Summer may not officially arrive until the equinox but warm sunshine was in evidence for the Glossop Vehicle Enthusiasts Club show at Manor Park. The plan was to attend with my mate James in his early MGB GT, but a last minute problem with the fuel pump scuppered that, so my BMW 2002 was hastily prepared (i.e. emptied of litter) and we set off bright and early.
All cars needed to be on site by 10:30am at the latest, and the park was already filling up when we arrived at 9:45. I was expecting quite a small show but I had underestimated the interest and we had to be creatively slotted into place near the GVEC tent. Other clubs had their own allocated areas and non-club affiliated drivers made up the periphery, with a few autojumble and automobilia sellers taking the remaining spaces. By the 10:30am deadline over 300 cars were onsite, and with all proceeds going to charity this 10th anniversary show was already a success by the time we were wolfing our breakfast. The good thing about visiting a new show is having a whole new batch of cars to view, and it was clear that this corner of Derbyshire and south Manchester has a thriving scene. Variety was also provided in spades. Let’s be frank, the show scene can be swamped with endless rows of the usual suspects such as MGBs, but we’d done our part by failing to bring one and many other people had followed suit. Instead, the park was populated with everything from pre-war cars, commercials, military vehicles, Americans, motorcycles, everyday saloons, homologation specials, a bus and even a mobile ticket office. If you couldn’t find something you liked amongst this lot, then maybe classic vehicles are just not for you.
One of the first cars to catch my eye was a Humber Sceptre MkIII, one of the Rootes Arrow series of models best known in Hillman Hunter form. This car was one of the last and harks from the era of proper colours with the gold paintwork really picking up the sunshine. The owner had bought it sight unseen from an auction down south, and whilst some rectification work had been required, it is a remarkable original survivor with only 3 previous owners and 50k on the clock. The 1725cc twin carb engine is mated to a manual gearbox with overdrive, so there are six forward gears to play with. Most importantly it also still sports the proper period number plates in the correct font – no misplaced black and silver affectations here. As we well know, classic car values have risen beyond sensible levels for many models but here is a capable saloon car with a reasonable turn of speed and long enough gearing for motorway journeys, that really wouldn’t break the bank. You’re also unlikely to turn up to find a row of them already parked up so if it’s exclusivity you’re after, you can tick that box too.
Next up is another controversial choice and if you think the Sceptre is merely a borderline classic, you’re going to love this. Yes, it’s that sure fire investment hit, the third-generation Vauxhall Cavalier 1.8 hatchback. If you imagine I’ve taken leave of my remaining senses at this point I don’t really care, because the Cavalier is an endangered species and you clearly need educating. It may never be a highly desirable collector’s item, but the population has been obliterated in recent years and they linger in that dangerous territory of still being considered as disposable bangers. But stop and remember, when was the last time you saw one? It wasn’t so long ago that you only needed to stand on the high street for 5 minutes and you would be pretty much guaranteed a sighting, but this Cavalier was the only one I saw on the day, either at the park or travelling there and back. From 1990 to 1994 the Cavalier was the UK’s best-selling family car, but now they are fading away before our very eyes. I’m going to wave the flag for this one, in glorious sales rep specification, totally unassuming but just good at what is was built for.
A change of pace now with two performance cars from different generations. First up is a Sierra Cosworth RS500 which appeared to be in better than factory condition. I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to the owner, so it may have just been a forensically clean original but the paintwork in the engine bay was as glossy as the outer body. I’m not sure that Ford ever made them that good to start with, but whether restored or original, it was in stunning condition and showing low mileage. A Cosworth is never discreet, but the passage of time and trend for large alloy wheels and body kits on modern cars means it doesn’t look quite as outlandish in modern company as it did at the time. There is no missing the famous rear spoiler however and the deep front bumper speaks of high speed intent. If it was mine, it would be chained to a large grumpy dog and only brought out under cover of nightfall, and it’s a brave owner who exposes it to the prospect of sticky fingerprints or worse. I always feel that’s the problem with an RS500 Cosworth, and especially one as good as this. I’m happy to see one, but I’m more happy that it isn’t mine as I’m not sure I could cope with the stress and responsibility.
