Category Archives: Vue de l’autre côté de la Manche


Drive to Arras


With the centennial commemorations of the Battle of Arras just three weeks away, the organisers of the city’s annual classic car event must have felt they were fighting a new battle as gale force winds and lashing rain poured down during the run-up. Fortunately the rain at least had abated by the day itself and Club Ravera will have heaved a collective sigh of relief as the 500-space outdoor parking once again filled-up with classics of every sort, whilst indoors the large autojumble thronged with those anxiously seeking that vital component.

Fighting a battle of their own must have been Ray and Kathleen Brogan as they had journeyed over from Kent to display their ex-London County Council 1952 Reliant Regent three-wheeler van. With open sides and a top speed of 40mph it would have been quite a journey – their first problem was convincing Eurotunnel that the vehicle actually existed! They are regular visitors to the show, more usually with a Sunbeam Talbot, but this was the first time with the Reliant.

And they were not the only Brits to take part, with others bringing vehicles ranging from a stunning fabric-bodied Austin Seven saloon to a Ferrari 328 GTS. Morris Minor owners from Kent were also in attendance. They are in the main repeat visitors, knowing that they will get a very warm welcome from the organisers and show visitors alike.

The indoor display represented good variety, ranging from pre-war machinery such as a Chenard Walcker, Panhard and Peugeot, through to familiar cars and ‘bikes from more recent times. There was variety a-plenty too, from a Fiat Dino Spider to a 1941 Gnome-Rhone motor-cycle and sidecar that was used in large numbers on the Russian Front. Many were imaginatively displayed too, such as the Peugeot 404 and caravan in holiday mode. Amongst the clubs, the Matra Simca Rancho owners were celebrating the cars’ 40th anniversary, and in true French style the members were tucking into some very creamy chocolate cake!

Outside there was the inevitable plethora of Citroen 2CV’s and Traction Avante’s, including one rare LHD Slough-assembled 1950 Light 15, one of just 304 built between 1949-54, it was delivered new to Casablanca in 1951. There was even a couple of Lomax’s, one three-wheeled, the other with four wheels. The British-built kit car is based on 2CV components, but now with the relentlessly upward trajectory in 2CV values in recent times it must be becoming increasingly hard to source donor vehicles.

Otherwise there was the full spectrum from rat-look VW 1500 to a superb Aston Martin DB6 that appeared to have travelled a bit. Although French registered, the RHD car bore a Wales badge on the back and a New York City technical inspection sticker on the windscreen.

It was not the only car present to have crossed the Atlantic as Americana was very much in evidence with several Ford Mustang’s, an enormous Buick LeSabre and Chevrolet El Camino pick-up amongst others. The show was stolen late in the day though, by the arrival of a stunning black 1971 Buick Riviera which quickly had the crowds gathering round.

An extremely enjoyable event that not even the weather could spoil; always held on the third Sunday in March, it’s well worth a quick hop across the Channel.

John Elwin March 2017

A Classic at Antwerp

The 40th Antwerp Classic Salon celebrated Ferrari’s 70th anniversary with a magnificent display of Prancing Horse machinery that included cars with significant history. The selection ranged from a 1947 166 Inter Coupe to an F40, and included a 500 Superfast that had once belonged to Peter Sellers together with a 275 GT Spider, formally the property of Raquel Welch. Those two cars alone could surely tell a few stories! Meanwhile, a 288 GTO was previously owned by Belgian driver Jean Blaton and also father-in-law of one-time Ferrari F1 driver Jacky Ickx. Blaton himself, now aged 87, raced sports cars under the peudonym of “Beurlys”, twice finishing third at Le Mans in a Ferrari.

Ferrari’s long associations with Le Mans was covered by a rarely-seen 512 BB in ‘European University’ colours, as raced at La Sarthe in 1981. The 512 BB was progressively developed by Pozzi and examples appeared at Le Mans over several seasons, starting in 1978 when a car due to be driven by the aformentioned Blaton retired before he got behind the wheel. The car on show at Antwerp (chassis #35525) was entered by Rennod Racing and driven by Belgians Dieudonné, Xhenceval and Libert, finishing ninth overall and third in class. The result was all the more credible as Dieudonné fell ill and only drove for four hours.

Ferrari’s origins were not forgotten either; before building cars in his own right, Enzo Ferrari’s team raced Alfa Romeo’s and on show was a 6C 1750 that Ferrari sold new to Luigi Scarfiotti, the father of later Grand Prix driver Ludovico. The car was entered in the 1930 and ’31 Mille Miglia events under the Scuderia Ferrari banner, finishing in sixth place on the latter event.

More modern Formula 1 activity was covered by an 87/88C that was used by Gerhard Berger en route to third place in the 1988 World Championship, beaten only by the battling duo of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

Antwerp is not primarily about exotica though; whilst there are plenty of other rare and unusual vehicles to be found, it is also an event where more mundane machinery gets a look-in. Thus it was that the concours judges found themselves selecting as ‘Best in Show’ a rather superb Mercedes-Benz 280SE Cabriolet that was actually a hire car! The green machine would make the ideal holiday tourer. The concours classes were split into three ages groups, the earliest being for vehicles from 1885-1995, where first prize was awarded to a Talbot Lago whilst second went to a rather splendid MG TD.

The MG was offered for sale privately by the very engaging Stephan Mackertich, who lives in France, and had taken the MG in part exchange for a Jaguar E-Type. The English owner of the MG had apparently bought it fresh from a superb restoration and having driven it only a few miles decided an E-Type was what he really wanted. By contrast, Mackertich was also showing an unrestored LHD 1952 Morris Minor Convertible that he had brought in from Sri Lanka where it had originally been owned by a diplomat. The green car was well-patinated and the owner was inclined to keep it that way.

Again, in the 1956-1975 class it was the second-place car that had a lot of appeal, being a 1967 Alpine A11 in rarer cabriolet form but in the end it was just pipped by a Borgward. Alpine of course is very much in the news with the launch of the new A110. A Volvo might sound like an unusual choice, but the judges awarded the 1976-1990 class to a Belgian-built 1983 Volvo 240 Turbo that had been superbly restored by its passionate private owner at a cost of some 40,000 euros. The judges felt the fact that this was the work of an enthusiast rather than a restoration company deserved recognition and so it won out over a very low mileage 1988 Morgan +8 that local dealers Oldtimer Farm are selling. Third in that class went to an MVS Venturi Cup, not a marque seen too often at shows.

