The Classic Car & Restoration Show Makes Us Feel Better about Those Unfinished Projects

by Antony Ingram
26 March 2024 3 min read
The Classic Car & Restoration Show Makes Us Feel Better about Those Unfinished Projects
Photos by Antony Ingram

There’s nothing quite like a pristine, fighting fit classic car, but to get to that stage can be a long and gruelling process. It is that very process which the Classic Car & Restoration Show at the NEC celebrates – an event where you’re just as likely to see cars in various states of disrepair as you are those whose paintwork and chrome are gleaming under the lights.

If nothing else, the ‘resto show’ is quite reassuring. Social media is often blamed for making people feel like their lives aren’t exciting enough or for making us feel unattractive, but it’s also pretty good at showing how much fun other people are having with their cars while ours are garage-bound. But the resto show is a good reminder that plenty of people are in exactly the same boat.

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Possibly not quite as much as some of cars displayed in the ‘barn finds’ section though. There have been some impressively decrepit cars on show in previous years, but never before have we seen quite so much greenery and plant life as we noted on some of the cars this year. From Practical Classics magazine editor Danny Hopkins’ moss-covered Ford Mondeo, with a whole ecosystem growing out of the V6 badge on the front wing, to Guy Loveridge’s 1953 Lanchester, with nothing less than a garden sprouting from the front bumper, it’s clear that electric conversions aren’t the only way to ‘go green’ with classic cars.

Cars don’t have to be falling apart to fit in though. Some can be simply at the nadir of their existence, waiting for some real care. We were quite taken by an early Toyota MR2 with corrosion creeping from virtually every seam, but otherwise charmingly original, down to the beige seat trim matching the gold exterior, and the three-spoke alloy wheels.

Fixing cars live at the show is a popular pastime, too. R50-generation MINIs are fast becoming legitimate classics, and one R53 Cooper S seemed to be undergoing considerable maintenance, with its engine in situ but most of the front end and the subframe fully removed. Seeing a Ford Racing Puma undergoing maintenance is another familiar sight at the show.

We’re not sure when a modern classic simply becomes a classic, but cars from the 1990s and even 2000s are becoming more popular every year. Our picks among the cleaner and more original examples were a striking red Mitsubishi FTO Version R, another Japanese coupe in the form of a Celica in oh-so-’90s ‘Tropicana’ metallic turquoise, a similarly-hued Rover 200 coupe, and an ultra-rare Renault 19 cabriolet, this one an Azur special edition.

A couple of other Renaults caught the eye, too, but then a Sport Spider and an Avantime are hard cars to miss. As was a Mondeo (much cleaner than Hopkins’ car!) in saloon form and Ghia trim, sitting low on 18-inch Peugeot steel wheels, a modification that’s apparently becoming popular in some quarters, as further through the hall there was a Ford Escort van also on Peugeot steelies.

More traditional classics were out in force, of course; an early Saab 93 in black and a red Riley One-Point-Five in red (with a roll cage hidden within) were two of the most charming. If sports cars are more your thing, then how about a carbon-fibre–bodied Reliant SS1, or even the brand new MG Cyberster brought along by the MG Owners’ Club?

Two cars attracting more attention than almost any other, though, were a custom-built Rover 75 convertible – which cleverly integrates the roof, seats, and door cards from a Mercedes E-Class convertible – and a Mini-based ‘TiCi’ kit car, a vehicle worthy of a deeper dive to come soon.

The Classic Car & Restoration Show is smaller in scale than the full Classic Car Show at the NEC each November, but it remains an essential part of the show season – whether or not you’ve got a project of your own hidden away in the garage.

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  • Paul wylde says:

    Was overwhelming with all the interest in my TiCi . and MINIKITS came away with best small stand . Still buzzing.

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