Over the weekend, Hagerty Insurance held the second Concours d’Ordinaire at the Festival of the Unexceptional.
It is the antithesis of high-end car shows like the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Salon Prive. As the name suggests, it’s a celebration of cars that normal people drove back in the Seventies and Eighties; everyday cars that used to be everywhere but are now all but extinct.
But simply being rare isn’t enough. The Rover SD1 Vitesse, for instance, is a rare car. But it doesn’t count because it was the top-of-the-range touring car homologation special and has always had a big following. The Rover SD1 2000, on the other hand, was the bottom-of-the-range fleet special that had wind-up windows. Many more were sold than the Vitesse, but because it was intended to be used, abused and thrown away, the fact that any have survived is remarkable. It therefore qualifies.
This year’s Concours winner was a base-spec 1978 Ford Escort 1.1 Popular four-door in white that has been owned by the same family since new. The People’s Choice award went to a 1973 Hillman Avenger DL estate, in green with actual wing mirrors.
It often happens that I will see, let’s say, a Mark 3 Vauxhall Cavalier out on the road and I genuinely can’t remember the last time I saw one. Throughout it’s six-year run from 1989 to 1995, the third-gen Cav was one of the best-selling cars in the UK, selling hundreds of thousands, if not millions. And yet there are now only a few thousand left. In a country with around 50 million vehicles on the road that makes it a very rare spot, indeed.
That also makes it prime fodder for the Festival of the Unexceptional in ten years or so. Alongside the Mark 1 Ford Mondeo, Rover 400, Daewoo Espero, Daihatsu Applause, Proton Persona, Honda Concerto, Volkswagen Vento, Subaru Justy, Toyota Starlet, Nissan Almera, Renault 19, Fiat Marea and so on and so on. In as low a spec as possible, ideally with unpainted plastic bumpers.
But let’s jump ahead even further to the 2035 or even 2045 edition of the Festival of the Unexceptional. What cars are on sale now that would fit the bill?
The Toyota Avensis immediately springs to mind. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, but when you can have a Ford Mondeo for the same money, I can’t really work out why you would buy one. But plenty of people do, a fair few of them older people who will keep theirs for ever. And because the Avensis is utterly reliable and built properly, there might actually be some left in 20 or 30 years time.
What else? The Chevrolet Cruze, obviously, and the Citroen C4. The likes of the aforementioned Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia will be very rare by then, but are they boring enough? The Kia Optima is, and so is the Nissan Qashqai. In fact, crossovers could be a good theme for the Festival, so let’s throw in the Honda CR-V and Vauxhall Antara. People carriers, too, so there’s the Volkswagen Touran and Renault Scenic.
Honestly, I could go on for days with this. So I’ll throw the debate open. Which cars do you think will make the grade for the Festival of the Unexceptional in 2045?