Thank Frankel it's Friday: Celebrating the ordinary

19th July 2019
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

I feel a little diffident, perhaps even a touch disloyal to be plugging someone else’s Concours d’Elegance in this spot, but so far removed is the event in question from the Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard’s Cartier Style et Luxe that I think (and hope) I can be forgiven. If I tell you its actual name is the Concours de L’Ordinaire and that it’s held at the Festival of the Unexceptional, you will understand where I’m coming from.


It takes place tomorrow (July 20) at Claydon House in Buckinghamshire and if you’d like to see an array of old, if not necessarily universally acknowledged classic cars, some as rare today at the exotica seen on the Cartier lawn, it comes highly recommended.

It’s the brainchild of Hagerty Insurance, surely the best known classic car insurers in the country and now, in its sixth year, I have been asked to join the judging panel. Clearly they must be desperate.

I can feel the anticipation brewing up inside me and the purpose of this column is to try to explain to you (and, to be honest, myself) why this might be. Because if you’d shown me a brand new Datsun Sunny in 1983 and told me that, 36 years later, I’d be getting genuinely excited about the prospect of seeing another still in factory-fresh condition I’d either have laughed in your face or suggested you sought urgent medical advice.


And yet, I can’t wait to see what’s there. I think there are three reasons for this: first, blasts from the past are always interesting, be they people or property even if they were never exactly scintillating when first you met. Don’t tell me that if they remade Crossroads with Benny now the manager that you wouldn’t tune in, even if only for a few minutes.

But I fully expect there also to be cars at the Festival that will remind of places, events and people from my childhood I’ve not thought of since. A few years back I saw a Renault 20 abandoned in a Marseille side street and it took me back instantly to the one driven by a kindly matron at school. Or the family Fiat 127 which I thought we called ‘Rusty’ out of genuine affection rather than the truth which was a damning indictment of its construction quality.

And maybe there will be a Morris 1100, like that which was beloved by our kindly neighbour who proudly worked in the local Leyland garage. Unbeknown to him my father would frequently pour a gallon of four star into its tank and then listen intently to tales of its extraordinary fuel economy. And he never gave the game away.


Most of all however, I think it’s about the people. You may own and cherish an immaculate Ferrari 250 GTO but that, of itself, does not make you an exceptional person, just an exceptionally rich one which is not necessarily the same thing. But if you own and cherish a no less immaculate Austin Allegro Estate, that does make you an exceptional person. Some might think it makes you an exceptionally mad person, but that just goes to prove how extraordinary you really are. I’m so looking forward to meeting them and feeling their passion, and the fact I might not entirely share it myself is neither here nor there. I shall get huge vicarious pleasure just from hearing about their pride and joys.

What am I most hoping to see? An Alfa Romeo ARNA I guess, or a Nissan Cherry Europe to give it its other name. You will remember it: the car that should have been engineered by Italians and built by the Japanese but ended up the other way around. Then again, if there’s a pre-facelift four door Vauxhall Chevette there, you’ll know where to find me.

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