Road Trip to the ‘How Many Left Show’

While reading my latest copy of Classic Car Weekly back in January 2016, I saw an ideal opportunity for Barbara and I to combine two things we enjoy – Scotland and classic car shows. What I had spotted was an advert for ‘How Many Left classic car Show’ at the Grampian Transport Museum near Aberdeen. The theme of the show is everyday cars that were prolific years ago but now have fewer than 500 examples left, this according to the DVLA figures held on the ‘How Many Left’ website.

Now, we have a few cars that qualify under the 500 or less rule and so we had to decide which were we going to take? Thanks to a desire to take something in decent condition, the short list very quickly became a choice of two, Tilly our Fiat 128 3P or Casper our Mk1 Panda 45. Tilly was bought two and a half years ago from a guy who lived in Galashiels so may have already been seen on the Scottish show scene. With that in mind we opted to take Casper the Panda 45, even though the thought of a 12-1300 mile round trip in a Mk1 Panda had put my back into a blind panic!

Sunday 22nd May was the day of the show and we set aside the Friday and Saturday for traveling up from our home in Alton, Hampshire. At first we thought we would make use of the Panda tent, an awning that fits around the tailgate and has a footprint of about 7′ x 7′, but then common sense kicked in and we booked B&B’s instead. Well it was Scotland so neither good weather nor the lack of midges could be guaranteed. Friday night was spent near Hawick (pronounced hoyck) after a lovely run of about seven hours in surprising comfort.

Once we’d filled up with a full Scottish and two cups of coffee we set off on the Saturday morning at about 9.00am. We only had a three hour drive to Saturday nights B&B but as I was doing my usual thing of killing two birds with one stone we had to be at a classic car auction by 12.00pm, which coincidentally was that day and en route. Seemed silly not to. To cut a long story short, the Bedford CA camper that looked so good in the pictures was not as tempting in the flesh, plus it went to about three thousand over the top estimate. So we left having only bought a catalogue, two coffees and fish and chips.

Before we booked the B&Bs Barbara had been watching one of those house moving programmes where a couple from Surrey have to decide if Scotland is far enough away from the kids or do they have to move to Spain. Well, the place in Scotland they were considering happened to be on the coast and only thirty miles from The Grampian Transport Museum. Barbara really liked the look of the place so this is how we ended up in Stonehaven for the next two nights.

Our B&B couldn’t have been closer to the sea and an ideal spot to eat our evening meal of haddock and chips that Barbara had queued for nearly an hour to buy. The chip shop had won the ‘Best in Britain’ award in the past and as a result was very popular. In the mean time I cleaned Casper back to pre trip sparkliness ready for the show the next day. Our Landlady warned us that in the morning we were likely to be greeted by a car covered in seagull poo as that is what the seagulls like to do for entertainment around there. Fortunately, they were very respectful of our Fiat Panda and left it unblemished.

After a lovely sunny Saturday, Sunday started a little wet but as the day progressed it changed to very wet and then stayed that way nearly all day.

As I had ticked the box that volunteered me to give passenger rides to any of the visiting public with the good taste to want a ride in a classic Panda, we were parked on the small oval test track in the grounds of the museum when we first arrived. After a short drivers’ briefing to ensure we knew not to exceed 150mph on the straights, not to overtake each other, not to do handbrake turns etc etc, we went to our cars and waited for our first passenger. Barbara was evicted from her passenger seat for this next half hour and so watched the excitement (small e) from the stands. At least she would stay dry. Due to the rain keeping the public in the dryer parts of the museum, business was slow. The Citroen DS was kept very busy but I had a total of three runs, two laps each. The first was a polite teenager, yes I was surprised too! He enjoyed what Casper had to offer and even asked a few intelligent questions. The next run was with two guys in their late thirties who were quite impressed with Casper’s pulling power three up. The third and last run was a young lady, also in her thirties, who had brought a display car of her own but seemed to be enjoying riding in everyone elses. I was going to sample her car when it was her turn on the track (well it was a DeLorian) but it developed a fault so couldn’t take part. Something to do with the flux capacitor I expect. That motoring experience will have to wait till some future date. Groan!!!

I had ticked a second box on the entry form that put me forward for something called ‘A parallel autotest’. I had assumed it was a timed parking manoeuvre of some sort but anyway it wasn’t for a couple of hours so we parked up in the main display area and headed for the museum building to see what that had to offer in addition to a dry shelter. Their website shows pretty well the attractions inside and so I recommend you to have a look at that rather than me describe it here.

