by Mike Peake
The NEC Classic car show is the largest and most prestigious indoor classic car show in the country and is considered the show season finale. Competition for stand space is fierce and it is therefore quite an honour to be chosen to exhibit.
This honour was bestowed on little old us. We are a non-subscription Facebook collection of cake-eating nutters that share a passion for old British cars. We are certainly punching above our weight and holding our own among the big clubs with their huge budgets and professional staff.
So, it was with trepidation and excitement that I was preparing. The run-up turned into a bit of a baking frenzy with rock cakes by Mother-In-Law of FB, sausage plait by Mrs FB and of course, award winning lemon drizzle cake. Thursday night arrived and caravan packed (thanks Mrs FB) I duly set off for my pitch on the driveway of Cole Towers. Arriving at 9.30, I had to wake up the old crocks in the chuckle wagon so Gar, Gus and Tosh could help push my van into the remaining space on the drive. The Brooks quickly returned to their van and with slippers on and blankets over their knees, they soon dozed off again.
Once my cosy abode for the weekend was set, Gar then gave me a full briefing on the weekend including all the required paperwork and passes and instructions on where to collect Martin in the morning. He also gave me his house keys with strict instructions to make sure the house was locked after we’d used the facilities in the morning as he didn’t trust the Chuckle Brothers to remember as they are in their dotage. (Tosh was 60 this week you know!)
The following morning, I was sat in my PJs enjoying a coffee and a bacon butty when I was rudely interrupted by Tosh banging on my door shouting “Come on, we’ve got to go!” “But the show doesn’t start until 10 today” I said. “9! Definitely 9!” said Tosh. I rushed around getting ready and emerged from my van to find both Brooks already sitting in my car - blanket knee'd and everything.
So it was off to pick up Martin White who had booked himself in the Holiday Inn next to the NEC. Except it wasn’t. He’d booked the wrong one. The one he’d booked was in Manchester. (Ok, OK! Not Manchester. It was about 3 miles further up the road than the one he thought he’d booked though. It felt like Manchester after Gladys the sat nav thought it would be funny to take us on a tour of every housing estate in the greater Birmingham area before arriving at the Holiday Inn.)
Martin collected, we arrived at the NEC car park at 0845 “No time to wait for the bus” chimed the 2 old crocks from their bath chairs. “We’ll have to leg it!” Yeah right! Anyway, we legged it from the car park to the halls breaking the speed record for fat blokes pushing a wheelchair in the process. Flustered and sweaty, we arrived at our stand. We had the cake laid out and by 0900 and were sat waiting for the punters to arrive…. at 10 o’clock! Like I said in the 1st place!
Tosh and Gus slunk away to be traitorous with their Humber on another club stand, leaving Martin and I to say hello to Stan and admire the 3 gleaming examples of British motoring heritage displayed on our rather fine-looking pitch.
So let me introduce the chaps and their cars.
A fine day was had eating cake, chatting to people about cars and eating more cake. Mrs FB and eldest daughter of Mike (Anita and Sophie) arrived too and we had a jolly good nose about the rest of the show, popping back regularly to give the other chaps a break (well check that they were behaving themselves really! They weren’t.) As Nick wasn’t there on Friday, Stan sold the Capri.
Here are a few pictures of some of my favourite cars from round and about the Show.
After a cracking day it was time to depart the show and head back to the traveller site that used to be Gar’s house.
I have to say, I half expected trouble when we saw Gar stood at the gate pounding a rolling pin into his palm and I wasn’t disappointed. As I stepped from the car I was harangued, harangued I tell you. My ears were assaulted but I managed to make out the odd phrase like “Totally Irresponsible.” “I trusted you.” And “You’ve let me down but worst of all, you’ve let yourself down” all punctuated with bashes around my head with the rolling pin.
It took a while, but eventually I worked out what I had done to deserve this assault. You remember I said that Gar left me his house keys because he didn’t trust the Brooks to make sure the house was locked? Well……
Everyone then went out for a jolly nice Chinese buffet. Everyone except me that is, I had to sit in my caravan with a thick ear and reflect on what I had done.
