The biggest indoor classic car show in the United Kingdom kicked off in fine style on 14 November, with more than 250 club stands and 1700 classics wowing visitors.
Among the gems drawing the largest crowds was the 1971 Daytona-winning Porsche 917 of Pedro Rodriguez. The car starred on the Classic & Sports Car stand and was transported to the event from its long-term home, the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit Museum at Stavelot. The car became the most valuable exhibit to be featured in the show's history and fully embraced the Classic Motor Show's theme: The Big Screen, having starred in the Steve McQueen epic Le Mans.
Art director Martin Port, who masterminded the stand, said: "There are few movie stars more iconic than Steve McQueen, but the Porsche 917 used in his film Le Mans comes a close second for most petrol heads. It's fantastic to be able to display a car with such a rich history."
Competing for the public's attention was Car Zero – the first prototype of Jaguar's reborn Lightweight E-type. Only six cars will be built to continue the planned production run of 16 cars, which was cut short to just 12 in the 1960s. Car Zero took pride of place on a rotating pedestal and proved a huge hit with punters, one of which stated: "It's one of the most beautiful cars I've ever seen, and so much sleeker in real-life than you would ever imagine. I wish I could afford one!"
The Lightweight E-type prototype was joined by the third and final shortnose D-type to be raced by Ecurie Ecosse. The gorgeous racer was built in 1956 and was borrowed from owner Adam Lindermann to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Le Mans-winning model.
Again from the world of historic racing was Nick Mason's Maserati 250F, which headlined a stunning array of 21 cars on the Maserati Club's stand. The mouthwatering collection had been gathered together to celebrate the Modena firm's 100th anniversary and included a 5000GT, 200S and Steve Hart's 300S, plus a host of road cars, such as a Mistral Spyder, Ghibli and Khamsin. Car of the Show went to Stephen Dowling’s sensational Allemano-bodied 1962 5000GTi.
Of all the Tridents on show, it was the 250F that garnered the most attention from show-goers. The car was originally fitted with a V12 engine and was tested by Juan Manuel Fangio during practice for the 1957 Monaco GP, before being sold to an American and undergoing a V8 conversion. It has now been fully restored and returned to its original specification.
The Ferrari Owners' Club also put on a good show of Italian exotica, with no fewer than five prancing horses adorning its stand. By far the most popular was a 275GTB/2, its typically Ferrari red finish no doubt adding to its allure, particularly with younger visitors.
The 275GTB/2 was flanked by a beautiful Pininfarina-styled 330GTC on one side, and a 328GTB racer prepared by WalkerSport on the other. A 365GTB/4 Daytona was a rarity, being one of just 158 right-hand-drive models built for the UK market, with a sublime 250GT SWB the focal point.
Away from the world of glamour and concours cups, there was much to entertain, with several clubs making expert use of the creative licence afforded by the show's broad theme. Chief among them was a stand that paid homage to the Home Guard with a display of Dad's Army-inspired vehicles, including a smaller-scale Morris-based replica of Corporal Jones' butcher's van – the real thing (a Ford) having been sold at auction recently.
The Bristol Owners' Club put its best foot forward with its inclusion of a 1949 Bristol 400 Farina on its three-car stand.
The car competed in this year's Mille Miglia retrospective – its fourth time at the event – as well as being campaigned in the Targa Florio. Its owner, Adrian Berry, has driven the car in New Zealand, Corsica, Spain, France and Italy.
A broad selection of Sunbeam Tigers was gathered by the owners' club as part of the model’s 50th birthday, which boasted the very last right-hand-drive example, the Le Mans test mule and Lord Rootes' personal car.
A highly original Tiger that graced the stand at last year's show was also on display, having been fully restored over the past 12 months.
Porsche GB's first foray into the world of indoor classic events featured a number of cars restored by its dealer network as part of a nine-month competition. The winning car, a Porsche 911 targa restored by the Porsche Centre Leicester, took centre stage. It was up for sale with an asking price of £70,000 – though the restoration cost considerably more.
"It's fantastic that Porsche has a presence at the NEC Classic Motor Show," said Adam Calvert from Porsche Centre Bolton. "Many of these cars would have been scrapped were it not for the competition."
As with previous years, the show was an ideal place to shop for a new classic. Of the cars offered for sale, one of the most intriguing was an Austin-Healey 3000 Mk2 offered by Denis Welch Motorsport. The barn-find was fresh from long-term storage.
"We bought the car about six months ago after finding it in East Berlin," said Jeremy Welch. "It had been imported from America in the 1990s and placed in storage. The beauty is that it's complete."