I’ve reported on several events this year taking place in the beautiful Cotswolds area of England, a part of the country which attracts foreign visitors – those for whom the UK doesn’t start and stop in London – in their droves to its picturesque towns and villages with thatched cottages, ancient inns and grand country houses, set amid the rolling Cotswold Hills. In truth, it can be a little “chocolate box-y” but there’s no denying the region’s sheer prettiness, providing a properly traditional backdrop for displays of classic cars, with several classic events taking place in and around the area each year. The Cotswolds also contains Prescott Hill Climb, the Classic Motor Hub and at its outer edge, the Castle Combe racetrack, so for the classic car and historic motorsport fan, it plays a significant part.
The location for the Cotswold Festival of Motoring, in only its second year and yet another in my year of firsts, is the village of Bourton-on-the-Water. It’s sometimes known as the Venice of the Cotswolds on account of the five bridges that cross the River Windrush which runs along the high street, and on warm summer days, has excited children paddling among the ducks.
Bourton-on-the-Water has long had a connection with classic cars thanks to the very quaint, and endlessly fascinating despite its small size, Cotswold Motoring Museum which has been welcoming visitors since 1978. It’s displays include about fifty classics – the star car perhaps being a lovely blue-and-white BMW 327 – surrounded by books, toys, games, models, bikes, radios and a whole host of motoring and other paraphernalia from decades gone by. You can easily spend a good chunk of your day pointing at things saying “We used to play that!” and “I had one of those!”.
As it’s so new, the festival itself is still trying to establish its place in the classic car calendar, and there’s a lot of competition in these parts. It’s relatively modest compared to some events I’ve been to recently, with about 180 pre-registered cars, and the event is another of those organised and managed by volunteers – this time from the local Rotary Club branch – with the entirely laudable aim of raising money for local good causes.
After a damp debut last year, this time the Festival was blessed with a bright and warm (if cloudy) day. Following a leisurely morning drive through England’s green and pleasant countryside, I pitched up at 9:30 indie Zitrone at the playing fields of the Cotswold School – one of the beneficiaries of the funds raised. The field was already busy with treasured classics being buffed and polished for visitors to enjoy, and I was delighted to be parked next to one of the ‘02’s great rivals from Milan, a 1974 Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV, so we were already off to a good start!
As I think most of us would recognise, the average classic car driver is generally getting on a bit in years (our International Editor excepted!) and most of us are male. It was therefore a lovely surprise to run into a young woman who has not only bought into the classic car world, but who epitomises ViaRETRO’s “Any classic is better than no classic” mantra. Katherine Gobey bought her 1994 Maestro 2.0 Turbo Diesel in Nightfire (yes!) a few months ago, for just £675. An original car, it shows many of the signs of its age, with some unsubtly applied touch up paint, and the odd rust blister. The interior however is in very good condition, and Katherine has already added about 3,000 miles to the clock in her few months of ownership as this Maestro is her only car – her daily driver. She has all the workshop manuals and plans to do as much maintenance and restoration as she can herself, learning along the way, since obviously the car’s financial viability is not such that it makes sense to have it expertly restored. She is that rarity among the classic car fraternity – young, female, uses her car daily and hasn’t been afraid to buy a car that is deeply unfashionable even among classic car enthusiasts – we need more like her to help keep our hobby going!
At the other end of the scale, the steady drone and rumble of classics arriving was shattered by the throat-clearing revving of a Lamborghini Miura making its head-turning entrance – not a car one would normally associate with the traditional and staid Cotswolds (although Jeremy Clarkson does live not far away). Sometimes we – or in this case, I – don’t know exactly what I’ve been looking at until after the event, which was definitely true in this case, as I subsequently found out that this was no “ordinary” Miura, if there is such a thing. This was a badly damaged 1967 P400 which had been rebuilt at considerable expense over a 15 years period for property developer Piet Pulford (who owns former Who bassist John Entwistle’s house in nearby Stow-on-the-Wold; the internet can be wonderfully informative!) to be as close to a SV Jota as possible. Based on what I’ve read, he succeeded. Such an epic car.
Jowett is a marque long disappeared from the UK car manufacturing scene, and not well known outside the UK as far as I am aware. They were based in the amusingly named town of Idle, near Bradford, West Yorkshire, for almost 50 years until the company went into voluntary liquidation in 1956, having built a wide variety of cars and vans during that time. Perhaps best known for the Jowett Javelin, they’re not often seen on our roads these days, so to see two Jowetts parked together was a rare treat. Even more so as these were not common-or-garden Jowetts; one was a perfectly restored 1952 Jupiter convertible in dark green and one of only c.830 built. The other was a unique 1934 Eagle-bodied Special Tourer in white with green wheel-arches and running boards, and matching green upholstery. They made a fine pair, and both were in mint condition.
