To be honest, it was all looking a bit grim as I swung open the garage door at 7am last Sunday morning. The rain was really coming down, and the clouds hung low and heavy over the High Peaks. For a second I contemplated closing the garage door again and crawling back to bed.
Then I reminded myself that the darkness of winter would soon be upon us again, which of course equates to those dreaded salted roads. No, we have to make the most of the summer season – even if it is a wet one. So into the rain I splashed with my trusty 2002 as we made our way south along scenic roads through the length of the Peak District as we headed for Walsall Arboretum.
Gemini Events host an array of classic car shows across the country every summer, and their Classic Motor Show on the 16th of July was their 27th event at Walsall Arboretum. They were expecting about 500 vehicles to show up, but sadly I think the wet morning might have kept a few classics indoors. Quite a shame really, as once we had all arrived on the show grounds, we ended up having rather decent weather with just a very minor shower around lunchtime.
The turnout was still impressive enough, though I was a little surprised as to just how biased it was towards British classics. From memory, I believe a late-80’s Alpine GTA V6 Turbo was the sole French contender, and a cute little Fiat 500 was possibly the sole Italian contender. There were a few early MX-5’s, but despite having very high thoughts of the first generation MX-5, it’s just not a car I can yet regard as a true classic. Other than them, a ‘67 one-owner Toyota Corona RT40 was the only Japanese classic I came across. My 2002 was also the only BMW there, though I did get some German company from a handful of Beatles and VW campervans, along with a couple of Porsches and even a stunning Mercedes-Benz W108. But it was truly the Austin and Morris owners that were out in force, closely followed by a wide selection of classic Fords and of course some MG’s, Triumph’s and Rover’s too.
Luckily the British classics display great variety within their own rows. One particular example which stood out for me was the ’67 Reliant Scimitar Coupé SE4 of Brian Kenyon from Pelsall. I’ve always been a big admirer of the SE4, but they’re of course quite rare, so it’s not often I have the pleasure of coming across one out in the wild. Brian bought his example 7 years ago as a restored but very bare shell and several boxes of random parts. It’s a puzzle as to why the Scimitar was ever disassembled to this extent, as it still retains a full history including its original Green Logbook, a very low documented 39,000 miles, and the original interior only needed a thorough clean in order to present itself perfectly. None the less, several parts were missing from the boxes and it took Brian 5 years to get his Scimitar back on the road again. It now looks beautifully and Brian has spent the last 2 years using it for shows just like he does his later Scimitar SE6a which he has owned for 29 years.
But the Swedes can do stylish coupés too, and the ’70 Volvo 1800E of Tracey Holmes from Warwickshire immediately caught my attention. However, Tracey’s story is even more spectacular than her 1800E. Aged only 23 the Volvo had clearly caught her attention as well, as she fell in love with the stylish coupé even though she at the time didn’t even know what it was. She just knew she had to own it. Tracey finally managed to trade in her Spitfire and purchase the 1800E, to bring it home and show her parents on the 23rd of November 1981 – her father’s birthday. Since then Tracey used her Volvo as her daily up until the early 90’s, at which point it was put into her father’s workshop where he restored it between working on other jobs. By ’96 the Volvo was back to its former glory and looking just like when Tracey originally purchased her dream coupé – even still sporting the rare and period correct Goodyear Gemini alloys. Since then Tracey has continued to use the 1800E for all sorts of classic events right from small local meets to big shows. A 36 year love affair which I’m sure will continue for a fair while still…
In stark contrast to these two sleek coupés, I just had to stop and admire the awesome quirkiness of the ’61 Vauxhall Velox Friary Estate owned by Peter Marshall from Shropshire. Peter tells me that while numbers vary a little depending on the source, approximately 470 of these Vauxhall-approved estate conversions were built by Friary in Basingstoke, and today only around 20 are believed to survive. While Peter has owned his saloon version of a Vauxhall PA for just over 30 years now, he admits that it’s the rare estate version which has been the one he really wanted for all those years. He too admits that one can hardly claim that it’s a beautiful design in the classic sense. But the Friary estate certainly has presence, not to mention charm and character in spades! Only last December did he finally manage to purchase this one after finding it in Yorkshire. The estate had been sitting in a lock-up from 1977 right up to 2009, where it was resurrected. Luckily it had been stored well, so didn’t need a full restoration, though it did receive a respray in the original factory colours. Due to its many years in storage, the Vauxhall has only had 4 previous owners and the 67,000 miles on the speedo is documented and true. With that kind of mileage, I suppose it’s no wonder that the original factory interior has held up so well, and also had no need for a refurbishment. A dare to ask Peter about his saloon, but no, it’s staying as they make up such a nice pair in the garage.
Compared to the above classics, I suppose a mk. II Escort might seem rather common. But not Philip Maeer’s ’78 Ford Escort! For starters it’s a RS2000, and if you’re the slightest of a gearhead, then that specific combination of letters and numbers should be enough to get your heart pumping a bit faster. But furthermore, while we regularly see RS2000’s in the more common colours of red, white, black or even yellow, I don’t recall having ever seen another in Tucson Beige. It’s marmite, no doubt, but I personally think it’s seriously cool in all its period brownness. Philip was really more into Saabs during his working years, but when he retired 8 years ago, his son Robert who was already into Escorts suggested that he should buy himself a retirement present. When Philip saw this Tucson Beige RS2000 on eBay, he knew this was the one. Since then father & son have enjoyed driving their two mk. II Escorts to shows together, and they are now looking forward to taking part in “Tour of Snowdonia” this coming August.
A lovely day in Walsall ended with a fabulous drive along small backroads heading north – and this time with clear blue skies. Good thing I didn’t decide to stay in bed on that wet Sunday morning!