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Festival of the Unexceptional

Hagerty’s Festival of the Unexceptional returns on 31 July to celebrate the most marvellously mundane motor cars

by Antony Ingram
24 March 2021 4 min read
Hagerty’s Festival of the Unexceptional returns on 31 July to celebrate the most marvellously mundane motor cars

After a Coronavirus-enforced hiatus in 2020, the Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional returns in 2021, taking place on Saturday, July 31 at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire. Tickets for visitors are now available via this link and vehicle entries for the concours are invited via this link.

As ever that means our location will be considerably grander than the vehicles that congregate in front of it, but that of course is the joy of the festival, which celebrates the ordinary, maligned and unloved cars of the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

2021’s event will be the seventh Concours de l’Ordinaire, and the 16th Century Grimsthorpe Castle’s grounds will allow more space than ever for unexceptional vehicles and a wider range of activities too.

With plenty of picnic areas and a new range of food stalls (we’re licking our lips at the thought of them already), as well as comfortable seating areas, visitors to the world-famous event will be well catered for. And for more interaction and entertainment, families will be pleased to know there is a children’s play area, and once you’ve taken in all the wonderfully unexceptional metal on show you can unwind with a walk around the castle’s beautiful grounds and gardens.

Not sure if your car qualifies? There’s an element of discretion as to what constitutes unexceptional here, but if your car, motorcycle or light commercial vehicle was built between 1966 and 1996 that’s a good start. As for the kind of vehicle, think Bluebird rather than Firebird, Marina not Miura, and 309s rather than 308s.

Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire, Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional 31 July 2021
The lawn of Grimsthorpe Castle awaits the star cars of the Concours de l’Ordinaire

The event traditionally promises as much joy in the car park as on the concours lawn, though as ever our expert judges and those pretending to be expert judges may pluck the most ordinary vehicles out for special treatment.

There will of course be judging and award ceremonies, so if your Alfa Arna keeps getting turned away from Villa d’Este then there’s always the chance of some silverware in the Concours de l’Ordinaire instead. 2019’s victor was a 1977 Morris Marina Deluxe Estate, so the bar to entry is high. Or is it low?

Applications have now closed for entries to the concours, and visitor tickets for the 2021 Festival of the Unexceptional are now sold out. All we need to arrange now is good weather… fingers crossed!

FAQs – 2021 Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional

When is it?
Saturday, 31 July

Where is it?
Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire

What is the timetable for the Festival?
10am – Event opens
11am – The Concours de l’Ordinaire judging commences
12pm – The Feast of the Unexceptional picnic judging commences
1pm – Best dressed judging commences
2pm – Prizegiving
4pm – Event closes

When do tickets go on sale?
Tickets for the 2021 Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional are now sold out.

Can anyone enter a car for the Festival of the Unexceptional’s concours?
Yes! Anyone can enter a car for next year’s 2022 Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional but not any old car will do. Cars must pass a selection and judging criteria. See below…

Which cars are eligible for the Festival of the Unexceptional concours?
Generally speaking, judges welcome vehicles registered between 1966 and 1996. They will place an emphasis on originality and ordinary, less ‘exotic’ versions of cars. So an L would be considered more desirable than an SRi, for example. Judges also like to learn about the story behind the car, as this can make the difference when having to choose between a number of the same make and model. So sell your car to us when you submit it for entry to the concours!

How do I enter my car for the 2021 Festival of the Unexceptional?
Entries are now closed. We will advise of when entries will open for the 2022 event in due course.

How much does it cost to enter the concours?
Rejoice! Entrants selected for the concours don’t have to buy a ticket.

What if I’m a visitor – are tickets free?
Tickets are now sold out. For reference, the first 999 to apply for tickets and arrive on the day in a classic or unexceptional car will get them for free. There are also 500 tickets available for visitors arriving in a modern car, which cost £5.75 each. Once the initial 999 free tickets have been reserved, we will make a further 1000 available at £5.75.

I entered the Festival of the Unexceptional before. Does that mean I can automatically take part again?
No. You’ll know from personal experience how popular the event is – and how competitive it is too. So we require anyone wishing to enter the concours competition to submit a new entry for each year’s Festival.

