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The Show Must Go On!

The pleasures and perils of classic car fandom

Somewhere in the world, I’m sure there will be proud classic car owners getting their cars ready to take to a show or exhibition because, well, that’s what they like to do.

In the UK, May to September are the prime months for this bizarre pursuit and those who decide they’re participating know precisely the point to get out the bucket and sponge to give their cars a nice foamy wash, apply a glossy layer of wax and vacuum the winter’s detritus from the inside of their pride and joy.

On the day of the show, they will get up early; pack some camping chairs, a light lunch and a book perhaps. In the UK, an umbrella is always a good idea no matter what time of the year. This is a ritual CCOs (classic car owners) will repeat many times during the showing season. However, there’s always one more bit of prep’ I would recommend. Perhaps the most important. Making sure they’re mentally ready.

Seasoned CCOs, from years of experience know what’s going to happen. You see, looked at from afar, car exhibiting can seem like a strange activity. CCOs sit by their car in a field for a whole day shuffling around on one of those barely comfortable, foldy chairs as successions of strangers admire their motors and blithely finger their newly buffed paintwork as the CCO seethes inside.

Worst still, a good number of these visitors will engage the CCO in what are by now familiar conversations more often than not opening with one of a number of stock questions:

· Have you had it long?

· Can you still get parts for these?

· I/My Dad/Neighbour/Uncle had one of these years ago…

· What’s the engine size?

· It that its original colour?

· How many miles has it done?

· You don’t see many of these any more…

· Where did you buy it?

· I always wanted one of those…

· How much did you pay for it?

· Can I have a look at the engine?

Having shown our car on the circuit for a few years, I think I now know why many CCOs stick extensive explanatory notes in their vehicle’s window. These are extensive missives from which readers can glean most of the above information (whilst the CCO hunches on the back seat of their car reading a newspaper, desperately trying not to make eye contact). These notes include long histories, photographs, advertising materials, technical data - you name it.

My initial reaction when first encountering this voluminous data was what helpful people, taking the time to share such interesting and useful information! I now suspect that these documents, in less polite society, might easily be prefaced by the statement: please read this because if you intend, or try, to ask any of the above questions I shall be compelled to strike you with a wheel brace.

These CCOs have endured years of such enquiries where the previous enthusiasm of answering has drained away to be replaced by a simmering ire which comes from covering the same material for the nth time. Love our cars as we do, there’s only so much of the same information you can repeat as if on shuffle.

There's innovation here too. As with all problems that need a solution. For example, some car clubs, I’m sure, have developed a rota system where each member draws straws and the unlucky ones take turns to singly patrol their display whilst the rest of the group hide in a walled gazebo putting off interlopers with hard stares and a tight chorale of foldy chairs which cannot be casually penetrated.

Others abandon their locked cars to extensively tour the auto-jumble (or hassle other CCOs) and, on any given day, there’s probably a good few who, after considering the options, decide they can’t face it and don’t turn up at all.

Not to worry though. There’s always the new blood. These are the new CCOs who, having finally purchased their dream car, are fresh to the scene and excited to share their burgeoning knowledge. They willingly fill the wall of silence created by the monosyllabic, long-standing CCOs who avoid the chatter with their explanatory notes and high security gazebos.

These are the plucky newbies who keep the punters engaged with their zeal (giving timeworn CCOs much needed respite). Perhaps you were like this once. Soon enough even they will sell up or keep a wheel brace handy. In the interim, though they help to maintain the buzz. Gawd bless ‘em one and all.

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