Events : Hagerty Insurance Festival of The Unexceptional

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams spends a day in heaven at the best car show in the world. The Hagerty Insurance Festival of the Unexceptional brings together the finest examples of the UK’s rarest cars in one place – and it’s amazing.

On a field packed with more than 150 rare and exceptional cars, it was hard to choose the highlights, but we’ll try.


Exceptionally Unexceptional

Festival of the Unexceptional 2018
Festival of the Unexceptional 2018

The magnificent Stowe House and its gardens are the perfect place for a top-end classic car event. Designed and built during the 17th and 18th Centuries by the Temple-Grenville family, who repurposed great swathes of rolling Buckinghamshire countryside to create the perfect country retreat for the ruling classes. Capability Brown was head gardener, which explains why the venue is so utterly beautiful.

However, for one day only, its neo-classical magnificence was challenged by a remarkable lineup of cars brought together by Hagerty Insurance for its concours de l’ordinaire. It’s a 45-strong concours event like no other – because it makes heroes of ‘ordinary’ cars and their owners – and we love it for that. Add in the 150-or-so handpicked visitors’ cars of the same flavour, and you have the ingredients for the best classic car show in the world.

If this beige Ford Sierra doesn't encapsulate the Festival perfectly, We're not sure what does...
If this beige Ford Sierra doesn’t encapsulate the Festival perfectly, we’re not sure what does…

In 2018, the Festival was held on the same weekend as the Goodwood Festival of Speed, some 150 miles to the south. Although some might think this scheduling clash was a bit of a mistake, for many car enthusiasts (and hopefully all readers of AROnline), the Festival was the perfect antidote for this bloated car manufacturer-sponsored battle of egos. This was – and is – about real people.

The Festival of the Unexceptional is, though, still very much like other classic car concours events in its look and feel – just not the subject matter. Modelled on world-class events, such as the Pebble Beach and Amelia Island concours d’elegance, this one takes place in the shadow of a beautiful country house, with cars lined up perfectly on manicured lawns. And for its fifth running, it looks like the Festival of The Unexceptional truly came of age.

Angus Forsyth, Managing Director of Hagerty said: ‘There is no shortage in the UK of car shows and concours d’elegance that showcase the best examples of some of the best cars ever. While Aston Martin DB5s and Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts can be common at these events, just try spotting an Austin Montego or a Morris Marina on the show field. For that matter, you won’t even find them in the car park.’

The Festival winners

The Festival of the Unexceptional winners – winner Guy Maylam's 1977 Chrysler Alpine is flanked by Gavin Bushby's second placed Fiat Strada, and Kev Curtis' Datsun Bluebird, the people's choice.
The Festival of the Unexceptional winners – winner Guy Maylam’s 1977 Chrysler Alpine is flanked by Kev Curtis’ second-placed Datsun Bluebird and Gavin Bushby’s Fiat Strada, the people’s choice.

Back in 2012, I met with Hagerty’s Marketing Director Marcus Atkinson and then-editorial consultant, Rob Sass, who spelled out the idea of the Concours de l’ordinaire to me. I was instantly hooked, and knew this was a winner because making heroes of the ordinary is a subject close to my own heart. And a little more than five years on, walking through the grounds of Stowe School, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that they’ve pretty much cracked it.

The winning cars chosen perfectly sum up the spirit of the Festival. Guy Maylam, Kev Curtis and Gavin Bushby should be applauded for taking the time and trouble to get their wonderful cars into such show-winning condition – especially when one considers that, a few years ago, the Chrysler Alpine, Fiat Strada and Datsun Bluebird would have been considered automotive landfill.

These guys are true champions to the cause.

Cars in the concours

The cars in the car park

 

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

27 Comments

  1. I love all the photos of these fine cars. Takes me back to happier times, when I was younger of course! The metallic blue Datsun Cherry N10 Estate car is the same colour as my own Cherry hatchback in 1979. There are so many others shown that I either owned or drove at some point.

    I would like to see Dave Wilson’s Mazda 929. If I am correct it is the same body as the RX4 rotary model that my Dad had, apart from having an OHC engine.

  2. Lovely to see owners lavishing care on ordinary cars from the last century for what they are, rather than owning classic cars as part of a balanced investment portfolio or some such nonsense.

  3. I could identify all the models, which made me feel very old. And with a lot of the photos I found myself wondering “when did I last see one of them?”

  4. The judges chose the Alpine 1st, and Bluebird 2nd.

    The Strada was peoples choice, and extremely shocked & grateful we are too. Any chance you could correct it please Keith?

    Many thanks, and a great article apart from the slight confusion.

