Now that the car show season summer is over (in the northern hemisphere, at least), it seems like a good time to reflect on the types of shows available and their respective pros and cons, and consider our individual preferences regarding them. England has had a pretty good summer for such events, so let’s check the options:
Option 1 – the informal Friday evening gathering outside an English pub
The Royal Oak pub in Barrington, near Cambridge, is on the largest village green in England, which clearly was put there as a place at which to show classic cars. Throughout the summer, the first Friday of the month is an all- welcome informal park and show night, with no visible organisation. Like most good pub events, it just happens. The cars, which range from 1920 Aston Martins and Morris Cowleys to Vauxhall Victors and Ferrari 430s and all points in between, occasionally total over 80. And did I say it’s outside the pub, which serves real ale, the warm British kind?
Option 2 – a combined car show and flying display at a Royal Air Force station
The RAF station at Abingdon closed as an operational military airfield in 1992; since 2001, it has hosted the Abingdon Air and Country Fair and its wide range of activities and attractions, including a classic car show and a very professionally orchestrated flying show. As an aviation professional during daylight hours, it seemed a great combination–and seeing an aircraft you’ve been involved with professionally (RAF L-1011 Tristar KC1) perform is quietly satisfying. Abingdon was the home of MG for over 50 years, until 1981, and the marque was well represented.
Option 3 – a large and varied show in the grounds of a stately home, on a family centred weekend
Knebworth House, north of London, hosted its usual annual classic car show on Father’s Day, in June, with professional organisation and marshalling of cars by type and age. Points deducted for the unexpected arrival of rain.
Of all these options, this one is probably closest to a generic car show, if there is such a thing.
Option 4 – a car show associated with a small flying display and open access to Europe’s best aviation museum
The Imperial War Museum Duxford, in eastern England, is probably Europe’s best aviation museum, also featuring a strong land warfare collection as well as the famous, and internationally funded, American Air Museum. Every summer it hosts at least one car show of one sort or another. One show theme this year was Spitfires, Merlins and Motors. A great range of cars, a flying display and a Merlin and Griffon engine each being run up on stands. Yes, really!
Option 5 – a convoy of 200 cars around a small market town, finishing with a general display in the town gardens
Wallingford in Oxfordshire hosts an annual parade of classic cars. It starts out from a recreation ground on the edge of the town, then forms a convoy through the town centre, round the bypass, back into the town and parking up in the central gardens for the rest of the day. Despite having had family associations to Wallingford for 20 years, I discovered this event only this year (!).
There’s also a good display associated with 100 years of car production at Morris Motors (later BMC, BLMC, and now MINI) factory in nearby Oxford.
Option 6 – an all classics welcome gathering in the centre of town, on a midweek afternoon, for charity
Near Luton, north of London, Harpenden Village Rotary Club organise an all-welcome classic car show, known as Classics on the Common, with nothing more than some tape barriers, a few hi-vis jackets, and a lot of smiles, on the common in the centre of the town. Cars are parked exactly in their order of arrival, so the immediate variety can be exceptional, with a 1930 Bentley next to a Hillman Imp, The support from the community is outstanding. Shame I had to leave early!
Option 7 – as part of an agricultural fair and steam rally in a farming village
Swavesey Steam Rally, near Cambridge, includes a large classic car, truck, tractor and steam-traction engine show, alongside the agricultural elements. Again, a very informal and welcoming atmosphere and a wide range of cars, even if I was parked next to 3 Singer Vogue estates (it’s not often you can say that!)
Option 8 – a single-marque gathering at the grounds of the Queen’s country home
This year’s Mazda MX-5 Owners Club national rally was at the grounds of Sandringham House, the Queen’s private country estate, in Norfolk, eastern England. Over 1000 MX-5 of all types, including imported Eunos and Miata roadsters, gathered in bright early autumn sunshine.
Option 9 – the festival of transport in one of England’s motor towns?
Luton was home to Vauxhall’s manufacturing and engineering activities for over 90 years, and still has a strong motor industry presence along with its proud heritage. Each year, the local classic car group organises a Festival of Transport – essentially a classic car show, but with some old trucks and buses included. CC has seen some of it already–a huge range of cars and a very strong (and proud) Vauxhall presence. Not so much for non-car people, though.
Option 10 – the best part of your local village fete
The British village fete has been an integral if ever gently-changing part of village life since, well, forever, and our local one includes a small turn up and show classic car display. So, after the cake competition, the Cubs and Brownies dancing and show ponies, but not too far from the beer tent, you’ll be able to see some classic cars. In our case, they ranged from a 1930 Morris van, in well-used condition, to a late-1980s Corvette, of all things.
So which would you choose, and why?