A breeze through the NEC show 2017

Thursday couldn’t come around soon enough for this was the day my ‘out of office’ reply came on and stayed on for the following four days. This was the day that Steve, Brad and your scribe would head for the Midlands to enjoy the 2017 Classic Motor Show at the NEC in Birmingham.

Setting out a little after 10.00 a.m., we experienced a gentle and uneventful cruise to Coventry and arrived at the Ramada at precisely 11.58 a.m., exactly the time the SatNav said we would. Too early for check in, we left our luggage at Reception and headed into Coventry, a city in which I lived for three or four years in the early ’70s. Not much seems to have changed and, although there are some new landscaped areas, the dreadful Ring Roads, now a little crumbly in places, still dominate. New build is not in abundance here either, but there is a welcome exception: the Coventry Motor Museum, a free-to-enter delight for all motoring fans, historians and petrol heads alike. A good three hours was happily spent in its halls before check-in and reacquaintance with the local hostelries. More of the Museum another time, for this is all about the Show.

At 09.45 Friday we were queuing outside Hall 2 and saw Mike Brewer and Ant Anstead who chatted with the crowd. Whatever happened to Edd China? With around 2,500 vehicles on display plus countless trade stands, we were keen to make a swift start. Onto Hall 1, then, to collect our souvenir guide (there were none at Hall 2!). Our club stand is in Hall 2, so back there for a look around. Here you could walk the stands of: XJS Owners Club, JEC Club, Daimler & Lanchester Owners Club, Jaguar Drivers Club – Oh, no you couldn’t walk on that stand – various Lotus Clubs, Challenger E-Type and many more.

Hall 3 housed the Dealer Stands to the left with most Club and Specialist Suppliers’ Stands to the right. Family cars from a bygone era, sports cars and more recent machinery were displayed, ranging from MG’s through to Sunbeams, taking in such rarities as Austin Sheerlines and Armstrong Siddeleys – must have one of those Sphinx mascots.

There was probably a car to suit everyone on the Dealers Sale area. Interestingly, there were two XJS’s, both convertibles for sale. One on the Arun Stand (from whom I bought my car), a Celebration in Turquoise at £28K and one older model nearby in maroon metallic for £38K! KWE, the XJS restoration specialist, showed a powder blue convertible with white and pale blue leather….mmmm. We discussed spares availability for the XJS, particularly the convertible – basically, unless you require running gear, there is very little out there. They said they had to make their own body panels. This is possibly because people hang onto the drop tops. On the corner of one dealer stand and going for a record £28K was a beige 420 automatic with low miles. It was very good and, if you like the colour, would be a neat car to own. I wonder if they sold it.  (The clock didn’t look like it worked, however!)

Enough of dealers and back onto the Club Stands where Hall 4 beckoned. Here Skill Shack Restoration Theatre and the tools sellers competed with the clubs which were well represented by a plethora of “family car” clubs as well as sportier marques including the Triumph Sports Six Club, the TR Register, and the Stag Owners Club. But it is the small clubs formed around the ownership of once popular mundane transport that always fascinate me. There is a club for just about anything, including, and not least, certain questionable products from Longbridge. The charming lady on the Maxi Owners stand admitted to owning two and one of them was on the stand with the seats all laid flat to make a double bed. Not a bad party trick and always useful. Next door, and don’t tell Clarkson – sat the Morris Marina Owners Club and Ital Register. The Marina 1.8 Special on display was one of only 6 left on the roads in the UK. I have owned a Coupe, an Estate and several saloons in my day. Good A to B cars, but old when they were new. The Vanden Plas Owners Club stand featured a unique “Landcrab” Vanden Plas – a prototype based on the Wolsey 18/85 – which was transformed into an elegant four light saloon, and which somehow escaped the crusher. Spirited displays from the Rover, Mini, Standard and Maestro/Montego   Clubs. When did you last see a Montego? I have never yet until this show, seen a vacuum cleaner (I think a Hoover upright from the 60’s) on display at a car stand. Well, the Gay Classic Car Group can take the credit. The theme continued with old transistor radios and furniture from the era. Great fun, but I shall not be applying for membership.

