Well over 1000 vehicles converged on Harpenden yesterday afternoon for Classics on the Common as the massively popular charity event celebrated its 21st birthday. As one regular put it: "About half of the town turns out to admire the cars. It's still the best show that we do."
Event managed Richard Bellingham, on behalf of the organiser Harpenden Village Rotary Club, said: "The highlight of the show for me was seeing so many people obviously enjoying themsevles and helping to raise a substantial amount of money for our charities – possibly more than last year's record £24,000."
This year’s main beneficiaries are the Community Meeting Point, the Alzheimer’s Society, Youth Talk, Macmillan Cancer Support and Guildford Rotary Eye Project.
As always, it’s the sheer variety and happy mixtures that stand out, such as a Magneta Triumph Dolomite Sprint next to a Modena Green Ford Escort RS2000 Mk1 – period rivals in immaculate condition that drew the crowds all night.
A few rows back there was a lovely Lotus Eleven with a superb JAP-engined Morgan three-wheeler, while directly in front of them was a much-raced 1954 Cooper-Jaguar T33 alongside a stunning ’67 Shelby GT350 acquired by Alex Pilling in ’99, exactingly restored about a year later and now for sale.
Many cars had been in long-term ownership. Tony Yates bought his delightful ’51 MG TD-1250 as his first car in ’63 – “for the princely sum of £250” – and used it as his daily driver until ’69. It was restored in ’97-’98 following 20 years off the road. “The tub is aluminium over ash,” he explained, “and most of the wood was rotten, but the wings and bonnet are original.”
Alongside was the gleaming ’66 Pontiac LeMans that Sean Murnaghan purchased about five years ago. “It’s something that I’ve always dreamed of owning,” he said, “and that became a reality once the kids had grown up.” He confessed with smile, though, that: “It only does about 300 miles a year, to events within a 50-mile radius of where I live.”
Peter Bell bought his magnificent 1937 Thrupp & Maberly-bodied Rolls-Royce 25/30 Sports Tourer 25 years ago. “We’ve been all over the place with it,” he said, “including France, Spain, Switzerland and Scandinavia. It was restored by the Healey brothers in ’97.”
Now-scarce station wagons are a regular feature of the bustling Hertfordshire gathering, too, such as the 1960 Dodge Dart Pioneer that looked fabulous as it arrived in the early-evening sunshine.
Peugeot 504s have virtually disappeared from the UK’s roads, so it was great to see the 504GR estate that Robert Frost has owned from new in ’82. “We went to Turkey shortly after we bought the car and took it with us,” he recalled. “And soon after we came back I had it properly undersealed. These days we just service it, tinker with it and use it – because it’s still very practical.”
Nearby was the ’66 230 Universal that long-time Mercedes-Benz enthusiast Bob Coxshall acquired last September: “I’d been looking for one for a few years and this came up in Ireland, where it had been languishing for 10 years. I had to do a lot of recommissioning, a fair amount of welding and generally ease everything off.”
Kevin Grist had a Sunbeam Rapier as his first car, but sadly it was written off when someone drove into the back of it. “But I’d always had it in the back of my mind to have another one,” he said. “The club believes that it could be the only one left with a four-speed Borg-Warner automatic gearbox.” It was restored by Kevin Sylvester (on the right): “The Sunbeam was last used in 2000, although it had clearly been well-maintained mechanically but was rusty. It needed a complete new bottom, plus most of the back end. Hardly any panels are available, so I started with cut-down P6 wings at the rear.”
There was lots of exotica to be found, too, including two gorgeous Iso Grifos and a Ferrari 275GTS – although the Prancing Horses insisted on parking together, which isn’t in the spirit of the event. Still, the mostly modern selection went down well with the youngsters.
And here’s some of the other varied machinery from around the two commons:
Lovely two-tone ‘Three Graces’ Ford Zodiac convertible
AC 428 fastback is another Harpenden regular
Lancia Fulvia 1.6HF with cute Austin A35 van
Vauxhall Chevanne was also immaculate
A funky Saab pair, of Sonnet with early 95; Viva GT looked great in the sun, too
Mini 1275GT was in fantastic condition…
…as was timewarp Talbot Tagora 2.2GL, with just 23,000 miles on the clock!
Another unlikely pairing: Austin Westminster with Shaun Lilley’s Citroën GSA Pallas
One of several MG Magnettes at Harpenden show, with superb Ford Escort
Outstanding Porsche 912 in (we think) Blood Orange