The next day, we did have to be at the NEC at 9am but even with all the rushing around, Gar still remembered to lock his house. Now Gar was driving we also took a much more direct route and we were already for another day of eating cake, talking to Muggles and welcoming an assortment of members that were able to find our stand.
These included Young Paul Cheetham with his trusty camera, old Phil Allin, creator of banners and flags and printer extraordinaire and Dominic Coleman, creator of our group logo and plaques for the cars.
Phil was quite pleased with his efforts as were we. However, he did have a bit of “flag envy” when he saw the 25 foot ones on the Mini stand next door. We assured him however, that size wasn’t everything which seemed to set off his de ja vu for some reason. I’m sure you’ll agree that Phil’s flags and banner look great and whatever Phil thinks they lack in size they make up for in quality.
Daughter of Mike 2 was also visiting on the Saturday (Emily) which meant it was Mini fest for me. We had to track down every Mini in the show as well as the weird and wacky. We had a lot of fun between popping back regularly to give the other chaps a break. (Well, check that they were behaving themselves really! They weren’t.) As Stan wasn’t there on Saturday, Nick sold the steering wheel out of the Jaguar. But as all profits went to the club fund, I didn’t complain.
Here are some photos of Minis and some weird and whacky wonders! I even bought my daughter a Mini but she wasn’t as excited as I thought she would be.
Amongst all the cake, Anita had sent another of her gorgeous sausage plaits for our lunch on Saturday, but it didn’t survive that long and I think it was gone by 11am. I’d learned my lesson after Snowdon though! Emily and I had ours in our own lunch boxes hidden from the greedy so and so’s helping man the stand. So, we actually got some this time!
After 2 long and very busy days, we were blooming tired so we decided to grab a pub meal on the way home and go to bed REALLY early so we’d be fresh for our final day on Sunday. It’s because we were working jolly hard and not that we are all getting on a bit now and can’t cope… honest!
We were back at the NEC bright and early on the final Sunday. Most of us had seen what we wanted, so we were a bit more relaxed and mostly stayed on the stand meeting more members, chatting to more Muggles and yes…eating more cake. I think it is safe to say that we all had a great time and a great laugh with great people.
However, I did have what was possibly one of my most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. Lady Sandra Simpson of Boston had donated a glorious chocolate Malteser cake. At least it was before Tosh stole all the Maltesers off the top so by the time we got to it, it was just a glorious chocolate cake. So being fair it was felt that I ought to send some award-winning Lemon Drizzle over to the Boston Classic Car Club stand to return the favour. The rest of them would only spare 2 slices though, but the thought was there.
Feeling like a bake-off contestant offering up a creation to Mary Berry, my cake was presented. I heard that there was much interest on the stand as my offering was judged. I also heard that it was received quite favourably, even to the extent that one member of the BCC now walks with a permanent limp after being a bit too enthusiastic in his praise and saying that it was more “lemony” than her Ladyship Sandra’s own Lemon Drizzle. No one said whether that was a good thing or not though.
Oh, I’ve just remembered I’m writing about a car show so I best tell you about some cars. The stand behind us was the Crayford Car Club and they had some stunning cars. All convertible Minis including one that had appeared in our group with a tree growing through the middle not long ago but now it looks incredible.
My favourite car of the show was on this stand too with a great history. A Crayford Convertible Wolsley Hornet. You couldn’t buy these but Heinz had 57 made and gave them away as competition prizes along with the picnic set and paraffin primus stove for heating your soup. And yes that is a pullout makeup tray.
The owner had written to Max Factor and after a search of their archives, they supplied all the original make-up to fill the tray. The car radio was also removable and could be used as a portable. The rear storage was converted to cool boxes too. We loved it and could be yours for 30,000 of your British quids! Or it could be if the owner could be parted from it.
Well, all good things come to an end and sadly it was time to pack up and go home, but what a great time I had.
I really want to make clear what a remarkable achievement it is for us to be here and it is solely due to the extremely hard work and dedicated enthusiasm shown by our team of volunteer top chaps.
I really need to mention, and on behalf of the group, praise worship and thank these saints among men.
Finally, a huge thanks to all our members for coming up and saying hello and eating our cake. It was really great to meet you all. (Except Eric Dalton. He keeps being rude to me!)
Thank All. See you soon!
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