Six years ago, the world of classic cars experienced an unprecedented boom. The event director of Brand Events Bas Bungish noticed this upturn and set about creating the London Classic Car Show: an exhibition of the world’s most highly sought-after, dynamic and historically interesting vehicles.
“Suddenly they became collectors’ items,” he says. “The industry can be quite cyclical, but people began investing in cars again and, just like wine, art or antiques, they became one of the most desirable things a person can own.”
Brand Events has been creating consumer shows for 20 years, taking popular interests and transforming them into experiences. The show began life at London’s ExCel and is moving to Olympia this year; sales can fetch from anywhere between £20,000 to several million pounds, and the fair is attended by everyone from admiring enthusiasts to owners of significant collections and dealers.
As Mr Bungish says, most indoor shows of its kind tend to be static, with attendees moving between different stands and observing what’s on offer. “What we’re trying to bring to life is the car’s movement, the sounds it makes, its whole story.” To this end, a stage will be built to host Car Stories, a platform for six “exceptional” models with a lecture from the owner, designer or racing-car driver on what makes it special – all hosted by renowned specialist Max Girardo.
‘I liked anything with an engine and four wheels’
Mr Bungish’s own interest was piqued during childhood. “Any time a car whizzed past, my ears would prick up, and purchasing a classic makes you revert back to those moments of excitement.” Films such as The Italian Job or Starsky & Hutch cemented the obsession: “Basically I seemed to like anything with an engine and four wheels.”
In an age where cars are “sadly picked on”, as Mr Bungish says, the appreciation for classics “doesn’t seem to die or disappear”. For the past few years, and with conversations turning increasingly to the concept of driverless vehicles, manufacturers are turning their attention to more efficient petrol and diesel cars.
“It’s a very adaptable, very clever industry,” he says. “We’ll continue to use modern cars based on the advice we’re given to meet the demands of the environment. But [comedian and TV host] Jay Leno put it best when he observed that horses were the main mode of transport until the motor arrived, but afterwards anyone who loved riding carried on. We love classic cars, but we don’t use them every day.”
Their enduring appeal, then, is in their character and soul. “It’s amazing how much people stop and stare,” says Mr Bungish, reflecting on his own 1967 Mustang. “They’ll never stop appreciating cars like this.”
This year’s highlights
- Ian Callum – an ex-Jaguar designer who has seen cars through each stage of their development, from pencil to production – will be discussing vehicular design at the show.
- Graham Hill’s iconic Lotus 49 will be presented by Adrian Newey, the Formula One engineer who bought and rebuilt it.
- In celebration of the Range Rover’s 50th birthday, the car’s evolution will be showcased from its first prototypes to the current generation. For fans of Bond, the Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR, from the upcoming film No Time To Die, will be revealed alongside a static display and curated exhibit of this vehicle’s journey.
- The “quattro” implemented by Audi, whose success was secured in 1980s motorsport rallying, is also marking its 40th year; the brand’s museum department will showcase the four-wheel-drive system across its evolution of vehicles.
- The show will also commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary of Bruce McLaren’s death, spotlighting some of the cars in which he soared to fame.
The London Classic Car Show takes place from 20-23 February at Olympia London. Visit thelondonclassiccarshow.co.uk for more information