One hall at Antwerp is devoted to club stands and as ever the range of ingenuity and machinery on display covered the full spectrum, with everything from microcars to the mighty lime green Plymouth Hemicuda that local club Scuderia Antverpia was displaying. British brands were well represented, from Austin-Healey to Rolls Royce, the Healey club showing a rare Rolls-powered car. Aside from the Plymouth, Americana was also prominent, in particular by the Belgian Mustang Club, and from the ’40s & ’50s there was a monster hearse. Closer to home, Minerva was a local manufacturer with a factory not far from Antwerp and, although cars have not been built since the war, there is still a keen following. The factory was requisitioned by the Luftwaffe to use as a repair centre for fighter aircraft during World War Two, so not surprisingly, it was bombed by the Allies. Post war the company did for a time assemble Land Rovers, primarily for military use.

Amongst the rarities to be found was a Brazilian-built Volkswagen SP2. Dating from the mid-seventies it was an attractive sports coupe based on the period VW Variant chassis with a rear-mounted 1700cc flat four air-cooled engine. It was never officially imported into Europe so is quite sought-after. Almost as rare but very much in as-found condition was a Saab 92, whilst a Mercedes 190SL also posed as a barn find. At the opposite end of the scale, with unpainted body panels, was the superb 1934 MG Type P-Q owned by Gaston Lenaerts.

A busy autojumble and private car sale area rounds out the delights of Antwerp Classic Salon, an event which seems to steadily improve year on year. Always held on the first weekend in March, it is well worth a visit.

John Elwin March 2017

Essen Show


John Elwin brings his expert eye to the proceedings at the recent Essen Motor Show, along with a comprehensive gallery, a good way to start the holiday season.

The German authorities might well be trying to dream up plans to ban fossil-fuelled vehicles altogether from the roads of Europe in the not too far distant future, but the fact that some 360,000 visitors poured through the doors of the Messe Essen during the 10-day run of the 49th Essen Motor Show suggests that the German love affair with the motor car is not quite over yet.

Inside, they found the full panoply of motoring, ranging from new-car debuts on manufacturer stands such as Ford and Skoda, to live action drifting. Everything was a little more condensed this year as the Messe is undergoing an upgrade, which meant a couple of halls were unavailable due to building works.

As usual, S.I.H.A. – the organisation responsible for organising the Techno Classica Essen Show in April – took charge of the classic side of things at Motor Show, with many of their regular exhibitors filling one hall with everything from a Heinkel bubble car to a monstrous Mercedes 600 Pullman, the subject of a recent 6,500-hour restoration. It was being shown by Brabus Classic, an offshoot of the company more familiar for its tuning and modification of modern cars. A sign of the times, perhaps? Whatever, the workmanship was very impressive, as was that on the matching blue 300SL Cabriolet and Gullwing models also on show.

Another Gullwing to attract a lot of attention was a black example being shown by Rosier Classic Sterne from Oldenburg. Despite a rather sumptuous tan leather interior, and a roll cage, side-exit exhausts gave the game away that it also had a competition history. There was more intrigue, though. The business was founded some years ago when Thomas Rosier snr. had the opportunity to buy a Mercedes dealership and in the process of raising funds, he sold a Gullwing that he owned at the time.

His son, also Thomas, joined him in the business and over time they built-up a network of companies employing some 800 people. Now in overall charge, Thomas jnr. sold most of the business to concentrate on classics. As part of that plan, he sourced some cars from America, amongst them the black Gullwing. Imagine his surprise when researching the history of the car, he discovered that it was the very Gullwing owned and sold by his father all those years ago!

The VW Golf Mk1 is at the other end of the extreme from Gullwing Merc’s but a very original GTi was attracting a lot of interest on Dutch dealer Potomac’s stand, leading one journalist colleague to excitedly ‘phone a friend’ whom he knew was looking for one. As he pointed out, to find a good original Mk1 Golf GTi is more difficult than a Gullwing Mercedes – there’s plenty of those for sale!

Alongside the GTi sat a 2010 (that’s correct) Mk2 Golf 1.8 with just over 6,000km on the clock, and what’s more it was right-hand drive. It transpired to be a South African-built car and Potomac anticipates selling it in the UK. Asking price is €24,000…

That however was a lot less than the sticker price on the very rare Alfa Romeo unanimously chosen by the jury as ‘Best in Show’. As a member of the jury, I cannot remember an occasion when every single member chose the same car. The car in question was a 1953 Alfa Romeo 1900C Sprint Supergioiello, the last of 18 such cars built by Ghia.

It was sold new to a Spanish owner who rallied it extensively, including taking part in the 1955 Monte Carlo Rally, hence the ‘400’ on the door – it’s start number in that rally.

Having spent most of its life in Spain and Portugal it underwent restoration in Italy and is now with IMBU Classics in Holland, who have it on offer for €599,000. However, it failed to sell at auction in Monaco in May with a lower guide price.

Upholding British honour, DD Classics from London was awarded the ‘Best Coupe’ prize for its Aston Martin V8 Vantage.


S.I.H.A.’s themed display this year featured Ferrari, with a fine array of machinery from the earliest days to the very recent FXX and LaFerrari supercars.

A Ferrari display featured elsewhere in the show too, with everything from Alfa Romeo Monza as raced by Ferrari before building his own cars, to more recent Grand Prix cars.

As befits a show that has its origins as The Jochen Rindt Show, motorsport plays an important part – that hasn’t always been the case in recent years. Live action, mostly of the Drifting variety, filled one hall.

The adjacent hall was host to a variety of event organisers, car builders and preparers and suppliers, catering for everything from karting to NASCAR.


Meanwhile the major manufacturers – Audi, BMW, Mercedes – concentrated on displaying their current DTM machinery, backed up by a display of cars from earlier years. Great to see those mighty Audi V8’s, Sierra Cosworth’s and Merc 190’s again!

