The catch-22 of boutique classic car shows


Author: James ElliottPublished:

We all love the big classic car events, but, equally, so often we all seem to come away moaning – too many people, too high a proportion of non-enthusiasts, too many comedy fake moustaches and hired-for-the-day military uniforms.

Well, whenever the market is on a high, there also crops up a whole series of 'boutique' events, conscioulsy elitist and appealing to those that not only care, but have money to burn. Oh, and a few journalists who get in on a freebie. Like me.

The latest of these was Salute to Style. There were a couple of familiar themes about this – namely Michael Scott and the picturesque Hurlingham Club in Fulham, a great combination that has worked excellently over, well, decades.

Many remember the Louis Vuitton events at the South West London venue that were a huge success, if your measure is pages in Hello!, and Salon Privé was there for years, of course, but since then many shows have come and gone and nothing has quite stuck.

So inveterate Hurlingham loyalist – and indefatigable classic gatherer – Scott (also founder of the renowned 96 Club) has given it another go with a three-day event in late July.

I have to admit I was pretty impressed. 

In many ways it had everything I want from a classic car show: not many people, a relaxed, garden-party atmosphere, great cars, nice food and drink and no queues. But especially no faux-enthusiast day trippers dripping in bunting.

Plus, it has to be said, that the kit was utterly spectacular. 

Obviously I missed the fancy opening and the Bastille Day dinner, but when I did attend it was a lovely summer's day, understated and unobtrusive sponsorship – might as well give estate agent John D Wood a shout out as reward for its restraint – and a wealth of interesting stalls selling everything from wines to art.

But that wasn't why I was there, was it? There were 100 or so cars and, while you would assume that a smaller show means lesser cars, that was what blew me away. 

They really were of the highest calibre. Centrepiece was the recently sold Aston Martin DBS from The Persuaders! (yup, the one that made had a million quid), but that was just the tip of the iceberg. There was Facel Vega, McLaren F1, all manner of Astons, Lamborghinis (the gorgeous Urraco upstaged even the Miura), a stable of Ferraris (racing and road), a Plexi-front Daytona and loads more.

And then, in a quiet, barely visited corner, I discovered a little 'tribute' to the track. This meant a De Cadenet, an RSR and all manner of delectable machinery, stuff I wanted to shout about to my friends.

And that, really, is the quandary. As a true enthusiast lucky enough to get free entry, I positively wallowed in the cars at this show, and I have to admit that in terms of crowds, atmosphere and kit it is everything that I want from an event, but the truth is that such an elite do – with approximately 3000 visitors over three days – always make me feel sorry that more genuine enthusiasts couldn't be there to see the amazing cars.

I did some sums and worked out that for the price of three days at one of the big festivals you could have spent one here. It's a very different experience, but one that many might enjoy. Thankfully, for those that missed it this year, I can at least share some of the highlights here.

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I suspect that most of the people that attend these over-priced events do so primarily from a desire to be seen at the 'right 'event rather than from an inherent interest in old cars - you and a few others being the exception James. I don't think they hold a grain of interest for your average punter/true enthusiast. I would rather put £50 in the tank and go for a late night drive down the A&B roads on a quiet saturday night. I have 'done' some of the high profile evetns and won't repeat them. Goodwood is too crowded, expensive and commercial. The racing at Le Mans is dull frankly. I will stick to the low-key events that enthusiasts turn up at, quietly competing in their self-maintained cars without fanfare and champagne, and hope the beautiful people don't cotton-on and ruin these too.

Chris Martin

Totally agree with the comment above from flattop72. The only other point being while we are enjoying ourselves with the other 'real' car folks, not to blab too much so as not to attract the attention of the posers.



How can one disagree with the above comments? This type of event begins to divide what was a hobby between two factions - "them" and "us" other words the rich and the relatively poor, the latter being the real enthusiasts. However, surely what happened previously hasn't been forgotten? When interest rates increased the 'investors' ran for cover anjd lost a lot of money as car prices crashed, but maybe this time greedy bankers etc. may have invested actual cash in cars rather than using borrowed money. We shall see. No doubt, however, "suitable" cars will keep coming along so the organisers of these posh exclusive events can still find something to entertain the affluent minority.

