A changeable weather forecast did not deter over 2,000 people from travelling to Stowe House near Buckingham for Hagerty’s 2017 Festival of the Unexceptional. With the wonderful new backdrop of the National Trust house, the event was always going to be a step up from that of previous years, and so it proved.
The concours cars filled the front of the lawn, with fifty specially selected Unexceptional models vying for title of Best in Show. There was a wonderfully original 1982 Austin Metro in glorious beige, next to a gorgeous 1980 Austin Maxi 1750 in stunning orange. Flying the ‘modern classics’ flag was Gavin Bushby’s 1990 Fiat Tempra, a car bought unseen from Scotland and in superb condition; the back seat, in blue velour, looking almost untouched.
A 1976 Mini 850 commercial pickup caught the eye with its very high-quality restoration, a recent purchase by owner Andrew Meeds. Behind it, a Saab 96 L was one of the five cars invited to join the concours from the car park, a new idea for 2017 that was very popular with visitors.
The car park was no less of a show. Over two hundred classic cars filled the rows, each telling a story in its own right. An immaculate 1944 Citroen Traction Avant arrived towing a Raven Argonette, a tiny caravan, complete with leaded windows. The owners of a wonderful 1500 VW Beetle, resplendent in sandy tones, had taken two days to travel from their home in Crowborough, Sussex.
There were a few famous faces here too. A battered Alfa 75, hand-painted in pastel green, was Jeremy Clarkson’s entry into the 2008 AutoItalia concours, part of a Top Gear challenge. The Gadget Show presenter Jon Bentley was one of the concours judges, and ex- Wheeler Dealer Edd China was spotted in the crowd.
After a long session of deliberation, the judges emerged and Danny Hopkins announced the winners, the presentation hastening towards the end as an ominous cloud approached. The winners were:
Best in Show: 1983 Datsun Sunny 1.5 GL (Mark Ashbridge)
Second Place: 1972 Daf 33 (Richard Holness)
People’s Choice: 1972 Austin Allegro SS (Colin Corke – believed to be the very last Allegro SS)
Best Dressed: Simon Martin
Feast of the Unexceptional/ Best Picnic: John Usher
Hagerty’s Festival of the Unexceptional celebrates the cars that were the workhorses of their day: the base model saloons, hatchbacks and estates that were sold in their millions between roughly 1968 and 1989 and are now so rare.