Curiously, whilst you could inspect an ex Keke Rosberg Opel Calibra, there was seemingly no evidence anywhere in Essen that his son Nico had just won the World Championship for Mercedes. Likewise, you’d never know that VW had just won the World Rally Championship, or that Audi and Porsche had dominated endurance racing. With Audi bowing out of the WEC, what a great opportunity it would have been to mount a display of the cars that have brought the company so much success since 1999. Opportunities missed? And on another front, whilst a prominent feature displayed electric cars, why on earth are not the likes of Mercedes and Audi shouting from the roof tops about the amazing advances in engine technology they are making through motorsport?

Needless to say, some very different forms of motive power were on display amongst the custom car exponents. How about a Ford Econoline truck with four – yes, four! – engines mounted on the back.

And if that wasn’t enough for you, alongside it was a VW pick-up sporting a jet engine. Not much good for load-lugging but it would have got you to your destination quickly, especially if the route was a straight line.

Essen Motor Show was for long the bastion of the powerful German tuning industry. That is less apparent now, but the likes of Brabus and AC Schnitzer with their take on the latest offerings.

There’s always plenty to see at Essen, so why not go and have a look for yourself? With next year being the 50th show, there are bound to be some extra treats too.

02-12 December 2017

Before that, we have Techno Classica Essen, not to be missed by any classic fan.

05-09 April 2017

John Elwin, December 2016


A Revived Revival


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The nineteenth running of the Goodwood Revival was effectively the start of a new era, as the circuit has now been in operation for longer than originally, when racing began in September 1948 and ended in July 1966, partially for safety reasons. Little had changed at the circuit when racing resumed with the first Revival Meeting in 1998. Consequently, racing has been restricted to cars and ‘bikes that raced in period. That notwithstanding, developments have continued and Goodwood continues to astound, public enthusiasm for the Revival showing no signs of waning.

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Whilst the facility might have changed little in the intervening years, development of the machinery has continued a-pace, with many cars now going much faster than in the day – and that’s often without the star drivers that were behind the wheel way back when.
That was reflected in the way that the GT cars that normally contest the RAC Tourist Trophy were split into two groups, pre-1963 cars taking part in a newly-created event, the Kinrara Trophy, a one-hour race that ran into the twilight on Friday evening. Despite being a late addition to the programme, Dane Tom Kristensen stamped his authority on proceedings when he was drafted in to share Joe Macari’s Ferrari 250GT SWB. He firmly planted it on pole despite not having sat in the car before Friday morning, but the cars’ owner left him with a lot of work to do by dropping down to eighth in the opening stint of the race. He rose to the occasion, helped a little by others’ misfortunes, storming back up the order to win, the Ferrari completing the distance some 12.8-seconds ahead of the Martin Hunt/Patrick Blakeney Edwards Jaguar E-Type.

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The RAC Tourist Trophy Celebration occupied its traditional slot on Sunday afternoon, and catering purely for 1963-64 cars saw a healthy grid of predominantly AC Cobra and Jaguar E-Type machinery. The simple statistics will say that the Chris Ward/Gordon Shedden E-Type started from pole position and led away to eventually win from a trio of Cobra’s, the Michael Squire/Frank Stippler car heading Andrew Smith/Oliver Bryant and David Hart/Giedo van der Garde, but there was plenty of action along the way. Many considered that Shedden was lucky not to incur the wrath of the stewards when he lapsed into a bit of BTCC-style driving; a lively dice for the lead with van der Garde seeing the Cobra tapped into a spin by Shedden as they lapped backmarkers, effectively putting the Dutchmen out of contention.

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Saturday was wet, when a forecast that promised rain from 10am until 4pm proved to be rather accurate. The Goodwood Trohy race for pre ’51 grand prix cars opened proceedings and Calum Lockie ended up a jubilant winner in the slippery conditions his Maserati 6CM taking over at the front after five-times Goodwood winner Mark Gillies was forced to pit his ERA R3A for a plug change, rejoining to finish ninth. The podium was completed by Matt Grist’s Alfa Romeo P3 and Tom Dark’s Bugatti T73C.

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The Madgwick Cup for sub 3-litre sports prototypes from the 1960-66 era was something of a Lotus 23 benefit, with Andy Newall’s 23B getting the better of a scrap with Andrew Hibberd’s similar car. Joe Twyman would have made it an all-Lotus podium but a time penalty for an incident dropped him to fifth, elevating Max Bartell’s Elva-BMW Mk7S to third place.

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The St Mary’s Trophy race represented a departure for Goodwood but could be described as a retrospective look at the future, for it was a one-make race, something almost unheard-of in 1966 but now commonplace. The car in question was the diminutive Austin A35, a tiny unlikely-looking racer but with its readily tunable BMC A-Series engine it did indeed race in the day, largely thanks to the efforts of Graham Hill and John Sprinzel’s Speedwell concern. Anyway, celebrating its 60th birthday, a fleet of identically-prepared cars contested the two-part race, with the star drivers getting a baptism of water, on Saturday. Karun Chandhok remarked that he’s never driven anything with so little grip, whilst Goodwood debutant David Coulthard said he’d been told the car had about 90 horsepower, but he reckoned most of them were hiding in another paddock! Whatever, the touring car experts Andrew Jordan, Gordon Shedden and Steve Soper filled the podium on Saturday, whilst James Dorlin, Charles Knill-Jones and Mike Jordan did likewise on Sunday, overall victory going to the Jordan’s, despite getting through three engines during the weekend.