If my car is a prime example of an ‘Unexceptional’ car, can I just turn up and put my car on show?
No, afraid not. We’d be delighted to see you and may even direct you to parking where your car will be in good company with other marvellously mundane motor cars, but it won’t qualify for the concours competition.

Are children welcome?
Absolutely. Children 12 and under go for free, and you don’t need to apply for a ticket for them. Those older will require a ticket. There’s an adventure playground as well as wonderful grounds at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire which will be open to visitors.

Will there be food at the event?
Yes, and it’ll be yummy, too. We’re laying on food stalls, but you’re equally welcome to bring a picnic or packed lunch too.

Will there be a bar?
Yes. (That’s all you wanted to know, right? We won’t go into the cocktail or mocktail list here…!)

Can I bring my dog?
Dogs are welcome but the venue stipulates that they must be kept on a lead.

Can we camp overnight?
There is no camping available

Are you accepting trade stands at the show?
Sorry, there will be no trade stands at the Festival of the Unexceptional.

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  • Mark smith says:

    How much are the tickets for the festival of the unexceptional on 31st of july 2021 thank you how do you get tickets

    • Antony Ingram says:

      Hello Mark, as we noted in the article ticket details will be announced soon, so keep an eye out on the website.

  • Daniel skidmore says:

    How can i get tickets please for car event 31.7.21

  • Jon says:


    Are you taking trading stands at the show? I have a small business making and selling car inspired gifts, toys and homeware I also have a few cars I’d like to bring.
    Thank you


  • Mark Baker says:

    Hello. I have an almost original 24v V6 3.0 1995 SWB Shogun. The only thing changed is a Stainless exhaust from the cat back. It has an after market stereo, but that’s not what I want to show, merely my ole faithful in her glory. Would I be able to park it so people could look, not looking to enter into any competition or anything? Grimsthorpe is fairly close, so failing that, I would just park with the public in the car park whilst I walk around looking at the exhibits. It’s so I know what ticket I would need to purchase once they are available you see. Thankyou.

  • Jaime says:

    I CANNOT wait! Can I bring my whippet?!

  • Steve says:

    Will there be any camping/motorhomes allowed overnight?

  • Gary Cant says:

    Seems a bit of a nightmare trying to book a vehicle into this show.
    After filling in the application form / history of the vehicle etc, and selecting appropriate photo’s the website failed to download the information.
    Has anyone been successful in booking in a vehicle?

  • Peter Bell says:

    Hi Can you confirm date as this weeks Classic car Weekly shows 21st July and how do i entry my car.
    Thanks Peter

    • Antony Ingram says:

      Hello Peter, we’d like to think we can get the date of our own show right, so it is indeed on the 31st and not the 21st!

      Hold tight for tickets and entries – we should have details of that any day now.

  • Pete Stanford says:

    Are dogs allowed?

  • John D’oh says:

    Is it an exceptional dog?

  • Shaun Kerr says:

    Hello there I would like to enter my 1988 Mazda 323 station wagon please

  • Mr. V. den Plas says:

    I don’t use twits, faceache or instasham. It is May very soon. People need to be able to plan things after lockdown as there are hundreds of activities kicking off 2021. Where can I obtain tickets without going on a trawl of anti-social media. A website would be a good idea.

    • James Mills says:

      The link to the ticket sales went live today. Please see the links in the story or skip to the FAQs which will take you to the booking site.

  • Mr. V. den Plas says:

    Thank you for providing the ticket link. However, the booking method is ambiguous. It says “1 ticket is required per person” so I book 2…. then asks for TWO classic registration marks. Either its a ticket per person, or a ticket per classic car. Either way, I cant provide two VRM’s. Please can you clarify and adjust accordingly.

  • wesacosa says:

    Agreed. its super confusing. It is not clear how to handle tickets for passengers in a car you book in. Do you need one ticket per car or one per person, and if its one per person how to do that if you can only use on reg number

    • Antony Ingram says:

      Hello – there were problems with this earlier but the issue has been fixed in the past couple of days. The wording is much clearer now so worth giving it another try!

