Happy to be humdrum

A humble Morris Marina estate stole the show at the latest, and arguably best, Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional.

It took place at Claydon House in Buckinghamshire on Saturday, July 20. Welcoming thousands of enthusiasts, the 2019 hurrah for the humdrum saw huge numbers of enthusiasts of the ordinary gather in the sunshine to admire vehicles many would ignore.

Classic vehicle insurance and valuation specialists Hagerty International created the first such festival in 2014 to highlight the attrition rate of some of the most popular and best-loved vehicles of our recent motoring past, with the event now becoming a focal point for the core enthusiasts who take pride in their rare and long-forgotten everyday family cars of the 1968-1989 ‘Unexceptional Era’.

Fifty expertly selected unexceptional models were presented on the lawns of Claydon House with a hugely diverse and eclectic selection that has become expected from the festival. Highlights included a 1992 Renault Clio 1.4 RT in showroom condition and recording just 24,000 miles since new.

Another popular entrant was a 1987 Rover 820E, suggested to be the last model of its type remaining on UK roads. Cars that used to be mainstream, but are now a rarity, included a 1989 Vauxhall Cavalier 2.0i CD, a 1985 Nissan Sunny 1.5 GL and a 1980 Ford Cortina 2.0 L. Slightly rarer models included a 1971 Fiat 128, 1979 Colt Sigma and a 1973 Toyota Crown Custom Estate.

Judging took many hours of discussion with owners, car inspections and deliberation in the estate café, as owners waited patiently on the lawns for the final verdict. At 14.00 the results were announced to a crowd fuelled by period-style picnics and July sunshine.

The 2019 Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional winners:

  • Best in Show: 1977 Morris Marina 1.3 Deluxe Estate owned by Michael Carpenter.
  • Runner Up: 1978 Chevette E owned by Philip Hunt.
  • People’s Choice: 1982 Peugeot 305 SR Estate owned by Simon Gaisford.
  • Junior Judges’ Choice: 1989 Citroen BX 19 DTR owned by Dan Goff.
  • Anniversary Class: 1982 Vauxhall Astra GL 1300 owned by David Loasby.
  • Feast of the Unexceptional/Best Picnic: Mike and Judith Burkett and their 1979 Colt Sigma GLX.

The Best in Show winning ’77 Marina Estate was a true example of base specification, providing an honest interpretation of 70s family motoring.

The previous owner had part-restored the car (losing three fingers in the process) before storing it for 15 years in little more than a shed. When uncovered, by the current owner Michael Carpenter, it was covered in a thick layer of dirt that seemed to protect the car as, when cleaned, it revealed the shiny, original paint seen today – a truly honest and well-preserved example of the Marina.

Notable runner up was a beautiful 1978 Vauxhall Chevette saloon, once again built in absolute base specification. Current owner Philip Hunt has known the car from new and saved it from being scrapped by the original owner. The Chevette was rescued from the crusher and has been well loved, and used, ever since.

A number of notable cars were present in the festival car park, and included an Alfa Romeo 2300 Rio, a 50th Anniversary Saab 900 Turbo, a British Gas Transit 4×4, an immaculate, original Golf GL, a rare Renault 25 LWB Limousine, a Rover SD1 that had travelled from Ireland and a number of historic vehicles provided by manufacturers.

Marcus Atkinson of Hagerty International said: ‘What a delight it is to present cars that evoke so many memories to so many people, and to reward the enthusiasts who spend precious time and money on keeping the more ordinary classics on the road.

‘As you walk around the lawns you overhear guests saying, “my Dad had one of those” or “we went on our summer holiday in that” and that’s why we do what we do. Great cars and great memories, a meeting of like-minded people who appreciate that unexceptional is a term of endearment and not derogatory.’

He added: ‘Car concours don’t have to be stuffy and boring. We thank all those who joined us on the lawns of Claydon and look forward to doing it all over again next year.’

An unexceptional 1970s Renault in fitting beige