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The Lavant Cup, celebrating the 80th anniversary of the BMW 328, saw Martin Hunt’s Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica lead all the way except when it mattered – the last lap! He lost speed with a moment at Lavant allowing Malcolm Harrison’s Cooper-Bristol to snatch victory with pole-sitter Patrick Blakeney-Edwards (FN Targa Florio) finishing third. The rain was at its worst for the Whitsun Trophy, hardly ideal for the ‘big banger’ sportscars so it was perhaps fitting that race winner Rob Huff was awarded th Rolex Driver of the Weekend for his efforts in the Lotus-Oldsmobile-19. He had a mighty scrap with Mike Whitaker who had recovered from spinning his Lola T70 Spyder on the warm-up lap, only to have one or two grassy moments in the race. It was a somewhat heroic (or brave!) first-time outing at Goodwood. Third place went to Tiff Needell on board Paul Whight’s Lotus 30. With the weather starting to improve, Saturday’s racing ended with Richard Woolmer (HWM-Cadillac) winning the Freddie March Trophy, narrowly beating Rob Hall’s Aston Martin DB2 and Steve Boultbee-Brooks (Aston Martin DB3S).

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Sunday could not have been more different, with the sun shining down on Goodwood once more. The action started with the Chichester Cup for front-engined Formula Junior cars. Andrew Hibberd (Lola-Ford Mk2) inherited the lead, and victory, on the penultimate lap after misfortune befell others. Joe Colasacco’s Stanguellini-Fiat was a close second and Chrsis Drake’s Terrier third. Despite losing the nose from his Scarab after contact with Tony Wood’s Tec-Mec Maserati, Julian Bronson clung on to win the Richmand Trophy. A pair of Ferrari 246 Dino’s completed the podium, Andy Willis heading Rob Hall.

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Even though regular winner Andy Middlehurst did not take part in the Glover Trophy race, a Lotus 25 nevertheless still came out on top as Nick Fennell’s similarly Classic Team Lotus-prepared car got the better of a scrap with Martin Stretton’s Lotus-BRM 24. With Miles Griffith’s similar car in third place and Richard Attwood’s BRM P261 coming home fourth, that remarkably meant BRM engines in three of the first four cars. The final race of the weekend, the Sussex Trophy, fell to Chris Ward’s Lister-Jaguar Costin, from Gary Pearson’s Lister-Jaguar ‘Knobbly’ and James Cottingham’s Tojeiro-Jaguar, so bringing to a close a superb weekend’s racing with few major incidents and seemingly much improved diving standards.

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The Goodwood Revival is about so much more than just the racing and amongst many of the attractions there were tributes to Jack Brabham, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his third World Championship, uniquely driving a car bearing his own name. Sons David and Geoff, together with other family members and friends were on hand to mark the occasion and witness parades of the many varied cars from his career.

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That 1966 championship was the first of the 3-litre era, the new more powerful cars playing a part in the cessation of racing at Goodwood in 1966, but nevertheless here was a retrospective look to the future with demonstration laps of 3-litre F1 cars, including examples of Brabham, Cooper and McLaren that would have tested at Goodwood in the day, as well as three examples of the Lotus 49, the car that introduced the all-conquering Cosworth DFV to motor racing.

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Away from the track there was plenty to keep visitors occupied. The Earl’s Court Motor Show this year majored on Lamborghini, with everything from a tractor to the latest model. Dotted around the paddock a variety of period transporters could be seen, from the prosaic Morris Commercial-based transporter used to transport works BMC MGA’s, to the flamboyant Fiat originally supplied to the Scarab F1 team but subsequently owned by Shelby, who had to beef it up with an extra rear axle in order to bear the weight of the Cobra’s as they travelled around Europe. Even more unusual was a single-car transporter built by Dennis in nearby Guildford, better known for their fire engines and dustcarts.

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The air displays were somewhat muted this year in the wake of the tragedy in Shoreham a year ago. However, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight made its customary fly-past, whilst there were frequent displays during the weekend by the sole airworthy Bristol Blenheim, accompanied by Spitfire and Mustang.

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Back on the ground, we were reminded that it was 1966 by crowds of enthusiastic football supporters celebrating England’s success in the World Cup – looks like they might have to make that one last a bit longer yet!

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What will Goodwood have in store for the 20th Revival Meeting in 2017? A look back at 1998, perhaps?

John Elwin October 2016

Arts & Elegance

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Now in its third year, the Peter Auto-organised Chantilly Arts & Elegance Concours is rapidly establishing itself as a leading event of its kind, right up there with Villa d’Este.

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Indeed, like the Italian event, Chantilly was also supported by BMW as part of the Bavarian manufacturer’s centenary celebrations.

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Despite early morning rain and leaden skies for the rest of the day, some 13,500 visitors were drawn to the absolutely stunning surroundings of the Domaine de Chantilly, north of Paris, to see some magnificent machinery and to be entertained by the Garde républicaine (think Household Cavalry).

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The Concours d’Elegance was divided into classes, and as well as being on static view, the cars were paraded in front of the assembled crowd. To add to the style, each entry in the manufacturer’s concept car class was accompanied by a fashion model representing one of France’s fashion houses. First prize in that class went to the DS E-Tense, accompanied by a creation from Eymeric François. However the choice of the public was the Mercedes-Maybach 6 Vision, accompanied by a model representing Jean-Paul Gaultier.

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Another model from the same fashion house combined with the McLaren 570GT to take the prize for the most beautiful ensemble. Zagato have diversified from its usual fare to produce a motor-cycle for MV Augusta and that led to a special prize.

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Away from the modern exotica there were plenty of breathtaking machines entered in the numerous other concours classes, from which the 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Berlinetta, with coachwork by Touring and owned by American collector John Shirley, was awarded Best of Show.

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There were too many other classes to list them, some with titles such as ‘The former English marques’ (ie. no longer in business) or ‘The great untouched travel sedan cars and limousines’ – that went to a delightful 1938 Packard.

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Italian exotica was well-represented, including classes for the Lamborghini Miura (celebrating its 50th anniversary), a tribute to the Pozzi racing team and two classes for Tour de France cars, both of which were won by Ferraris.

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There were also numerous Alfas, from pre-war to a recent Zagato creation, whilst a small but select group of front-engined Formula 1 cars saw the prize go to a 1946 Gordini Type 11 from a pair of Ferraris and a BRM.

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Any event is not complete these days without an anniversary to celebrate and in the case of Chantilly it was Jean Todt’s 50-year career in motor sport. Now President of the FIA, he was a leading rally co-driver before moving on to team management, primarily with Peugeot during the Group C days and then at Ferrari throughout the Schumacher era.

