In a normal year, which is to say, every other year that isn’t this one, we’ve brought you reports from some of the many and varied car shows we’ve attended or had a stand at. But we can’t do that this year for what is a very obvious reason to absolutely everyone. But we’ve got a fairly large collection of pictures from shows past, so we thought it might be nice to share a few pictures and tales from shows of the past, a sort of Good, Bad and Ugly of car shows of the last ten years or so…
Retro Mania, Weston Park. 2008-2010ish
On the surface, this looked a great show. Organised by the team behind the sadly now defunct All Types VW Show, this one was set to attract a whole host of classic and retro cars to the attractive Weston Park in Shropshire. Only in the three years we did it, it never seemed to go quite to plan…
The first year, we arrived early on the Sunday morning to set up but the June weather was being particularly British, horizontal driving rain doesn’t make for a great car show in all honesty. But not ones to give up, we parked the van and started setting up the stand. In the rain. And the wind. It wasn’t fun. After half an hour of this we did give up, threw everything back into the van and admitted defeat before driving back to base in silence whilst sitting in damp clothes.
One year later we went back for another go. The weather was on side this time in as far as it was at least dry, but a minor mishap when setting up saw one of us get a pretty deep cut to the hand requiring a quick trip to St Johns Ambulance (who were very nice) on site followed by a trip to A&E when we got home. So what was the rest of the show like? No idea to be honest, I was in far too much pain…
So the third trip must have been better then, yes? A bit. Nobody got injured, we didn’t get swept away by a wall of water but somehow it just didn’t work. Maybe we just didn’t really feel it or something but it was a pretty long, quiet day and the drive home had that kind of deflated, not achieved what we want kind of feeling that nobody really needs. And after three tries, we called it a day on that one.
CamperJam. 2009 – 2017 or thereabouts.
At the same venue as the somewhat ill-fated Retro Mania, CamperJam was both brilliant and frustrating in equal measure. At its heart, CamperJam is a weekend show for VW camper enthusiasts and gave us some brilliant and also slightly less brilliant weekends. For the visitor, this is a great show – a couple of music tents, a cider tent (oh, hello!), funfair, a huge variety of food options and a huge number of traders. If you’re a camper owner, its well worth going to. As a trader we had a pretty mixed time. Sometimes it was a great show and certainly after we closed for the evening and got chance to enjoy the show it was superb but as a trader it was a pretty mixed experience. The weather (yes, that again) was always mixed, 2010 and the ‘Year Of All The Mud’ will live long in the memory – the Friday saw us setting up in torrential rain and by Saturday morning the trade area was only accessible to those wearing pretty decent wellies with five or six inches of mud to wade through. Consequently most people didn’t venture down our way which made for a quiet weekend. Saturday evening saw us call it a day, pack the van and drive out whilst we still could – most traders needed tractors to drag them from their pitch so we were pretty lucky in that respect I suppose. Didn’t feel quite so lucky the following day which was spent cleaning copious amounts of Shropshire mud from the van, stand and all sorts of other things…
But when the sun shone, it was great. We even managed to find a great local kebab shop so we didn’t go hungry by any stretch of the imagination. But, sadly we dropped it from 2017 due to the cost of the stand becoming increasingly expensive and the requirement to set up on the Thursday prior to the show meant that it was logistically difficult and the increased costs didn’t really justify the returns so it was regrettably consigned to history. Shame tough.
Motors By The Moat, Leeds Castle, Kent. 2016-18.
Set in the grounds of Henry VIII’s old house, this one is a properly good show and one we really enjoyed. That we aren’t there again is a shame but being about as far from base as we can get without getting wet does make it a bit of a challenge but that aside, it was always a nice show to work at. After a busy day at the show, siting atop the White Cliffs of Dover eating fish and chips overlooking the port was always nice. Even when, back in 2016 and mid Banana fritter, I was approached by a couple who on observing the fact I was sat in a van, requested that I drive them to London whist they sat in the back in exchange for £100. This was probably one of the stranger encounters I ever had over a car show weekend and whilst we’re always happy to diversify from our core business interests, transporting (possibly) illegal immigrants to London isn’t really our scene. And anyway, it was only a small van and had loads of stock in the back. But aside from that, its a great show with plenty to see and a good selection of cars on display and well worth a visit if you’re more local than we are.
Classics At The Castle, Sherbourne Castle, 2016.
Just don’t. Should have been good. Somehow wasn’t. Really don’t know why to this day.
NEC Classic Motor Show – 2013-19
Frequently abbreviated to ‘the NEC’ this is known as the big end of season car show. And that’s exactly what it is what with being both very big and taking place at the end of the year. Anyway, for us the NEC has always been a lot of work, takes up a week and costs a small fortune. But its absolutely worth it.
