Antony Ingram goes to Autosport International

Major Waffle
Antony Ingram has been to Autosport International. Here are his words and pictures from the event.

Antony Ingram likes the same cars as PetrolBlog. He's therefore a jolly good chap. So when he offered to take a wander around Autosport International and provide a PetrolBlog view on the event, we were quick to take him up on the offer. The fact that his report contains a Hyundai Accent, a BMW Compact, a Vauxhall Cavalier and a Polestar Volvo proves that Antony knows PetrolBlog all too well.

I can't seem to muster up a proper excuse, but it had been a good while since the last time I visited the Autosport show.

It's always been around the same week in January, but for the past five years or so (or more - MG was on its previous stint in the BTCC last time I visited) it's completely passed me by. What on earth have I been doing instead? And where indeed has the past half-decade gone?

No time like the present to rectify my absence though, so I made the easy journey down the M1 to the dimly-lit NEC halls to see what I've been missing over the last few years.

I must sadly start on a negative. For such a fanfare surrounding the show - including, but not limited to national TV adverts, local TV news coverage and months of leaflets and adverts in magazines running up to the show - it isn't a particularly spectacular event. Certainly not for the entry fee, to which you must add the cost of a remortgage for parking and lunch.

I lay partial blame at the live action show. I neglected to visit as I was meeting people, but there is no ticket option which avoids it, surely bumping up the cost.

Then, there's the NEC's lighting, which is like some kind of perpetual orange twilight and entirely insufficient for taking anything other than a series of tango'd photographs. I got around this by leaving my proper camera at home and seeing what I could do with my iPhone. For which I apologise in advance.

Anyway, it isn't all negatives.

I joined the show through halls 10 and 9, both of which were fantastic. Each was displaying autograss and oval racing cars. I'd not taken much notice of these before but the engineering is fantastic, the paintwork gloriously OTT and the variety spectacular.

One car in particularly caught my eye, as it isn't often a vehicle considered for motorsport - a Hyundai Accent. And not the model they used briefly in WRC either, but the previous, slightly blobby Accent 'Coupé'. These can be had for a few hundred quid on eBay now, and if this is what you can make from one, I'm awfully tempted...

Hyundai Accent at Autosport International 2013

Rear of Hyundai Accent at Autosport International 2013

The autograss and oval cars were a visual treat in more ways than one. Check out the stark beauty of the semi-trailing arm rear suspension on this Corsa - a veritable work of art.

Corsa semi-trailing arm rear suspension

One of the stars of the show was also in hall 9. Fiat 126s  are thoroughly within bargain classic territory at the moment, and some have been the subject of amusing bike-engine conversions. But none of that can prepare you for this amazing blue and yellow example. Check out the Saxo VTR wheels on it too - tyres bolted to the rim so they don't come apart thanks to the low pressures these cars run.

Fiat 126 at Autosport International 2013

It's hard to find truly humble vehicles at a motorsport show - by their nature, most cars here are expensive, and out of reach of mere mortals. But those based on vehicles we love are still interesting, such as the Super 1600-class Peugeot 106 Maxi once driven in the British Rally Championship by Justin Dale. Late ’90s BRC was one of my favourite series, and this was one of my favourite cars.

Peugeot 106 Maxi at Autosport International 2013

As far as Peugeot rally cars go, few are more iconic than Ari Vatanen's Dakar 405 T16 in entirely appropriate Camel livery.

Ari Vatanen's Dakar Peugeot 405 T16

Inside of Ari Vatanen's Dakar Peugeot 405 T16

Twisted offers off-roading of a different kind. I'm not sure you'd take their immaculate Retro Defender anywhere too muddy though.

Twisted Land Rover Defender at Autosport International 2013

Inside of Twisted Land Rover Defender at Autosport International 2013

More accessible is the BMW Compact series, run by the 750 Motor Club. Using the old E36 318ti, it's pretty accessible as motorsport goes. That said, it makes me want to pick up a nice clean 318ti Sport before they're all grabbed for racing.

BMW Compact 318ti at Autosport International 2013

The same might be said of Mazda MX-5s, though luckily there are thousands of them about. This speedster-type conversion caught my eye - reminiscient of some of the old MX-5 concepts shown back in the 1990s.

Mazda MX-5 at Autosport International 2013

A small selection of touring cars was on display at the NEC. A couple of BTCC Vauxhall Cavaliers made an appearance. This one appeared to be a post-1995 car, with all the aerodynamic addenda that entails, but wore an earlier paint scheme. Still looks fantastic though...

BTCC Vauxhall Cavalier at Autosport International 2013

Road cars were few and far between, but a selection crossing the auction block were rather special. Most suitable to PetrolBlog's love of the rare and unusual was this beautiful Zagato Fulvia. I once saw one of these bombing up the A1, and along with this immaculate example, are the only two I've ever seen.

Zagato Fulvia at Autosport International 2013

There are a few more ’80s Porsche 911s knocking around, but few in such good nick as Porsche GB's own car - here on the PistonHeads stand.

Porsche 911 on PistonHeads stand at Autosport International 2013

I don't recall any Saabs at the show, but I know the good Major is a fan of Volvos too - I expect this S60 Polestar will go down well. What a colour! - look out for a road test of this car soon - ed.

Volvo S60 T6 Polestar in Rebel Blue

And what kind of show would it be without something interesting in the car park? Smart Roadsters are an occasional sight on the roads, but the Brabus versions are rare indeed - How Many Left? reckons fewer than 1,200 were ever registered in the UK, and just over a thousand remain, registered and SORN combined.

Smart Roadster Brabus

And that was the Autosport show. It's worth a visit, I'd say, but compared to Race Retro, coming up in February, and summer's Goodwood events, it's no longer the country's top motorsport show. Knock down the entry price and I might go again next year...

Follow Antony Ingram on twitter @antonyingram.