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From a selection of rally cars from his past, a 1979 Peugeot 504, still owned by fellow rally star Jean Guichet, with whom he shared the car on the Argentinian Rally, was given first prize in the Tribute to Jean Todt class. The wide-ranging display of rally machinery also included Ford Escort Twin Cam, Alpine-Renault, Fiat 124 Spider, Sunbeam Lotus and Peugeot 205. The man himself was on hand too, to award the prizes.

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Away from the concours, a busy club area saw a huge range of vehicles on display, some a little strange such as the Rolls Royce that had been mated with an MGB bodyshell! Aside from that, there were some good club displays with the likes of Bugatti – the modern ones – Jaguar well-represented, as well as inevitably the various French brands. It was all very sociable too, as many of the visitors enjoyed a picnic lunch in the areas set in woodland adjacent to the moat surrounding the Chateau.

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A delightful, laid-back, hassle-free day out, Chantilly should be on every enthusiast’s must-do list. The 2017 edition is scheduled to take place on 10 September.

John Elwin, October 2017

Route des Vacances

John Elwin is currently hitting a rich vein of classic car events, this one came to him in his corner of France and it displayed a true Gallic motoring flair.


“We’re all going on a summer holiday!”
Who can forget the words to Sir Cliff Richard’s jolly little sing-a-long ditty as he and his pals headed for the seaside in a big red bus? That scenario was created (almost) on a chilly Sunday morning in Northern France recently.
Introduced only a few years ago, the ‘Route des Vacances’ has rapidly become a major event, a must-do for participants and onlookers alike.


Catering for classic cars and coaches, it retraces one of France’s traditional holiday routes from the industrial and mining area around Lens to the Cote d’Opale seaside resort of Berck-sur-Mer. And being France, there’s a lengthy lunch stop in the market town of Hesdin, attracting throngs of interested bystanders. The event is always run on Pentecost Sunday, which this year was in mid-May and blessed with rather cool weather more akin to a British bank holiday.

The popularity of the event was proven by the fact that some 400 vehicles took part, together with about 900 people, many of whom travelled in the half dozen or so classic coaches. Cars ranged from pre-war Citroëns and Renaults right up to a BMW Z4, which looked rather incongruous amongst the more traditional classics. As you would expect, French brands dominated numerically with Citroën leading the way, thanks to a huge group of unruly 2CV’s but Peugeot, Renault and Simca were well represented too. British sports cars are popular in France, so MGBs abounded and Triumphs …well, triumphed.

I caught up with the activity in Hesdin, where the awaiting crowd was entertained by the town’s excellent brass band, before the big bass drum was drowned-out by a cacophony of air horns and the like, announcing the arrival of the first of the cars. From around 11.30 a steady stream of cars, many entering into the holiday theme by towing period caravans or with loaded roof-racks, were marshalled into parking places either in Place d’Armes or one of the side streets – with so many participants parking was at a premium.


Despite acting like a bunch of delinquent children the 2CV brigade were the most organised, arriving rather noisily altogether but they parked very neatly in a line along a one-way street, albeit facing in the wrong direction!

Whilst some enjoyed a picnic, many others queued to buy traditional ‘les baraques a frites’ from a couple of friterie vans. One of them is run by Christine, who is something of an institution in Hesdin; having been serving frites to locals and tourists alike for 40 years, she’s said to be the richest woman in town!

All too soon, 14.30 arrived and it was time to pack-up and head for the coast. All at once of course, which leads to more good-humoured noisy chaos as exit from the square is dictated by a set of traffic lights a short distance away. However, they were soon on their way, with the coaches bringing up the rear. One of them contained a party from Chorale la Lievinoise – I wonder what they were singing?
John Elwin, May 2016

A Meeting of Members

John Elwin crossed The English Channel bound for Goodwood and the 74th Members Meeting, though it was not all plain sailing though as his observations show………Simon Hildrew is on his usual top form with cameras in hand.

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To the wider world the 2016 Goodwood  74th Members Meeting will be remembered for a couple of spectacular, if freakish, accidents which received widespread coverage but for those who took the trouble to go to the track on what was a bitterly cold weekend, it will long be recalled for some thrilling racing.

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In particular the rarely seen Edwardians, the thundering machines warming the hearts of an appreciative crowd. Demonstrations of three disparate groups of relatively modern racers were well received, but are they really necessary?

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A highlight of the event was the Alan Mann Memorial race, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ford’s famous Le Mans victory with an all-GT40 grid – some of which were even original cars! With much of the initial development work having been done at Goodwood, they provided an excellent spectacle as they raced into the dusk on Saturday evening. As a result of a litany of mechanical failures and incidents hitting others Steve Soper/David Cuff emerged as worthy winners.

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For sheer spectacle though, the GT40’s had to give best to the amazing array of machinery that appeared for the SF Edge Trophy race for Edwardian cars. These leviathans, many of them aero-engined, are rarely seen racing and the spectators were spellbound by a fantastic three-way battle for the lead as Duncan Pittaway’s relatively small GN-Curtiss emerged victorious, ahead of 23 year-old Argentinian Mathias Sielicki’s Delage V12 and Julian Majzub’s Sunbeam Indianapolis.

2016 JB General

The Gerry Marshall Trophy Group 1 Touring Car Race was actually two races, with Chris Ward (Rover SD1) winning Saturday’s 15-minute race from John Young’s Ford Capri and Nigel Garrett’s Chevrolet Camaro. Sunday’s 45-minute two-driver race saw father and son Grahame and Oliver Bryant driver to victory with Ward, co-driven by reigning BTCC champion Gordon Shedden in second place. Young, sharing with Steve Soper was third. Soper’s good fortune ran out in the Whitmore Cup race, retiring his Lotus Cortina to leave a slightly disappointed(!) Richard Meaden as runaway victor in another Cortina. Apparently Soper was the rapid journalist’s hero and he was looking forward to a battle.

2016 JB General

The Graham Hill Trophy GT race was ended under full-course yellows after Karsten Le Blanc crashed his Cobra heavily but the race for the lead had become a battle between a pair of Cobra Daytona Coupe’s, James Cottingham beating Andrew Smith to the flag by half a second.