  • wesacosa says:

    thanks @Antony Ingram
    I read it again and I am taking it that if I have one classic/unexceptional vehicle not entered in the concours competition and I bring a second person in the car with me then I need two of the “free” tickets. If this is wrong please advise. Thanks

    • Antony Ingram says:

      Yup, that’s correct – people who arrive in a classic or unexceptional vehicle get free tickets while stocks last (the first 999 tickets available). Do let us know if you come across any further issues though!

  • John Penquet says:

    Booked, entered in the concours and can’t wait to shine the light on my 1995 Mondeo

  • David Sharp says:

    How do I know that my car has been selected for the concourse after I enter it for the 2021 Festival of the Unexceptional? Cars must pass a selection and judging criteria. Having been instructed to sell my car to the judges when I submitted it for entry to the concourse, it remains a mystery how and when entrants judged successful are informed!

  • Laurence Sherwood says:

    I’ve booked for the concourse along with 3 tickets for the event for myself and two passengers. How will I know if my vehicle has been accepted into the Concourse? I assume that after the 31st May we will get an email of some sort?

    • Antony Ingram says:

      Hello Laurence – your assumption is correct, entrants will indeed receive notification in good time, whether or not their car has been accepted for the concours.


    Have all tickets gone? I have mistakenly booked two free car park places for unexceptional cars but simply want to book two tickets. Can you help please?

  • Dan says:

    Are all visitor tickets (for arrivals in modern car) all sold out please? I found the wording on the ticket website rather confusing so want to make sure I’m interpreting correctly before cancelling accommodation etc. 🙂 Thanks, Dan

    • Antony Ingram says:

      Hello Dan, tickets had sold out for those arriving in modern cars as of yesterday, but we’ve just added another 250, so give it another try!

  • Andy Lovatt says:

    Do tickets need to a printed or is downloaded to the phone ok?

  • Steve Barratt says:

    Want to register but can’t I enter a password so am I doing something wrong or is your booking system up the shoot?

    • Antony Ingram says:

      Hello Steve. There’s nothing wrong with the booking link that we’re aware of, but if you’re having password-related issues, it may be worth using the reset password option. If it’s the form itself that doesn’t seem to be working, try emptying your browser cache as that can sometimes fix small issues.

  • Dan says:

    Thanks Antony, I second Steve’s comment about not being able to log-in / register. Getting ‘HTTP Error 500’ on (after inputting username and password). Grateful if you could take a look please.

  • David Sharp says:

    So if not accepted for the concourse, will those individuals be offered a carparking ticket to attend in my unexceptional car anyway, as always wanted to attend regardless of whether my car makes the concourse. I also wouldn’t want to hog a pair of tickets unnecessarily as demand is clearly quite high, still slightly confusing, apologies if it just me? No-one ever replied to my first query, see above….thanks David

  • Andy Lovatt says:

    When I reserved the tickets for the show! It said to ask here if they needed to be printed or just downloaded to a phone. Can someone please advise as I don’t have a printer?

    • James Mills says:

      Hi Andy, if you can get a screen grab or download to your phone that will be fine. Alternatively we can print them for you and hold the tickets at the gate – sounds silly, I know, but we’re happy to help make sure you have a great Festival!

  • Laura says:

    “Once the initial 999 free tickets have been reserved, we will make a further 1000 available at £5.75. ”
    Does any one know if these extra will be for visitors in a regular car or for unexceptionable cars only? Ie should I keep an eye open incase I can still get tickets despite having a modern car?

    • James Mills says:

      Hi Laura, I have feedback from the events team, and they tell me that the only tickets left are for those arriving in a classic or unexceptional type vehicle, I’m afraid. I hope that helps. James.

  • John says:

    Do I print the tickets or show them on my phone? Thanks

  • David Sharp says:

    So if not accepted for the concourse, will those individuals be offered a carparking ticket to attend in my unexceptional car anyway, as always wanted to attend regardless of whether my car makes the concourse. I also wouldn’t want to hog a pair of tickets unnecessarily as demand is clearly quite high, still slightly confusing, apologies if it just me? No-one ever replied to my first query, see above….thanks David

    Still no reply Anthony…James…anyone… 🙂

    • James Mills says:

      Hi David, I gather one of the team has spoken with you directly about this, but for the benefit of all those who applied for the 2021 Festival of the Unexceptional concours, and weren’t successful, it goes without saying we’d still love to have you along and you will be offered a complimentary ticket. See you there! James.

