Events : Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional 2019

Fifty unexceptional cars graced the lawns of Claydon House for the sixth annual Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional. Highlights of once-common-but-now-rare family cars included a 1987 Rover 820E, thought to be the very last model of its type remaining on UK roads, a 1989 Vauxhall Cavalier 2.0i CD and a 1980 Ford Cortina 2.0L.

But the winning car was the superb 1977 Morris Marina 1.3 Deluxe Estate owned by Michael ‘Trigger’ Carpenter. The Best in Show-winning Marina Estate was a typical example of what makes this event so special – it’s a base specification, mint condition 1970s family car, which if it weren’t for the love and passion of its owner, wouldn’t be with us today. The previous owner had part-restored the car (losing three fingers in the process) before storing it for 15 years in little more than a shed.

When uncovered, by Trigger, it was covered in a thick layer of dirt that seemed to protect the car as, when cleaned, it revealed the shiny, original paint seen today. A truly honest and well-preserved example of the much-loved Marina.

Notable runner up was a beautiful 1978 Vauxhall Chevette E saloon, once again built in absolute base specification. Current owner Philip Hunt has known the car from new and saved it from being scrapped by the original owner. The Chevette was rescued from the crusher and has been well-loved, and used, ever since.

Commenting on the sixth Festival of the Unexceptional, Marcus Atkinson of Hagerty International, said: ‘What a delight it is to present cars that evoke so many memories to so many people, and to reward the enthusiasts who spend precious time and money on keeping the more ordinary classics on the road. As you walk around the lawns you overhear guests saying, ‘my Dad had one of those’ or ‘we went on our Summer holiday in that’ and that’s why we do what we do. Great cars and great memories, a meeting of like-minded people who appreciate that unexceptional is a term of endearment and not derogatory.’

The 2019 Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional Results

• Best in Show: 1977 Morris Marina 1.3 Deluxe Estate owned by Michael Carpenter
• Runner Up: 1978 Chevette E owned by Philip Hunt
• People’s Choice: 1982 Peugeot 305 SR Estate owned by Simon Gaisford
• Junior Judges Choice: 1989 Citroen BX 19 DTR owned by Dan Goff
• Anniversary Class: 1982 Vauxhall Astra GL 1300 owned by David Loasby
• Feast of the Unexceptional/Best Picnic: Mike and Judith Burkett and their 1979 Colt Sigma GLX

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

32 Comments

  1. The worst thing about this article is that it makes me feel old because I can remember all of them, and at various times I considered owning some of them.

  2. I wonder if the Chevette E still is as basic as it was in 1978, when the spec was so low to keep prices down it didn’t even have a rear demister or a passenger sun visor. I do remember these cars with their hard plastic( Vynide, I think it was called) seats, bare metal everywhere and a hole in the dashboard for the optional radio. Yet the Chevette E, for all its very basic trim, provided economical, cheap transport for a family of four and seemed quite reliable for the time, and also you could go to somewhere like Halfords to get some fabric seat covers and a two band radio.

    • Love to see all these cars too. The Marina estate is one of those cars I had almost forgotten. A former colleague had a Peugeot 305 as his works car at one point.

      Yes the Chevette E was basic even by 1970’s standards, as was the Viva E, but great memories of seeing those everyday workhorses and good that this example is well looked after.

      The red Cortina MK V saloon looks swell. My company had an Estate in that same colour

  3. Rover 820 for me still woefully underrated and overshadowed by the sd1 and I’ve owned many examples of both

  4. Old?? You’re hardly out of the starting blocks . My first car was a 1934 Morris 8 and it was before the days when you had to have an MOT test !!

    Incidentally, I remember the Marina Estate as a very pleasant and capable car, and somehow much nicer than the saloons it was derived from

  5. It’s just great to see all these old cars, once so familiar on our roads – living well beyond their years and younger generations getting to see and experience them.

  6. Holy so much crap, Batman…

    When poverty spec really meant poverty.

    Still its nice they’re still going, but I hope they like ethanol . Sainsbury’s are selling E5 and government idiots are trying to introduce E10.

    Wolseley in for oil change, stop an oil leak and a new dash regulator & tachometer – and wouldn’t you know – the 2″ clock, isn’t a 2″ clock.. Happy days. Still one of the guys there his dad owned a 2200 Wolseley.

    In other news – Colchester UK and Accra in Ghana are exactly the same temperature today. Global warming, nah, no such thing..

    • The E on Vauxhalls meant economy, rather than Executive on Fords. This meant a bog standard Viva or Chevette with the only luxuries being a two speed heater fan and reversing light, considered the bare minimum to be acceptable in 1978. Ford’s equivalent was the Popular for its stripped out cars and British Leyland used the misnomer of De Luxe. Yet probably down the road from their showrooms, someone was selling Datsun Sunnys for slightly less than the Chevette E or Escort Popular and these were coming with equipment like fitted radios, cloth seats, tinted windscreens and clocks that were only available much further up the range on British cars and buyers were taking note.
      It would actually be quite nice to see some of the Japanese invaders at the Festival of the Unexceptional as reliablitly and value apart, these weren’t the most exciting cars to look at or drive and were slated by car magazines for being functional but completely boring. Not that this mattered to buyers who wanted cheap, reliable cars that got them fro A to B.

