Blog : NEC Classic Motor Show – The passion and the people

Words: Mike Humble Photography: Mike Humble and Jacky Lawler

Jeff Patterson, Kevin Jones, Denis Chick and Russ Swift prepare to cut the birthday cake for the MG Montego Turbo 30th.
L-R: Jeff Patterson from the MMOC, Kevin Jones and Denis Chick – both ex-Austin Rover –
and Russ Swift prepare to cut the birthday cake for the MG Montego Turbo’s 30th anniversary
(Photo: Jacky Lawler)

Despite spending two full days up at the NEC for the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show, I’m afraid I didn’t get a great deal achieved. But this is often the case at these kind of events as you tend to get side-tracked into another conversation with an old friend or former work colleague barely moments after the last chat. For me, anyway, car shows tend to be an ideal opportunity to network and catch up with industry gossip, find out who’s been given the heave ho or simply just to listen to some of the best codswallop and ill-informed rubbish from one or two more better known journalists – sad, but very, very true.

The motor industry is a very emotive thing, not only that, but it’s a bug in your system you’ll never fully get rid of. I know literally hundreds of folk in the trade who moan on a daily basis yet still ply their trade in the trade – why? Well, because the motoring scene simply drives the passion of many a man and woman from within. Having spent two days at the show, I came away totally exhausted – not from the miles of walking around but from the heart-warming or tear-jerking stories from some key top-level automotive figures of the past and present.

My own remit for the show was meant to cover some notable vehicles but other events took over. Russ Swift dropped me an email a few days before the show to say he was passing by. We had a great chat and his patient, lovely wife stood nearby smiling at us all as Russ, former MG Rover PR Manager Kevin Jones and myself selected a lower gear and took a journey down memory lane after the cake-cutting ceremony for the MG Montego Turbo on the Maestro and Montego Club stand. Kevin and myself ended up spending most of the afternoon simply talking about everything BMC>MGR.

And then there was the stunning Naylor TF1700 – an often-forgotten car which was beautifully crafted and based on the MG TF using Austin Rover driveline components. One of the club members mentioned that the former owner of Naylor Cars plc, Alastair Naylor, might be attending the show the following day so a mental note was made to re-visit. Alastair turned out to be one of the most genuine and interesting people I have been lucky to meet. The car company may have had a very short life owing to financial issues but it’s a vehicle I have admired ever since I first saw it – over 30 years ago at the NEC, in fact!

Alastair Naylor with a stunning TF1700. It shares a pure Ital 1.7 driveline.
Alastair Naylor with a stunning TF1700 – it features a pure Ital 1.7 driveline and
I’ve admired it for years

As we spoke, various names were banded around, some being very key figures from Austin Rover and supplying companies. I mentioned that former Rover Group PR boss Denis Chick was in the house manning the Vauxhall Heritage display and Mr Naylor’s face illuminated like a pin ball machine. An hour later and all three of us were stood alongside a resplendent blue TF1700 talking like three long-lost friends sitting in a pub snug over a beer. These two had not seen or talked to each other for more than 30 years and so animated and joyous was the conversation that a small crowd gathered round us.

Denis and I are very much fans of steam and, when Alastair let it be known that his brother, David, is on the Board of Directors at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the conversation got very emotional. As we talked about Sir Nigel Gresley, Tornado, the benefits of the double Kylchap blast pipe and how to remove soot or clinker from the corner of your eye, these three grown men were fighting back the tears. It was a lovely thirty minutes talking about cars and trains, not to mention my delight at witnessing two great people catch up on three decades of gossip – it was a very special moment I will always treasure.

Denis and Alastair had lost touch for over 30 years. AROnline did our Cilla Black routine and put them together. It really was a case of light the blue touch paper and retire... wonderful stuff!
Denis and Alastair had lost touch for over 30 years. AROnline did a Surprise Surprise
routine and put them together again – it really was a case of light the blue touch paper and
retire… Wonderful, emotive stuff! (Photo: Jacky Lawler)

Time was also spent chatting to some of the exhibitors running the stalls in the Autojumble and Classic Trader Village, too – there were one or two who sadly seem to thrive on charging ridiculous prices for sub-standard tripe but, on balance, most of them were lovely folk driven by the buzz and the feeling in the air. I even managed to source the correct period brochure for my project MintEgo. Every corner and every hall just oozed a love for our rich motoring past and I am proud to have met and chatted to friends old and new about topics so amazingly varied. In my own experience, this year was, for me, not about the cars but more about the men and women behind them. It was the best show yet!
Finally, of course, there are the AROnline readers and fans like yourselves. Thanks to the readers who, after noting my press pass, said hello and gave praise and admiration for the site. It is, after all, your interest and comments that drives us all forward along with the passion you share with us all. The Vice-President of the MG Car Club expressed the wish to see more anecdotal stuff involving my own experiences from the showroom and workshop – to you, Sir, consider that in the pipeline. Oh, and by the way, the Naylor name lives in the form of the still-thriving Naylor Brothers Restorations business based in Shipley, West Yorkshire.

You will find much more about Naylor Cars plc on AROnline in the near future…

Mike Humble


  1. So very true Mike! And it is indeed where most of my time at the show passed – getting in touch with people I do only see ever so often and putting names to faces new and old. And not to be forgotten getting to meet you in person for the first time.

  2. Nice write-up, Mike, and also great to hear that you had the chance to reminisce with both Kevin and Denis. Both are still very passionate about their former lives working at Longbridge and still have some interesting stories to tell and facts to share. I must admit I have not seen Kevin since his days at Longbridge and hope our paths will cross one day.

    Judging by the photos he doesn’t seem to have aged in all that time!

    Sorry we did not meet up Mike although I did bump into Keith and we had a brief chat.

  3. Always good to catch up with old colleagues, aquaintances and personality’s for a good “chinwag” at events like this. Sounds like you had a spiffing time Mike…
    and that Naylor TF1700 looks glorious.

  4. I spent a highly enjoyable 6 hours at the show on Sunday, briefly bumping into Keith and saying hello. Oddly I am amazed at both how much I saw and at how much I missed!

  5. Did Mike see the mint 5000 mile Allegro ? A real Rip Van Winkle of a car. And of course there were three of the BL 1800 “Wedges” there, in all their guises, (Austin, Morris, and Wolseley).

    I remember some time in the mid-seventies coming across a convoy of these on the Abingdon Bypass, presumably fresh off the Cowley production line.

    In the 70s I was on motorbikes so didn’t drive many cars, only the Austin 1100. I think most people who lived in Birmingham in those days drove Minis or 1100/1300s. A very good car was the 1100 from a driving and handling point of view. As we all know rust killed them all off, but I managed to catch my second 1100 with Waxoyl before it got too established.

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