Hall 5 is always worth the money. Here you will see the Discovery Live Stage with your favourite TV classic car guys such as Mike Brewer. Adjacent to the stage, the Ford clubs presented some impressive stands as did arch rivals, Vauxhall, backed by their heritage division. I spent a fascinating few minutes on the Citroen Traction Owners stand discussing the differences between the Slough- or Parisian-built Light 15s. In the UK, we had leather and wood in the cabin, plus trafficators, whilst the Gallic models got by with metal and vinyl.  The light 12s of the ’30s, whilst noticeably shorter, actually had a narrower track as well.  Monocoque construction, rack & pinion steering and front wheel drive in the 30s – great innovations. If only poor old André had got that gearbox right, or had time to develop the auto box for which the car was always intended.

The DeLorean Stand is well worth the visit and whilst the range of models is, well, restricted, there is always something interesting to see. The chap on the stand was also the author of the definitive book on the car and he was on hand to correctly answer any question that your anorak could think of. And it’s true, they were all fitted with flux capacitors!

Seven show winners were displayed on the Classic American Stand. These finalists were entrants to the classic American Car of The Year, the winner of which to be announced on the Sunday. Check some of these Detroit bruisers – a 67 Mustang GT390, a ’57 Bel Air, further muscle represented by a Plymouth Road Runner, the oldest there was a 1950 Nash Ambassador, quite rare. Into the 70’s and this decade was represented by a gargantuan Lincoln Mk IV and an equally immaculate Chevy Caprice. But, my favourite there was the second oldest, a ’55 Thunderbird in white with red leather. Our own Richard Gibby also voted this as one of his show favourites.

Finally, with the hour glass rapidly emptying, a quick canter across the concourse returned us to Hall 1. The show sponsor, Lancaster Insurance Stand is a must. The models on display, all glad in body hugging black outfits were terrific and the twenty Pride and Joy finalists also contributed much to the stand. Do try to get there if you go next year. Over at TVR they displayed the reborn Griffith – soon to be on sale at a dealers near you. Jensen showed a barn find which was for sale, whilst the RR Club had a cut-away Shadow to help their owners with their DIY jobs – yes really – and a new Wraith which was open to the public. JDC, take note. Some other top end stands were there also including; Ferrari, Lamborghini, and of course, Porsche.  I asked one of the people on the stand why they should be so expensive. He inquired as to what I call expensive, to which I replied £80 to 90k for something relatively modern that they produced by the bucket load.  Didn’t really receive an answer, but they are well screwed together and a hoot to drive.

If you do visit this hall, another must is the Meguiars Club Showcase. Here you could view the 16 finalists of concourse events around the country, the overall winner of which would be announced by Mike Brewer on Sunday afternoon.  An eclectic mix but with a common theme of truly excellent preparation. Do see the ’89 Metro GS, the ubiquitous Mini, a Mk 1 Capri, a ’58 PA Velox, and not to be missed rare Triumph Italia (not to be confused with the Doretti).

The Chevy 3100 Pick-Up was eye candy. I thought it to be a ’49 model, but the lady next to me said the cab was from that year, but the chassis was a ’52 example. She and her husband owned the machine which had no less than sixteen coats of paint, including four of lacquer at a cost of over £16 grand. I wonder if it won.

Well, that’s it, a shower followed by dinner in the hotel restaurant beckons finishing with a few drinks. May see Doug and Jackie there later. If you have never been, try to go next year. Perhaps we may see you.


Neil Shanley

Hyde Hall Motor Show

On Sunday 20th August, JEC Essex Thameside Region joined the JDC Area 33 and other car clubs for a show at Hyde Hall. Over 200 cars attended from Mercedes, Morgan, TR, Jaguar, Singer, Austin 7 & Porsche car clubs. The weather was great for the whole day which brought out the visitors to the gardens and the show. Approximately 2,970 persons visited on the day (about a 1000 up on normal day) plus 75 new RHS memberships were gained. This was greatly appreciated by RHS who wish us to make it an annual event. Discussions are already beginning as to the date for 2018.

