, among others. I particularly enjoyed the very smart duotone green 1938 MG SA Saloon, and I was equally taken by one of my random “pairings”, two chrome-bumpered MGB GT’s, one in bright yellow, the other in gleaming white – every now and then I actually think I wouldn’t mind owning one, when they look as good as these two did in the morning sunshine.
Besides the healthy turnout of MG’s, there was also a decent number of Austin Healeys, Jaguars and various other Brits. The Jaguar club cars included a couple of beautiful XK150’s, one a 1960 DHC in Old English White with red interior parked alongside a handsome metallic grey 3.4-litre 1966 Mk 2, the other a 1958 FHC in grey with a lovely black 2 ½-litre Mark IV next to it. This gorgeous Jaguar was the oldest known surviving Mark IV having been assembled as early as 1946, while the drophead has been in the same ownership since 1991 and been the subject of an extensive restoration – and it looked like it too, having won several Jaguar Club Concours events. Together with the very elegant green 1972 Daimler Sovereign 4.2 (though I’m unconvinced by wire wheels on one of these) and another, more appropriately shod dark red Sovereign, there were plenty of reminders of just how stylish Jaguar Daimler cars used to be.
Staying in Coventry, a handful of Triumphs, including TR’s, Heralds and a smart Dolomite 1500HL all looked great. So did of course a bright blue 1970 Hillman Imp which stood out on black Minilites, as did a superbly elegant 1947 black and cream Alvis 14. To my own surprise, I’m starting to find myself more and more attracted to early-post-war British cars.
Still in Coventry, one of my favourites of the day was a car that initially caught my eye on its way into the show, an immaculate white over metallic blue 1963 Humber Sceptre – though again on dubious wheels for my taste.
Moving just down the road to Solihull, Rovers of various vintages could also be found – not only the handsome P5 parked next to me, but also a particularly smart maroon 1959 P4 110 as well as a 1948 Rover 12 convertible, also in maroon. Moving further north, after last week’s surprise Jowett duo, an example of the best-known car built by the company, a black 1953 Javelin – classic Brits were well represented here in Pulloxhill.
It wasn’t all about the Brits, though – there was more than a sprinkling of international flavour to the day’s classic smorgasbord.
The more Ferrari 308GT4’s I see, the more I find myself liking them. I used to consider the angular Bertone design a bit plain in comparison with Pininfarina’s more curvaceous and sensuous lines of the 308GTB, but the GT4 has really grown on me lately, and here was a superb red example from 1979 here. Another red Italian – this time penned by Pininfarina – was a 1981 Lancia Montecarlo, a later one, with the glass rear buttresses. I know they suffered the same reputational damage as other contemporary Lancia’s, but I still like them…
Pair-spotting (or -inventing) time… first, a Franco-Italian twosome consisting of a 1962 Citroën Bijou and a white 1967 FIAT 500, both interpretations of micro-car family runabouts and small wonders of packaging. I found the Bijou particularly interesting in that it was built in Slough for the UK market, and therefore RHD only. Unlike the chic and iconic little 500, it never really found a market, and only 213 were built, of which a remarkable 150 are claimed to survive even though only 40 are on the road. By contrast, FIAT built a few more 500’s and 600’s – that’s 3,893,294 to be precise!
Sticking with Citroën, a well-patinated and definitely used beige 1970 Ami 8 and a grey corrugated-bonnet 2CV of similar vintage made a charming couple, as did two BX’s with very different histories despite both setting excellent examples of classic car motoring on a budget – one a low-mileage 19TGD in Olympic Blue bought for the princely sum of £250, the other a more extravagant purchase at £400, a Morello Red TZD Turbo which was purchased with 157,000 miles on the clock in 2012. As a daily driver, it has now reached an extraordinary 264,692 miles – who said Citroëns are fragile and unreliable? Well, I certainly have, but this BX has proved to be anything but!
From across the Atlantic, two generations of fastback Ford Mustangs, both in red, made an imposing pair, though the 1972 4.9-litre car – available for £24,000 – was the less appealing of the two for me; I much prefer the 1967 6.4-litre version, which rumbled impressively on its way in. An earlier coupé, a 1953 Lincoln Capri in Colonial Blue which I’ve come across before, looked very cool as it made its way into the show – despite its considerable 17 feet 10 inches (5.44 metres) length, it looks relatively understated and all the better for that.
Returning to the UK for one last pairing – two Rolls Royce Silver Shadows added a subtle glamour to the day – I’ve heard rumours that our own Anders Bilidt is considering buying one to use for a major roadtrip next year [Ed: Let’s not tell anyone quite yet]…
Among the lesser-spotted classics was a 1983 South African built Ford Cortina XR6, a completely unfamiliar car to me, but basically a Mark V with a 3-litre Essex V6 engine under the bonnet – I should think it moves along pretty rapidly! And speaking of Ford, the oldest car on show on the day was a 1915 Model T, in superb condition, driven to and from the show by its owner, and yes, it was in black!
Another overseas-built British car at the event was a Vauxhall Velox “Caleche”, this one a red 1950 model. The Luton manufactured chassis was exported to Australia, where the open coachwork – “Caleche” is French for “open carriage”- was added by GM Holden. Only two are known to exist in the UK, and they’re also a rare sight in their home country, with 28 known to survive across Australia and New Zealand combined.
As always at shows like these, the closer you look, the more there is to discover – the morning started unpromisingly (not helped by the tone-deaf singing of the ukulele band), but gradually unveiled more and more of interest. And I made it home just before the rains came down and well before our International Editor set foot on UK soil again…