Events : Report – Festival of The Unexceptional 2022

Festival of The Unexceptional 2022 (www.matthowell.co.uk)

The Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional was once again hailed a success by the event’s organisers and showgoers, with a turnout estimated to be in excess of 1000 exceptionally unexceptional cars. Held at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire, a record attendance was the result, as well as a much improved traffic queue into the venue compared with 2021.

The event, which was created by classic car insurer Hagerty in 2014, was designed to celebrate everyday family cars from 1968-1989, giving them the same treatment as the cut-grass lawn concours events that pepper the exotic end of the classic car world. In essence, it treats the cars that the classic car elite overlook with the same reverence as the most valuable Bugattis  and Ferraris and might receive at Pebble Beach. And in 2022, it certainly didn’t disappoint.

The focal point of the event is the Concours de l’Ordinaire, where 50 of the most exceptionally unexceptional motors were pored over by a panel of judges for the title of overall winner. However, the spectator car park was simply amazing, with an arguably more impressive collection of cars – many of which were absolutely unique in the classic sense of the word.

Hagerty’s esteemed judges debated the entrants, and the 2022 winners were announced.

  • Concours de l’Ordinaire: Samuel Allan, 1994 Vauxhall Astra Merit
  • Runner Up: Matthew Bareham, 1986 Skoda Estelle 120L
  • Junior Choice: Chris Joy, 1982 Peugeot 104 GR
  • Repmobile Special Award: Chris James, 1991 Nissan Primera
  • Honourable mention: Paul Anderson, 1972 Simca 1501 Special
  • Honourable mention: Chris Williams, 1997 Renault Megane Scenic

Festival of The Unexeptional winner 2022 (www.matthowell.co.uk)

The winning Vauxhall, owned by Samuel Allan from Edinburgh (above), was a true base-level beauty with non-metallic red paint, three doors and not one optional extra to speak of. Its 1.4 litre engine produces 59bhp and boasts a top speed of 105mph. 287,000 Astra Merits were made, but it is believed only four survive in the UK today.

‘I’m chuffed to bits,’ said Allan. ‘I didn’t expect to win.’ 31-year-old Allan, a driving instructor, bought the car from a neighbour in 2019, after eyeing it up for nearly a decade, eventually leaving a note asking whether the owner would consider selling it. The phone call came within an hour of leaving the note – and the answer was just what Allan hoped to hear: Yes.

For anyone into cars, the Festival is a real breath of fresh air, with so many ordinary and long-forgotten cars being celebrated in a way you’ll just not find anywhere else, this side of #weirdcartwitter. There were simply too many to share here, so instead, here are a few of AROnline Editor Keith Adams’ highlights.

Alfa Romeo 33
Alfa Romeo 33
Keith Adams' Audi 80 CD along a similar 80 Sport
Keith Adams’ Audi 80 CD (left) along a similar 80 Sport
Morris 1300
Morris 1300
Triumph Acclaim
Triumph Acclaim
Colt Sapporo
Colt Sapporo
Citroen BX
Citroën BX
Citroen BX 16V
Citroën BX 16V
Citroen XM
Citroën XM
Renault 11 TXE
Renault 11 TXE
Innocenti Tre
Innocenti Tre
Renault 30 TS and Peugeot 604 Ti
Renault 30 TS and Peugeot 604 Ti
Rover V8-S
Rover V8-S
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Ford Mondeo Mk1
Ford Mondeo Mk1
Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2
Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2
MG 1100
MG 1100
Peugeot 205
Peugeot 205
Alfa Romeo Alfasud
Alfa Romeo Alfasud Green Cloverleaf
Alfa Romeo 75
Alfa Romeo 75
Vauxhall Cavalier Convertible
Vauxhall Cavalier Convertible
Ford Fiesta 1.4S
Ford Fiesta 1.4S
Opel Monza
Opel Monza
Vauxhall Cavalier Mk1
Vauxhall Cavalier Mk1
Morris Ital
Morris Ital
Citroen BX
Citroën BX
Renault Safrane
Renault Safrane
Ford Sierra
Ford Sierra
Nissan Primera
Nissan Primera
Renault 5
Renault 5
Saab 900
Saab 900
Talbot Solara
Talbot Solara
Audi 80
Audi 80
Renault Megane Coupe
Renault Megane Coupe
Austin Maxi
Austin Maxi
Ford Fiesta Mk2
Ford Fiesta Mk2
Toyota Corolla
Toyota Corolla
Peugeot 205 GTI
Peugeot 205 GTI
Keith Adams

11 Comments

  1. A lot of interesting nostalgia in there, but I’m not sure how some of them qualify as being unexceptional. There’s some interesting, rare and unusual models which weren’t – and still aren’t – unexceptional.

    And half way down the photos there’s a yellow Mk1 Cavalier exactly like the one I had in the early 80s; the best car I’d owned by a mile at that time.

  2. Some interesting cars here as usual. Of particular interest to me are the Astra Merit, Colt Sapporo, Mondeo MK1, Cavalier MK1 & MK2 plus the Primera MK1… but everything else really!

  3. The best part of FOTHU is that the cars are physical remnants of our childhood (if you are a 30/40/50-something) we can still look at and touch – and it’s obviously great to see all these old cars living well beyond their years for the current generations to enjoy. The greatest nostalgia of course is in all the Ford/Vauxhall/BL stuff as they were once such common street furniture back in the day.A few that I’d still love to own today.

  4. Thanks for the mention of the trophy win, and the photo of my P10 Primera. What a great event.

    I think some of the people commenting previously are taking the whole ‘unexceptional ‘ thing too literally. The main point of the day is to celebrate ‘normal’ cars, without any so called ‘supercars’, Cosworths, Aston, Porsches etc taking the attention away.

  5. It cannot still be for cars up to 1989, if 1994 cars are winning prizes. Since it has been going for 9 years, did they allow up to 1998, and will it be 1999 next year? Is that how it works?

    • According to the website, they were looking for cars built between 1967–1997. It appears to be a moving window, with the newest cars being 25 years old at each show, and – presumably – the oldest being 55.

  6. Excellent stuff, and amazing to see the little two door Toyota Corolla from the seventies. My parents bought one of these at the height of the 1979 energy crisis and I haven’t seen one in the flesh since the nineties. Also another car we owned, a Talbot Solara, which is probably just as rare now, and looks like the later model, which we had, with the five speed transmission.
    On a smilar note, I spotted an extremely rare 1978 Vauxhall VX 2300 GLS in Gretna at the weekend, a car that was never common when new, and a Mark 1 Vauxhall Astra estate on the M6, another very unexceptional classic.

  7. That Astra Merit is the ultimate example of an unexceptional car! Poverty spec, and also not a “derided” car which has gained a cult fanbase as a result, as with certain BL models

  8. Thanks for such an interesting article, Keith. I enjoyed the photos enormously. I can remember each and every one of those cars being on the roads (with the exception of the Corolla) at some point in the past.

    Being a Citroen fanatique, did you happen to photograph the brown DS in the background of the photo of the Audi 80? I can just make it out resting on the grass at a ridiculous angle.

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