The annual Classic Motor Show at the NEC is clearly in a lot of people’s diaries because even on the Friday, a day normally more closely associated with the trade, it was packed.
The event has the advantage of being weather proof which for 2012 in the UK is a very good thing given how many have had to be cancelled due to the wet weather. We joined the queue on the hard shoulder of the M42 and then took nearly another hour to shuffle forwards a car length at a time to one of the vast car parks that surround the National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham. You could be forgiven for thinking it was X-Factor Live about to get underway given the number of people heading in One Direction.
Once parked up you can either follow those who appear to know which direction to walk or wait for the next complimentary bus. We chose the former and on arrival after entering one of the vast halls were faced with the classic car equivalent of a giant sweet shop. Everywhere you looked there were cars gleaming under the indoor lighting, some on stands, other’s behind barriers wearing ‘Do Not Touch’ signs and all there to be enjoyed by the paying public. Regardless of your specific interest I guarantee you will have that extended to at least one more by the time you leave. For me that is now Vintage cars, specifically pre-war racing cars with DIY looking mechanicals, light weight, skinny tyres and no nonsense approach to health and safety.
The best way to enjoy the show is not to have too many goals but instead follow your nose. We’ve tried in the past to navigate to specific points of interest and it is quite tricky to pull off. It also means you whiz past other stuff and other people with no guarantee of finding either again. The size of the show means travelling around is also quite tiring so once in a hall best to get everything you want out of it there and then. This year we simply went with the flow. Something that worked extremely well when not only did we manage to speak to everyone we wanted to, we also found a few others we weren’t expecting to see as well. Great for instance to see Fuzz Townshend stood alongside his former Practical Classics colleague John Simpson rebuilding yet another A-Series engine. The last time we saw John do that he had a river running through the gazebo he was stood underneath at CarFest (South) 2012, so John for one could certainly appreciate the benefits of the NEC.
This for me is the main benefit of this event, the fact normally very busy people, like magazine editors, were present on their respective stands and available to chat to anyone who wanted to without having to hide from the rain, or deal with the distractions of a windy day was totally amazing. Great to see and many thanks to Danny Hopkins (Practical Classics), Gary Stretton (Classics Monthly), Susan Cook (Classic Car Buyer and Classic Car Mart) as well as Tony Merrygold (The Open Road Classic Car Hire) and Steve Mincher (Classic Car Hire Association) for giving us their time. After a bit of social the rest of our day was spent lightening burgeoning bags of freebies over an NEC sandwich (acceptable price and quality) before continuing our tour of each of the halls. Below is a gallery of some of what we saw.
If ever you needed a reminder of how great the people involved with the UK’s classic car industry is, the Classic Car Show at the NEC provides it. Great people, who are willing to listen, discuss and offer their opinion in a wholly positive way. The Practical Classics team even taking time way from re-building the A-Series engine and Morris Minor pickup live in conjunction with Mike Brewer and Edd China from the TV series Wheeler Dealers. In fact everyone we talked to was friendly and completely open. This is not a hardened sales environment like so many others. Even the insurance companies such as Heritage Insurance were not trying to sell you their product, instead asking for help in choosing their next logo. Logo C by the way really hits the mark. A is too similar to Classic and Sports Car’s and B too much like Meguiars ®.
The Classic Motor Show at the NEC really benefits from being indoors and means everyone can relax and spend time meeting old and making new friends without having to worry about horizontal rain or protecting precious products and machinery from the elements.
How does this event make you feel?
In one word: Pleased
As a favourite meal: Wish we’d gone for the pork pies on the same stand, but their pork scratchings were lush and did the job whilst we continued our tour.
Anything Else: It is true the event is weather proof and although you can buy passenger rides in a wide selection of cars I think the limiting enjoyment factor is that most don’t turn a wheel or even start up. Great social gathering though, just don’t be afraid to stop and have a chat.
Key Ingredients: Indoor event, wide selection of cars and kit on display combined with friendly and knowledgeable people who have time to talk to you.
Gallery of pictures from our day taken by CCDriven contributor and photographer Chris Dymock:
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