The extreme and obscure: Multi-million dollar car gathering takes over Auckland
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It's quite the claim; 1,200 exceptional examples of Europe's best cars and bikes, all in one place. The claim grows in stature given it was attached to a homegrown community event — last weekend's Brit & Euro Classic Car Show, held at Lloyd Elsmore Park in Auckland.
We like to think of New Zealand as this little isolated haven at the bottom of the world, but, at least from a motoring sense, events like these underline the extensive connections and deep passion that Kiwis have for all things on wheels. Having scoped out the busy, heavily packed Pakuranga park on Sunday, I'm happy to say that the 1,200 cars and bikes claim holds plenty of water.
Held from 10.00am to 3.00pm, the show attracted thousands of punters young and old. While we were unforuntately in and out in relatively short time, it's easy to see how someone could burn that entire five-hour period getting absorbed in all the incredible motors.
Given New Zealand's love for Americana and Japanese motoring, you might think that focusing solely on European cars and bikes might be a little restricting, and that the aforementioned 1,200 vehicle count might be filled by a hundred Minis and a hundred 911s with little else. But, you'd be very wrong.
The variety on display was exceptional. The big Lloyd Elsmore facility had been divided into sections devoted to different manufacturers. At the main entrance sat McLaren. Along the back row were Mini, MG, Triumph. Tucked down the back were a plethroa of fast Fords and oddball Saabs. And scattered in between was everything from Ferrari and Lotus, to Vauxhall and Hillman.
My apologies to BMW, Porsche, and Mercedes. In my camera's travels you folks were overlooked.
Among the most expensive and, more to the point, incredibly gorgeous cars present was this Jaguar XKSS. Having been valued at $1.76million when it first landed on our shores in 2017, this particular XKSS has its own local cult following.
Deservedly so, of course. Just 25 were slated to be built, with a group of nine chassis sadly impacted by a fire at Jaguar's Browns Lane factory in 1957. This XKSS was one of those chassis; rebuilt and is now presented — its incredible craftsmanship there for all to see.
In the red corner, meanwhile, was a stack of the brand's most recognisable works. This GTO-esque Vorseiner 599 and its F12 TdF cousin hogged much of the attention (as they should), but there was plenty of nostagliac eyes clapped on the supporting Testarossa, Daytona, Dino, 355, 328, and more.
And yes, most of them were draped in Rosso Corsa.
We mentioned that McLaren was represented at the front door, but what we didn't mention was that a brand new model was part of its display.
Along with a 600LT that'll be familiar to some readers as the 441kW/620Nm twin-turbo V8 beast that Driven tested last August, and a stack of 720Ss, there was also a brand new McLaren GT present. This represents McLaren's first tilt at making a grand tourer, set to rival the likes of the Aston Martin DB11, Bentley Continental GT, and more.
The 456kW/630Nm GT sits noticeably higher than its Long Tail counterpart — the extra rideheight helping facilitate softer suspension and a more laid-back day-to-day demeanour. We got to hoon one at McLaren's international launch in France, and left rather impressed.
But shows like this aren't really about high power exotica, aren't they. Those cars look great on the promotional posters, but what keeps people enthused are those 'wow, I haven't seen one of those in years!' experiences.
Case in point was my Dad's amazement seeing not one, not two, but three Nash Metropolitans all sitting together. Built in the '50s, these little two-tone wonders defied the world's trend towards larger vehicles. Plenty of people consider them to be American, but they were actually built by Austin in the West Midlands. They could be had with the 1.2-litre out of an Austin A40, or a more potent 1.5-litre with a top speed of 121km/h.
Also, how good is that Nash Metropolitan–print shirt? Spectacular.
Fast Fords are always a popular thing in this part of the world since they bissect so many different groups of fans. Whether you're into Aussie muscle, American muscle, or English balance there's a fuss-free Ford out there for you.
There were plenty of fantastic Fords on show, from Capris to Sierra Cosworths, to a selection of Escort RS Turbos. There was even one gorgeous Escort Mexico in the parking lot, mingling with Corollas and Sentras. This punchy little Laser Sport was among the few race-ready (yet also road legal) rocketships on show, sporting a 1.8-litre Mazda twin-cam engine.
It wouldn't be a show celebrating Britain's best without a selection of Lotuses (sneaky Vauxhall VX220 intruder not withstanding).
As one of the first cars to really grab the 'less is more' sports car engineering philosophy by the gonads, the Lotus Exige will always strike a particular chord with fans of the plucky marque. Most neatly, the trio of Exiges in this snap marked the first time each of the three generations had been parked next to each other in New Zealand.
The 'pick one to take home' game is a dangerous one here. One moment my heart pines for an F355 — one of the most beautiful Ferraris ever made and childhood me's favourite pin-up of the '90s. On the other hand, there's something so charming about all those Minis, and maybe even the Hillman Imp panel van.
Tri-spoke wheels are impossible to say no to, making those Saab 900s massively tempting. The Daytona, flawed as a car it may be, remains a wonderful thing to look at. The savage TVR Sagaris is no doubt brimming with novelty and brutish attitude. In similar blue hues the Alpine (pronounced 'Alpeen') twins looked so right parked next to one another.
Hmmm, rats. Might have to go again next year.