Festival to Celebrate Those Famously Awful 1970s Cars
Many car enthusiasts have enjoyed visiting a classic car event and lusting after all the motoring exotica displayed on the concourse. Later this month, however, an event will take place that celebrates an altogether different sort of classic car.
Many car enthusiasts have enjoyed visiting a classic car event and lusting after all the motoring exotica displayed on the concourse. Later this month, however, an event will take place that celebrates an altogether different sort of classic car. On July 26, the “Festival of the Unexceptional” will showcase all those run-of-the-mill cars that we grew up with in the 1970s and 1980s. Also called “A Concours de l’Ordinair”, the free event will take place at Whittlebury Park Golf & Country Park, near Silverstone.
It seems that we have not been taking care of these old cars, and some once mainstream models are now extremely rare. There are, for example, more than twice as many Ferraris on our roads as there are Austin Allegros. Cars such as the Allegro or the Maestro have never been treasured, and as a result most have made their way to the scrap yard. The event is hailed as “celebrating the best cars from an unexceptional era” and will finally put these rare but mundane cars on the pedestal. The event was open to anyone who owned such a car to register their vehicle, but such was the popularity of the festival that registration has now been closed with weeks to go before the big day. The organisers are, however, encouraging everyone who might have an old Cortina, Viva, Avenger or Montego to turn up and show off their mundane motor in the car park.
Amateur enthusiasts such as Tanya Field are typical of those attending. Tanya has entered her Austin Maestro into the event and also owns 14 other British ‘classics’ from the 1960s to the 1990s. Tanya passionately believes that these cars are an important part of our British heritage and spends the summer months organising and attending events which show them off.
The event's organiser, Angus Forsyth, explained the appeal of the Festival of the Unexceptional, commenting that there are plenty of car shows that feature the usual classic and beautiful cars but no event that brings together the unsung heroes of the seventies and eighties in the form of the most popular cars of these decades. This new festival is intended to put that right.
The event is certainly light-hearted, but there is a slightly serious side to the celebration. The British love to poke fun at themselves, and having a chuckle at our useless cars is one way of doing that. On the other hand, these cars do represent a part of British motoring history and they are on the point of disappearing completely. Mr Forsyth explained that the Festival of the Unexceptional is intended to highlight the severe attrition rate of cars from the seventies and eighties in a humorous way. Mr Forsyth went on to point out that the tiny number of such cars that are still licensed or recorded as having a Statutory Off-Road Notice (SORN) is really 'frightening'. The data shows that there are fewer Austin Allegros on our roads than Ferrari 308 GTBs.
Cars such as the Morris Marina — not least due to the efforts of Top Gear — have become a symbol of everything that was wrong with British cars in the 1970s. In fact, they have been blamed for the demise of the British motor industry of that era. But were they really all that bad? It wasn’t just British cars that were poor at the time. Japanese cars had a reputation for reliability that British cars could only dream of, but they also rusted dreadfully. Italian cars such as the Alfasud were so prone to corrosion that they became the butt of many a comedian’s joke. French cars were notoriously unreliable, and even German cars of the period had their problems. The British cars, then, were probably not a lot worse than many of their contemporaries — it’s just that we like to laugh at our own ineptitude. Mr Forsyth is looking forward to seeing the Morris Marinas and Alfa Romeo Alfasuds that people usually leave in the car park when they attend a car show. The event is a real celebration of everyday cars and a timely reminder that, despite sometimes challenging looks and dodgy quality, all motor cars should be loved and looked after.
It promises to be a truly iconic event.