Old cars on the up

Posted on November 20th, 2013 by Rob Marshall

showIn my view, any politician that utters the words ‘green shoots of recovery’, should be treated instantly with suspicion. Although the UK’s new car sales are rising, they are set against a backdrop of manufacturer-supported discounts, low-interest finance deals and many private buyers placing deposits from their PCP refund payments. This combination is very short term. Yet, on the other end of the scale, where people are buying older vehicles, as inexpensive second, or third cars, or as a hobby, things appear to be booming even more.

I have attended two car shows this month, both of which were packed with visitors, the first of which was the National Restoration Show, which was held in Warwickshire. Many years ago, fixing old cars was a chore but, for many people, getting dirty beneath a bonnet is now a hobby. The pastime is also big business and enthusiasts are keen to splash out on their beloved machines. Today, the classic car industry has been reported to be worth in excess of £7bn to the economy. Even so, it is hard to believe that over 8,500 visitors flocked to the show to learn about how to get filthy, repairing rusty old wrecks, but many of the 240 trade vendors reported that business was brisk.

Fast-forward several weeks to last weekend, where 65,000 people attended the three-days long Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show, at the NEC, in Birmingham. The show has been going for three decades now and not only is it larger and more suitable for all ages than the one held in Warwickshire, it tended to feature more vintage and classic exotica, available for mere mortals, such as myself, if only to drool over. Even so, somewhat surprisingly, the emphasis on doing-up older and more affordable cars was the more overwhelming theme.

Demonstrations on repairing certain aspects of older cars, from carburettors to carpets, went on throughout the day. The classic car press, quite literally, went into overdrive, to demonstrate buying and repairing advice, with extra support from television personalities, training colleges and experts. David Soul, another well-known petrol-head, provided an additional splash of glamour. Yet, the live stage was occupied throughout the long weekend, with interviews, product and old car demonstrations and displays that kept everybody entertained. A huge number of car clubs attended as well, from those that represented well-known British makes, to several more spurious ones. A favourite of mine was the Nissan 300C Owners’ Club.

I can believe early reports that attendance had increased by 8% and that the classic car auctions turned over more than double 2013’s figure (at £2.8m). What both shows demonstrated, somewhat surprisingly to me, is that the level of enthusiasm to repair, drive and enjoy older vehicles is one part of the economy that really is blossoming.

If you have never been to the annual classic car show at the NEC before, book the dates in your 2014 diary. Should you not be on the hunt for rare and bargain parts, there are sufficient activities for all of the family to enjoy. Next year’s dates have been firmed up as the 14-16th November.