Essex Thameside fielded 34 Jaguars from our membership and it was an impressive display.

The story of RHS Garden Hyde Hall
In 1955 when Dr and Mrs Robinson came to Hyde Hall there were only six trees on the top of a windswept hill and no garden. If they had known then what they soon learned, it is very doubtful that the garden would have been made. The site was cold and windy, the top of the hill was covered in gravel and the soil on the slopes comprised a sticky clay with a pH of around neutral.

For centuries Hyde Hall had been a working farm and the area around the house was a dumping ground for all kinds of rubbish. Mrs Robinson started to garden as a reaction against this and as she cleared areas
around the house they were planted with anything available. In this way she created herbaceous borders and a vegetable garden close to the house, and established the framework of the garden with some 60 young trees bought at an auction sale in Wickford Market.

The house, which dates back to the 18th century, is a typical Essex farmhouse of timber frame, lath and plaster. Records show the existence of a dwelling on this site at least as far back as Tudor times. At the
back of the house Mrs Robinson discovered the Tudor brick floor of an old stable under a pile of old household rubbish and soil. This was excavated to become a natural pavement garden.

Cleaning the land around the house was arduous and time-consuming work but, with some assistance from the pigs, the refuse, brambles and scrub were eventually removed and the sticky, clay soil improved
with quantities of animal manure and mushroom and bark compost.

Since the Robinsons turned the first spadeful of clay in the 1950s, Hyde Hall has always been a dynamic garden, constantly changing to meet the various challenges the site and soil have produced. The story of the development of this inspiring garden with its extraordinary diversity of plants is a fascinating one, a triumph over conditions that would have daunted less keen and dedicated gardeners.

The Hyde Hall Gardens Trust was set up in 1976 and then in 1993 the garden became the responsibility of the Royal Horticultural Society, having been bequeathed by the Trust to ensure its future survival. Under ownership of the RHS a number of modifications were made to accommodate growing visitor numbers.

One of the first major garden projects was the installation of a 45-million litre (10 million gallon) reservoir to provide the garden with all its irrigation needs. To further promote its water-efficient ethos a
Mediterranean-styled Dry Garden was added to showcase a range of drought-tolerant plants. The Dry Garden was completed in the spring of 2001, following one of the wettest winters known.

A major turning point came in 2008 with the construction of a visitor centre comprising a café, shop and plant centre. The building was officially opened in March 2010 by Alan Titchmarsh. Work at this Essex garden continues at a monumental pace and the ever-changing landscape ensures visitors have plenty to draw inspiration from. Forthcoming projects include a new Winter Garden, Global Vegetable Garden and Big Sky Meadows.

So returning to the show, we had a marvellous day as can be seen with the accompanying photos.

Saffron Walden Car Show

Members gathered at Birchanger Services at junction 8 off the M11 at 8am on Sunday 13th August before driving up to the common at Saffron Walden. The weather was really better than expected for a change. The sun shone all day. While awaiting arrival of club members at Birchanger Services, a missed opportunity arose and was gone in seconds. What appeared to be the new E-Pace was seen driving out of the car park. At first it looked like an F-Pace, but for the now familiar camouflage decals all over the vehicle. There would be no reason to camouflage this vehicle had it been an F-Pace. Obviously the vehicle is still undertaking road tests before launch.

On arrival at the common in Saffron Walden, we were joined throughout the day by members from the Cambridge region of the JEC as well as members of the JDC so all Jaguars were together. It was a fine sight and a good display, with many members being approached by members of the public wishing to discuss aspects of their displayed cars.

A good time was had by all and it makes it even better when the weather stays fine. There were other club stands on the common, including the Morris Minor Club, TR Club, MG Club, army vehicles and classic coaches, to name but a few.

Hilton & Moss, a local classic car restorer, had a 1953
XK120 on display which had an asking price of £129,000.

The whole event appeared to be bigger than last year as quite a number of privately owned classic cars parked up on the common. The event this year was in support of the Arthur Rank hospice.