2021 Festival of the Unexceptional 2021 Festival of the Unexceptional
Some things like wine and old cars seem to get better with age. You can say the same for some classic... 2021 Festival of the Unexceptional

Some things like wine and old cars seem to get better with age. You can say the same for some classic events, with this August’s Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional a prime example.


Now in its seventh year, this must have been the most polished and compelling Festival yet.

For those unaware, the Festival of the Unexceptional is that wonderful, once-a-year tribute to those largely overlooked ‘everyday’ cars of the past that are now exceptionally rare (at least in prime condition).

So yes, at heart, the Fotu is largely a celebration of workaday cars like the Cortina, Avenger, Allegro, Solara and Cavalier, family cars built between 1968-89, preferably with the plainest spec available (no airs and graces here). British Leyland, in particular, has a big fan base here.

Hence the tagline, Battle of the Blands (or Meeting of the Mundane, if you like). However there’s much more to the Festival than that.

It’s the way the cars all come together and the Festival’s self-styled Concours de L’Ordinaire that makes the event so special. You are soon reminded this is not your standard old car fan fest.

With the last Festival cancelled due to you-know-what, spirits were high at this year’s Festival, held within the majestic grounds of Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincs as the exceptional quality of all the unexceptional cars assembled came under good natured scrutiny.

Walk through the 50-car Concours de L’Ordinaire and quality of these survivor cars was amazing. How to choose one from another must have been close to Mission Impossible….

Eventually the immaculate, now one-of-a kind, 1989 Proton 1.5 GL Black Knight was crowned this year’s Best in Show. Owner Jon Coupland, 30, is a devotee with three Protons.

It was a popular win, and a number of other cars had special mentions on the day. Well done to those. Interestingly, I came up with my own shortlist, cars which had me totally beguiled.

Such as, for example, this gold, big-on-bland Mazda 929L wagon from 1982 (never seen one of those before) or the white 1979 Allegro 1.3L with just 2680 recorded miles on the clock…

Social media certainly was in on the Festival. When I tweeted a pic of winner Jon Coupland with his virtually as-new 32 year-old Proton, back came a record avalanche of likes and retweets. No kidding.

Proof then that the Festival of the Unexceptional has some remarkable cut-through. Either that or there’s an unfeasibly large contingent of Proton fans out there, could that be true?

Seriously, simple, original, unpretentious cars like the Malaysian-built Proton (one of just 201 examples and now the only remaining one) led the way, followed by the runner up 1991 Peugeot 106 LN bought for £500 and beautifully restored by its owner Danny Wilson, 27.

Yes, another Millennial. Encouraging, that.

You do wonder, though. In the Concours, there was a lovely Citroen CX Athena but I can confirm there was nothing unexceptional about the CX when new. Or even an Audi 100 E Avant for that matter. But that’s to nitpick.

I have been to the Fotu before but this year’s show seemed better organized, more compact and professional. If you arrived in a ‘modern,’ you were politely directed to an alternative car park. So the Fotu car park (another draw in itself) was kept for cars in period, a nice touch.

The Grimsthorpe Castle venue, built in 1516, was fab, but maybe too far north for some Londoners and southeners? Not for me, though. Relished the drive up there in my 1998 Mazda Roadster 1.8 RS.

I hope the Fotu stays just as it is. I just loved the vibe and am already looking ahead to 2022.

Peter Nunn

Peter Nunn

Peter is a writer and tester in the UK with more than 30 years experience of covering new cars, classics and the fascinating, fast moving car industry.