I love doing indoor car shows. Not sure why but the opportunity to really set up our stand and display stuff properly really appeals to me and despite it being very hard work, I absolutely love it. The show is as big and busy as you expect but one of the best bits of it is meeting so many people, customers and people from social media together with trade and club contacts is brilliant. Online is great but can feel a bit remote so the opportunity to actually meet people and talk cars is one I don’t like to pass up. That we won’t be there this year is something that genuinely dismays me. At the time of writing the show is set to go ahead but after talking to clubs, traders and customers we don’t really see that is viable for us in the time of Covid-19. Hopefully in the future though…
VW Festival – 2008-2019
There’s a lot to love about VW Festival. Its a bit like CamperJam in that its a big VW show held over a weekend but its that and so much more (plus has much better toilets). As VW shows go, it pretty much sets the standard to which others should aspire – superbly organised, plenty going on, great venue but with a lovely, relaxed atmosphere and usually weather that somehow belies the fact that its held in Yorkshire . And for us it had the advantage of night trading. Now night trading – where we stayed open until around 11pm on the Friday and Saturday night isn’t especially lucrative in truth. But selling to drunk people does tend to be quite amusing, the lady who came in and insisted she needed to buy a pretty significant quantity of mints because she had heard they might help with a delicate digestive issue she was currently experiencing being a particular highlight. And, no, we didn’t let her buy them. It was probably for the best…
YP Classic Motor Show. Castle Howard.
Miles from anywhere, trade area might as well have had tumbleweed blowing across it. Pity as when the show was held at Harewood House it was great. Something must have been lost in the move. A move back to Harewood for 2019 didn’t make things any happier, sadly.
Stanford Hall VW, Leicestershire. 2010-19
If VW Festival is the biggest, Stanford Hall is perhaps the nicest. Its been the way we’ve started our show season for the last few years and has always been the one where we are tiredest. That’s partly because we’re a bit show rusty after a winter of online operations and partly because sleeping in the back of a van on the first weekend of May is usually really, really cold. Like, properly putting on all your clothes, plus a hat and waiting for deaths sweet kiss cold. That and the geese. Oh, the geese. Stanford Hall is one of the nicest places we get to work but it does have geese. And geese seemingly enjoy nothing more than waking up early and then telling everyone in the vicinity what a beautiful day it is. Loudly.
Aside from that, its great. Its fairly unusual in the VW scene in that they don’t particularly encourage modified cars which means that the show gets a very different type of exhibitor to some and ends up as a more traditional classic type of show. And that’s nice and gives the show a different character as well as bringing out cars we don’t see at many other shows. Its a fantastic show and venue to start our season. Just a bit cold.
French Car Show. Castle Coombe. 2013
We like French cars. That much is pretty evident if you follow what we do even a little bit. So French Car Show should really have been a big deal for us, right? Wrong. Maybe it was the fact that it was more a modified French car show and that maybe attracted a slightly different visitor, meant it was a pretty quiet show for us at least. Maybe it was that it started raining (I’m not actually sure ‘raining’is a strong enough word for the quantity of water deposited upon me as it happens) just as I packing up and I ended up more wet than if I’d gone swimming in my clothes, but anyway, it wasn’t something we’d consider a great success. Still, I had a wander around the cars on show which were pretty nice so it wasn’t all bad.
All Types VW Show – 2007-18
Despite it seemingly flagging in its last couple of years before the organisers called it a day, I really enjoyed All Types. Nice location, weather always seemed pretty decent and it was the first outdoor show we ever did so deserves a special place in our collective heart for that alone. But really, my main memory of All Types is that a fifteen minute walk away is a really good Chinese takeaway. So good that it became an All Types Saturday evening ritual for us – set up the stand, walk to Chinese then walk back. Eat as much in the way of spare ribs and chicken wings as I could manage (a not inconsiderable amount I must confess) and then enjoy a slightly-too-full-of-food sleep, before a days work. Plus it was the only time we briefly and only just got on tv as an episode of Don’t Tell The Bride was filmed during the show. Wonder if the bride and groom went to the Chinese for their wedding reception? They should have done, it was ace.
La Vie En Bleue 2009-2015
From a personal perspective, LVB was pretty much perfect. Loads of classic French cars set at what must be the best venue we’ve ever been to – Prescott Hillclimb. La Vie En Bleue brought together a brilliant selection of classic cars together with action on the famous hillclimb and was one of the shows I’d liked to have gone to as a visitor. But I still managed to have a good wander around and have a look at everything. If it hadn’t have clashed with one of the bigger VW shows held the same weekend, I reckon we’d still be doing this now. Well, not now, but you know what I mean.
We have, over the last thirteen years, done a lot of car shows. Most of them have been good. Some I’ve forgotten entirely about, others I’ve tried very hard to forget. But we’ve enjoyed it. Obviously 2020 sees no shows at all for us and whilst we aren’t yet certain, that might well be a pattern that continues for 2021 too. Why? Well, as much as we’ve mostly enjoyed the car shows, 2020 has taught us a lot of things and one of them is that time is valuable and we’ve spent a lot of summer weekends over the past few years working at car shows when really, it’d have been nicer to be doing ‘life’. I’ve said before that despite going to car shows, I never actually get to go to car shows and we’d like to change that. Plus, we’ve all learnt that life and retail moves along quite happily online so you probably won’t find our stand out and about next year, certainly not to the same extent. But you might well see us at a car show all the same but with one of our own cars rather than as a trader, and if you do, please come and say Hi!