Octagon Newsletter … June 1987
By Philip Sumsion
If you are able to visit the U.K. at the beginning of May and are a British car enthusiast, then don't fail to spend a day (or two) at the Classic Car Show, which has now become an annual event. The show is held at the National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham, which is readily accessible by motorway or rail from anywhere in the country. It is a vast, modern complex, specifically designed for exhibitions of any size. It can accommodate several major exhibitions at once (the Photographic Exhibition usually coincides with the car show, so you are able to visit this too if you are interested in cameras) and has many acres of parking space and hotels as well, if you cannot manage to get your fill on one day and wish to stay overnight.
The show, sponsored by the Classic Cars Magazine, is open for three days across a holiday week‑end. There is so much to see that it usually takes us a whole to day to get around it all. It comprises three main sections; the club and trade stand, the Autojumble and Coys' auction.
The bulk of the exhibition is taken up by the club and trade stands (although the Autojumble is beginning to rival this for space). Virtually every British car is represented to some degree or another and, no matter what your taste in motoring, and from what era, you will find it here, although of course the emphasis is on post World War II classics. MGs probably outnumber the other marques (naturally), and apart from the two huge MG club stands, they also feature on several of the other stands as restoration projects, etc. This year the MG project car EX-E, attracted a great deal of interest and although quite futuristic was not as 'way-out' as many of the design concept cars that appear from time to time. In my opinion it certainly looked worthy of bearing the MG name as a sports sedan … let's hope a version of it appears in production form, but I guess a convertible would be too much of an expectation.
Jaguars were, of course, well represented and a particularly eye catching machine was a station wagon variation of the XJS. The Aston Martin Owners Club, who always put on. a good show, had examples of the original and the new Zagato bodied cars on display in addition to some of the less rare models.
The exhibition is not entirely filled with the exotic … bubble cars abound as do Austin A35's and similar cars, mostly in superb original condition or very well restored. There are clubs and enthusiasts for each and every make and model and they are all here under one roof.
The Trade stands are interesting. All of the well-known suppliers are here and willing to supply catalogues and information and several stands have demonstrations of special tools or restoration facilities. It is useful to see many of the products that you have seen advertised in the magazines, but which are not generally available in this part of the world.
What can I say about the Autojumble? This is the largest covered Autojumble in the country and is an absolute 'bonanza' for the avid restorer or souvenir collector. Stand after stand of bits and pieces at unbelievably low prices, compared with what we are used to … what a pity there are weight and duty regulations in force for overseas visitors. Many of the items are new or re-manufactured but there are also lots of used parts for sale, it's just a question of finding what you need amongst the vast collections. A lot of the stands have motoring literature such as well, (oily) thumbed workshop manuals for long obsolete vehicles. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the number of people prepared to pay so much money for old sales leaflets or other manufacturer's hand-outs. We saw a single sheet advertising brochure for a T Series MG for sale at the equivalent of $40, and what was more the corner was torn off! With access to all these parts, restoration is much easier in Britain, although there is a large following for American cars which must present difficulties with which we are all familiar.
In conjunction with the show, an auction of classic vehicles is held by the well-known firm of Coys. This year the cars for sale were in a separate area to one side of the main exhibition hall and fenced off, but still easy to view. If you wish to kick the tires and intend to place a bid you could get a closer look by buying a catalogue. There were some delectable and rare cars present, the majority of which were in concours condition … I don't know how their owners could part with them!
It is worth a trip to England for this show alone, but there are all sorts of other events of a motoring nature taking place as well . On the same week-end as the Classic Car Show the ASIA Historic Car Race Meeting is held at Brand's Hatch and the MG race meeting at Castle Combe. If you organize things properly you can get to all three and maybe throw in a couple of car museums and a stately home or two at the same time.
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