2016 JB General

The Brooks Trophy race was fittingly won by Barry Cannell’s Cooper-Climax T51, an ex Brooks car! The race was marred by the potentially nasty accident that befell Stephen Bond. His Lotus 18 clipped a spinning Cooper exiting the chicane and was launched into the air, clearing the fencing and ending up hanging over the spectator tunnel, which fortunately was empty at the time, Bond suffering injuries to his shoulder.

2016 JB General

The Derek Bell Cup went to Andrew Hibberd (Brabham BT8) who was a comfortable winner once last years’ victor James King was forced into retirement. The Bruce McLaren Trophy was red-flagged after just two laps and not re-started following a serious accident. A body panel flew off Marc Devis’s Lola T70, hitting Michiel Smits, causing him to heavily crash his T70. There were serious concerns for his safety and he was eventually taken to hospital where he was found to have damaged vertabrae. Thankfully he is well on the road to recovery back home in Holland and has vowed to return next year. The brief race was awarded to Nick Padmore in yet another T70.

2016 JB General

Lengthy repairs were required to the tyre wall, with the result that the remaining races were reduced to just ten minutes in duration. Will Nuthall (Cooper-Bristol T23) won the Parnell Cup whilst Sam Hancock simply stormed off into the distance in the replica Cunningham C4R to claim the Peter Collins Trophy some 26 seconds clear of Steve Boultbee Brooks’ Aston Martin DB3S – and that after just ten minutes of racing!

2016 JB General

As has become de rigeur at Goodwood, three high speed demonstrations entertained the crowds between races. The first was for Super Touring cars, the class celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. A colourful array of machinery including Alfa Romeo, Audi, Ford, Honda, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault, Vauxhall and Volvo took to the track, all in original liveries. What’s more some were re-united with their original drivers, including former champions John Cleland, Andy Rouse and James Thompson, whilst the ever-enthusiastic Emanuele Pirro was back behind the wheel of the Audi A4 with which he began his long career with the manufacturer driving in Germany’s STW series in 1997. He was proud of the fact he was wearing his original overalls too!

2016 JB General

A Group 5 Sports car demonstration saw a mind-blowing array of Porsche 917’s, Ferrari 512’s and Lola T70 Mk3B’s blasting their way round the circuit. Adding to the occasion, former Le Mans winners Richard Attwood and Derek Bell took part in Porsche Salzburg and Gulf-liveried 917’s respectively.

2016 JB General

The F1 period being celebrated was the ground effect era; since this was also the Cosworth DFV era there was no shortage of cars. Since Lotus was effectively responsible for bringing both into F1so it was perhaps fitting that the marque dominated the display, Classic Team Lotus alone bringing six cars, including examples of Types 78 and 79. Clive Chapman himself got behind the wheel of the 88B, whilst Indianapolis 500 winner and avowed Lotus fan Dario Franchitti got his first taste of DFV power by driving the twin-chassis 88. He loved it!

2016 JB General

Inevitably questions have been raised once again about the safety of Goodwood in the modern era, but neither accident on the day could be attributed to the circuit. Good fortune played a part in Bond’s accident however. Had it happened at the much busier Revival Meeting the odds of spectators being in the Tunnel would have been higher, leading to a greater chance of injuries or worse. The accident involving the Lola T70’s raises different questions not entirely related to that particular incident.

2016 JB General

The reason the circuit was closed in 1966 was that cars of this type were simply becoming too fast for the venue. Fifty years on, the circuit remains much as it was in 1966, but these ‘historic’ cars have received continuous development, and at the same time whilst the current drivers are mostly competent they are not on a par with the likes of John Surtees or Graham Hill who raced them in period. Perhaps it is the competitors that should be under scrutiny rather than the circuit?

John Elwin, May 2016

Techno Prisoners?

Prize-winning Fiat 8V Vignale

The Techno Classic is one of the great car shows in the historic calendar and we are fortunate to have John Elwin pay his annual visit to Essen and bring us his observations.

Swedish BP tanker on Autostadt stand

Size isn’t everything, or so they say, but they think differently in Germany where Techno Classic Essen has long held sway as the biggest and best classic car show in the world (as Jeremy Clarkson might say). Show organisers’ S.I.H.A. were not content with that however, and the biggest just got bigger.

Pozzi Ferrari

Despite having previously had a total floor space of 120,000 square metres to fill, S.I.H.A. have a growing waiting list of exhibitors wanting to join the party; construction work is due to start imminently on an upgrade and expansion to the Messe Essen, but three extra halls were added to the show this year by taking over the adjacent Grugahalle concert venue, together with a temporary structure, to give a total of 127,000 square metres spread over twenty one halls. Squeezed into that space was some 1,250 exhibitors representing thirty different countries, whilst the in excess of 2,500 classic vehicles on display must surely have satisfied the tastes of every one of the record 201,034 visitors who passed through the show during the five days.

A girl can dream

There, that’s the statistics dealt with, but what was the show like? Pretty good actually, although admittedly my visit was briefer than normal this year, meaning that I probably missed as much as I saw.

Droptop Mercs

I did notice that – going against the grain – some of the manufacturer displays were a little reduced from previous years, notably Mercedes-Benz and BMW. They were impressive, all the same. Mercedes’ emphasis was on cabriolets, with a fine display from down the years, well laid out as usual.

BMW 635 Convertible prototype

BMW have a centenary to celebrate this year and so the emphasis was on BMW Classic, with little evidence of Mini and Rolls-Royce history to which they usually like to lay claim. Cars on display were predominantly from the various 3-Series generations as well as the 1500/2002 predecessors.

BMW 2002 turbo

Amongst them was a 2002 Turbo, complete with mirror-image script across the front. From the early days of ‘all or nothing’ turbo power, it was said to be a bit of a handful on the road. Oh, and there was an aeroplane hanging from the ceiling…

VW Golf-based concept

Apparently untroubled by their woes in other parts of the world, the VAG constituent brands once again filled an entire hall with machinery from the back catalogues. VW itself was majoring on 40 years of the Golf GTI, which in keeping with the ‘getting bigger’ theme has put on a bit of middle-aged spread over the years, but then haven’t we all?

