Have you ever seen an old car on the road that isn’t too common, perhaps even a car that you can’t even think what it is and wonder just how many are left?
This is a question I often ask myself on seeing various cars and I know I’m not alone; this was highlighted most recently during a road trip of the Scottish Highlands with my good lady. On researching things to do during our trip, the better half stumbled upon a transport museum in a little village called Alford, just east of the Cairngorms National Park.
The Grampian Transport Museum’s online event calendar displayed a car show that sounded incredibly appealing – a car show that would appeal to anyone with half an interest of all things motoring and an event that would answer that often unanswered question of how many are left.
On arrival at the museum I noticed a ticket hut to the right of the main indoor museum entrance, beyond which was a tarmac track with not too common cars driving around it – the pacenote of ‘flat right’ was called and off we set into the exhibition.
At a price that was fairer than a traditional Scotsman’s legs we paid our £5 each to gain entry and the happenings on track soon became clear. Small selections of cars were offering passenger runs around the outer most oval area of the track.
This was a fantastic idea as it allowed the young to experience what the old were used to and it gave the old a chance to reminisce about days gone by in varying models they may have once owned or just hand a fondness for.
Beside the scran van just inside the entrance sat a pair of beauties owned by Bob Shepherd, a local Mitsubishi dealer and as such it is no surprise one of them was a Mitsubishi, a Lancer Evo IX FQ340 to be precise and one of only 47 cars remaining with this example having just 900 miles from new.
The second of Bob’s cars on display was a rather fetching Ford Escort RS1600, one of only 56 models remaining and I must say it could only be described as out of the box – so much so I would be shocked if it arrived in anything other than a covered trailer.
Having absorbed the detail of these cars, eyes turned once again to the track – I must admit there were some very rare cars taking part in the passenger laps, some of which I knew right away, others I had to think about and some required a glance at the event programme to fill the blank.
Three cars stuck in my head from the track area; firstly a Triumph Spitfire, one of 232 left, due to the distinctive body style as well as the bold colour. Secondly a glorious metallic blue Opel Commodore due to the sheer elegance, turns out it is the only registered model of its kind in the UK and as such was one of only two with such status on display – the other being a Skoda Super Estelle 120L.
Finally a SAAB wearing a Northern Ireland registration number really caught my eye, simply as I had no clue at all as to what it was. On asking, the good lady reported back to inform me it was in fact a Sonett III from 1972, owned by David Henderson and is one of only 12 left so I guess you could say that it is certainly a rare little two-seater with not many left.
From the track area we proceeded around the back of the grand-stand to view a dozen or so cars on static display and after passing a couple of Rover SD1’s, a larger than life VIP Mercedes 380 SEL and a rather quirky looking SAAB 96 V4 we stumbled upon a 1964 Auto Union Munga.
Yet another vehicle I have never heard of but likely seen in the history books or a war movie at some point and owner Dougie Simmers was more than willing to chat about this oddity with a smile as he explained what it was built for, why he wanted it and also how he is very close to having it fully road worthy having spent years researching and sourcing parts to get it through an MOT and properly onto the road, only 2 are registered in the UK at present.
A few vehicles down was another war type truck, much bigger and newer and with only 6 left in the UK this particular vehicle was a UAZ 469B from 1987. Owned by Dominik Walicki this exact truck was used by the Polish Army as a mobile radiostation right up until 2002.
At this point I thought we had seen everything there was to see, however after walking towards the ice-cream van we realised there was another large grass area with up to 80 cars on static display and well the ice-cream had to wait!
Dozens of people casually strolled amongst the cars, chatting with more than friendly owners about their pride and joys and well I was one of those asking questions as I strolled and snapped. The first car to catch my eye in this area was a Renault 21 Turbo, a car that I have heard lots about from older friends who owned them years ago but a car that I have never actually seen.
With only 28 left it is a car I am unlikely to see again and this impeccably presented example owned by Ian Dey was a pleasure to look at and see on track also along with a 1989 Austin Metro City that was track prepared and estimated as one of less than 100 remaining.
Among the rest of the cars on display saw something for everyone from a Citroen Xantia to a SAAB Turbo and a TVR Sagaris to a 1959 Bentley – it really was a fantastic way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
With all of the cars taking part in a few parade laps around the track it was highly enjoyable sitting in the grand-stand absorbing the sights, sounds and smells that decades of motoring heritage provided and to finish off the organisers had a bit of action planned.
A slalom course was laid out along the two straights of the track and a dozen or so entrants to the show took part in a head-to-head ‘auto test’ which was nothing more than some craic as many of the larger cars of old had the agility of an oil tanker.
This event really was great to fit in during a four-day road-trip of the highlands – if you have never experienced this part of Scotland you really must add it to the bucket-list and visit the museum whilst there!
If you have ever wondered how many are left check out – https://www.howmanyleft.co.uk/
Words and Photos: Graham Curry
[images must not be used in any way without prior written consent of the photographer]