Sunny shines at Hagerty’s Festival of the Unexceptional

Stowe House is in juxtaposition with 'ordinary' automobiles | Haggerty International photos
Stowe House is in juxtaposition with ‘ordinary’ automobiles | Haggerty International photos

A 1983 Datsun Sunny 1.5 GL won Best in Show honors at the 2017 Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional at Stowe House in Buckinghamshire, England. Also taking home prizes from the Concours d’Ordinaire were a 1972 DAF 33 and a 1973 Austin Allegro SS.

“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,” Angus Forsyth, managing director of Hagerty International, said in a news release.

"Biff' the Renault played a role in a BBC TV's 'Life on Mars'
“Biff’ the Renault played a role in a BBC TV’s ‘Life on Mars’

“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.

“Despite the gathering rain clouds, our prestigious new setting of Stowe House enhanced the enjoyable, laid-back atmosphere of the event, with this year’s Unexceptional having a particularly Sunny disposition.”

The “light-hearted” concours has been staged by the Hagerty insurance and vehicle value-tracking company for a few years in the UK, but this year marked the first time it was held in a prestigious setting.

The event drew more than 2,000 visitors last weekend and featured more than 50 selected entries in the running for top honors.

“With the bland leading the blind,” the company news release noted, “the hard-fought judging of the 50 vehicles displayed on the immaculate Festival of the Unexceptional lawn saw the five-strong judging panel of mundane motoring masterminds admiring a selection of taupe, primrose yellow and lilac coloured family saloons and estates, many equipped with rubber flooring, squidgy vinyl seats, no radio, manual wind-up windows and ‘genuine’ faux Formica wood inserts.

“After a long session of deliberation, the judges emerged and the winners were announced, the presentation hastening towards the end as an ominous rain cloud approached.”

Award-winning trio
Award-winning trio

The awards went to:

  • Best in Show: 1983 Datsun Sunny 1.5 GL owned by Mark Ashbridge
  • Runner-up: 1972 DAF 33 owned by Richard Holness
  • People’s Choice: 1972 Austin Allegro 1750 SS owned by Colin Corke
  • Best dressed: Simon Martin (owner of a Volvo 740 GL)
  • Feast of the Unexceptional/Best picnic: John Usher (and his Austin Maestro Special and “Rubik’s Cube” Batternberg cake pink sponge fingers).

The last two awards were given to recognize the hosts invitation for participants to dress appropriate to the era of their vehicle and to set out period-appropriate picnic arrays.

“All participants are encouraged to bring out the Battenberg cake, Curly Wurly bars, cheese and pineapple on sticks and, of course, the obligatory bottle of Babychamp!” Hagerty said in its pre-event publicity.

Honorable mentions awards were presented to a 1971 Fiat 128 Estate, a one-owner 1971 Volkswagen Beetle, a 1977 Lancia Beta 1600 Berlina and a 1973 Simca 100 GLS Estate, believed to be the last road-worthy example in the UK.

A small selection of cars was plucked out of the Unexceptional car park, including a late “souvenir” edition of a Saab 96 L V4, plus a battered Alfa 75, hand-painted in pastel green, this Alfa Romeo being Jeremy Clarkson’s entry into the 2008 Auto Italia concours, part of a Top Gear TV challenge.

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