Birmingham: home to Black Sabbath, BSA motorbikes, Land-Rovers, Cadburys and the NEC Classic Motor Show.
After giving it a miss for a couple of years, I opted to go north on Friday and spent a very fulfilling day at the show. There was, of course, a stunning range and quantity of cars with owners relishing the opportunity to bring out their pride and joy on behalf of their clubs and organisations, with some last minute polishing and detailing happening right up until the show opened at 10am.
With apologies to those individuals though, I seem to be drawn towards the more 'patinated' and unusual cars on show – a particular favourite being the 1935 Batten Special found lurking among various hotrods complete with a fabulous drilled chassis.
Another oddball among the gleaming marque examples was the Shirley MkII, a curiously styled glassfibre body mounted on a 1949 Anglia chassis and one of only four believed to be still in existence. It may not have been the most beautiful creation at the show, but it succeeded in stopping Elliott and I in our tracks briefly, if only to find out what it was and marvel at the high floor, which must provide an odd driving position.
Another curiosity was the ratty Jaguar E-type fitted with a smallblock motor; a hole crudely cut out of the bonnet bulge to allow the air filter to see the light of day. Although the alloy wheels weren’t to my taste, I not so secretly harboured a desire to take the car, change the wheels and keep the rest exactly as it was with just a sparce bit of trimming on the inside.
But for me, perhaps the biggest thrill from being at the Classic Motor Show came courtesy of two wheels rather than four. Having to walk through the motorbike hall on the way from one half of the show to another wasn’t exactly a hardship for someone who likes classic 'bikes, but when Elliott suggested we stump up £2.50 to go and see the Wall of Death, it seemed rude to refuse.
For the small entrance fee, we didn’t expect much to be honest, but in reality we walked away open-jawed and having muttered a good handful of expletives along with the rest of the onlookers.
Ken Fox and his wall of death team were simply astounding and many of those who witnessed the show agreed that they would have gladly paid five times more to see it… and not all of them just to see team rider Kerri Cameron speed past on an Indian 'bike just inches away.
Go and see them next time you have the opportunity and you’ll know just what I mean. Alternatively, have a look at our recording of the show.
Back to four wheels though, and I spent far too long searching for a potential Scimitar replacement before once again realising that it really is probably the best everyday classic for me at the moment – certainly something that the GTE proved by swallowing up the journey to Brum and back all too effortlessly, yet still enjoyably in the way only a classic can do.
If the 'shop window' provided by the Classic Motor Show fails to provide inspiration, then you really are in trouble.
As the light fell later in the afternoon, unfortunately sapping any natural light that managed to invade the NEC exhibition halls, I spent the last couple of hours hunting through the autojumble stands only to find yet another picture of the AC Buckland on Ted Walker’s Ferret Fotographics stand and I left a happy man.
So, a successful show and an enjoyable day rounded off by the C&SC Club Awards in the evening, which sought to recognise the efforts of those who make this hobby what it is. I think I might go again...