Essex does the south proud by embracing its classic concours

| 5 May 2013

When a helicopter came into land in a field adjacent to the Warren Classic concours fields on Saturday, most people looked to the skies sagely and noted that the star guest, F1 driver Max Chilton, must have arrived.

How wrong they were. Chilton had already been on-site for hours having unassumingly driven to the event with girlfriend Chloe Roberts in his dad's Old English White MGB, which was entered in the concours.

According to Chilton it lacked it a little power up hills compared to his usual steeds, but he was rather taken with the overdrive and thought it should be fitted to all cars.

In fact, as attention focused on the helicopter touching down, the modest motoring celebrity (on left) was actually anonymously helping to push a stranger's struggling-for-traction Merc on to the concours field.

For the record, he later fell in love with a class-winning XK120 and wandered around enjoying the day without the mobs of autograph hunting F1 drones that blight so many other festivals.

It all brought into perspective the fact that the most crucial element of any event is atmosphere. And the atmosphere is usually best in the early years before they become so successful that mammon and necessity threaten to gobble up the passion that spawned them.

The Warren Classic epitomised this. Even putting aside the achievements of establishing the concours in so little time and persuading 120-odd owners to bring their cars for display at a completely unknown quantity, the public clearly warmed to the picturesque venue and the event.

It was like travelling back in time to those earliest Festivals of Speed or the first Le Mans Classic when the hardcore of the UK classic car scene gathered and gorged themselves on classics.

This event is guaranteed to grow after such a fabulous first year, but, thankfully, the organisers said they were determined that that comforting feel would be retained.

The real beauty of this event, though, was the public, largely local and incredibly engaging. You know that way that northerners are always dismissing the south as snooty and unfriendly? Well, grating though it is, even as a born and bred southerner sometimes I can see what they mean. 

If there is an exception, though, it is Essex. It may get a bad press, and suffer so much snide dismissal, but there is no question that the people are incredibly warm and welcoming.

Plus, the county is a hotbed of classic cars, from the grassroots fans of locally built Fords right up to priceless collections of exotics. It was a delight to see so many of the visitors turn up in classics to put on a car show of their own in the dedicated classic car park (above).

Essex, therefore, was an inspired choice to host this concours and the public response more than justified that leap of faith.

Apologies to the many fans of Field of Dreams, but it is one of the most appalling and cloying movies of all time. Its mantra, however, is on this occasion so apt that I have to 'borrow' it.

"If you build it they will come." And they did, in their droves.