Enthusiasts of British Motor Vehicles Built Before Nineteen Eighty Five and the Practical Classics Classic Car and Restoration Show at the National Exhibition Centre. Part 1 (How’s that for a snappy title!)
by Mike Peake (Fatbloke)
The show was fast approaching and it wasn’t going well. I only had half a day’s leave left so I wasn’t going to be able to help out at set up and I would miss most of Friday at the show, Princess Gar was having Diva fits as we had a couple of exhibitors pull out at the last minute, his Cool Wall wall wasn’t a wall and the tie he’d bought for the awards dinner didn’t match his shorts. On top of all of that, the leisurely drive up to Cole Towers with my caravan the Sunday before the show couldn’t take place because we woke up to 10 foot snow drifts.
I wanted to take the caravan up early so I could go straight to the show on Friday after work without having to worry about setting up my sleeping accommodation. It was to this end that I booked my last half day of leave for Wednesday and would take my travelling abode then.
Wednesday afternoon turned out to be the truly disgusting rotten cherry on top of the cake of despair. For 18 years I’ve been pulling my caravan off my drive without incident, this time however, someone must have made the wall bigger without me noticing and as the back of the van swung I felt a bit of a thump. I was greeted by this when I got out of the car to check.
I said some very bad words and then some even worse ones when I realised that Mrs FB would probably notice the result of my slight misjudgement and my sleeping arrangements for the foreseeable future were going to be either the Honda or (more likely) a hospital bed.
I decided to push on to Gar’s place so I could cry on his shoulder. It was just north of the Worcester junction on the M5 when someone decided to pour itching powder on top of the truly disgusting rotten cherry on top of the cake of despair and I realised just how impressive my vocabulary of bad words really was. I noticed that the caravan road lights weren’t working. I was closer to Gar’s than home so after wiggling the plug to no avail, I pushed on again wondering if I’d ever be able to shift my reputation of “bumbling incompetent fool”. I dumped my wrecked van on Gar’s drive leaving it looking like the traveller site from hell and went home.
The rest of the week went by in a blur of baking award winning lemon drizzle cake, packing bags and hiding from Mrs FB and her dreaded Rolling Pin of Thunder. Before I knew it, I was back at the NEC and all my woes were left behind.
A very pleasant couple of hours was spent chatting and eating cake before a jolly nice Chinese meal and an early night in order to be back at the show bright and early Saturday morning.
Saturday dawned and we were all up and raring to go. Phil Allin turned up to leave his work van on Gar’s front garden too so along with my wrecked van, the Brooks camper and trailer the conversion of Cole Towers to traveller site was complete, and we’d all like to apologise to his neighbours.
It was now time to leave and collect Liam White who was staying at a hotel near the NEC. I need to paint a bit of a picture here so you can truly appreciate what was to happen on the 10 minute drive with Liam to the NEC. Liam Is a huge, foul mouthed, ex forces Irishman who regularly chews iron bars and spits out nails. (No offence Liam)
Due to Gar removing a couple of seats from his battle bus, the only place left for Liam to sit was on a deck chair immediately behind our dear Gar who was driving. For reasons that I can’t go into here, Liam took it upon himself to do a very creditable impression of Father Jack which involved lots of loud rude words, banging on the sides of the car and slapping Gar around the head and tickling his ears. Whilst the rest of us thought this a jolly good jape, Gar was trying to concentrate, drive and navigate the intricacies of the NEC parking system. I could see him go from “mildly flustered”, to “quite cross” and finally “bloody incandescent”.
It was while Gar was reversing and trying to see out the back around 5 fatblokes blocking his view, that Liam thought it would be hilarious to bang the roof really hard making us all jump out of our skins and think Gar had hit something. Well it was the last straw for Gar. He just snapped and uttered the words that will stay with me forever. “ LIAM! I know you’re hard and all, but if you do that again I WILL beat you to death!”
Well, there was a moment of silence before we all dissolved into gales of helpless laughter at our lovable, kind, gentle and cuddly Fat Controller issuing death threats… to Liam of all people. We realised quite quickly that this reaction didn’t really help alleviate Gar’s mood, but fortunately, the drive was over and we exited the car without further incident.
