Wandering through the amazing car park for this year’s Hagerty Insurance Festival of The Unexceptional was an emotional experience for me. Aside from the odd modern (or ancient) interloper, the vehicles on show were the perfect vessel for time travelling back and recreating my younger self.
Sad as it is for me to admit, I’ve lived my life by cars. From my formative years, collecting Matchbox 1-75 Series cars, via the holidays spent on the back seat of my dad’s Cortina staring out at the other cars in the fast lane, to the cars I’ve owned and driven over the years, this is how I measure the passing of time.
And for an enthusiast like me, this is why the Festival of The Unexceptional is so special. Here, on one field, I’m taken back to various stages in my life in a way that very few other nostalgia trips can take me. Listening to old music charts might help me cast my mind back briefly, as does old TV or film, as long as it’s not something that’s repeated too many times. But because I live my life by cars, these old motors are still my most potent nostalgia trigger.
What I did notice – and didn’t voice at the time – is that in my life, I’ve owned far too many examples of the cars on display at the Festival. One day I’ll complete the spreadsheet I’m compiling of cars I’ve owned, and I might even amuse myself by telling the more interesting back stories attached to them. I suspect, if I totted up them all, and added up the money, time, breakdowns and resources I’ve lost on all of those cars during my life, and used them to buy (shall we say) sensible motors, I’d probably be driving around in a Ferrari 328 or some such by now.
Regrets? I’ve (not) had a few…
However, I didn’t and I don’t. And you know what, I have no regrets (must keep telling myself that). The strongest pang of nostalgia at the Festival was supplied by this wonderful Audi 80 CD 5S. Younger readers might not be able to relate to this, but there once was a time when Audis weren’t associated with the more, um, assertive of drivers on the road. They were clever cars bought by the thoughtful who enjoyed well-engineered, left-field choices. My sort of car, then.
And back in 1991, I owned a green Audi 80 CD 5S just like this one. I’d bought it to end the misery of a year’s worth of 1984 Austin Maestro Vanden Plas ownership, and pretty much lost my shirt in the process in going from what was actually quite a low-mileage version of a car that was then still in production, to a ratty, smelly, and really rather tired car that wore every one of its 10 years on its sleeve.
But you know what? I loved that Audi. It wasn’t my first – I’d had a T-reg 100 GL 5E a couple of years earlier – but it cemented a lasting love affair with five-cylinder Audis that lives on with me to this day. Mine was a three-speed auto, but that didn’t matter, because it still felt like a rocketship after that dismal R-Series-powered Maestro. Most importantly, it had that all-important aftermarket graphic equaliser in the centre console, rear seatbelt and head rests, four electric windows and a manual sunroof.
- Read the Audi 80 CD road test on Honest John Classics
I definitely shouldn’t have sold this one!
Beyond that, it looked good in metallic green with contrasting brown velour interior, and driving it made me feel good. I drove all over the North West in it and, in the six months I had it, it never let me down. In the end, I tired of owning an older car, though, and ended up trading it in for a 1987 D-registered Audi 80 CL (which I soon dressed up to look like an 80 Sport), and missed that five-cylinder thrum from the moment I left the showroom.
Seeing this Audi 80 CD 5S at the Festival of The Unexceptional brought all of these memories flooding back, and more. I regretted selling it back then, and pretty much as soon as I had the wherewithal, I wanted to find another with which to recreate my misspent youth with VNE 765X. As it is, that car appears to have been scrapped in 1994, and the chances of finding another have been non-existent for many a year.
I begged Audi to sell me the example they have in the heritage fleet (and which I tested for Honest John Classics back in 2013), but to no avail. And since then, I’ve never seen another. Until yesterday… You might think this emotion over such an inoffensive car is a bit over the top, but as I said, nostalgia is a big deal for me, and this was one hell of a trigger.
I can’t be the only one who has such powerful feelings when they see an old car like this. Can I?