We’ve previously featured the nearby Classic Motor Hub and their Sunday morning Coffee and Classics gatherings, and they also supported this show by bringing along a trio of properly glamorous cars; a tidy 1965 Lancia Flavia Vignale convertible, a stunning 1936 Bentley 4.5 litre DHC in a pale metallic blue (not its original colour, which was black) and an actual 1955 Jaguar D-Type – yes, the real deal – which looked and sounded fabulous. We’re planning to do a more in-depth piece on the Hub later in the year – watch this space…
The Austin Healey Club had a superb turn-out of big Healeys at the show, including a very impressive row of six parked together. A more solitary “Healey” turned out to be a 1990 Haldane – one of the very few cars manufactured in Scotland, just 65 of these Healey 100 replicas were made.
There was an equally impressive line-up of early Mini’s, including one from 1959, the year this revolutionary small car was introduced. This Clipper Blue Mini Minor was no regular production Mini, however – it had in fact been assembled from a CKD (Complete Knockdown Kit) in Northern Ireland. An early Mini Cooper S from 1963 also looked very tidy in pale blue with white roof. Oh, and not to forget the 1961 Mini ice-cream van, especially for our own Dave Leadbetter!
Moving on from very little to very large, representation from across the Atlantic came in the substantial forms – among others – of a huge 1968 7.7-litre Cadillac Coupe de Ville in Grecian White, appropriately originally from Las Vegas, a silver ’58 Buick Special with more chrome “teeth” in its grill than any fable creature I know of, and a replica of one of the most famous TV cars ever – the Starsky & Hutch red and white Ford Gran Torino. This 1974 model formed part of a small Movie and TV Cars display which included the mighty pairing of Dodge Charger and Ford Mustang from Bullitt, among others. Though not part of the Movie Car section, a second Mustang, a 1970 Sportroof in Grabber Orange, seen at the NEC Classic last year, also looked very mean, and very bright!
Mention of the Bullitt duo reminds me of one of the fun things about such shows for me: Spotting particular pairings of cars, some contrasting, some complementary, many of them just in my own head, and sometimes the result of the owners arriving together. I’ve already mentioned the two Jowetts, and indeed the Italo/German pairing of die Zitrone and its rival Alfa Romeo. Another was a superb pair of Lotuses (Loti?), a 1974 Europa Special in JPS colours alongside a 1973 metallic blue Elan +2 showing two contrasting approaches to the mid-1970’s sports car from the same factory; I like them both, especially the mid-engined Europa, though I think I’d struggle to get in and out of either these days…
Two early Jaguar E-Types, a pale blue metallic 1963 roadster and a gunmetal grey 1961 FHC looked superb together – familiarity with this iconic shape, which in these two early examples is perhaps in its purest form, does not breed contempt when they look as good as these two did.
Two very different pairs of Triumphs dotted around the field also caught my eye – a white 1936 Gloria Vitesse Tourer (the last one produced) next to a 1972 Stag, also in white, and a smart red 1968 GT6 Mk II alongside a white 1969 Herald 13/60 convertible – this last Triumph has been used as a daily driver since 2001.
Last, but definitely not least, the contrast between the delicate lines of a tiny 1973 Giallo Fly Dino 246GT and the altogether more aggressive 1998 Ferrari F355 Berlinetta reminded me of how much more I like earlier rather than later Ferrari’s. Perhaps even more than many other cars, they grew ever bigger, wider, more bloated. This is purely my very subjective opinion of course…
The most interesting car of the day for me though – even with a genuine Jaguar D-Type and Lamborghini Miura on display – was a red and white 1961 Auto Union 1000S. Not just because these are so seldom seen in the UK, and not even just because I had an uncle who owned one back in the mid-1960’s, but also because this one carried a number plate that indicated it came from the beautiful university city of Heidelberg. This is one of my favourite places to visit, with its castle high above both the Altstadt and the River Neckar. I had a delightful chat with the owners, Fred and Gerti Wingerter,who had used the 46thAuto Union International Treffen – held a couple of days earlier in the nearby old Roman town of Cirencester and attended by c.125 DKW/Auto Union cars and bikes – as the centrepiece of a short English touring holiday. They have owned their fully restored 1000S, bought for €20,000, for four years and use it throughout each summer. One of our cherished “Unexceptionals” back in its home country in the 1960’s, this was probably the car that attracted the most attention all day, with a steady stream of visitors stopping to take a closer look at this very cool, and for the UK, uncommon car.
I really enjoyed this local, grass-roots type of show, which I hope will be able to build on its growth from last year – there’s room for expansion on both the actual show site as well as neighbouring parking for visitors. While there were a fair number of classic staples present on the day, there were also a number of more unusual gems dotted around, with the highlight for me being that super-cool Auto Union 1000S, which really took me back to family visits to Southern Germany back in the 1960’s – proof that ultimately, the personal connection with a classic car can mean more than cost, exclusivity or glamour, at least for me.