With a free Sunday away from the seemingly endless building work which has come to dominate our lives at present, we decided that the perfect antidote would be to embark upon our first visit to the much-heralded Classic Car Show at Birmingham’s NEC. The initial excitement at arriving (somewhat dampened by an unexpected and eye-watering £12 parking charge) was swiftly followed by a gulp-inducing entry fee of almost £25 each – so with a wallet already £60-odd lighter before a single classic had even been seen, this had better be good …….
Early impressions were pretty favourable though, with a vast show set out across five hangar-sized exhibition spaces, and with every conceivable make and model of classic car in evidence, from humble Jowett Bradford, Reliant and Morris Z delivery vans, boyhood-dream Sierra Cosworths, Lancia Delta Integrales and BMW M3’s, a choice selection of my favourite historic French Citroëns, through to fire-breathing top-fuel dragsters, stunningly-crafted U.S. hotrods - and literally everything in between. Our own MMOC was well represented with its club stand, resplendent with a choice selection of Minors, including the Marie Curie marathon car which I had the privelege of driving on the Derby-Leicester leg of the trip – and the Young Members section of the Club were also out in force with their own well-conceived stand. It was also pleasing that the very first car visible upon entry to the show was a Minor Million. An encouraging start indeed!!
But the warm welcomes afforded to us by various members of stands featuring humble, workaday marques – (with honourable mentions going to the groups of enthusiasts proudly displaying their glorious little Heinkel/Trojan bubble cars, their East German Trabants, their much-maligned 80’s & 90’s Montegos/Maestros and their lovely old Morris Commercials) – were unfortunately dwarfed by the almost total indifference shown to us by stand representatives of the more upmarket and exclusive brands. What also became distinctly and increasingly off-putting was the gradual realisation that whole swathes of the show were occupied by what were essentially used-car sales lots for dealers – including an absolutely enormous, fenced-off section given over to a company running an insanely-priced classics auction, complete with a suited-and- booted ‘gatekeeper’ who was barring anyone but the ‘great and good’ from even entering the hallowed area for a quick look at the gleaming vehicles within.
And it was this - the almost tangible ‘snobbery’ of much of the event - which totally destroyed it for me, speaking purely personally, of course. We live, for example, in a world where resources are precious - they’re diminishing on a daily basis, and I couldn’t help feeling that the overtly flashy display of a certain brand-new 3-ton automotive behemoth, propelled by an 8mpg, 6.7-litre V12 chucking out a kilo of CO2 every 3km, and complete with a starting price four times that of the house I just bought - represented a level of ostentatious consumption bordering on the grotesque. What was also staggeringly disappointing was the obvious fact that hardly any of the show cars appeared to have been driven to the event – they’d been trailered in as static showpieces - as pure investment opportunities, as commodities to be bought, garaged and polished for a few years until they’ve gained a few £k in value – and then sold on again to the next investor - just like the fine vintage ‘investment’ wines which will spend their eternity in a dark cellar, never to be tasted or enjoyed. How very, very sad.
So will I be attending again next year? Not a chance. The real and most enjoyable highlights of the day – warm, friendly, enthusiastic, ordinary people - restoring, driving, and freely sharing their wealth of knowledge about classic cars – are all available elsewhere for next to nothing. At any of the numerous (and almost always) brilliant rallies we’ve attended this last year in Alice’s 1957 Minor, for example. This, to me, is what represents all that is so wonderfully good about the world of the classic car. And a personal opinion about virtually everything else I saw and experienced at the NEC today? It represented everything that is so shockingly bad about it.
*Please note that this article is written from the personal perspective of one Branch Member and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Branch as a whole, or of the MMOC as an organisation*
A final few words from me. Huge thanks to the Heinkel/Trojan Club for such a warm welcome, interesting conversation and letting me take a close look at your beautiful little cars, absolutely loved it! (as you can probably tell from the photo!) - Alice Durose