To be continued....
by Gar Cole
After months of planning for and looking forward to this show, the morning of set up finally arrived. I was slightly on edge before setting off on the short drive to the NEC; we had made some last-minute changes to the design of the group banner and it still wasn't in my possession.
Also the day before, the 1931 Sunbeam motorcycle planned for our stand unfortunately had to withdraw from the show. From this point on events conspired to send my BP through the roof.
We have always met up in North Car Parks 9 or 12 an hour before the show so I can hand out all the relevant paperwork and passes (of which there are many).
Unbeknown to us, the organisers had changed the pre build up meeting point to South Car Park 5, which is fine if you know your way around the complex. Of course most of the guys didnt, so pretty soon my mobile was red hot with confused classic owners asking for directions. I flew over to S5 hoping to beat everyone there and direct them in, but failed as I was held up at the gate arguing with Security despite having all the relevant windscreen passes plus a disabled badge.
They insisted that rules had been changed and I'd have to pay a £50 deposit upon entry to the carpark which gives you an hour to unload your stand equipment and return the car or you lose your £50. We had so much equipment to unload and set up, I knew an hour wouldn't be enough. The security guy didn't endear himself to me by suggesting that if I had a disability maybe I shouldn't be there helping out...... not a good start.
Like Sir Gallahad on horseback, Phil Allin arrived in the Nick of time with our freshly printed 8ft banner. The wristbands and passes were handed out as we made our way to Hall 5. I don't know if you have ever seen several hundred over-protective classic owners descend on a building with only 4 doors, but it's a sure-fire recipe for chaos.
We told the door guard our pitch number. He gave me the sort of blank look a monkey has looking at its own reflection, then proceeded to load us into the wrong side of the building, telling us to drive between all the other folks - who were by now busy setting up their stands - in order to reach the other side. Their murderous looks quickly made me realise that a quick 'about turn' and retreat was the sensible option.
Upon reaching the correct side door of the building the second vacant-faced guard proceeded to halt us in our tracks as they had lost the keys and couldn't open it. The next 20 mins are something of a blur but I'm told it involved much moaning, whinging, shouting, swearing and arm waving (all done by me I must add ) until, appearing dramatically in a cloud of exhaust fumes the calming voice of our founder John Simpson told me to calm down and all would sort itself out - definitely the voice of experience.
From this point on, the gang started working like a well oiled machine. My modern was quickly emptied of carpet tiles, tables, banners etc and I shot back to the car park to get my £50 deposit back. I took my Chopper bicycle with me and had quite a laugh riding it back. Seeing a fat guy riding a kids chopper isn't something the NEC is used to and I got quite a few horn beeps and cheers.
By the time I got back to Hall 5, the stand was transformed. The carpet tiles were going down, the central carpet was in place, the poles and our new banner were already up and looking great! We decided to transfer the cool wall photos from a freestanding wall to the 'actual' wall of the building.
Finally the 6 vehicles were in place and it looked amazing, I knew it was good when people from other clubs left their own stands to come and look at ours. 'Proud as punch' is how I felt and for the guys too. The finishing touch was our displays of bikes at the front, 2 choppers and an Apollo with their baskets full of old style sweets, I had a feeling they would prove popular 😀.
We all set off for a well-deserved carvery lunch. Once I had made sure everyone was safely back at their hotels, my campsite/driveway or their own homes, I had to set off on the long drive to Southampton - I was working early on Friday morning, but I left Birmingham feeling happy & safe in the knowledge that we were in for a great weekend 😀
Mike Peake will pick up the story from here, as I was away in Southampton when the show opened the following morning.
by 'Er Indoors
Eddie was driving down the road and a met a car coming the other way. Although there was room to pass easily, Eddie forced the oncoming car to slow down and wound down his window and shouted 'Pig'.
The other driver looked in his rear view mirror and swore at Eddie.
Then his car hit the pig.
Gar, Mike and the guys are busy at the NEC, Birmingham manning our club stand which is getting lots of visitors. A full account will be published in due course but for now we are posting photos and video from the event to give you a taste of what's happening.
by 'Er Indoors
A traffic cop pulled alongside a speeding car on the motorway. Glancing into the car, he was astounded to see that the young lady driver was knitting at the wheel.
Realising that she was oblivious to his flashing lights and siren, the policeman wound down his window, turned on his loudspeaker and yelled, 'PULL OVER!'