  5. Amazing to see three Fiat Mirafioris at this show as these cars were notorious for rust. Yet if you overlook the rust, these were quite good cars for the time, with powerful twin cam engines and good handling.

  6. Absolute Top Shelf stuff in that lot. Goodwood? What’s Goodwood? The discerning enthusiast should be here!!

  7. Amazing to see as well such ultra rare cars as a Chrysler Alpine and the original Fiat Strada, again a car that rusted away very quickly. Also one of the last Talbot Avengers on an X plate, this was probably one of the last to come off the line at the doomed Linwood factory. It’s nice to see deeply unfashionable classics that in the case of the Avenger would make a reasonable everyday classic compared with a 1950s Austin.

  8. My boss at the time, bought a brand new 1978 ‘s ‘ reg Mirafiori (and cancelled a new 1600 Escort Ghia ) . He loved it’s roarty performance right until he had to have the rear wheel arch repaired due to rust during the first year warranty!

  9. Who’d want to go to Goodwood after seeing these cars,absolutely wonderful I’m so pleased that some people have decided to cherish such cars. I’m sure that this kind of car show could only happen in Blighty,makes me sort of proud really

  10. Also love seeing Kev Curtis’ X reg boxy Bluebird, so different to the outgoing model. I recall attending a dealer launch event for those in Sept 1980. The car was badged as “Datsun Bluebird by Nissan”, rather than Datsun 180B. Wish I could go back to that era.

    • It was marketed as a Japanese alternative to the Cortina and probably picked up some sales when the Sierra replaced the Cortina. I’d imagine the excellent reliability, decent equipment levels and low prices won over buyers. At the same time, the Toyota Carina was being marketed as a slightly more upmarket alternative to the Bluebird with a better finish.

  11. Yes, I remember the boxy Carina too. The Bluebird might have picked up more sales from Cortina’s had it not been for the quotas imposed on Jap cars around that time. Bluebirds were very popular in the Middle East too – all painted white! The next (also boxy) Bluebird came out around 1984/5, before being replaced in 1986 by the first Sunderland built car.

  12. While not the best cars in their class to drive, both Japanese cars were well equipped, reliable cars that were better equipped than the Sierra Ls they were priced against. Quite a few ended up as taxis due to their ability to take very high mileages without problems.

    • The Koreans also got in on the act with the Hyundai Stellar, promoting it as an alternative to the Sierra, especially as it used some Cortina parts.

      • Another car that has almost vanished, in the same way its successor in the nineties, the Proton Persona, is rarely seen now. This was a car that became very popular as a taxi or cheap family car due to its low purchase price, high equipment levels and ability to take very high mileages without problems. It was probably the most unexceptional car of the nineties, being neither very memorable to look at or interesting to drive.

  13. Love these photos! It’s always a joy to see “everyday cars” we grew up with so lovingly preserved at car shows. I’m surprised at the number of old Fiats since I was under the impression they all rusted away.

  14. I’M STRANGELY PROUD THAT MY VAUXHALL CAVALIER ESTATE WAS SO UNEXCEPTIONAL THAT IT PROVED INVISIBLE EVEN TO THE CAMERA, WHICH IS KIND OF WHAT ITS ALL ABOUT I GUESS!, CHEERS, WONDERFUL DAY.

    • Richard… my old Company ran a MKII Cavalier 1.6 base estate in carmine red for three years. It clocked up a high mileage but was reliable and pretty fast in its day. I would love to see a pic of yours but from memory, I can still visualise what they looked like

      • I HAD A RED ONE BACK IN THE STONE AGE TOO, THOUGH SADLY SOME TWAT IN A BMW TOTALED IT WHILST DRIVING TOO FAST, I KNOW HE WAS A TWAT,… HE WASN’T WEARING HIS SEAT BELT AND I CAN STILL REMEMBER THE SURPRISED AND TERRIFIED LOOK ON HIS FACE AS HE FLEW THROUGH THE AIR ONTO THE REMAINS OF MY BONNET AFTER HE’D TAKEN THE FAST ROUTE OUT VIA HIS WINDSCREEN!,I GOT OUT WITHOUT A SCRATCH, BUT SADLY THE CAR HAD BREATHED ITS LAST, AH HAPPY DAYS!. IF YOU LEAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS IL SEND YOU A PHOTO OF THE CAR. THANKS RICHARD.

  15. Pleased to receive second place for my blue Bird we completed a round trip of 240 miles with not a blip.the steering is much lighter than the non p.a.s fords of the day with more extras I’ve compared it to my cortinas.was a pleasure to be invited and all the visitors we spoke to were very knowledgable.we set up a car sales theme for the day would be nice if anybody could post a photo .thanks for the interest kev

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