A performance car from an earlier generation was parked at the other end of the row; a Porsche 356. This is the polar opposite to the Cosworth, being very understated, cool and calm. We had a good look around this trying to deduce if it was a replica, but it’s seemingly a genuine 356A with the 1600 engine, manufactured in 1957. Apart from the headlamp grilles and bonnet straps it looks entirely factory stock, even down to the lack of seatbelts. It must be an occupational hazard of owning a real 356 that the natural assumption will be made that it’s a kit, but in this case imitation would be the sincerest form of flattery. They might not be a ball of fire but I can certainly see the appeal.
A trio of motorsport heroes up next in the form of an Escort RS2000, rally replica Opel Manta and a Talbot Sunbeam Ti festooned with spotlamps. This was the second Sunbeam found on site as a Lotus lurked in the GVEC area, but I’m going to fly in the face of conventional wisdom and state a preference for the Ti as it’s a rarer find and a little overlooked. Both the Talbots looked very period however, with only the Lotus’ tyres being a clear nod to modernity. Still, with tyres being cheaper than bodywork this is a sensible move.
The Saab owners club was one of the few one-make clubs in attendance and amongst the line up we found a 900 and a longnose 96. I’m a fan of the 900 range despite Saab hobbling everything with front wheel drive, and this was the rarer two-door booted model. With only 85k on the clock it was barely run in, as the old cliché would have you believe. Having only four owners and a stack of history, it was another example of an affordable way into classic cars, and there’s no reason why you couldn’t commute every day in such a sensible Swede; it even has heated seats for winter although they were not required on a warm day in May. This 900 is a normally aspirated variant, but that means there is less to go wrong and a lot less torque steer, which in the real world must be a good thing. Its immediate neighbour was this lovely longnose 96, a triple carb 2-stroke with the 4 speed freewheel transmission. Given the freewheel facility it’s probably wise that it also has front disc brakes. The condition is remarkable considering it’s an original UK car and still unrestored.
Manchester used to be home to a well-known American car dealership called Bauer Millett, and although now closed down they were instrumental in feeding a small enclave of stateside motoring in the North West. Carrying on in the fine tradition we were graced at Manor Park with examples of cars that nobody would buy accidentally and, on paper, have little to recommend them. For example, if you wanted a premium brand spacious two-door booted coupe dating from the 1980s, you may gravitate towards a Mercedes SEC or a BMW 635CSi, but those would be the obvious choices. Few people are likely to select an early 80s Cadillac Eldorado coupé with a 6.0 litre V8, perhaps because it makes all of 140bhp at 3800rpm. There was apparently a variant available with blackwall tires (or “tyres” as we normally know them on this side of the Atlantic), stiffer suspension and bucket seats which was aimed at the more enthusiastic driver, but with the same boat anchor up front. You can see how that wouldn’t have dominated the European market. Alternatively, how about a 1976 Mercury Cougar XR-7 in kitchen utensil white? The Cougar was classified as a “personal luxury car” which I am sure you will agree is far better than an impersonal luxury car. Despite the obviously heavy styling of the period, it was overflowing with presence and looked every inch the bit part player from Starsky & Hutch. It wouldn’t have looked out place prowling the mean streets of Manchester before they ruined the place by tarting it up. I really must get around to buying a fundamentally hopeless and unfashionable old American car, preferably from the 80s with a few dents and loose trim. As long as you’re happy to let the world slow down a little, I can genuinely think of worse ways to travel.
We had a full day at Glossop with an interlude for lunch at the very acceptable Queens Arms, a stone’s throw from the park, which allowed plenty of debating time over which car we’d want to be driving home in. The Jaguar XJ40 3.2 manual was in with a shot, save for the LPG conversion, but we can accept that as it was very smart. The Jaguar XK150 was too good for our purposes and I can’t be trusted with anything that valuable. The forward control Land Rover 101 would be practical for the Derbyshire winter which historically starts a day after the summer equinox, so now is the time to buy. The stunning Alpine A310 (last spotted at Donington) is a real contender and the owner kindly gave us a guided tour, explaining it had been off the road for 25 years before he bought and restored it. I’m tempted to nominate the Cavalier for a 1990s nostalgia fest, but that would mean foregoing the 1980s nostalgia delivered by the blue Mk5 Cortina. In any case, if we’re talking saloon cars I’d have to consider the rarely seen Vauxhall Cresta PC as well. Overall there was just so much variety it’s easy to get your head turned so I’ll just opt for the Sunbeam Ti and take the sideways route home.
If you missed out this time, the second GVEC show of the year runs in Manor Park in October and concentrates on military vehicles. That could be well worth a look for something a bit different.