CLASSIC cars in industrial quantities. That’s what you would have got if you’d joined me and thousands of others at the NEC last weekend.
Anyone familiar with the Footman James Classic Motor Show will know it’s a big deal – it is, arguably, the only show that caters for fans of all things a bit old and oily on a national scale – but this year the organisers, freed from the constraints of having to share a gig with Top Gear Live, really pulled out the stops to make it bigger and bolder than ever before. It was massive.
Simply getting in is quite unlike any other show I’ve been to. You park up and get on a bus, which takes you to an elevator, followed by a Heathrow Airport-style moving walkway that seems to go on forever, which leads on to a labyrinth of corridors which in turn brings you to the back of the queue for tickets. This, I think, is deliberate; it’s to prepare you for the sheer amount of walking the show itself involves.
Last weekend was a giddying array of just about every vaguely old vehicle ever made – yes, there were Hillman Imps and Ford Anglias at one end and Astons and Ferraris at the other, but if you’re the sort of person who lies awake at night dreaming of owning a Vauxhall Nova then you were well catered for too. But our party must have walked miles checking out the seemingly endless sea of classic cars. If anything, it was slightly overwhelming. I stopped taking photos after the 175th click out of sympathy for my camera, but one classic car buff I spoke to had taken hundreds of shots.
I emerged seven hours later with cream-crackered feet and weighed down with bags of freebies, and with the prospect of the long drive back from Birmingham to look forward to. If I’d known just how big it was going to be I would’ve made a weekend of it – one day for the cars, another for the autojumble – because just the one day is nowhere near enough to take it all in.
It’s great to think that even in an age when Britain’s turned its back on national motorshows, with the motor makers favouring Frankfurt and Geneva instead, we can still put on an automotive extravaganza on this sort of scale. I’ll just make sure I bring comfier shoes next time.