'NO', the young lady yelled back, 'IT'S A SCARF!'
by Paul Sweeney
by Paul Sweeney
I had been enjoying a catch up with my business partner Lesley at a local cafe and we were walking out to our cars when we saw a chap looking at Lesley's MX-5. After a short friendly talk, he casually mentioned, "I have an old Rover".
Antennae twitching, I leapt in: "What model? Where is it?" I asked eagerly, half expecting him to say it was something from the 1990s. Turned out "it" was parked nearby and before I knew it, the chap (his name was Steven) tossed me the keys and invited me to go and take a look. Well, it would be rude not to - and here's what I found ....
Steve's "Old Rover" turned out to be a 1974 P6 3500. I sat inside - the first time I'd ever been inside a P6 - and it wasn't bad, not at all bad. After a minute, Steve came out of the building to join me and explained he'd owned the car for about two years and had done quite a bit of work on it, including swapping the gearbox for a Toyota Supra box. A glance under the bonnet revealed a gleaming labour of love with numerous obviously new parts:
Steve told me he owned the cafe I had been sitting at, and being in need of additional capital to invest in the business, he had reluctantly decided to sell the Rover - its currently offered for sale on TradeMe with an asking price of NZ$7000. If you ask me, well worth further investigation by anyone looking for a P6 - although I admit personally the gearbox swap would put me off. I like 'em as Rover intended - but that's just my personal preference.
How many people do you know who would throw you a bunch of keys like that having just met you? Anyhow the point is, Steve hadnt heard of our club before, so I'm hoping he is now reading this - welcome to the club, Steve and good luck with the car!
Although secretly I can't help hoping he finds some other way to raise the capital he needs and holds on to his lovely old Rover. I've a sneaky feeling that if he finds a buyer, he will live to regret it.
By Mike Peake
The 1st meet of the year! Winter is over! (yeah, right!) And, miracle of miracles for a meet that our beloved Fat Controller has organised, IT WASN’T RAINING! You don’t believe me do you? I’m not sure I believed it myself, but it’s true as you saw from the photos. It was however, “Bloody Cold” by the Standard British temperature scale if you included the wind chill.
I’ve been a very busy chap with work recently so my preparation for our 1st joint meet consisted of rocking up to my lock up the day before expecting to take Poppy to the service station to top up fluids and air and give her a quick wash. Poppy had other ideas though as she had a slightly flat battery but even with jump leads to the modern she still wouldn’t start. I’m still using my cheap 21st birthday jump leads so I had to wait until they stopped glowing before I could disconnect and tinker.
Fortunately, my tinkering revealed nothing serious and a quick change of spark plugs soon had Poppy back in good voice. I was able to resume my plan for fluids and a wash … and a quick drive round the green lanes to dry off before being snuggled back in the lock up. (I know, any excuse for a drive eh?) Poppy ready, I was soon back at home slaving over a hot oven to bake my award-winning lemon drizzle cake.
The following day I was up at the crack of dawn as I’d promised Gar I’d be there early to help direct traffic and set up. To my delight it was one of those bright sunny and very cold winter mornings. The Honda needed full de-icing before I could drive to the lock up to retrieve Poppy. Poppy, being cosseted in the lockup, required no defrosting and started at the turn of the key and I was off on my beautiful drive to the Coventry Transport Museum.
The A429 was my route of choice and as I’m sure I’ve said before, I love this road and in the early morning sun it was as beautiful as ever. As I was zipping through the frosty fields along this Roman road (Fosse Way) I fell to wondering at all the people that had travelled this road through its history. From Roman Soldiers, Saxon Pilgrims, Viking warriors, medieval black death carriers to me in my 48 year old Triumph Herald. My reverie was bought to a sudden end when I hit a series of large pot holes and realised that perhaps this 2000 year old road was starting to show its age.
After a trouble free beautiful drive, my grin and I arrived on the Museum’s forecourt where I was greeted by Gar, Jim and Joel Lodder and such a mountain of photographic equipment that I was left wondering where we were going to put the cars! Joel is a Photography student and was recording our event for posterity and one of his assignments. As you will see he is rather good.
I was a little concerned that young Paul Cheetham, our usual resident cameraman, might be a bit put out by this but he showed great maturity and only displayed some mild “camera envy” when he arrived. We soon took his mind off this by teasing him about the battle scared modern he’d turned up in.
