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What does the future hold for the NEC Classic Motor Show?

Published 26 October 2016

There’s not long to go, now, until the traditional season closer - the NEC Classic Motor Show held in Birmingham. Now in its 33rd year - the first one took place in 1985 and played host to just 70 clubs – the NEC has grown to become the biggest indoor classic car show in the calendar and a great final hurrah for many owners before they put their cars away for the winter, with close to 2,000 vehicles on display, spread across five halls.

I wonder, though, what the car park looked like back in 1984, as there’s a fair bet that almost every car that turned up on the public days back then would be worthy of some stand space of its own at this year’s event. Yes, even the clapped out Allegros and rusty Datsun 120Ys that were the distressed old bangers of the day.

Back in 1984, the best-selling car in Britain was the Mk3 Ford Escort. Today, a mint, low mileage Mk3 would have classic car enthusiasts across the country exercising their eBay bidding fingers for a chance to own what has become an extremely rare car, especially in the more lowly trim levels.

Meanwhile, the same year saw the Austin Montego make its debut – a car that, two years ago, celebrated its own 30th anniversary within the walls of the Birmingham exhibition centre with a guest appearance from stunt driver Russ Swift, who famously put one up on two wheels for the model’s TV ad.

Rover 800 (3) (1)

The Rover 800 will be celebrating its 30th birthday at this year's classic motor show.

This year, there’ll be other cars celebrating their 30th birthdays that weren’t even in production when the show first opened its doors. The Ford Sierra Cosworth, for one, and the Rover 800, will both be subject to anniversary displays of their own, and both have very different but equally thriving enthusiast followings.

All of which makes me wonder… 32 years from now, assuming the NEC is still around and the show is still going strong (and I’d hope for the benefit of Britain that the answer to both of those queries is yes), which models will be celebrating their special anniversaries? Will the NEC Classic Motor Show 2048 feature a special area dedicated to the pioneers of long-range electric motoring? Will the Tesla Owners Club be laying on a special celebration to mark the 30th anniversary of the as yet unseen model that could be about to make the brand’s technology accessible to the masses?

Are we going to have a special display for mileage-restricted internal combustion classics, or a commemorative area to mark the passing of technology such as dual mass flywheels and diesel particulate filters (you can but hope, some would say…)?

Or, will the younger enthusiasts of today – those of us in our 20s, 30s and 40s, who are the ones that are currently, whether you like it or not, changing the focus away from fins and chrome towards a brave new world of ECUs and in-car electronics – going to be dribbling into our white beards over a pint of warm, flat beer, remembering the halcyon days of the Honda Civic-shaped Rover 400 and Mk 5 Escort?

7 2009 Tesla Roadster Signature Edition _5 (1)

Will we see a Tesla Owners' Club at the classic motor show in 2048?

If so, will we be seen as old fuddy-duddies, or respected (in the same way that I and my peers respect the generations before us for preserving cars from the 50s, 60s and 70s) by the more youthful members of the classic scene for keeping the love going from one generation to the next?

It could be a slightly far-fetched vision, but I rather suspect that a there’s something in there. After all, personally, I have a bit of a soft spot for the Rover 400 – it’s just so much more classy than the souped-up MG ZS, especially if you can get a four-door in posh GSi spec. And I already have a beard.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. And I’m cool with that.


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