Once a year, the NEC Exhibition Centre in Birmingham plays host to the Classic Motor Show. This is probably the largest show of it’s kind in the UK, featuring over 1000 cars and covering five hundred thousand (plus) square feet of show space in 4 separate halls. The show usually runs for 3 days every November and this year, myself and some other family members decided to splash out and go see it.
Although the concept of the show may not appeal to many cruising and modification fans who are attracted to more modern cars, the reality is that the word ‘classic’ does not just apply to the simple wooden and steel contraptions of yesteryear. The show featured a huge variety of cars which are all considered classics, and many of them are still hugely desirable to this day. For the speed freaks amongst us, who could not have been attracted by the absolutely spotless Lotus Carlton on display, owned by an AutoBahnStormers founder – not to mention the stunning blue Porsche 911 GT, modified to 500bhp? Although these cars’ capabilities are obvious, there were also some sleepers on display; for example, the tired and plain looking Jaguar XJS which had a twin supercharged and nitrous powered engine, running 700bhp standard, or 900bhp at the flick of a switch – only the huge slick tyres on the rear gave it away.
Despite the fact that the show was a predominantly British one (hence the huge amount of vintage and modern Jaguars on display), there was also a very strong American presence. The Dodge Charger was there, along with a number of Mustangs. It was quite an experience to walk around these famous muscle cars whilst the film Bullitt played on a plasma screen in the background, with Steve McQueen showing just what the Mustang could do in the right hands. Speaking of films, there were also two perfect replicas of ‘Eleanor’ from Gone in 60 seconds – truly stunning examples of the Shelby Mustang, which drew quite a crowd. We were also treated to replicas of the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard, KITT from Knight Rider and the Torino from Starsky and Hutch. These cars were available for hire for functions and weddings!
Fans of the more popular old school motors wouldn’t have been disappointed with the amount of Mk1 and Mk2 Escorts on displays. As always, the majority of these were truly mint examples and a credit to their owners. There was also a stunning Mk1 VW Golf GTi; with near 150k on the clock, we could not believe the original condition in which its lady owner kept it. My only gripe was that the show lacked any examples of an E30 M3 / 325i Sport or a Corolla GT Coupe, cars which are harder and harder to find in immaculate condition here in Ireland.
Making our way around the 1000 cars was quite an exhausting experience, but lthankfully there were a lot of other diversions. Russ Swift was once again showing off his unique stunt driving performance, and there was also a great idea for charity in the form of the ‘Dream Rides’ feature. Make a donation to charity (anything from £30 to £100) and you could get a passenger run in an assortment of famous machinery – in one 10 minute interval, we spotted an Aston Marton DB9, Lamborghini Diablo, Lancia Integrale Evo and Lotus Exige.
All in all, I found it hard to find any fault with the show. The sheer amount of cars on display was incredible value for money (£12 entry per day, with programmes only £1), and the variety made a refreshing change from the tediousness of the Irish Shows, which always seem to feature the same cars over and over. It’s difficult to convey in one report just how huge the whole spectacle was. Trade stands were plentiful for those of us wishing to spend a few pounds on memorabilia and car parts, and the absence of semi-naked PR girls showed that men and motors can go hand in hand without the need for titillation. Although It took us 2 days to cover everything the show had to offer, there was surprisingly little in the form of waiting or queueing, which was a pleasant change. With return flights to Birmingham at only £60 and an abundance of local hotels and B&Bs, I would have no hesitation in recommending this show for anyone thinking of travelling over next year.