As an incurable petrolhead, much (probably too much) of my time is devoted to attending classic car shows, historic motor race meetings and concours events, both in the UK and overseas.
This year, with the historic motoring calendar full of an unprecedented amount of uncommonly good gatherings, I have attended some truly exceptional events. Here’s my pick of the best, with links to some of the stories that covered them.
For me the classic car season always kicks off with one of the finest events of the year; early-February’s annual Retromobile exhibition in Paris. Setting the tone for many other key motoring events throughout 2017, Retromobile marked the 70th anniversary of one of the world’s most revered sports car makers – Ferrari – with a mouth-watering display of a dozen of Maranello’s greatest road and race cars. Away from its prancing horse presentation, Retromobile also served-up its usual fayre of elegant, eclectic and expensive motor cars, as only this event can.
As proved to be the case throughout 2017, frustratingly I missed continental Europe’s other big classic car show, late-March’s Techno Classica in Essen, due to an event clash, although Belgium’s smaller Antwerp Classic Salon a few weeks earlier did make up for this, with another memorable Ferrari 70th anniversary-themed display, supported by some exceptional classics for sale, including an immaculate Frua-bodied 1967 Glas V8 coupe which got my wallet twitching!
The clash that caused me to miss Essen was with the chilly but thoroughly enjoyable 75th Goodwood Members’ Meeting, which saw some phenomenal racing with some remarkable cars. The S.F. Edge Trophy race for Edwardian-era specials was a personal highlight, with Duncan Pittaway sawing away at the wheel of his enormous 1911 28-litre Fiat S76 ‘Beast of Turin’ and Matthias Sielecki winning in the wonderful land speed record Delage. It was a sight not to be missed that will live with me for life.
As ever, Hagerty’s Drive it Day tour in April was a blast. With 100 classics making the 75-mile journey from Towcester, out through the Cotswolds and back to Bicester, great fun was had by all.
It was back to Goodwood again in June for another sea of Ferraris, this time at the 2017 Festival of Speed, along with the memorable ‘Central Feature’ display, celebrating Bernie Ecclestone’s considerable contribution to Grand Prix racing, plus a mesmerising selection of both race and road cars, including a Cartier Concours class of David Brown-era Aston Martins, with a pair of coachbuilt 1950s Bertone bodies being real stand-outs.
As with Essen (and Monterey Auto Week in August), I wasn’t able to make it over to May’s Villa d’Este Concours in 2017, although I did get my share of Mediterranean sunshine and prestine cars at the inaugural Valletta Concours d’Elegance in the Maltese capital at the same time.
Though not quite a Mediterranean climate, the rain mercifully held-off until prize-giving was over at the impressive new Stowe House venue for the 2017 Hagerty’s Festival of the Unexceptional, which had to be one of the most enjoyable events of the year, with its amazingly relaxed atmosphere and nostalgic selection of the cars that we all grew-up with, but are now all too rare and forgotten. A purple Hillman Avenger GLS, plus an immaculate Fiat 128 and DAF 33, brought the biggest smiles to my face.
The weather at the first edition of the new City Concours event in the heart of London wasn’t so agreeable, but the impressive selection of cars certainly was, with early September’s Concours at Hampton Court Palace (organised by the same team as the City event) managing to combine both, with some of the most remarkable cars I’d seen all year glinting in the bright sunlight.
The Silverstone Classic seems a distant blur now, with its vast selection of car clubs and racing into the night, as does 2017’s AvD-Oldtimer Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, but mid-September’s Goodwood Revival sticks in the memory, for both its world-class grids and remarkable racing, but also for the rain, which sadly remained for the agreeable but soggy Kop Hill meet a week later.
By the time Les Grandes Heures Automobiles (LGHA) arrived at the famous banked Montlhery circuit near Paris in late September, the warm sunshine and laid-back atmosphere were welcome sights, as were the hundreds of competition and road cars uncommon on this side of the Channel. The LGHA was well worth short drive over to France, and gave me one of the few opportunities to fully exercise one of my own classic cars in 2017.
A thoroughly busy but enjoyable 2017 rounded-off with that perennial favourite, the huge NEC Classic Car Show in November, with the stylish InterClassics event in Brussels also well worth a visit just one week later.
Sprinkled throughout 2017 are far too many other entertaining events to recount, including the Beaulieu International Autojumble, Spa Six hours, The Warren Concours, Auto Italia at Brooklands, AutoMedon in Paris, and so on, each one creating some long-lasting memories, with great cars and interesting people to boot.
Here’s to an equally entertaining year of classic car motoring and events in 2018. Happy New Year!