  • brian coleman says:

    All sounds far too complicated for normal people who just want to attend and event in their classic/ unexceptional car. Exceptionally complicated!!

  • Andy Lovatt says:

    What is the point of this if no one answers your query?

  • david gilley says:

    can I just turn up at the FOTE and pay on the door I don’t seem to be able to buy a ticket

    • James Mills says:

      David, as you can imagine, in these times we have to adhere to strict rules around visitor numbers. Have you tried buying a ticket for those with a classic or unexceptional car? That would be the best approach at this stage. Alternatively please feel free to phone us to discuss it in further detail and we’ll do all we can to help. James Mills, Editor.

  • Robert Brink says:

    If the restrictions in England remain in Step 3 because of rising coronavirus infections and won’t move to Step 4 on July 19, will FOTU still take place? I already have a ticket for my unexceptional car.

  • Michael Hudson says:

    myself and a friend are coming in my everyday car. I bought 2 tickets at 5.75. I am just coming to see the show, not enter a car. Have i bought the correct tickets? Didn’t even know you had to buy tickets just to attend as a foot visitor till tonight.

    • James Mills says:

      Michael, you have the correct tickets and will be fine to get in to the Festival of the Unexceptional. We look forward to seeing you there.

  • Trent Hill says:

    Hi, we are interested in coming but just in our everyday modern Renault Wind. So not to enter any sort of competition. Only tickets left are for Classic Car Parking. Can I still buy them to visit even if I’m in a 2010 car?

  • Grant Creasey says:

    I have to agree with some of the other comments on here, for something that should be quite simple, it does seem confusing. I would like to attend but don’t get it. To me it seems that you can only buy a ticket at £5.75 if you have a classic/unexceptional car to get in the car park. However in the reply to Michael Hudson the answer suggests you can turn up in anything?!?

  • Steve says:

    It looks like all the tickets are sold out for spectators? Is this correct, or can I buy one of the other tickets and come in a car made in 2000, even if its not unexceptional?!
    Live locally and kicking myself for forgetting about the tickets….

    • James Mills says:

      Hi Steve, grab one of the last remaining tickets, and we’ll look forward to seeing you there.
      (James Mills, Editor)

  • Michael Black says:

    Hello. I am confused like many others. So can I confirm that if I wanted to come in my 98 reg Toyota Starlet, but NOT be in concours I can buy one of the few remaining tickets for unexceptional cars @ £5.75? It’s not <96 age as you state is the starting point, but the Starlet model I have ran 96-99.

    • James Mills says:

      Hi Michael, you would be very welcome. We’ll see you there.
      (James Mills, Editor.)

  • Simon Turner says:

    Thinking about coming to the show but I keep seeing concourse mentioned is it all about show and shine or are all classics from rough to concourse allowed? Also my own classic is far from a show and shine vehicle will this effect my booking?

    • James Mills says:

      Simon, you will be very welcome regardless of the condition of your classic.

  • Michael Black says:

    Thanks for your reply… Sorry, but a really poor state of affairs. The ticketing system / entry rules are clearly confusing people, yet nobody can be bothered to reply! I won’t come then, as I am not taking the risk of being turned away because my car is a 98 and not 96 plate.

  • Ian says:

    Is there any spectator parking on a hard surface. My car is rwd and I don’t fancy a slippery soggy grass field and getting bogged down. At least I got a ticket early

    • James Mills says:

      Hi Ian, there are plans in place for any wet weather and parking arrangements. But hopefully the sun will shine on the 2021 Festival of the Unexceptional!

  • SimonCM says:

    Is it possible to buy a ticket on the day still??

  • Pete Wilson says:

    What time does it start as it is not stated on the tickets?

  • Graham Wilkins says:

    Good afternoon. I was planning to attend the FOTU as I have done every year so far, but now see from the website that everything is sold out. Does this really mean there is no way I can just turn up in my small camper van, park and walk in as previously? Many thanks.

  • Andy Davies says:

    I had no idea this was booked up so early with no availability for public entry? I had guessed it would be pay on the gate for public.

  • Colin Maddock says:

    I have a ticket booked to bring my car. How many people can I bring in my car please with the one ticket?