With twenty minutes to go before I dazzled everyone with my car control and parking abilities, we headed outside and back to the track. You can imagine my disappointment when, once we got there, everyone taking part was already out on track and the test was in full swing! I ran over to the entry gate and explained to the attendant marshal, ” I’m supposed to be in this but I was told it was at 1.30pm?” “Yes, we’ve had to bring it forward to keep everyone entertained” he explained, “because the passenger rides weren’t getting enough people as they didn’t want to queue in the rain”. Unfortunately, their P A system doesn’t reach the museum building.

Also, ‘parallel’ in the description of the test meant two cars running together, nothing to do with parking. Half a dozen cones had been set up down each straight and you had to zig zag between, then turn round at the end, (handbrake turns were not only allowed but encouraged) and sprint back to the start, finishing with the start/finish line somewhere between the front and rear wheels.

The marshal informed me that I could still take part if I could find “a friend” to run with. Fortunately, the owner of a Saab 99 overheard our conversation and stepped up for, what he must have seen as, an easy win. We both lined up at the start for the first of two runs. We would swap sides for the second run to ensure all was equal. I was perfectly capable of executing a handbrake turn, well I was a bloke, but with a passenger (Barbara) and all the camping gear still in the boot I didn’t fancy my chances of success. If I stood any chance of beating a Saab though, I would have to give it a try.

Well, after wiggling through the cones we were actually in front and heading for the last two cones that marked the turn around point. Steering wheel sharp right, handbrake on, and as I feared, the back wheels didn’t lock and I went straight on to the grass requiring reverse to be engaged. The handbrake turn had become a three point turn. The Saab, due to its handbrake operating the front wheels, chose to sweep round in one circle and was now in front as we headed back down the straight. I exited the three point turn with loads of wheel spin just to show that I hadn’t given up, and in case there were some still not convinced, I locked up the wheels and screeched to an abrupt halt, wheels straddling the finish line as instructed. If I wasn’t going to be fastest I was going to make sure I was in contention for most entertaining. One nil to the Saab.

The second run was much better. We both chose to turn at the end in one sweeping circle and completed the course pretty much neck and neck. The final ruling gave it to the Saab by a nose, or should that be a bonnet? Someone in the audience filmed the second run and put it on YouTube, I’m sure that if you enter into the YouTube search bar ‘How Many Left Show Grampian Transport Museum 2016’ you will find a few of the runs as well as my second.

With the fun over it was back to the display area for the last hour of the show. All of a sudden there was a lot more interest in the Panda! People were coming at us from all sides. Fortunately, Barbara is very capable of talking about our cars and shared the load. With so many people to talk to our last ditch attempt to erect the Panda tent proved unsuccessful. Just as well, as not only did it start raining again but everyone soon started driving off to the track for a few parade laps. We were stuck because a presenter from BBC ALBA was trying to film a piece to camera between our car and a Mk1 Vauxhall Cavalier. After four takes he finally said his piece, in Gaelic, and we were free to join the others. After the parade laps everyone assembled on the grass in the centre of the track to hear the prize giving. Thanks to our 600 mile journey we won the prize for farthest travelled, an Autoglym gift set and a 1.5L bottle of Prosecco. Other prizes went to the Vauxhall Cavalier for ‘spirit of the event’, while car of the show was a Chrysler Horizon, thought to be the only one left if you don’t include the later Talbot Horizons.

 

Well that was it, over for another year. This was the second running of the event and it will surely be repeated next year. So if rare but once common place cars from the 60s plus are your thing look out for details of next years show around the beginning of 2017. It was great fun despite the weather. Add to that, driving through the beautiful Scottish scenery to get there and it quickly becomes a brilliant car nuts’ weekend. Long weekend in our case. Hats off to The Grampian Transport Museum for coming up with the event, particularly Martyn Smith (head of promotions) and all his marshals for making everyone so welcome. For us, it was back to our coastal B&B for one more night.

Too many ‘Full Scottish’ breakfasts weigh a little heavy, so the next morning we opted for the lighter choice of scrambled egg and salmon. This would fuel us for the start of our 600 mile trek home. We decided to attempt it all in one day to save on another B&B. I must say, Casper was a lot fitter than us when we pulled up on our drive fourteen hours later, although the trip wasn’t half as bad as we expected. We now have a whole new opinion on driving long distances in a Mk1 Panda. Casper does have a very low mileage. In fact, when we pulled up onto the drive at the end of the trip we were three miles short of 18,000. Due mostly to this low mileage, he drives like new and the seats are still as supportive as Fiat had intended, I’m not sure how we would fare in one sporting average mileage and sagging seat foam, but would certainly give it a go should an opportunity present itself. Casper is now top of the list for a trip to Italy in September :-).

Vernon Hibberd

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