Porsche 924 prototype

By contrast, Porsche was also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the transaxle models by showing a 1974 924 prototype, which looked rather more bulbous than the eventual production models. Also on view was a 1995 928 GTS, the very last one built – but weren’t these cars supposed to spell the death-knell for the 911 range, which twenty-one years later is still showing no signs of fading away?

Audi Group S rally car

Audi can always be relied upon to bring along something interesting and this time it was a prototype rally car. Back in the mid 1980’s the World Rally Championship was contested by fire-breathing Group B monsters such as the Peugeot 205 T16 and Metro 6R4, whilst Audi was using the closer-to-production quattro. With a revised set of rules, designated Group S, due to be introduced in 1987 Audi set about creating the Mid Engine Rally Prototype. However, a series of dreadful accidents led the FIA to can both Groups B and S, eventually taking rally cars back to a more production-like formula in a bid to curb performance, consequently Audi’s new car never turned a wheel in anger. It has to be said that the plain white machine is not the prettiest thing to emerge from Audi but no doubt it would have been effective.

Audi Avus concept

Far more appealing was the Audi Avus quattro concept car alongside, which dazzled the crowds with its polished aluminium bodywork at the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show.

Abarth's new rally-prepared 124 Spider

Elsewhere on manufacturer stands, Alfa Romeo gave its new Giulia model its German debut, shown alongside some of its forbears, whilst Fiat and Abarth both had examples of the very appealing new 124 Spider, Abarth’s being in rally trim. Volvo meanwhile was marking the 60th birthday of the Amazon.

Mistral-bodied Jaguar XK120

You can always count on the high-end dealers to bring along some interesting exhibits and this year was no exception. Switzerland’s Lukas Hüni never fails, this time showing a one-off re-bodied Jaguar XK120. In 1954 Californian Bob Young Dahl tried to buy a C-Type to race in West Coast events, but Jaguar had sold out of the model, offering him instead an XK120SE, which he bought although he really wanted the racer. However, he discovered that the British company, Microplas, produced a glassfibre body called the Mistral, so he obtained one and had it fitted to his Jaguar. He contested a number of races but eventually badly damaged the car and lost interest. It lay unloved in storage for many years before being bought and repaired in 1989, eventually finding its way to Belgium in 1999. Subsequently Frenchman Xavier Lebeuf took it on and conducted an extensive restoration, such that it now has an FIA technical passport and is up for sale.

Bentley R Graber Convertible

Thiesen’s had a couple of fine examples of the Bentley R-Type’s with very different bodywork. The 1950 Contintal Cabriolet was one of just four produced with bodywork by the Swiss Carosserie Graber, the rear-end styling displaying similar lines to those deployed on the Alvis by the same company. Meanwhile the aluminium bodywork adorning a 1955 Continental Coupe was a one-off creation by the French company of Marius Franay, working in conjunction with Chapron.

Ferrari 250 GT Boano

Axel Schuette Fine Cars is another dealer that is always worth a visit, and this time the stand was home to the FIVA ‘Best of Show’ concours winner in the shape of a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta. In addition to that award a panel of journalists – including your correspondent – also make their own choices in various classes in addition to ‘Best of Show: Cabriolet/Limousine/Coupé. Here we too demonstrated a definite bias in favour of Italians by picking a 1938 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300B Pescara, 1934 Lancia Astura Series 3 and a 1953 Fiat 8V Vignale respectively.

1960 Fiat Abarth record breaker

Two very different Italian machines but with a common link in that they were both styled by Pininfarina attracted a lot of attention too. Remarkably, they both dated from 1960 but couldn’t have been more different. American dealer Hyman had the remarkable Pininfarina X, whilst Auto Classic srl brought the Fiat Abarth 1000 record-breaker on its first journey away from Turin, where it has resided in a private collection, in more than fifty years. Originally conceived as an engine test bed, the sleek silver machine – dubbed ‘La Principessa’ by the mechanics – went on to establish no less than eight speed records in the hands of various drivers such as Giancarlo Baghetti and Umberto Maglioli at Monza in September/October 1960.

Fangio's Mille Miglia Merc, or is it

The Italian theme was continued by show organisers’ S.I.H.A., the subject of their central display being the 1955 Mille Miglia. It was headed up by a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR from the Mercedes Museum and ‘replicating’ Fangio’s car from the race in which he finished second to Stirling Moss. However, amongst the others on display was the fourth-place Maserati A6 GCS and the Ferrari 750 Monza that came home sixth.

1951 BMW Canta

There was just so much more to see at Essen, but time ran out. I’ll just mention three very different exhibits, all with a BMW connection, that caught the eye. Upstairs in the private sales area was a ‘prototype’ 635 Cabriolet – was it a factory job? Looking like new on stand was a very low mileage BMW 600, somewhat optimistically described as a Limousine, whilst French specialist La Galerie Des Damiers brought along a 1951 BMW Canta – a combination of a BMW 750cc engine mounted in a tubular chassis and clothed in aluminium bodywork by Canta of Turin. It might be a tiny machine but it’ll want an awful lot of work!

Next years’ show takes place on 5-9 April 2017. For info:

John Elwin, April 2016

All Roads Lead to Arras

Saint-Exupéry may have written of flying to Arras in his classic  wartime account but our man in France, John Elwin, took the Alfa. His target was the town’s car show and autojumble…………….

The long queues of traffic heading for Club R.A.V.E.R.A.-6A’s one-day event, staged in Arras’s Parc des Expositions, suggest the organisers have hit a winning formula. It is so much more than just a Bourse – that’s French for autojumble. Whilst one of the Expo’s large halls does indeed contain a vast array of autojumble, automobilia and even the odd car, and the other features club displays, for many visitors the real attraction is outside.

The 500-space car park adjacent to the Expo is reserved for classics and owners respond by bringing along a huge variety of machinery. This year, amongst the stand-outs was a 1920’s Rolland-Pilain, a pair of yellow-hued Saab 96’s and a pretty little DB Panhard. Inevitably there were cars offered for sale, the most outstanding being a sublime Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300Ti offered for a very realistic 16,800 €. Others included a nice Morgan +8 and a very original 1985 Peugeot 205 GR with just 38,900 Km (24,000 miles) on the clock. Having been professionally valued at 4,800 € just the week before, the owner was open to offers.

