It’s simply astonishing just how many classic car shows and events we are spoilt with every summer! There’s something to attend every single weekend, and some weekends I even find myself having to choose between several events. All of which only emphasizes that the UK truly is a Mecca for us classic car enthusiasts.
On Sunday the 23rd July I simply had to make the short drive down to Capesthorne Hall just west of Macclesfield, as I had heard many good things about the Cheshire Classic Car & Motorcycle Show, and not least the beautiful settings in front of the early 18th century red brick stately home. The organizers, Classic Shows, had chosen the Morris Minor as the featured marque for this event, which lead to a broad assembly of Minors of all ages and bodystyles displayed in the courtyard in front of the main building. Further to the Minors, the grounds were filled with a wide variety of approximately 500 classics from pre-war to youngtimers.
But naturally I had to start with those Minors. There were several beautiful examples among the 40-or-so two and four door Saloons, Convertibles and Travellers. But the one that stood out for me, was far from the most shiny and best restored example. It was however the earliest example there, and the only one with the cheese-grater grill. Marina Tennick from Warrington had only bought her ’54 split-screen Morris Minor II in April of this year. She originally dreamt of a Traveller, but when she and her husband found this early four door Saloon in Lincolnshire, it was love at first sight for Marina. Instead of perfect paint and chrome there’s charming patina in abundance, and amazingly the majority of the paint is believed to be factory. Everything presents utterly original including the original overhead valve 803cc engine. The big question for Marina is now whether to leave the Minor as found in the name of originality and preservation, or whether to treat it to a mild and sympathetic refurbishment? I know what I what do… They also have a black ’47 Rover P2 in their garage, and obviously now that they had stopped looking, they have come across a ’54 Traveller, which while not near as well-preserved as their Saloon, they’re still considering adding to the fleet.
I ventured back into the grounds of the estate where my own classic was parked alongside fellow 02-enthusiasts Paul Wilson and Chris Smith. Strolling through the many rows of beautiful classics shining in the sun, I came across Glyn & Leslie Weir’s excellent ’69 Fiat 124 AC 1400 Sport Coupé. I remember admiring their stylish Italian coupé on a previous occasion last season, but it sucked me right in all over again. The purity of these early AC models is just jaw-dropping, and I so admire that this one isn’t the oh-so-obvious Rosso which seems to be the default colour that every Italian classic must be resprayed in. The dark blue over cognac interior is really much more stylish and tasteful in my opinion. When Glyn was 23 years old he bought a 124 Spider, which sadly had to be sold 26 years ago for him to buy a house. About 7 years ago Glyn tried finding his old 124 Spider again, but was unsuccessful. He then looked at a 2300S Coupé which turned out to be a rustbucket despite the vendors promising accolades. That’s when this 1-owner, unrestored and never welded 124 AC came up on eBay, and Glyn didn’t waste time to seal the deal the very next morning. A misfire prompted Glyn to take the original 1400 engine out for a full rebuild. As is so often the case, the project snowballed from there, leading to a full respray in the factory colour and refurbishment of suspension and brakes too. A year later their 124 Coupé was back on the road, and the July 2013 Capesthorne event was their first outing together, where they – much to their own surprise – won Best of Class and also Best of Show! But the awards luckily didn’t stop Glyn from driving his Fiat, which gets used on most summer weekends every year. That is of course, when Glyn isn’t elbow-deep in the restoration of the 1-owner Fiat 124 CS1 Sport Spider which he managed to purchase about three years ago. Just for the record, his Spider isn’t Rosso either, but has instead had a full respray in its striking original bright orange. Just imagine the sight of those two parked side by side in the garage, once the Spider has been finished to Glyn’s exacting standards as well…
I must confess that I usually gravitate towards classics built between the mid-50’s up to roughly the mid- to late-70’s. That of course doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate earlier, or for that matter, later cars too. The dashing ’35 Rover 14 Sports Saloon of Tony Davies from Delamere is perfect proof of that. The long bonnet, raked windscreen and relatively short rear end offers the rare pre-war Rover beautifully sleek lines, which must have been very smart compared to the opposition back in the mid-30’s. Tony explains that it wasn’t cheap either, selling at £318 when new, while the average annual wage was less than £100. The first owner, a farmer from Devon, must have been doing quite well when he decided to treat himself to the Sports Saloon. He kept it for 33 years until Tony, while in college, managed to purchase the 6-cylinder Rover 14 from the farmer in ‘68. The Rover was still driving, but having been used as the farm car for the last years in Devon it was by now rather rough. Tony paid the farmer £20, trailered the Rover home, and embarked on a five year full restoration which lead to the Rover finally being back on the road in early ’74. Since then Tony has enjoyed the Rover, which for all these years has been the only classic car he has wanted. In 2011 he refreshed the Rover again with a respray, but other than that, not too much has changed in their time together. It’s clear that Tony and his Sports Saloon suit each other perfectly.
Every bit as striking, but in a very, very different manner, is the imposing ’58 Buick Riviera Limited owned by Dave Hodson from Ashton-under-Lyne. This vast four door Hardtop stretches just short of 19 feet in length, and boasts styling so extravagant that it can only be the product of the late-50’s US-of-A. Right from the 160 chromed squares making up the Fashion-Aire Dynastar grill to the bold Art Deco inspired wrap-around rear lights, this Buick certainly isn’t for the shy. But where it could have so easily ended up brash and distasteful, they somehow managed to make it all come together as a very big statement of style and class. Dave first saw a ’58 Limited at the Stars & Stripes Show at Tatton Park in ’99, and just had to own one himself. Half a year later he managed to find one in Michigan, which belonged to a car dealer who used it for car shows. The Buick was promptly imported to the UK where it’s been Dave’s dry weather classic for the past 17 years. Amusingly, in stark contrast to the huge Buick, Dave also owns a two-tone mk. I Ford Fiesta Bravo, which he has owned since it was only a few years old. What a pair!
Talking about pairs – it’s not often you get to experience two late-60’s Marcos’s parked together. Two Manta B’s had a similar effect on me – no doubt helped by one being a rare Exclusive in its signature metallic blue colour, and the other being an even rarer i200. But then, a beautifully restored Porsche 356B 90 Convertible didn’t need a sister car to blow me away.
For those of you that missed out this time, Classic Shows are back at Capesthorne Hall later this summer on the 27th of August. I’m thrilled though, that I managed to visit now, as I’m sadly prevented from taking part at the next event. Nonetheless, I hope to see you out there later in the summer…