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.
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