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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Classic cars head for Dalemain show in Cumbria

“I’m old enough to know better now.” David Rushton is 50, he runs his own engineering business and is a part-time fire officer. Both serious, responsible jobs.

But he can’t stop himself from tinkering about with old cars, just like he did when he was a lad.

“Ever since I could walk, or even before then, I’ve been keen on cars,” he remembers.

“I grew up in the back of my father’s car, an old Alvis Speed 25. It was huge, like a flying library.”

David got his first car, a Mini-based motor, aged 17, but within two years he had upgraded to a Sabre 6.

Now he is the proud owner of a 1925 Bentley and is busy restoring a 1974 Morgan Plus 8 sports car.

The Bentley will be on display at the Dalemain Classic Car Show this Sunday.

He has dabbled in other hobbies, but cars have never lost their appeal for him.

“I did rock climbing and mountain walking, and I still do a bit of walking,” he says. “But it’s not half as exciting as driving a sports car.

“It’s a question of whatever floats your boat. It’s what does it for me,” adds David, from Cockermouth.

One aspect of the hobby he especially enjoys is building new cars – restoring an older vehicle and fitting it with a new engine.

The Morgan he is rebuilding is only the latest he has worked on.

“If you start with a lot of different pieces that have never been put together before and you put them together in the right way and see the result, then that is enormously satisfying.”

But he doesn’t drive his Bentley or his Morgan to the shops.

For everyday driving he uses one of his other two motors, his BMW 325 or Ford Ka.

He’s so keen on old motors and cars in general that he is a member of the Wigton Motor Club which organises the classic rally.

This is the 22nd year and David stresses that they have a very broad definition of the term “classic car”.

It doesn’t have to be a vintage or exotic vehicle to qualify.

“It just has to be your pride and joy.

“If you have car that you enjoy and are proud of, then it’s a classic car,” he argues.

“Of course we have vintage cars from the 1960s, 1950s, 1940s and before – the whole range of the history of the motor car.

“But people can come along with a Ford Capri if they take a pride in it.”

And this broadminded approach ensures that all kinds of weird and wonderful vehicles turn up.

“We always invite another car club, Cruise West Cumbria, and they bring a lot of American Cadillacs, with chrome and fins and all that business.”

This Sunday, the normally tranquil atmosphere of stately Dalemain will be filled with the roar of engines and the smell of petrol from more than 500 classic cars. They gather there every summer and are always a dazzling sight.

With their elegant curves, the glint of metal and chrome and the plush leather upholstery, classic motors never fail to impress.

Even if you’re not a devoted petrol-head, there’s still a fascination in a car that is older than you are.

The famous British models such as Aston Martins, Bentleys, MGs, Jaguars, Land Rovers and Minis will all be there. But this year there will be also be an Italian theme, as owners of Ferraris, Maseratis and Lamborghinis are particularly encouraged to come along.

Graeme Forrester, owns a 1965 racing MG and uses his 1970 road MG to get around on a day-to-day basis.

Like David, he believes his interest in cars is inherited.

“Both my father and my grandfather were car enthusiasts, and my earliest memory is of being at Silverstone,” says Graeme, from Cockermouth.

“So I’ve been involved all my life.”

Graeme who is secretary of the WMC, agrees that restoring old motors is a strong attraction.

“That’s where a lot of people get their enjoyment,” he says. He believes restoring older cars is easier than working on new ones – and reckons the older ones have more personality as well.

“Modern cars are very efficient in getting you from A to B, but it is the quirks of an old car that give it its character. We have a lot of younger folk who like cars that are quite a lot older than them.”

Those quirks also make an old car more difficult to drive than a modern make – and for some fans that’s the attraction.

Jaguar enthusiast Ron Palmer, from Carlisle, is less enthusiastic about restoring old motors than David or Graeme.

He says: “I just like driving old cars. I find it tremendously enjoyable.

“It’s good to have something simple to drive on a day-to-day basis, but old cars make you realise how easy driving a modern car is. In an old car there’s no powered steering or synchromesh gearbox.”

Ron also discovered cars as a child in the 1950s, watching the Monte Carlo rally as it passed through the city every January on its way from Glasgow to the continent.

He would also travel to London each year for the motor show in Earls Court.

Over the years he has owned a Lotus Cortina, a Lotus Elan, a Datsun 260, a Jaguar E-type and an Austin Healey 3000. His current car, a 1959 Jaguar XK 150 sports car, will be on show at the weekend.

Most Jaguar sports cars made in the 1950s were for export to America and so were equipped with left-hand drive. Ron’s car is one of the smaller number designed for British roads.

“I’ve had it for three years but it’s obviously been well looked after by its previous owners.”

Meeting like-minded people is another aspect that Ron enjoys.

“Most people can relate to classic cars,” he says. “Your parents had one, or a favourite uncle drove one, or there used to be one parked on your street. They’re always a great talking point.”

For fans of history, the older makes have an enduring appeal. Nowadays Britain’s motor industry is in the hands of German, Chinese and Indian owners – from brands such as Rolls Royce, Jaguar and Bentley through to MG, Land Rover and Range Rover.

But once upon a time they were among Britain’s most famous exports, so Graeme says: “If you own a piece of British engineering, you own a piece of British heritage. That’s a very important part of it.”

Wigton Motor Club’s classic car show has been held every year since 1989. But 10 years ago it had outgrown its original venue, at Carlisle racecourse, and had to move to the grounds of the stately home near Penrith.

Graeme says its growth comes from the fact that it is inspired by love and not by money.

“People know that our show is run by car enthusiasts for car enthusiasts.

“Some shows are run by commercial organisations, to make a profit. If we have a good year the profit goes back into club coffers, for the benefit of members.”

As a result, around half of the exhibitors come from outside Cumbria. “We get people from Aberdeen to Sussex and Bristol and everywhere in between.”

The show takes the same form each year. Cars are divided into 20 different categories, according to type and age. So there will be one class for 1960s sports cars, another for 1960s saloons, and so on.

Prizes are awarded to the top cars in each class and then all the prizewinners gather in the main arena at 3pm when the “car of the show” – the overall winner – is chosen.

There are also trade stalls, auto testing, club displays, cars for sale and live music laid on.

Like any Cumbrian summer event its success depends on the weather. At the moment a few showers are forecast for Sunday.

But David remains optimistic. “We’ve had two wet years,” he points out. “So we are now due a good one!”

Wigton Motor Club classic car show is open from 11am to 4.30pm. Entries for cars have closed but visitors are welcome.

Tickets cost £5 for adults, £3 for pensioners and are free for children under 16 and also cover admission to the gardens.

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