It could have been some time in the late ‘70s when my dad stopped building exhibition stands for the event and I no longer got in for free. Then maybe it was the middle ‘80s when I was pressed into service at the London International Show at Earls Court and made to hang around on the BMW stand and bother innocent show goers.
I spent more time chatting up the hired totty, especially one girl who looked like Sheena Easton. Strange that I can remember her in perfect detail but I couldn’t tell you anything about the cars.
The ‘proper’ event in the rather less pokey NEC was a move in the right direction, it really did seem like sheds with cars in them. I can remember writing that show goers were being seriously short changed and that they’d be better off wandering around a car supermarket for a few hours.
Anyway, I’m sure the event at the Excel Centre has far more going for it, not least a chance to combine your show visit with a chance to see some really terrible ‘80s musicians. But in these difficult times, I can’t help thinking it should still be possible to get a similar motor show experience for considerably less outlay. So what’s a car enthusiast to do if he (or she) can’t make it to Docklands?
Well, just at the moment there will be a tremendous welcome in your local showroom, where they haven’t seen any serious buyers since October 2007. Not only do you get the peruse the full range in detail, but you’ll probably be given a free cuppa and quite possibly a complementary biscuit to dip in it – if the staff haven’t eaten all the supplies while waiting for rescue. If nothing else, they’ll be glad of the company - although you may have to chip in for the petrol if you want to take a test drive.
Then again you could go in search of show stars of the past. The Rover 75 and Jaguar S-Type both made quite a stir when they had the sheets twitched off them ten years ago at the NEC – and it should be possible to arrange something very similar on a local street using an old curtain.
Or how about the challenge of finding a Chrysler Alpine that hasn’t been landfilled? Or a Talbot Horizon that isn’t in the protective custody of the militant wing of its owner’s club? Alternatively, for the full 1970s effect, why not buy an old Capri for a couple of hundred quid and then persuade a couple of bikini-clad girls to drape themselves over it alluringly? You’d probably sell it at a profit to some randy old nostalgic.
My final suggestion is that you simply ignore the fact the show has moved and travel up to the NEC. I notice that while the Docklands bash is on Brum’s village hall is hosting an antiques fair, which might be a good place to unearth some of the last remnants of the British motor industry.