Whilst everyday cars from the ‘60’s, ‘70’s and even ‘80’s abound, there’s always a sprinkling of exotica, but whilst a Gulf-liveried replica Ford GT40 attracted a lot of attention – especially when the owner rather obligingly revved the obviously rather potent Ford V8 – a silver Ferrari Daytona passed almost unnoticed, parked amongst Citroen CX’s and so on. A trio of Citroen Maserati’s lined-up together couldn’t fail to catch the eye. There were no less than six of the gorgeous beasts to be seen around the event. Probably more of a beast, however, was a bright red Renault Turbo 2.
Whilst that particular Renault may never have tackled a rally stage in anger there were other visitors that had, notably a couple of Renault 4’s that contest the R4 series (yes, there is one) and also a pair of Citroen Traction Avant’s that have contested long-distance rallies. Inside the exhibition a rally-prepared Volvo 66 could be seen, whilst lurking amongst all the ephemera there was a 2CV-powered Apal single-seater.

Inside, much of the display space was taken up by a contingent of visitors from Britain, mostly with pre-war cars, ranging from a Simplex racer to an imposing Ford Model T with three rows of seats – who said MPV’s were a modern invention? Indeed, Ford seemed to be the dominant marque on display with other offerings including a very smart 105E Anglia, and a real rarity in the shape of a 1954 Comete Monte Carlo with bodywork by Facel.


Always staged on the third Sunday in March, this event is well worth a visit, only being an hour or so from the Channel ports, and an entry charge of just five Euros should leave plenty to spend in the Bourse! The exceedingly friendly organisers are always welcoming, so why not give it a look? This year a contingent from the Kent section of the Morris Minor Club made the trip across the Channel, with a low-light Convertible and a Van in Ever Ready livery parked very prominently opposite the entry to the Expo.
For information, visit

John Elwin, April 2016

Antwerp Classic Salon

John Elwin graces our pages with his take on the recent Classic Salon at Antwerp.

Forget the old stereotype jokes about Belgian heroes. For this years’ Antwerp show, organisers S.I.H.A. chose the theme of Belgian Racing Victories. Rather than focus on the exploits of Grand Prix stars such as Jacky Ickx and Thierry Boutsen the central display featured cars that had achieved (mostly) success in the Spa 24-Hours. Cars like the BMW 635 CSi from 1985 that Boutsen drove together with Switzerland’s Walter Brun and German Harold Grohs, or the earlier 530i crewed by Eddie Joosen and Dirk Vermersch with Frenchman Jean-Claude Andruet.


Tucked away in the corner was a Mini Cooper as driven by well-known Mini exponent Julien Vernaeve. However, they were all upstaged by a quietly-spoken lady who was keeping a watchful eye on a couple of the cars; in fact, someone who could be described as a Belgian heroine.

Yvette Fontaine made quite a name for herself as a fast lady driver in the 1960’s and 70s. Growing up close to the Zolder circuit, she was soon attracted to the sport, although she actually began by competing in rallying. Racing was her true metier and she quickly made an impression when she switched disciplines, so much so that works-supported drives soon came from first Alfa Romeo in Belgium, then Ford. She won the Belgian national touring car championship outright in 1969 at the wheel of a Ford Escort, and as well as contesting several Spa 24-Hour races she also co-drove a Porsche at Le Mans on two occasions.


A quite remarkable and unassuming lady, chatting to her at the show, it was hard to imagine her hurling her Capri RS flat-out through Eau Rouge or around the streets of Chimay, but the records show that she did so very successfully. Yvette now has replicas of both Escort and Capri race cars which she regularly demonstrates at events. Indeed, she was leaving Antwerp for another event on the Sunday.

The fact that Belgium has also had a car manufacturing history of its own must not be forgotten and after due deliberation the concours judges awarded ‘Best in Show’ to the rather splendid 1927 Excelsior Albert displayed by local company LMB Racing. It was a difficult decision but this imposing tourer ultimately won-out over another Belgian-built, but very different car, the 1928 Minerva limousine that Speed 8 Classics were showing, alongside a replica Blue Train Bentley.

Whilst these pre-war cars stood out, there was some equally eye catching machinery from later periods such as Oldtimer Farm’s 1947 Talbot T26, although this otherwise beautiful car was let down a little by the fact that it is missing a few minor parts. The 1957 Porsche Carrera with Mille Miglia history offered by IMBU certainly shouldn’t have been missing anything with a price tag of around 750,000 euros! It didn’t have ‘matching numbers’ as the original engine had been replaced, but according to my 356 expert that’s not unusual as Carrera engines had a tendency to blow-up. The magnolia-like paint job didn’t do it any favours though. More recent ‘youngtimers’ are becoming increasingly popular – cars like the metallic blue Lotus Europa Twin Cam at BBC Cars, or Car Cave’s Renault 5 Turbo 2. The value of Alpine Renault’s also seems to be climbing faster than the cars themselves did on the Monte Carlo Rally stages too.

For real rarity one had to dive into the private sale area, where one vendor was offering a clutch of unusual Fiat’s, including a 1959 1200 TV, an 1100 Pick-up, and a 1966 1500 Sconieri, with bodywork by Michelotti – the seller deservedly took a concours trophy home for that one.

If you fancied getting your hands dirty, there was a couple of ‘barn finds’ on offer. Flying Red Baron has a Fiat Abarth 850 for which they are asking 55,000 euros. You might need to spend a little more to get it back to A1 condition. At the other end of the scale a 1969 Ford Cortina 1600GT Mk2 with light front end damage was on sale privately. Comes with a donor car too.

As ever, the Antwerp show has much to offer – aside from the high-end dealers (of which there are many in Belgium and Holland) a lot of the clubs, representing a huge variety of makes, put on innovative displays, whilst the wide range of traders in the autojumble areas make for some happy browsing.
John Elwin March 2016