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A much-needed weekend tonic at Bicester Heritage

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

Someone once said that the sun shines on the righteous: in which case there were a lot of righteous car-lovers at Bicester across the weekend of September 18-20 at the Classic Car Drive-in event.

As one of the first car gatherings to be held since lockdown in these strange post-Covid times, and with attendance having to be limited to 10,000 to ensure social distancing could be respected, this was nevertheless a brilliant event, helped by some glorious weather. This was in fact the first of these events that Brand Events had organised that extended their “drive-in cinema” concept to include an actual car show, and the combination worked really well.

Although the airfield site at Bicester Heritage always seems to be one of the windiest places in the country, the sun did shine for most of the weekend and made the event extremely enjoyable for everyone, both for those of us on stands and the general public. Added to which the Bicester Heritage location, often referred to as the home of historic motoring, lends itself perfectly to anything related to cars, and the significant space on the vast site allowed a socially-distanced environment that was as Covid-friendly as could possibly be achieved.

The Dowsetts/Faeger team were showing the Comet on the “Comet Owners Club” stand, and our very own Darren Collins also displayed his DeLorean on the DeLorean Owners Club stand next door. We had a prime spot on the edge of the main thoroughfare which helped to generate a lot of interest. We enjoyed countless visitors, most of whom were taken aback at the Comet’s quality and beauty, as well as some of our friends including Dominic Taylor-Lane from the Association of Heritage Engineers and Adam Crowton who was ragging a Dolomite Sprint around the display track all weekend, both of whom are familiar with the car (and more about Adam later).

It seems that wherever the Comet goes it draws admiration and appreciative commendation. I’m getting used to this. People often ask what it is and then offer a range of possible design cues that the curvaceous body suggests to them. It is gratifying and also interesting that a unique design creates so many reactions. Zagato, Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Jaguar are just some of the classic shape-creators that people offer as design influences. We tend to sit back and smile. The Comet is intentionally suggestive but uniquely different. It echoes the classic but sits on a modern drivetrain and chassis. A true “Resto-mod”.

Although there were three of us on the stand at times, as a stand-dweller it never seems appropriate to wander off and really take time to soak in all of the beautiful machinery on display at such an event. In fact, there was ample automotive beauty on display in the car park alone. It would be impossible and unjust to attempt to list even a fraction of the cars that people arrived in, but a near-perfect Maserati Mistrale was one particular standout vehicle.

For me, highlights of the event itself included:

- The track activity – even though the course was relatively short, the diversity of machinery in the paddock was glorious to behold. From Lolas, Maseratis, and Alfa Romeos, to the aforementioned Dolomite Sprint and single seater racers. The variety was staggering, and the noises spine-tingling. One VERY LOUD car was a BMW 2002 with a straight-through exhaust that created an aural assault from which my eardrums are still recovering.

- The Afro Classics Register – a well-attended stand packed with an eclectic mix of cars – for their sense of fun, reggae music, and great food smells. Our stand was close to theirs so the smells got better the closer it got to lunchtime!

- A great conversation with Adam Crowton, the Comet test driver in the YouTube video at:

Adam was discussing the Comet’s neutrality and handling balance and recounted how it was rock solid on the Bruntingthorpe track when he lifted his hands off the wheel at over 100mph…!

- The Bonhams auction, which had a number of interesting cars for sale and one Alfa Giulia Super definitely caught my eye. Having swiftly viewed the lots and calculated when I thought the Alfa would be available, I timed my return to the auction hanger to miss the Alfa sale activity by one lot. Yes, the tribulations of having to attend a stand.

- The sheer diversity of the auto-related paraphernalia, from trimmers to artwork purveyors.

Shortly before event breakdown we had a short conversation with a member of the organizing team, Debs Brereton from Brand Events, who confirmed that the weekend had exceeded her expectations. The Brand Events team did a fantastic job and deserve the thanks that they received from many of the car clubs and businesses that participated. It was a pleasure to take part and the team left with fond memories and some new friends.

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