So it might seem a cliché that Dad takes his two sons to a car show while Mum visits London with friends. But, we’re not here as car geeks. We’re not rev heads or speed freaks and, to be honest, our family approach to cars is more akin to neglect than to preservation. Our car is a family utility vehicle. The boot is like a mobile garage, the back seats like a mobile library/playroom and the fronts seats are somewhere for us to charge our phones and port cups of coffee. We have an estate so we can fill it with an impossibly large amount of home comforts when we go away, and we can also easily lug long bits of wood and furniture around. Practicality is king.
Up until the mid eighties, my parents owned a Hillman Imp. They still talk of it fondly now. Many of us must remember the pain of bare legs on a hot vinyl seat cover? Today, our family of four could happily get around town in an Imp. We’d all fit in it, of course, but we’d be a bit more cramped. We’d find it more difficult to get in and out and have hardly any space for the mobile library/playroom. Perhaps, instead, the boys could share a single Eye Spy book? We could still charge our phones, but there is no place to plonk a coffee – let alone two. The engine is in the boot and the spare wheel is under the bonnet, so the mobile garage would have no room for bikes – only scooters and a small cricket set, or maybe a family set of wellies?
The Bristol Classic Car Show had a great mix of local enthusiast and high end show cars. An unexpected highlight for me was the ‘Red 5’ Williams Renault F1 car. Roped off, and parked centrally in the hall, I was completely taken aback. With excited and raised voices (perhaps to compensate for the imagined engine noise), the three of us talked about aerodynamics and grip. Then, in an outside area, there were two original F1 team lorries, containing a much earlier Tyrell Elf and an even earlier BRM. Again, I hadn’t expected we’d get so excited about stationary cars, but anything with history can evoke atmosphere.
Incredibly, I have no photos of the halls full of vintage spare parts, or of groups of enthusiasts discussing maintenance and storage and sharing in-jokes and old stories. Stalls specialising in the collection and re-selling of switches, floor mats and wing mirrors. Outside, there were stalls and stalls, selling memorabilia, garage gear and food. The boys waited in line to order roast Pork rolls with apple sauce – a Bath & West showground staple. We perched on a curb, took in the atmosphere and debated which Porsche we’d take home. And which Landrover. Aston Martin or Ferrari?
eBay must have noticed a search spike for ‘Hillman Imp’ in the last few weeks. I’d really like an Imp – though where I would put it while I restore it is anyone’s guess. The boot of our estate, perhaps?
We were gifted tickets to the show by Footman James.