At about 10 o’clock our members started arriving with some stunning cars, cake characters and stories. Not everyone had trips as trouble free as mine. Phil Allin thought it a good idea to wash Big Rov before setting out and was left wondering why he had a giant P5 shaped ice cube on his drive. Did I mention that it was reading “bloody cold”? Not the brightest of chaps is our Phil, but surprisingly, after Big Rov defrosted the trip was made without further mishap. Other madmen worth mentioning are Toby Bruce for his 3 hour trip from Bath in a 1920’s Lea Francis that wasn’t exactly weather proof and of course our almost permanent winner of “Furthest travelled” Eric Dalton for his 900 mile round trip from his home in darkest Scotlandshire. But at least the heater worked in his Rover VDP. Unlike Gus and Kurt who turned up in Henry, a TC Midge kit car based on the 13/60 Herald, without any weather protection at all.
Everyone showed heroism today though in coming out in the cold giving us one of our highest group turnouts to date. I think we counted a total of 56 classics plus those in moderns in the naughty corner. So a huge thanks to you all for turning up. It was great to meet you all and so good to welcome so many new faces. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.
Entertainment for the day was provided by the Brooks Brothers who spent their day pushing their Austin 7 up and down trying, without success to start it. I’m sure that if Super Enthusiast Man were able to turn up, he would point out that it had a starter handle. However, it appeared that Gus had stolen SEM’s underpants to use as a face mask so SEM was a bit embarrassed to show his …er face.
Once the Brooks had tired of pushing the diminutive Austin they started playing “can they fit a fat bloke in it” which everyone found hilarious!
It really was a fantastic and varied display of classic cars made even more varied by welcoming members of our sister group and their pre-millennial cars for the 1st time. I’ll get to the prize winners shortly but 1st, I want to mention my personal “stand out cars” and favourites of the day. (Hey, it’s my blog so I can if I want!)
The 1st pair, both really unusual and, I think, rare as I’d not seen either in the flesh before. Both seem to have military connections but couldn’t be more different. Here they are, an Austin Champ and a Trabant. Aren’t they fantastic?
My favourite car of the show was a very difficult choice as there was lots of competition but it had to be this stunning example of BL’s unfairly maligned Austin Allegro. In my opinion it has to be the best example on the roads today and an absolute beauty. I loved it.
Finally I have to mention Gus Brooks TC Midge. After all, it is my beloved Triumph Herald in a mini skirt. What’s not to love?
It was now time for the awards. We had five to give out and they were given as follows.
Best Pre Millennial Vehicle was awarded to Ian Angel and his Family for their LDV Mini Bus.
Best Pre 85 Brit Went to Paul Green and his Standard Vanguard Estate.
Best original condition went to Tosh Brooks for his Austin Big 7 (which wasn’t that big.)
Most Interesting Vehicle was given to Peter Lockley for his Standard Vanguard Phase 1.
Best in Show as voted by attending members also went to Paul Green and his Standard Vanguard Estate so he was a double winner today.
They are all extremely worthy winners, I’m sure you’ll agree. There was massive competition among all the wonderful cars attending making the judges positions unenviable.
The rest of the day was spent trying to console Ian Farty Woodward who, for the 1st time in our history, didn’t win anything for his Ford Zephyr. He was distraught and threw a right hissy fit. In the end we sent him home after making his Dad Bernard promise that he will foil all of Farty’s promised attempts to nobble any future competition.
I am very sorry to report that we also had our 1st experience of cheating in our vote for Best in Show. However this blatant skulduggery was easily spotted as all the 58 votes for Liam’s Volvo 70 were written in red crayon and that isn’t how you spell Volvo Liam!
With that, a great day came to an end. Goodbyes until the next one were said and we all set off for home.
Huge thanks to our Fat Controller Gar Cole for organising such a great show but especially for forgetting to book the rain this time. Also, huge thanks to all our members for braving the cold, salt and bus lane cameras to make this show our best attended so far.
More photos are available on the galleries section of our website - just click here.
Thanks for reading and see you all at the NEC in a couple of weeks.
PS apologies for wrong or forgotten names but I lost my notes again. I know. I’m pathetic. But please PM me corrections so as not to embarrass me in the group. I know you wouldn’t want to do that would you?
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