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Shetland's Classic Motor Show Is Better Than Ever

by Alastair Hamilton -

This year’s Classic Motor Show underlined, once again, the depth of Shetland’s enthusiasm for every form of wheeled transport. The show, now in its 18th incarnation, is held every two years and features cars, motorbikes, buses, trucks, stationary engines, bicycles and a great deal more.

Exhibits come from far and wide: this year, there were many from around the UK and two from Germany. However, the majority are from Shetland, carefully preserved in garages and sheds all over the islands.

The show itself is held in and around Lerwick’s largest indoor space, the Clickimin Centre, but the vehicles can also be seen out and about on Shetland’s roads in the days before and after the main weekend event.

Exhibits come from far and wide

So, what was on show? Cars formed the largest category. There were 160 of them, the oldest on show being a 1915 Ford Model T that had travelled up from Orkney.

Those who’ve been visiting the show regularly over the decades can see the progress made by enthusiasts in their restoration efforts. A good example is Erik Erasmuson’s 1923 Bean, which looks a little more complete every year; when he first exhibited it, it was not much more than a chassis and engine.

The cars on display represented every decade in the past century. Those from the 1930s included immaculate Austins, a 1933 Seven and, from 1934, an Ascot Light 12/4 and a 10/4 with chrome radiator.

From 1930, there was a 4½ litre Bentley Blower Le Mans Tourer and another Bentley, this time a 1935 3½ litre, could be seen outside, alongside a very nice Alvis 12/60.

Exhibits from the 1940s included a large Austin, a 16HP BS1 that had seen service in Dundee, Leeds and Matlock before being bought by a Shetland collector and driven north.

There were several survivors from the 1950s, including – among many others – an immaculate Swallow Doretti and a 1954 Vauxhall Velox that had covered just 28,916 miles. Later Vauxhalls were also well represented.

The show was particularly strong on British cars from the 1960s and 1970s. There were several Morris Minors, a good showing of MGs and Triumphs and two immaculate Humber Sceptres (one of which, locally-owned, is reckoned to be the best surviving anywhere).

There were several Fords, too, including a 1965 Zephyr 4 Mk 3 and a 1966 V4 Corsair, not to mention Escorts, Cortinas (including a Lotus) and a 1978 Capri Ghia.

A Rolls Royce – in this case a 1978 Silver Shadow – was a visitor from Glasgow.

There was no shortage of exhibits from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, either, for example a Subaru Impreza, a Porsche Boxter, 911 and Cayenne, an Aston Martin Vantage, and many more. One of the more unusual was a Jaguar Sovereign Majestic, which had been the Mayoral transport in Leicestershire for almost 20 years but was eventually retired – and replaced by a Toyota Avensis – when it came to be regarded as an extravagance.

There was an impressive selection of commercial vehicles, including two buses that saw long service in Shetland. As I reported last year, one of them has returned to Shetland permanently after working in several parts of England. The star of the commercial section was probably the immaculate Austin 12/4 light van that not only looked stunning, but had been driven to Shetland from Devon for the show. There were Land Rovers in abundance, in celebration of 70 years of the marque; the Shetland Land Rover Club is very active.

There was also plenty to interest those for whom two (or sometimes three) wheels are the preferred option. The show included no fewer than 139 motorbikes, the vast majority of which were from Shetland owners. This year, they were displayed en masse in the Bowls Hall, rather than being positioned around the periphery of the car exhibits as in previous years.

The bikes were arranged in chronological order, beginning with a 1914 Douglas Model 2 that had come all the way from Bristol. Every decade since then was well represented, with 17 from the 1930s, including a 1930 Rudge Ulster, a 1932 BSA Blue Star and a 1935 AJS Model 10. There were no fewer than 25 from the 1950s, including restored Velocette and Vincent Rapide models. The impact of Japanese manufacturers from the 1970s onwards was also clear, with several Hondas, Yamahas and Kawasakis.

Among the more unusual exhibits was an invalid carriage of the kind common in the 1950s: they can often be seen in old newsreels and used to have allocated space at sporting events.

Twenty bicycles were on display in the squash court, including a penny farthing and a tandem. One of the more unusual ones featured a ‘hammock’ saddle.

The show always includes lots of tractors, including a group of the grey Fergusons that were the workhorse on farms and crofts for generations. There were, as always, several stationary engines, though that’s a little misleading because most of them were running, emitting puffing and chuffing noises. The largest were the huge, eight-tonne Ruston Hornsby diesel that once provided power at a local lime quarry - which won a show award for restoration - and one of the emergency generators formerly used at Sumburgh Airport; but most exhibits were much smaller.

That wasn’t all: one large room was entirely devoted to models, including three fishing boats, and elsewhere there were hundreds of historical photographs on display, provoking more bouts of nostalgia. There was even a huge selection of grease guns and oil cans.

And my favourite? It’s hard to choose from among so many; quite a few visitors found the little Fiat 500, the cutest car in the show, irresistible. There was a Reliant Scimitar, stunningly preserved.

However, I did spend a lot of time looking at Andrew Morrison’s split-screen Morris Minor Convertible. As a student, I owned one of these, having persuaded an Inverness garage owner to retrieve it from the back of his store and get it going. Unfortunately, it lacked a hood, and I recall driving it down the A9 from Inverness on a frosty January morning. I was well insulated – duffle coat, scarf and several layers beneath them – but it was obviously not an attractive prospect for the several hitchhikers at Carrbridge and Aviemore who, when I approached, retracted their thumbs and waved me on.

The next Shetland Classic Motor Show is on the weekend of 6 and 7 June 2020, so if you’d like to see what promises to be another very varied collection of outstanding classic vehicles, that’s a date for your diary. If you’ve a vehicle you’d like to exhibit, you can get in touch with the organisers via the show’s web page, where you can also find photographs and order a video of the 2018 event.

Posted in: Heritage

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