Tuesday March 27, 2018
One burning question of the Practical Classics Classic Car & Restoration Show 2018 – asides from plotting how many of the wondrous vehicles could I plausibly smuggle home – is that should a car be automatically given a name? Of course one of the stars of the Lancaster stand was a charming classic – a Triumph 2500 TC Mk. II named Tessa.
Naturally, any second generation Triumph 2000/2500 is a highly desirable machine, a car with an image that is mid-way between the respectable and the raffish. You can just imagine Tessa being driven by a Diana Dors style pub landlady circa 1976 - all peroxide hair, red lipstick and cigarette ash – from the cash and carry. In the boot would be crates of Golden Wonder Smoky Bacon, K P Salted Peanuts, and Schweppes Tonic Water and still with enough to spare for any non-compliant business rival. Jack Reagan and George Carter from The Sweeney would be two of her regular customers while in saloon bar one Mr. A Daley would forever be attempting to sell a twenty-year-old Vauxhall Wyvern to her regulars.
Tessa is in fact a perfect example of how a car’s name should reflect its image and its persona. Sometimes the choice of identity hints at your viewing and reading habits - for me any Audi Quattro is now called Gene just as any Ford Consul GT is The Guv’nor and a black Wolseley 6/90 is Edgar; the last reference will be familiar to any viewer of 1950s and 1960s British B-films. A Vauxhall Viva HB will forever be Bob; its Victor 2000 stablemate is Jeff while – shades of a famous Ladybird book - a Rover P4 is Maurice and a Barker-bodied Daimler DC 27 ambulance is Archie.
Equally often, the name seems to reflect the social world of a car when it was new, such as the magnificent Datsun 120A Cherry FII Coupe on the Gay Classic Car Club display. This is not only a classic that is now as rare, if not rarer, as a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 but one that sported an ideal name - Beryl. In the late 1970s, you really would have encountered many highly-polished examples of the Datsun throughout suburbia. Their proud owners, if my memory is correct, often favoured a look that veered towards June Whitfield during the week and Mildred Roper during the weekend. The 120A would undertake the school run, be seen in the Carrefour's car park during the weekly shop and make the occasional journey to the seaside during high days and holidays. Accompanying Beryl was a Series III Allegro L that went by the nom-de-Austin of Mabel, which is a perfect reminder of the pace of early 1980s rural life. 38 years ago, you would have seen such a car driven by a retired headmistress who bore a marked resemblance to the landlady in the Ealing Comedy The Ladykillers, still executing the proper hand signal as she headed for the local whist drive.
Of course, seeing these classics, with their patina of age hinting at decades of automotive history, was a grand experience regardless of their names but the Triumph, the Datsun and the Austin were just three reasons why I so much enjoyed this year’s show. And there is still the opportunity for a British re-make of Knight Rider, for if this week’s villains quailed at the sight of a black Pontiac Firebird called KITT, just think how they would react to the formidable trio of Tessa, Beryl and Mabel…