Every year during the first weekend of June, classic car enthusiasts from Manchester and beyond assemble at Tatton Park near the picturesque village of Knutsford for a true smorgasbord of all things classic car.
With just short of 2000 cars attending both on the Saturday and the Sunday, the show is huge and there’s a fascinating degree of variety on display – right from yesterday’s daily heroes to the truly rare and exotic, from pre-war to youngtimer and from sport over luxury to commercial. It’s all here and there’s bound to be something which catches your imagination.
True to tradition, I arrived early on the Saturday and parked up my NullZwei with the other individual entrants alongside the slightly later 02’s of good friends Paul and Chris. At this point it was still dry, but the skies were grey and the weather forecast wasn’t particularly inspiring, which sadly had an obvious effect on the number of classics which were brought out to play. I must confess that I’ve never really understood this – so what if it rains? It’s just a bit of water. As long as you don’t drive an Alfasud or a Lancia Beta, I’m fairly convinced that your classic car will cope perfectly well. After all, without immediately disintegrating into a pile of rust, our classics get just as wet every time we wash them. Anyway, rant over… When the rain finally did hit us for an hour or so around lunchtime, it merely gave me the opportunity to sit within the cozy confines of a camper van with friends and share amazing stories of classics already owned and dreams waiting to be fulfilled.
Eventually the rain decided to go elsewhere, and while it hardly turned into a beautiful summers day, I continued on my stroll through the park, oohing and ahhing over all the loveliness that was on display. I must confess that the Scimitars are continuing to hold a particularly strong allure to me. There were several truly stunning examples of the early SE5’s, while some later SE6’s looked quite appealing too. This is clearly an itch which I must scratch some day. A strong attendance of Stag’s had me dreaming of top down V8 motoring, while at the other end of the Triumph spectrum, a beige Acclaim (yes, a rebadged second generation Honda Civic) had me thoroughly gob smacked over its off-the-scales level of concourness. For someone to dedicate so much time and devotion to a model which is often mocked by most is a sign of pure love. Some may laugh, but I can only respect such enthusiasm…
But something was missing. Could it really be true? In this vast oasis of classic cars, there was not a single longhood 911 to be seen. It almost defies belief. But both the stands of Porsche Club GB and the Porsche Enthusiast’s Club were devoid of the oh-soiconic model. A few G-series 911’s were present, but it was a vivid blue pre-A bent window Porsche 356 which truly blew me away. Even more so when I found it to be a one-year-only 1955 Continental. The unadorned simplicity and pureness embodies everything which is great about these early Porsches. I could have stood there in awe all day long, but through willpower and commitment I eventually broke loose.
For something totally and utterly different, I could barely believe my eyes as I came across David George’s bizarre Ford Granada 3.0 Grosvenor Fastback. I had never seen anything like it before and wasn’t even aware of its existence. Apparently, Colman Milne – a well established British coachbuilder of hearses and limousines – built 12 of these fabulous creations. Based on a four-door saloon, the rear was chopped off, the wheelbase extended by a full 33 inches, the roof raised significantly and finally the rear of a coupé was grafted on. With seven seats and a sliding glass division, surely this Granada has to be the coolest stretched limousine of the seventies? David’s magnificent black example was based on a 1976 Granada 3.0S saloon, and was first registered in 1977 to the Mayor of Sidcup. After that, the Grosvenor Fastback – inevitably – worked as a wedding and funeral limousine until 1997, when David bought it. Since then, David has treated his stretched Granada to a partial respray, normal servicing and frequent drives to various classic car shows. There’s apparently only one other still registered in the UK, so it’s good to know that this example is in safe hands.
On my way back to the area for individual entrants my love for period modifications and aftermarket equipment was thoroughly delighted as I came across a hearing-aid-beige Landcrab. This Austin 1800S mk.II had been properly kitted out in period with every accessory you could possibly imagine. The exterior had been gifted with a brown vinyl roof, sliding Webasto sunroof, front spoiler to enhance those aerodynamics, Lucas spotlights and a set of lovely Dunlop alloys. But it didn’t stop there, as the interior was littered with more auxiliary Smiths gauges than you can shake a stick at, a Moto Lita leather steering wheel, not to forget the mandatory 8-track player. What a package!
On the Sunday, the sun was shining, the skies were blue and the temperatures were up. Ahhhh, proper summer… As such, attendance was up compared to the Saturday, and generally everybody just seemed happier. Approximately half of the classics displayed on the Saturday return for the Sunday. But that also means that there’s roughly 1000 new classics which rock up on the Sunday, easily justifying yet another wander through the park. Among all the other goodies, having only recently bought my 1963 Rochdale Olympic project, I was naturally intrigued to come across an example of its predecessor, the quirky little Rochdale GT.