    • Antony Ingram says:

      Hello Colin, the tickets are per person rather than per car, so if you have one ticket it’d just be for yourself.

  • John D says:

    As a result of being “pinged” I now won’t be able to attend so I have a couple of tickets available if anybody is interested

    • Antony Ingram says:

      That’s a real shame John but thank you for offering up your tickets.

      If anyone is interested we can put them in touch, though it’s also possible to cancel the tickets, and we can re-release them for sale through the ticket website.

  • John D says:

    Thanks Antony, I’ve returned them as you suggested so that they can be re-sold

  • Colin Maddock says:

    Evening James. Thanks for replying. This is really disappointing. I booked my ticket back in May and was hoping to bring two friends in my car with me. It wasn’t made clear at the time of booking each person in the car would need a ticket. While I’ve not been to FOTU before, that’s not how most shows I’ve been to before have worked (including post-COVID shows I’ve been to this year since lockdown eased). So on the basis there are no further tickets available now, I’ll have to withdraw my entry as I don’t want to come alone. What a shame.

  • Nina Smith says:

    I am confused. Visitor tickets are sole out , but in another paragraph you say thee first 500 to arrive in a modern car will be able to buy a ticket.
    Can you please clarify, as I live over 100 miles away

    • Antony Ingram says:

      Hello Nina, tickets for both those arriving in classic vehicles and modern ones have now sold out – all ticket sales were online.

  • Steven Barrett says:

    Are there no tickets available on the day? For those who just want to come and pay on the day? The FOTU has always been this way and apparently I can not attend at all this year is that true?

    • James Mills says:

      Hi Steve, I am afraid that it is correct – the Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional has indeed sold out, and there won’t be further tickets sold at the gate on the day. We would love to see you next year.

  • Giles says:

    Like Colin Haddock I was under the impression a ticket for car entry would at least include driver and one passenger. Perhaps Colin would like to sell me his spare ticket so I can take my Dad.

  • R C Hale says:

    The queues for grimsthorpe castle are ridiculous I cannot understand why this has not been sorted before the event

  • Peter says:

    Ridiculous queues and an absurd convoy system to exit – no other events manage to make such a meal of parking a few cars… Silverstone don’t have this problem with tens of thousands of cars! Far too few toilets for the number of visitors. And nothing for children despite this information above: “And for more interaction and entertainment, families will be pleased to know there is a children’s play area” – poor effort Hagerty

  • David Sharp says:

    Great free day out. Thank you…but ticketing was confusing and parking today for many was chaos, oh and you’re telling me a Bentley, a Rolls Royce Corniche, Jenson Interceptor, Porsche and BMW are unexceptional? May as well have let the Tesla’s park up too. Shame as there are already plenty of shows out there for the more expensive classics and show cars and I wouldn’t expect them to allow me to rattle up in my old Mk5 Escort estate. Nice to see an unmolested phase 1 RAV4 in the unexceptional parking though, blue one right at the front. Restored? Lovely either way. The car is front is still a Toyota!

    • Antony Ingram says:

      Hello David, good eye on the RAV4 – it’s owned by Toyota UK (along with the Carina E parked behind it) and was indeed restored a couple of years ago.

      As far as the Jenson, Bentley etc are concerned, visitors were of course free to turn up in what they liked, but parking staff may not always be as clued-up on what separates classic from unexceptional as the Hagerty staff. Hopefully they didn’t detract too much from the range of other cars on display.

  • Mark P says:

    Thankyou to all at Hagerty who organised the 2021 FOTU, I had a great day out, I have never seen such a wide range of old cars in one place, mind blowing, and I met a lot of like minded people. Much appreciated

  • Steve says:

    Absolutely ridiculous traffic congestion on the A151 trying to get into the event. I was stationary for over half an hour, two miles away at 11:00 having driven 100 miles to get to the event. Gave up and went home. Please advise how I gain a refund for my tickets.

  • Mark Saunders says:

    Almost stationary on the A151 for 1hr and 20mins having driven 160 miles. What was the problem with getting cars into the venue?

  • Paul Kitchen says:

    2022 tickets – After kicking myself for missing last year’s ticket release I am keen to diary mark for 2022 and make sure I don’t miss this event again. Do you have any timeline for this year’s event listing and ticket release?

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