      • I remember my grand-parents Toyota Corolla they bought around 1978… My brothers and I were amazed by the car compared to their Austin 1100 or our father’s Citroen GS. He just couldn’t understand why the British were letting the wolf in with the sheep (that’s the French expression, I don’t know the English equivalent, but everybody understands…) by allowing so many imported cars…

      • Probably not many left as they rusted away quicker than British cars of the time. The engine is probably still going in a banger racer somewhere though……

        • By the eighties, the Japanese had improved their rust protection and from 1986 onwards were building Nissan Bluebirds in Britain. While regarded as a none too thrilling car at the time, the Bluebird became known for its longevity and reliability.

          • I remember at the opening of the Sunderland Plant that the then Nissan chairman (Mr Ishihara) said “It is our intention to build the best quality cars in Britain”. From day one they did keep a close eye on manufacturing standards.

            As far as I remember, every day, a random Bluebird would be taken off the line and a group of Engineers & Prod Director would examine it, to discuss any issues and make changes to address any perceived faults. Though, I guess all Manufacturers do this?

  7. Also how does a point’n’pray Super Snipe & a Cavalier Calibre come under unexceptional. Which makes me think. I can’t remember seeing a large snipe sized Hillman ever. I wonder why not?

  8. My first (and only) new car was a Chevette. Came with at least 20 faults – Ford were on strike at the time so presumably Vauxhall were churning them out at max speed. Good to drive, especially stubby gearchange. No rear wiper but the aerodynamics always seemed to keep the glass clear. Painted the black dash beige to match the interior. Easy to fix – you could almost climb into the engine compartment. Succumbed to rampant tinworm – you’d sand bits of bodywork back to bare metal and see the rust forming again almost immediately before having a chance to apply primer..

    • Then you’d upgrade to an Astra and spot how good the car was to drive, how much better equipped it was and how it seemed far more advanced than the Chevette, which was still lurking in the Vauxhall showroom. Yet the old stager Chevette lived on until 1984 due to MOD and police orders as it was such a simple car to maintain and was the last purely British made Vauxhall.

      • I did wonder why Vauxhall kept the Chevette in production that late, same with the Viva.

        Then again quite a few manufacturers overlapped generations of models, Peugeot did it a lot in the 1970s – 80s.

        • @richardpd, I think the Chevette lived on to allay union fears about the future of Ellesmere Port( early Astras were made in Geemany) as the Viva had been cancelled in 1979 and the Chevette was the only car produced at the factory until Astra production started in the summer of 1981. Also demand for the Chevette remained high in the early eighties as it was cheaper than the Chevette, was completely produced in Britain( when buyers cared about such things) and the three door model was aimed at the supermini market. However, the arrival of the Nova spelt the end for the Chevette.

          • I would compare the circumstances of Chevette remaining in production after the Astra launch to the ITAL still being in showrooms as the Maestro & Montego were on the launch schedule.

            I think the first German built Astra’s at launch were only in GL trim, then L variants and above followed, including the yummy GTE

    • Yet at the time, no one would consider these classics and they had a projected life of ten years when first produced. Until the noughties there seemed to be little interest in saving British Leyland cars from the early eighties, or most other mass produced cars with non premium badges, until people realised they were becoming rare and made sense as practical classics.

      • I remember someone mentioned here years ago that in the 1970s Morris Minors & the BMC Farinas were just considered to be old junk & not worth saving, & their boss dismissing them as only fit for scrap when they had too much wrong with them.

        • In the 1970s, cars considered to be classics were usually pre war ones or early post war cars like the Jaguar XK 120. Until the end of the seventies, when an owners club started, few people would consider saving a Morris Minor, which was just seen as an old fashioned car that was way behind the pack and a cheap banger. Remember, even in 1971, when the Minor was finally phased out, a top speed of 75 mph for a small family car was considered inadequate, when most 1.1 to 1.3 litre cars could do 80-90 mph.

  9. My goodness, Ford got it absolutely right with (among others) the Cortina – particularly Marks 4 and 5: well designed (sharp and contemporary – but not too much), well spec’d (brilliantly mirroring the company car hierarchy of the time), well made, well marketed. Meanwhile, our friends in the Midlands were lazily churning out fuddy-duddy has-beens like the Marina, Maxi and Princess. – when they were not on the picket lines and generally idolising Red Robbo.

    That Cortina in the photo is an absolute beauty – well done to its owner.

  10. The Astra was the first modern car I drove. I remember getting into the Mk1 and thinking what a step change this was from anything else I had driven previously, mainly the BL cars of the 70’s. For me the Astra was a better designed car than the Cavalier, terrible seating position in the Mark 1.

    • The Astra was a big leap forward for Vauxhall, particularly for someone trading in a Viva or a Chevette. It looked far more modern than either of these, the Opel engine was considerably more powerful and refined than the 1256cc Vauxhall, and it was front wheel drive. Also the interior quality was BMW like and someone stepping up from a basic Viva or Chevette, an Astra, even in L form, was complete luxury. However, not to knock the Chevette, which appeared at this festival, it was a decent enough car that stopped Vauxhall heading into oblivion in the mid seventies and was liked in its day for its low running costs and reasonable reliability.

        • It stole a march on its British competitors in the light medium class by being the only British small hatchback when it was launched in 1975. The Chevette was just what ailing Vauxhall needed at the time, their bigger cars were selling badly, they didn’t have a supermini and the Viva was seen as rather square. Also using a Viva drivetrain and Opel based styling saved a fortune in development costs. Then adding a saloon and estate in 1976 saw even more buyers want a Chevette.
          My only gripe with the car was it only being available with a 1.3 litre engine. The smooth revving Opel 1.6 fitted to the Cavalier would have made the Chevette a true Escort competitor, probably endowing the car with 100 mph performance and being considerably quieter than the tappety Viva 1256.

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