First though, I simply had to stop at the stunning 1972 Simca 1501 Special Estate which I had spent a fair while admiring the day before as well. This time though, owners Graham & Bev Innes were soaking up the sun behind their Simca giving me the opportunity to learn more. Delivered new to the UK, the first owner of the Simca had it thoroughly treated with Ziebart – the result of which could be witnessed today. These Simca’s were hardly the most rust resistant in their day, yet Graham & Bev’s beautiful gold metallic example is still unrestored having never been welded nor resprayed. With a mere 32.000 miles on the clock, both the mechanicals and the interior are equally original and unmessed with. It’s rare to come across classics which were largely regarded as ordinary daily drivers in their day, yet manage to present so well preserved all these years later. Graham & Bev have owned the rare Frenchman for 18 years now during which time it has been used mostly for fair weather drives and shows. But being the practical estate, it has in fact also been pressed into use for more mundane duties on the odd occasion.
As I turned to continue down through the rows of classics, I was blinded by what must be the most turquoise object I have ever come across. Sunglasses on and I managed to focus. My passion for all things Nippon classic immediately doubled my pulse. Lee Smith’s 1978 Datsun 120Y saloon – complete with concave dashboard and factory wheel trims – is certainly one of that breed which you rarely see anymore. And his accompanying story is one of nostalgia and emotion. As a young lad in the early eighties, Lee was about to set off for his driving test. His mother told him he could take her Datsun 120Y, and that if he passed his test on first attempt, he could keep the 120Y as his first car. He did. Of course, Lee moved on and so did his 120Y. But then in recent years, Lee’s mother passed away and old memories and emotions led him to purchase a blue two-door Datsun 120Y. He fully restored the car but only kept it for 18 months before he was tempted into selling it when he was offered good money for it. Immediately regretting it he started searching for another one. He just knew this was the one when he found this turquoise four-door saloon in Scotland only 18 months ago. In only two months he finished a complete restoration putting in all the work himself. This one is a keeper.
But there were plenty of other newcomers on this Sunday, so I ventured on. While the under-powered Yank Tanks of the Malaise era are often somewhat unloved, I found myself strangely attracted to a 1973 Pontiac Le Mans Coupé. Normal convention would probably have most hard pressed to call it a pretty design, but there’s no denying that those vast oval shaped contours defining both the front and rear wings certainly give it character, as does the roof line and the airy greenhouse. Sticking with the Yanks, a beautifully presented but downright evil Plymouth Roadrunner would have no doubt put a much wider smile on your face as you smoked those wide Cooper Cobra rear tires, as every red light turned into your own imaginary quarter mile run.
I am biased of course, but being perhaps a little preferential towards BMW 2002’s, I was hugely disappointed that the reasonably large BMW Club GB stand didn’t feature a single 2002 in this its fiftieth anniversary. By far the oldest car on their stand was a 1979 BMW 633CSi. While that’s clearly not good enough, I must confess that this particular 6-series made everything good again by being a real scorcher! Not just did it look utterly delicious, but it was also 1 of only 29 Hallmark editions built for BMW by TWR. Still, as a whole there were certainly other club stands which were much more appealing. I had spent a fair amount of time on the Saturday drooling over two Vauxhall HP Firenza Droop Snoot’s parked alongside a Chevette HS and a wide-arched Chevette HSR. The Sunday just got even better as no less than two of the ultrarare Magnum Sportshatches joined the show in their signature deep cherry red paintjob with loud red stripes and trim.
Without exception, every time I’ve been to the Tatton Park show, a certain yellow Lotus Europa Twincam has always been parked in the exact same place. Without exception, every time I’ve been to the show at Tatton Park, a certain yellow Lotus Europa Twincam has always been parked in the exact same spot. To start off with I’ve always adored the Europa model for its individualism, and I just sensed that this one had a story to tell. Amazingly, Neil Watson, bought his Europa brand new in component form in early 1972, and the two haven’t parted since! With a saving of approximately £400 from a fully assembled Europa, Neil paid £1705 for his Europa, borrowed their neighbors garage and duly spent the next week working long days in order to get his dream Lotus registered and on the road. While working in the Merchant Navy, the Europa was Neil’s daily car whenever he was home. Eventually though, corrosion in the chassis took the Europa off the road in 1983, and it wasn’t until 16 years later that Neil managed to get it back on the road again – this time sporting a brand new chassis and a few suspension upgrades from Europa specialist, Banks. Once completed, their first outing together was for the Club Lotus display at Donnington in 1999. Since then Neil has used his Europa for a few trackdays, as a fair weather driver and to attend various shows such as their constant attendance of Tatton Park. Just imagine buying a new car and then sticking together for the following 46 years – with more to come no doubt. At that point it’s clearly more than just a car. It becomes a relationship. It’s these stories from within our classic car scene which I find so fascinating.
I’m convinced I’ll bump into Neil and his Europa at the next show at Tatton Park as well. Luckily we won’t even have to wait until next year, as they actually manage to attract all these stunning classics to Tatton Park twice every year. So if you missed this one, make sure to put down the weekend of the 18thand 19thAugust in your calendar, and I shall see you there…