It is the very antithesis of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, but that doesn’t make the Festival of the Unexceptional any less interesting. In fact, we’d politely suggest that the cars on display on the manicured lawns of Stowe House have touched the lives of more people than any of the priceless wonders hurtling up the hill in Sussex.
Grab your drip trays as we take a tour of some of the nation’s most brilliantly unexceptional and unexceptionally brilliant cars.
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Some cars are more unexceptional than others. Here we see Richard Holness and his DAF 33, Mark Ashbridge and his Datsun Sunny and Colin Corke alongside his Austin Allegro. The Sunny was named as the most unexceptional car at the show (which is a good thing), the DAF finished second, while the Allegro was named People’s Choice.
The Festival of the Unexceptional is open to ‘ordinary’ classic cars and commercial vehicles of the late 60s, 70s and 80s. Exchange the lake for the Goodwood hill and the exhibits for exotic supercars and this could pass as a scene from the Festival of Speed. It’s like a car boot sale, circa 1989.
Stone, Tempra, no pilots
A Fiat 128 estate, Vauxhall Firenza, Austin Montego and a Fiat Tempra: it could only be the Festival of the Unexceptional. There are fewer than 20 Fiat Tempras on the roads of Britain, making it an exceptionally rare sight. Fair play to owner Gavin Bushby for keeping the Tempra legend alive.
Life on Mars
Unexceptional cars of the past are often required to act as props in period movies and television series. Peter Bell’s Renault 12TL made an appearance in the time-travelling drama, Life on Mars.
No More Heroes
Volvo 740, Austin Princess, Mk1 Vauxhall Astra, Peugeot 505 and Renault 12: all once familiar sights, now in serious danger of extinction. We should salute the owners for keeping these mundane heroes alive. Simon Martin, owner of the Volvo, was named best dressed man at the festival.
When the Ford Sierra arrived in 1982, its space-age styling was deemed to be too radical for conservative Britain. There were no such issues for the Giugiaro-designed Renault 19, but the pair are overshadowed by the lesser-spotted Clan Crusader.
Visitor car park
More than 2,000 exceptional people descended on Stowe House for the unexceptional display, with the car park no less interesting than the main event. A Fiat Cinquecento, Vauxhall Nova and Nissan Patrol are just three of the highlights.
Italian, French and Dutch
Further along the line we find a Fiat X1/9, Peugeot 406 Coupe and a DAF 55. The Dutch-built car has around 48,000 miles on the clock and is a Deluxe model. Trim levels were far easier to understand in the early 70s. Deluxe = posh. Well, poshish.
You know you’re at the Festival of the Unexceptional when a Porsche 944 looks overdressed and out of place. The Wolseley Six ‘Landcrab’ looks far more at home, while on the right you’ll find a Beetle, Bluebird and Figaro.
The Hillman Avenger was Britain’s car to take on the world, but very few remain on the road. This 1973 Avenger GLS is owned by Robert Nutter and appears to have caught the eye. Note the vinyl roof: once a must-have car accessory.
Citroen 2CV Beachcomber
The Citroen 2CV was anything but unexceptional, with its simple, low-cost construction helping to mobilise an entire nation following the end of the Second World War. This 1983 Beachcomber special edition is far removed from the 1948 original.
Another triumph of construction and packaging, the Fiat Panda is a true Italian great. The original was launched in 1980 but remained in production until 2003. It’s eccezionale, as they say in Italy.
Feast of the Unexceptional
Sponsors Hagerty awarded a prize for the ‘Feast of the Unexceptional’, or best picnic at the event. It was won, not by these ladies in the back of a Land Rover, but John Usher, the owner of an Austin Maestro. His Rubik’s Cube Battenberg cake pink sponge fingers were named as the dish of the day.
Angus Forsyth, managing director of Hagerty International, said “Our Festival of the Unexceptional celebrates the cars that were the workhorses of their day: the base model saloons, hatchbacks and estates that were sold in their millions between roughly 1968 and 1989, and are now so rare. I just love overhearing enthusiasts at this unique concours d’ordinaire event commenting that they haven’t seen one of those in years, the cars that we all remember from our childhoods.”
2018 Festival of the Unexceptional
The date of the 2018 Festival of the Unexceptional will be announced early next year, but Hagerty has confirmed that it will return for a fifth time. Time to prepare your own unexceptional motor?