King Car is Dead. Long Live the King
August Bank Holiday
How the year doth fly
Eight hours observing in a field
Metal boxes under wide, leaden skies.
The car show can be held practically anywhere. The hard-standing of a shopping mall, someone’s backyard, a village green. And while holding a large gathering on some trimmed verge is not an exclusively British phenomenon, it does appear oh-so English to have that assemblage in front of a once-stately home (now a Warner Leisure hotel) for the late summer holiday.
In deepest Nottinghamshire, the grounds of Thoresby Hall, a grade-1 listed building soaked up many hundreds of cars, along with (an estimated) thousands of paying visitors. Noticeably more cool and overcast than of late, a little drizzle failed to dampen spirits; people smiled as they wandered, avoiding late entries or early leavers. The pewter sky only enhanced the colours on show.
As part-time host to the Yorkshire-South region of the Mercedes-Benz club, my task was to assist erecting the gazebo (an excellent weather retreat along with new member station, tea, biscuits, etc) and then mingle with the throng. A sensual feast out there; along with the showcased cars, heady aromas of polished metal, burning hydrocarbons of the idling or manoeuvring vehicles all mingled with bacon, burgers and the shouts of club members cordially announcing their arrival; convivial, relaxed.
Which is more than can be said for overall show set up. Be that an ordinary human is deemed important enough to don a nylon jacket of acid lemon hue, their clueless gesticulating and haphazard directions called for an executive decision – we’re setting up HERE. I marvelled at how the open space swiftly filled into a car park replete with flags, shelters and trestle tables. In another close-by corner, banter did turn sour as a Mustang and Audi 80 actually pranged.
Frequently overheard: ‘My dad had one’, or ‘what has he done to THAT?’ On every row, a custodian holding court with a muster of eager on-lookers intent on hearing every engine or bodywork detail. The local Capri club (some 18 cars) chose a herringbone display. The Jaguars meanwhile placed their extensive range in an acute vee. We on the other hand corralled two dozen three pointed stars from a C207 E-Class coupé back to R107s of shades white, silver and cream.
Over here, squadrons of Sierra Sapphires. There, murmurations of MGs and Minis. A badelynge of Bavarians, a sequitur of Stuttgart’s own intermingled with a cornucopia of randoms causing furrowed brows as one tries to guess what the public obscures. Ah, an Innocenti, not a Mini, if you please and a ground up restoration it would seem. Many exhibits are far from showroom condition which excites some, tantalising others.
Estate cars loomed large – how about this Granada? It’s outside a moving testament to the fallen. The load area home for countless soft toys. Remaining blue oval, this Zodiac in navy, a prime example but one whose looks require a forgiving mother. With marginally less chrome, is this Chevrolet Belair a touch too lemony? Easy to imagine this back home in Alabama. First rare beast award goes to a Mercedes’ stand car. This W111 Universal 230S, made in 1967 and no, it’s never been a hearse. And you last saw one one, when? Silver to the Passat W8. Bottom podium step to the P1800ES. Elegant. Spacious. No owners in sight.
Two and four door models were very well represented. Differing shades of orange this Marina Super may be but the bronze goddess of the CX brought gasps of wonder from most onlookers. Lingering long here, two actual goddesses of Pallas persuasion promptly arrived, magnetically drawing crowds. In the peripheral, a vision in white: Lancia’s beta coupé caused a breath catch only to loose that to this Opel Manta. Lord, with such bountiful beauties, where did it all go wrong? The Vivas, whilst splendid could not hold a candle to the Shield and Blitz.
Rekindling some youthful memories, this 309 GTi reminded your author of Puma Cruiser trainers, both lusted after during misspent youth. Calming that ardour yet angularly compelling, this Crown from Toyota. One could almost smell the velour, feel how it drives. A phalanx of parallel lines until our eyes meet the rear doors left me searching elsewhere and don’t you know, a Peugeot 405 Le Mans just filled the void. Monetary value may not be the driver but exclusivity and rarity are formidable watchwords here. For sale, too. Ring Dave (or was it Steve?).
Personal reasons for visiting such convocations include seeing the less obvious, the unusual alongside some deep routed passion to see everything, with questions following. In no particular order, the Ogle SX1000. A pleasing hark back to the halcyon days I never knew. Glorious curves, elfin proportions, terrifying placed against a modern vehicle. Nearby a DB7 whose Vantage badging appears rather vulgar now but the car still tempts. And who brings a Studebaker Champion convertible to these shores? Chapeau!
Talk to two brothers who are beyond devoted regarding the Bagheera. Struggle with how immaculate the DAF44 looks, even in brown. And rejoice wholeheartedly at seeing the 1991 Mitsuoka Le Seyde. A Marmite car in every respect caused consternation with many but not this witness. Thank heavens someone thought fit to buy it. Some folk are not shy in revealing their passions. Others hide either in the cabin or behind reading material, unavailable for comment. Fair enough I suppose but it’s a social scene, this.
Crowd and cars ebbed away, the greenery revealed again with the gaps leading to the effervescent chap who had converted a Land Rover Discovery II into what may possibly be described as a steam-punk, everyday vehicle. It stunned everyone into not taking a photograph.
Just one small part of the collective that binds (or appals) car aficionados at such places. Satiated for a while, what do we seek next? Grille development? Models only of my birth year? Ooh, an orange Fiat Barchetta! Where did that come from?
 Once home to the Pierpoint family name, the Earl Manvers.
 Some car shows are stricter than others. Some expect your car and/or stand set up well before the public are allowed in (usually 10am) with no movement in the arena until after the show (usually 16:00). Here in Nottinghamshire, cars came and went as they pleased. How unsportsmanlike and confusing. I used certain cars as markers only for them to exit leaving me unaware if I’d checked out a particular row. Where did that Austin 7 go?
 Not witnessed by your author but one did hear the air turn blue for a while.