Of all the diverse automotive communities in the UK, one group takes itself more seriously than others: British classic car enthusiasts.
Track day people are busy but nerdy; Drifters are punk rockers who crash into each other for fun; supercar owners talk only about their cars; and stand kids are in perpetual conflict with their local neighborhood watchers. What about classic car owners? They are a serious bunch of people.
Owning an old car is a staple of British culture as a whole, even before we get into car culture itself. A vintage car goes hand-in-hand with your usual stereotypes of Brits: tweed suit, cup of tea, great B country roads, stiff upper lip and a 1962 Austin-Healey Sprite in the garage.
So when a posh London indoor venue opens its doors to the motoring community, you can bet your reserve price will be on something old and luxurious. The event in question here is the London Classic Car Show, held in the historic and rather beautiful London Olympia.
What makes this different from a tuned car event, though, is that the display space here is primarily for all kinds of classic car dealerships, restoration shops, storage facilities, and everything in between. But it’s not just a car show; a big part of it is actual auctions, where you have to pay to get a closer look at the cars.
And that doesn’t include the £35 entrance fee. Well, did you see that? These people are very serious.but there’s a lot to see No Need to spend extra money.
There’s a Corvette booth celebrating the 70th anniversary of American Idol, and another area celebrating the 60th anniversary of 9/11. Ends of the similarity spectrum, far apart from each other, yet captivate most car enthusiasts for the same reason: Excitement!
There’s also a lot of interesting stuff in the exhibit, the first thing that comes to my mind is the barn finds.
The barn discovery buzz is bigger than ever, thanks in no small part to YouTubers Dig and fix them. Dare I say it, the era of digital matching is slowing down? People are finally starting to appreciate the stories and mysteries of what a car once was, with a detailed binder attesting to its low mileage.
Race cars are also on display, my personal favorite being this Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA.
Also on display is a unique collection of Minis belonging to the Beatles. If you look at their backend, you can see what sets this trio apart.
In general, events like this provide a good insight into classic car ownership across the UK. Naturally, it extends all the way to the upper echelons of our community, who have a role in deciding what is desirable based on value alone. This episode tells you what makes the big bucks at auction and what somehow falls from the “car” category into the often soulless “investment”.
This gives me a good idea of what I really want to talk to you about today. Because this year, unlike previous years I’ve attended, the London Classic Car Show is infiltrated by a fanatic we don’t usually see at such events.
Amid million-pound Ferraris, WWII Spitfire-looking cars and handsome men gathering around Aston Martins, there’s a constant crowd hanging out around a 1972 W109 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE .Here’s the kicker – it’s bang About Air Lift Performance air suspension.
The car belonged to Dougie McColm, who is no stranger to the world of modified cars, nor is he new to the pages of Speedhunters.
Dougie was invited by organizers to display his cars at the event, but was not part of any dealership or workshop booths. The Mercedes was one of only a few cars shown at the event in a private capacity, just so everyone could enjoy it.
Classic Mercedes-Benzs have been sought after for several years and their prices reflect this, but the truth is that the organizers have not chosen one standard Mercedes Benz. Dougie’s car is being modified, with ALP on the floor, as important to the overall effect on the display as the three-pointed star on the hood badge.
Dougie’s car isn’t the only one with Air Lift Performance air suspension. At the other end of the hall sat a 1969 Volkswagen Type 34 Razor Edge Karmann Ghia, which also hit the floor, with an ALP controller built into the center console.
Look, I’m not saying that revamping classics is new, obviously, but opinions are changing. Event organizers for classic car enthusiasts have long refrained from mixing prestigious badges and tweed suits with cars that can only be understood when using the very outdated blanket term “hot rod.”
Inviting these tuned classics tells me that opinions are changing, and it reminds me of the exponential growth in interest in Japanese sports cars of late.
We’re all too aware that cars like the R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R and the MkIV Toyota Supra have skyrocketed in value and are now popular at these events, but they were once overlooked in much the same way as modded classics have long been ignored by the same circles .
Seeing Supras and GT-Rs on aftermarket wheels and tons of mods made it clear to me that the crossover of British car culture was spreading. We do not co-locate Japanese cars with modified examples, and we no longer distinguish modified classic models from the existing world of classic car culture.
Overall, the lines separating Britain’s existing car culture are beginning to recede. Honestly, I only see the benefit here, as a wider community we learn more about what we really like about cars is an overall stronger community. I’m sure.
So, are modified classics finally being taken seriously at the London Classic Car Show? You know what, I think we’re almost there.
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