Rex Pengilly

The above guys have got it dead right,
Goodwood like some others has become a caricature of itself and now is approaching a Disneyland type event. Just a place where the mega rich show off their super expensive, but seldom totally genuine or real cars.
Although Goodwood was a wartime aerodrome those of it who remember how it was when it was a functioning circuit know that no one went there in the 50's and 60's in military uniform except those few National Servicemen and women who were obliged to. The place like so many other events has been hijacked, which is a shame.
It is also the same thing with C&SC, it just centres on the rich, famous and lifestyle events which as James says - if he wasn't a journalist he wouldn't be able to get in. Drop the focus on the ego-fanning C&SC and get back to what is real.



That all sounds very car snobbish, I'm a real enthusiast and your not blah blah blah. You don't have to be mechanic or home garage car restorer to enjoy cars and classic racing.

Events like Goodwood are a victim of there own success, people go for an enjoyable day out centred around cars and dressing up, it's a bit of fun and why not ? Don't like it, don't go, they will sell out anyway and lots of people will have a great time, it's a bit too busy for me though, probably why they did the other smaller, more exclusive event this year. One is too busy, the other you can't get in! 

My issue is with the entry price to some of these events, I was lucky enough to win tickets to Silverstone this year (thanks) and it was a good day out despite my BMW 02 only making it as far as Warwick from Brum, but I did leave thinking that if I had paid the £102 for two day tickets I would have felt slightly disappointed, I think that is more down to the venue though, I am not a Silverstone fan. 

The Donington historic is another matter, still a great event, much more laid back and a great track and venue, ideal for petrol headanism, I like to visit Malory park & Shelsley Walsh too, and the smaller local classic events, you feel more involved and can have a chat with the owners, drivers and crews, actually get near the cars. 

Chris Martin

Just a minor point of disagreement with Rex two posts up. I would prefer C&SC to carry on covering all those glitzy high-profile events that I have neither the means or the inclination to attend. That way, I can enjoy their always excellent coverage and photography of the multi-million-pound cars without having to mix with the crowds or feel 'ripped off'. Meanwhile, the rest of us who enjoy old cars and chewing the fat with other like-minded folks (rich, or poor) might prefer LESS publicity for our favourite events so that the posers do not get the chance to move in with their corporate hospitality and hijack the show. Some of us just want a bacon and egg buttie with our mates and don't mind a bit of mud.



What a miserable bunch you are! There are so many grass-roots classic car gatherings going on every week in Britain that you could never attend more than a fraction of them. So what if some of them have elitist aspirations? Interest in (and affection for) classic cars has never been higher and it's great that there are so many places to see them - from a free show on a village green to a wallet-buster at a stately home.

Personally I love the theatre of the Goodwood Revival - get into the spirit of it and it is just about as much fun as you can have with your (retro) clothes on. Where else can you see ME109s dicing with Spitfires just a few hundred feet above a track full of hard charging Astons and Maseratis while you sink a few beers in the blazing sunshine that his Lordship unfailingly lays on with some of the best eye-candy known to man parading all around you? Entertainment of that calibre does not come cheap and the effort that goes into it is vast so of course you have to pay a few bob to get in. 

If you don't like crowds and can't afford the ticket, don't go. But don't begrudge those who do and can. There's plenty of other things you can go to that hardly cost a bean and are also massively good fun - Shelsley Walsh, for instance - so cheer up!



Chris Martin - you and I are aligned! New Zagato, I have nothing against anyone who attends these high-profile events. They're welcome to them, and they are probably good for the 'movement' in general.........just don't turn up in your white overalls & brogues at some of the events I attend please!


Interesting to see that at this up-market event a replica was displayed. I've followed that Lynx XKSS for a number of years including trying to buy it at Silverstone in 1996.

James Elliott

It was lovely Lowdrag. Funny thing is that high-quality and cognoscenti reps seem welcome at such events, just as Jay Kay's Embiricos Bentley rep was proudly displayed on the Salon Privé lawn. I'm all for it, personally, as long as they are not passed off as something they are not.

Group Editor, C&SC

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