As well as offering a superlative line-up of historic racing, the Silverstone Classic lays claim to being one of – if not the – largest gathering of classic cars in the world as enthusiasts from all over the UK and Europe descend on the circuit to display their own cars as well as to watch the racing. Some 10,000 classic and specialist car owners bring their treasured vehicles to Silverstone, most of them to join displays organised by their classic car club – this year over 150 clubs registered to take part and as always at the Classic, the sheer number of classics was almost overwhelming.
Now it’s true that in some cases – such as the Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin clubs in particular, the numbers are inflated by too many moderns in my view, but even so there were hundreds of fabulous genuine classics to salivate over, as I hope the pictures will show.
As usual, a number of special anniversaries were being celebrated; this year these included 60th anniversaries for that British icon, the Mini, and at the other extreme, De Tomaso, as well as the Austin Healey 3000, Jaguar Mk2 and Marcos, the 100th anniversary of Bentley, the 50th of the TR6 and Datsun 240Z, and many more recent ones, all of which were celebrated by taking part in a parade lap around the full circuit – something I have had the pleasure of doing twice recently. It’s a quite amusing, even if speeds are strictly controlled!
No Silverstone Classic weekend is complete without its fairground, scores of trade stalls, and – if you’re prepared to stay for the evening or are camping over the weekend – live music, which this year itself celebrated an anniversary, that of the 1969 Woodstock Festival. This was achieved with tribute bands playing the music of Santana, The Who, Sly and the Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix among others who played that legendary musical bacchanalia.
The stars of the weekend, of course, are the cars, and this year was no exception. I’ve already written about the incredible array of historic racers whose sound and fury filled the Nothamptonshire air all weekend. So for this piece I will focus on the car clubs, although with so many of them, I have necessarily had to be selective!
I have the good fortune to live just an hour or so from Silverstone, so am usually able to go on more than one day; this year I attended on the Friday and Sunday, missing out the busiest day of the weekend, which also turned out to be the wettest. On both days, I took advantage of the BMW Car Club’s well-sited in-field area to park die Zitrone in among a strong turnout of classic BMW’s, including several other ‘02’s and a trio of beautiful E9 CSL’s.
A coffee and a biscuit later, it was time to take a look around the vast number of classics gathered around this historic motor racing venue.
On the other side of the Wellington Straight from the BMW Club were three areas taken up by the Porsche Club, who always have a huge turnout at Silverstone. This time, they had – intelligently, in my view – separated the pre-2000 and post-2000 cars, meaning that in their primary section was a jaw-dropping collection of properly classic Porkers. I would have been happy with almost any car here, but among my favourites was a blue 1969 Porsche 914-6 which had barrelled past us on the way to the circuit. A second 914-6 from 1973 looked excellent too – even if I presume it was an engine swap as 914-6 production ceased at the end of 1972. But this had become the beneficiary of a 2.8-litre engine transplant which must have made it quite a thrill to drive! Besides these two mid-engined Porsche oddities, there was also a couple of fabulous Carrera RS’s, no less than three yellow (of course!) early 1970’s 911E’s and an absolutely exquisite orange 1961 356B Cabriolet.
My beloved shade of yellow made several appearances around the various club zones. The Triumph Sports Six Club had no fewer than half a dozen mellow yellow classics as part of its display, and very fine they looked too, helping brighten up a pretty gloomy morning. Other yellow lovelies included a 1996 Honda NSX, a 1972 De Tomaso Pantera GTS, a smart 1969 TVR Vixen and one of a colourful collection of Piper GT’s. These distinctive English coupés pull off the trick of looking simultaneously contemporary yet very much of their time, i.e. the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
The Mercedes-Benz section on Friday had a mouth-watering selection of the ever-elegant W111/112 coupés and convertibles, particularly the 3.5 280SE. I’ve always admired these cars, though prices, especially for the convertibles, have wandered into silly money territory. There was also a nice trio of three generations of SL – a gorgeous 190, a Pagoda, and a R107; I’d have any of them in my garage in a heartbeat.
While both the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche Clubs had quite a few moderns on their stands, they did at least have a strong emphasis on their classic models; the same could not be said for either of the Ferrari or Aston Martin clubs. Both were very disappointing in terms of classics, particularly Aston Martin, though in both cases there were a handful of gems. Best of class for me among the Ferrari’s were a lovely pale blue metallic 1960 250GTE and a 1965 275GTS, and among the sea of modern Astons the grey 1963 DB5 stood out, as did the superb bright red DBS Vantage.
Part of the weekend includes the Silverstone Classic Auction, featuring a wide variety of temptations in the form of road and competition cars to help you deplete your bank account, as well as numerous items of motoring memorabilia. Luckily though, I managed to keep my hands in my pockets.
No fewer than four BMW ‘02’s were included in the sale, and for obvious reasons I was particularly interested in the Golf Yellow 1973 2002tii, a car fully restored as long ago as 1996, but which still sold for £29,813 including buyer’s premium of 12.5%. The two 2002 Turbos went for very similar sums – £70,875 and £70,250, and the very low mileage 1602 for £27,000 – all but the last one within their estimate range. The most low-mileage car sold however was a humble 1978 VW Beetle – one of the last built, it was bought at the time by a VW dealer, and salted away ever since. Selling for £39,938, this Jubilee Silver Käfer had just 81 miles on the clock, and will no doubt spend the rest of its days out of sight in a private collection.
The star car of the sale was a stunning red 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, which went for £832,500, but the car that would have most tempted me to empty the Wawryk bank account was a superb sky blue 1963 Porsche 356C Coupé, fully restored in Tennessee between 2014 and 2017 and with a replacement – although period and model correct – engine. For me, this is the best 356, and given its superb condition, this one sold for what seemed a relatively modest £51,750, though perhaps this was in part due to the replacement engine.
Back out among the club zones, there were many other classic treasures to discover. Highlights for me included one of my favourite Maserati’s, a deep green 1968 Mexico, an imposing pair of 1953 Bristol 403’s both in blue, and especially for our International Editor, two Rochdale Olympics, one of which had been christened “Little Gladys”.
There was however much, much more, and despite attending on two days, the combined attractions of the racing paddocks and the huge number of club stands meant I still didn’t manage to get around all the displays – I think next year I just might have to attend every day…