ClassicLine’s resident roadtripper, Ben Coombes, is back with a brand-new series of motoring travel blogs. Combined with his love for classic cars, Ben will be bringing us tales of epic road trips, driving adventures and the latest from the Pub2Pub HQ.
What’s it like attending your first car show in 18 months? Here’s Ben Coombs’ experience…
That old saying which goes something along the lines of ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone’ has never felt more appropriate than in the past few years, as our worlds have shrunk and seemingly, the walls of home have replaced the freedom of this strange old planet of ours.
But it’s amazing how adaptable humans can be. The impact of the change in routine, the lost freedoms and the need to live less extravagantly quickly lessened as we adjusted to the change. Many of us adapted to the new normal surprisingly easily, staying at home, protecting the NHS and reigning in our dreams. And as life changed, and the memories of how we used to live drifted into the past, some of us began to forget the passion we once held for our old lives. Recollections of road trips, car shows and track days softened, and for some of us, it was as if we were slowly forgetting who we used to be.
But nothing lasts forever.
And on a Sunday in early September, like a bolt from the blue, the past came back to me.
It was a perfect Gloucestershire morning. I’d been on the road for two hours, rolling up the motorway in my TVR with the roof off, as the sun gradually brought the day to life. It was the furthest I’d driven my Chimaera for a very long time, but my destination was near. I swung off the motorway, burbled along some tree-lined lanes and found myself at Amore Autos, a specialist TVR garage, and the backdrop for my first car meet since Covid had swept in to take such things from us.
Other cars began to arrive, all of them TVR vehicles. Snarling, vivid, animated and alive. Sagaris’ with their spectraflair paintwork and slashed about, hard-as-nails styling. Griffiths, their effortlessly smooth styling hiding thunderous V8s whose rumble brought the air to life. Tuscans, still looking futuristic decades later with their sci-fi dashboards and howitzer tailpipes. And then there were the Chimaeras, their more classical style redolent of the romance of the open road.
Bright colours, burbling exhausts and smiling enthusiasts, all brought together by one thing – a passion for Blackpool’s fibreglass masterpieces. And it was a meet-up which reminded me of what I’d been missing for all these months. The atmosphere of enthusiasm. The meetings with old friends. The smell of coffee and bacon, mixing with the faint odour of hot oil and fibreglass. The distant rumbles on the horizon, which slowly drew closer to materialise into another apparition from those days before Covid, when moments like this felt commonplace. Taken for granted, even.
And as the day wore on, I was reminded of another of my passions which had seemingly faded.
The long drive.
After lunch, the gathered crowd wandered inside Amore’s showroom, where twenty gorgeously polished TVRs awaited their next owner, but no-one was admiring them anymore – all eyes were on me. As, for the first time in nearly two years, I was stood between a hundred-strong crowd and a projector screen, ready to give a presentation about the Pub2Pub Expedition, my 27,000-mile trip across the world in Kermit, my long-suffering TVR.
Luckily, as I spoke, the memories of the trip came rushing back and I was able to remember the important parts. I spoke of abandoned towns in the high Arctic, of weeks trapped between borders, of roaring across Patagonia and Peru. But at first, it felt strange. It was as if I was describing an adventure which had happened to someone else, rather than myself, such was the length of time which had passed since we’d been able to undertake such trips. After eighteen months of lockdowns and curtailed horizons, I felt like a different person to the one on the projector screen, swashbuckling his way across the world.
But as I spoke, I relaxed into the story and stopped feeling like a fraud. Giving the talk reminded me that this was still truly who I was. Just as attending Amore’s open day had reminded me of one facet of my life which had seemed lost to the past, so reliving the story of Pub2Pub reminded me of another. It reminded me that despite the setbacks of recent years, and despite the fact I’d not so much as left the UK in eighteen months, deep down, I was still the same person. Cars of character and roads less travelled. That’s still who I was, and I felt energised by the thought.
Roll on 2022.