By Richard Gormley
24th Nov 2021
I need to start with a bit of a confession – I am not actually a huge fan of car shows. Don’t get me wrong, I love cars, particularly old cars but there’s just something about hundreds of them in a field or building that doesn’t always work for me.
So, when I arrived at the NEC later than planned on the Friday morning and risked my life a number of times navigating the route from the car park to the exhibition halls, my optimism was diminishing fast. My commitment was further tested at the sight of the queue weaving its way back from the entrance along the exposed, unsheltered walkways under a drizzling grey sky. My heart sank and I prepared myself for a long wait.
Actually, I needed to cheer up. It didn’t take nearly as long as I had convinced myself it would and the staff were making a sterling effort to get through the necessary Covid-19 checks as quickly as they could.
I’ve been to this show before and I’m here now mainly because I help out on the stand for my car club. And there really is something special about this event. The facts in themselves are staggering – 270 car clubs, the largest gathering of car clubs in the world, over 3000 classic cars and bikes, hundreds of traders, a huge autojumble, competitions, celebrities, and something like 80,000 visitors. And, of course, there’s just about every conceivable kind of classic car you could hope for, From the rare, prestigious, iconic supercars of Aston Martin through rally legends to the humble, but equally historically significant Austin Maxi pride of ownership contender.
I could talk about the cars, the stands, the products or the celebrities – I certainly had many personal favourites. But for me this event, this year particularly, offered much more than all that. Emerging from the post lockdown period it seemed to me people were energised, enthusiastic and engaged. I heard accounts from people who had bought projects specifically to help them keep their sanity through the restrictions and others who had finally carried out long awaited jobs on their cars. I talked to people who, like all of us, had reflected on the pandemic experience and decided they were going to buy that car, do that road trip or compete in that rally they had always been planning to but life, usually working life, had got in their way.
It felt to me that the energy underpinning our passion for classic cars was stronger than ever. Despite all the challenges we face from Covid, or from making sure our voice is heard in the environmental debate, our industry feels healthy, and if the bidding in the Silverstone Auction was anything to go by, values and demand for classic cars remains strong. I even considered buying something myself, but bought a sandwich for a similar price instead.
So, I came away reinvigorated, uplifted and optimistic. The enthusiasm was infectious (perhaps not the best term to use right now!) and I felt confident that our industry, our passion and our cars have a very positive, post pandemic future.
Has it changed my view of car shows? Well maybe, just a little.
Automotive Photographer and Writer – Trade Classics
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