The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

The London Classic Car Show


Report & images by Keith Bluemel

The fourth annual London Classic Car Show was held at London’s Excel exhibition centre, in conjunction with Historic Motorsport International, between 15-18 February. Last year the two shows occupied separate halls on either side of the main exhibition centre concourse, but this year they were combined into a single expanded area. At the same time the central “Grand Avenue”, a novel feature of the show from day one, where demonstration runs take place through the course of the event, was lengthened to a quarter of a mile, providing greater spectator viewing facilities. The show opened on the Thursday afternoon with a preview viewing evening and by the time that it closed on the Sunday evening some 38,500 visitors had attended the show.

As in previous editions of the show, the feature and dealer displays were located either side of the Grand Avenue, whilst this year the Grand Avenue Club and Premium Ticket Holders Gallery moved from the end of the avenue to a more central location. Replacing its location at the end of the avenue was the Historic Motorsport International paddock, where there was a display featuring amongst others a Jaguar XJ220C, a Brabham BT 33 F1 car, and probably the most famous racing Jaguar saloon car in the world, the ex-John Coombs racing team’s pale grey 3.4 litre Mk I, with its promotional licence plate “BUY 1”. Due to the popularity of the main paddock area for vehicles participating in the demonstration runs with visitors last year, it was once again open to the public between runs this year, and at the same time crossing points were opened across the avenue so that one didn’t need to circumnavigate the perimeter to get from one side to the other.

Amongst the wide range of cars participating in the demonstration runs were a replica of the twin engine Mini Cooper S that ran in the 1963 Targa Florio, rallying legends like the Ford Escort RS 1800, Lancia Stratos, MG Metro 6R4 and Renault 5 Maxi Turbo, together with F1 cars like the Benetton 193B and the Dallara BMS 190. It doesn’t take much imagination to think of the sound of their engines screaming up the avenue’s closed environment, with the exhaust notes bouncing off the walls and ceiling.

The vendor displays also provided a vast array of classic and modern cars, ranging from a barn find Austin Healey 3000 Mk III needing plenty of TLC, through work in progress restorations, a few replicas of iconic Ferrari models plus a number of the genuine article, to supercars like the Gumpert Apollo and Koenigsegg, with a spectacular metallic red McLaren P1 hypercar gracing the stand of Howard Wise.

The show also featured the debut of the Jaguar F-Type based Lister Thunder, which was launched on the opening evening of the show, looking menacing in metallic black with green accents. There was also a Coys auction, featuring a wide variety of vehicles all being offered at no reserve, amongst which was a very attractive gunmetal Ferrari 512 BBi and a 360 Challenge Stradale, unusually in plain red without the “go-faster” stripes.

There were a number of Ferraris spread around the displays, and it was nice to see that the Kent Area Group of the Ferrari Owners’ Club, headed by Peter Critchell, had a stand in the Car Club Square, featuring a quartet of members’ models.

One of the show’s feature displays was called “The Great Escape” which had a range of vehicles made famous, either because they were used in real life crime, or in films. These included the likes of the Mini from The Italian Job, a Ford Transit van which was a favourite of real criminals in the sixties, as was the Jaguar Mk II saloon, and a Ford Lotus Cortina first registered to Bruce Reynolds, one of the infamous 1963 “Great Train Robbers”, which was being shown for the first time on public display.

The show’s “icon” was Nigel Mansell CBE, winner of 31 F1 Grand Prix (3 in a Ferrari), celebrating 25 years since he won back-to-back the 1992 F1 Drivers’ World Championship and the 1993 CART IndyCar World Series, still the only driver ever to have achieved this feat. “Il Leone” (the lion), as he was nicknamed by the tifosi during his Ferrari days, is still immensely popular with race fans and was interviewed on the Supaguard theatre stage during the show, and also did demonstration runs on the Grand Avenue on the Sunday, burning rubber much to the delight of his fans. There was a selection of the cars of his career on display, including the Crosslé Formula Ford in which he won the 1977 British series championship, and the Williams FW14B that took him to the 1992 F1 World Drivers’ Championship.