With Sir Jackie Stewart being honoured at this year’s Autosport International at the NEC, we decided to attend and find out whether this annual event had something for classic car enthusiasts as well as those with a more modern race car bias.
Arriving on a distinctly chilly Saturday morning (12th Jan ’13) ensured a brisk walking pace from the car park to the venue, and on arrival it was immediately clear that there was something on display for all interests. In fact as soon we entered Hall 8 the Richard Burns Collection ensured boxes were getting ticked straight away with examples of the late World Rally Champion’s cars from all era’s including Subaru’s original offering, the boxy but brilliant 4WD Legacy RS. For someone with a penchant for classic cars and in particular classic competition cars this was a very good start indeed.
It didn’t end there either because even if you only ever diet on early 911’s or wide arch MK1 and MK2 Escorts, then you would have left very full indeed. Examples of both could be found everywhere. Redditch and District Car Club had a very nice competition prepared Mini Cooper S for sale sat alongside an equally tidy bubble arch MK1 Escort whilst they eagerly handed out Go-Motorsport leaflets. Her Majesty’s finest were also present and had a superb early Jaguar Police car on display. Now imagine being pulled over by that, how cool would it be sat in the back staring at a walnut dash and breathing in the rich smell of leather whilst trying to take it all seriously.
With interest levels rising continuously we continued our tour and in between Quaife gearboxes, Powerflex bushes, Pirelli tyres and Millington engines it seemed there were Escorts and 911’s around virtually every corner. Some set up for tarmac, sat on extremely fat rubber and completely slammed to the ground, with others on skinny gravel tyres sat high in the sky. One Porsche even sporting genuine front end damage to its fibreglass nose, indicating that some cars at least were not just concourse show queens. Elise Parts had a turbo-charged car minus its bodywork to show off the thick aluminium sections that form the chassis of this contemporary classic Lotus. We did also spot an original Elan which looked incredibly modern itself, testament indeed to the brilliance of designer Chapman who I’m sure would be equally proud of both cars.
The competition cars of Sir Jackie Stewart included his better known F1 cars from BRM and Tyrell as well as lesser known cars such as an Alan Mann prepared MK1 Lotus Cortina and Series 1 E-Type Lightweight. All cars immaculate as you might expect and also quite accessible sat behind a simple rope barrier that twisted and turned between them. Great to see the man himself on the stand signing autographs and later on being interviewed on our host’s main stand sharing amusing tales, including the time he grabbed Ken Tyrell whilst sat in his GP car on the grid after the warm up lap to tell him how terrible it was. Relaxed, humorous and with a work ethic that is clearly as hard as it’s ever been the three times world champion was a great addition to the show.
Given the vastness of the NEC it is well worth stopping when you can for a rest and a chat. We managed this a few times and even enjoyed a beer with the down to earth Practical Performance Car team, who had strapped their barrel of high quality brew to the front of a DIY prepared Reliant Rialto race car. Itself an interesting proposition with engine mounted well back in the chassis to aid stability. The same engine running on throttle bodies, providing a clue of the quite serious aspirations the owner of this car had in the heat of battle. If three wheels sound like they might be your thing then Morgan’s retro-styled offering appeared in a few places, one painted in classic Le Mans Gulf blue and orange colours, and another in traditional racing green.
The second car was supplied by Williams Morgan and talking to Henry and others on their stand, whilst stood next to a 4 wheeled car looking striking in blue, a deal was struck to visit their premises and review a range of cars. Sounds like an excellent plan and so look out on Classic Cars Driven for reviews of 3 and 4 wheeled Morgan’s from two to eight cylinders sometime soon. Henry’s road legal race car also sounds very interesting indeed, weighing in at just 740Kg and requiring additional ballast to meet series regulations. Also of interest was KTRDirect’s 400BHP Clio 182, a car that you have to suspect requires considerable restraint in the first two gears at least to avoid completely shredding the front tyres. Sales Manager Sean Martin extending an invitation to review any project car the next we find ourselves in the New Forest having our Mégane fettled.
The networking element of our day concluded with a lengthy chat with Simon Jordan of Caracalla, supplier of handmade in Italy leather bags of Simon’s own unique design with official backing of icons such as Sir Stirling Moss in the use of his lucky number 7. Simon struck a chord with CCDriven contributor Chris ‘Scrutineering’ Dymock when he shared the fact he had a large collection of Ferrari books and memorabilia at his North of Bristol base. Guess where Chris will be heading sometime soon.
The last stop on our tour was the Coys auction which had an eclectic mix of classic road and race cars on offer. Included within the catalogue and spotted on the auction floor were amongst many others; Capri 2.8i, Shelby Mustang GT350 and Metro 6R4 with the hammer going down from £2,000 to well over £200,000.
The Autosport International Show at the NEC is not a classic car show as such, but there is more than enough classic car interest, particularly of the race and rally variety, to make it well worth attending.
How does this event make you feel?
In one word: (Race) Inspired
As a favourite meal: Not much being offered out on the stands unfortunately, although the draft beer from Practical Performance Classics was very nice, so it was an NEC chicken curry for us which did work surprisingly well.
Anything Else: Reminder of the dedication and ingenuity in the UK to race and rally car preparation at all levels and from all eras.
Key Ingredients: The NEC scores again as a venue by being indoors when at this particular time of year it was freezing cold outside. The nice thing about this show is accessibility, even Sir Jackie Stewart’s fine collection of race cars was nearly close enough to touch, and the fact the man himself was no further away and on form made it even better.
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