Motorclassica 2022 review, and thoughts on Aussie car shows in general
Car shows have been around since shortly after the invention of the car and their longevity is testament to their popularity, so why mess with a winning formula?
Because there’s room for improvement, and Motorclassica is a case in point.
The event modestly bills itself as Australia’s premier festival of motoring, and it’s probably right as there’s not much competition these days. Motorclassica is more or less annual car show where hundreds of cars which are mostly rare, expensive and exotic are gathered together for display to the public.
I spent a happy eight hours there on Saturday, a length of time that may surprise those who attended, including myself. But compared to previous visits I decided to take my time, really examine and appreciate the cars, not something we tend to do in the age of social media. It was worth the effort, gazing at a driver’s seat and wondering who’d done what in it and where. Or looking at an old car’s driveline, and marvelling how different things are today, solving the same basic problems in new ways.
I also noted that around the premises there quite a few large spaces devoid of cars or exhibits. And I spent some time people-watching from a vantage point on a balcony.
Then at the end I thought about my day and decided Motorclassica can, and needs to do a lot better.
There are events called Cars and Coffees, the best of which in Melbourne is the Highball event. At these gatherings any number of cars turn up, are parked, and people wander around. You may find everything from a McLaren Senna to a tuned Toyota Supra. It’s free to enter and exhibit. There are food trucks, coffee vans. a few vendors and lots of happy people. And there’s other events such as the excellent Daylesford Motorfest which offer a huge array of vehicles – each event tends to have a focus of some sort.
Motorclassica is very much the same concept, except that the cars are rarer and more exotic, but fewer of them, and it’s held in the beautiful Melbourne Exhibition Centre next to the Museum, mostly under cover. And for access you pay $49 for a single, or up to $98 for a family. You also have to pay if you want to exhibit your car. So right away Motorclassica has to provide something extra for the coin.
Motorclassica’s cars may be special, but that doesn’t necessarily make them more interesting. There could be a Nissan 240Z which if presented properly could be more interesting than the first-ever Lamborghini Miura. And therein lies the key, the story. This is where Motorclassica, as an event which selects and knows which cars will be displayed, needs to do better.
If you ask people who aren’t car enthusiasts about exotic cars, the first question they’ve got is “what is that?” You may answer “It’s a Bugatti Veryon”, or “that’s a Bolwell” which tells them nothing about Veyron’s incredible engineering, or the fascinating background of Bolwell. They probably haven’t even heard of Pagani or Koenigsegg. They’ve never heard of Niki Lauda or Adrian Newey, or Carrol Shelby. So you need to tell a story about four things:
- the car maker (sequenced over a number of cars)
- the car
- that specific car’s history
- how that car works
Then you know what you’re looking at. There’s context. You can place it. You see where it fits. There are interesting factoids, you have learned and been entertained. And not even enthusiasts know everything, certainly not the layperson who such events need to cater to as they are the bulk of the audience, and also from where new car enthusiasts are made.
You don’t get any story at a Cars and Coffee unless the owner is on hand or has left a sign, so that’s where Motorclassica can, and needs to differentiate itself.
Now to be fair, Motorclassica do make a token effort. There’s usually a few sentences on a sign next to the car which tends to assume a lot of knowledge on behalf of the reader, and doesn’t cover the four points above fully. And there is a further missed opportunity, that of a sequenced story.
Cars evolve over time, reflecting society’s needs and wants. So, what Motorclassica could do is show that journey. Line up cars from say BMW, Ferrari in order from oldest to newest, and explain that evolution as a brand delivers different cars over time. See how styling cues changed, car stereos became integrated, manual transmissions disappeared, wheels became lower-profile, electronic driving aids appeared, the effects of increasingly stringent safety and emissions standards.
And for carmakers; this year Motorclassica proclaimed it to be 75 Years of Ferrari, 50 Years of BMW, 60 Years of Shelby and 110 Years of Bertone yet failed to tell any of their stories. BMW’s own corporate stand proclaimed 50 Years of M, but there was nothing behind the headline.
Unfortunately, Motorclassica pretty much treats each vehicle as a standalone. It doesn’t tell the story of a brand like Lotus or Ferrari.
There’s other stories or explanations too; how sports cars evolved over the decades, the difference between a sports car and a grand tourer, a sypder vs a spider, convertible, and targa. Why do we prize rear-drive over front, the transition of racing cars from front to mid-engine.
If you look at museums, they tend to do this storytelling well. You go into a room, read up on what happened, look at the artefacts, move to the next and there’s a sequence. Not so with Motorclassica, it’s just a jumble. Their “Icons of Speed” – what on earth was that about? I couldn’t see why those cars were picked, and nor was there any explanation.
I say this – merely assembling a collection of beautiful cars is not enough, tell us a story. Humans love stories.
I will give one example of a little anecdote that made a car more interesting; the Buick advertised with “Light My Fire” to the ire of Jim Morrison. I’ll let you research it yourself.
There are some truly incredible vehicles at Motorclassica, but if you don’t tell people about them…then they won’t know what they’re looking at so the point is lost.
Now it’s a lot of effort to create that sort of story, but that’s why people pay $49. It can be done and as evidence, look at the BMW Driver’s Club who turned up with a large and impressively diverse array of vehicles, each of which had attached to the windscreen an informatively and entertaining summary of the car covering many of the fours point above.
And once the work is done, it can be largely re-used next year after a freshen up.
Another positive for me was the Ferrari Owner’s display in the courtyard. When I arrived at 0900 the ground was empty, and I recall thinking it was a bit of a waste of space. But later to my surprise I saw 70-odd Ferraris of all types parked together – what a sight, and thank you to each and every Ferrari owner who showed their car. I enjoyed the contrast between these driven cars with road grime, sunglasses on dashboards and phone chargers on seats, compared to the manicured perfection of the concours display cars. But again, an opportunity lost…Motorclassica didn’t announce bump-in so we could watch, and how hard would it have been for a Ferrari enthusiast to take guided tours so people know what it is they’re admiring? It’s telling that story again.
There were also missed opportunities for things for attendees to do. Just two; slot car racing and car racing simulators. What about radio controlled cars, racing, crawling or trailer backing? Or come-and-try detailing? I’ve also seen how-fast-can-you-change-a-wheel competitions at other events. There were stage talks, but in a location that was hard to hear and the topics weren’t overly interesting so not well attended compared to some show talks I’ve seen. How about guided tours, by say an mechanical expert, a historian, designer, a driver, take your pick according to interest.
There were also two significant car racing events on the Motorclassica weekend; the F1 Japanese Grand Prix, and Bathurst. There should have been a screen with results…would have drawn a few more people I reckon as many were staying home to keep track of the races.
Motorclassica’s Facebook feed is also a missed opportunity. Every post is shallow or promotional. Think of the rich, deep well of stories behind the cars displayed, the interesting facts, anecdotes…nary a word. Again, the “here’s a beautiful car, now that is all” mentality is on display.
Now some would say the show is a success and doesn’t need to change, and I certainly enjoyed it. Maybe it is a success, I don’t know the targets and actuals for the budget if the financials are the measure. However, more than a couple of exhibitors were disgruntled at the lack of traffic, there was a lot of unused space, and the general view from the attendees was “not as good as the previous show”…so I’d argue there’s room for improvement. I would like to see Motorclassica continue as a premium alternative to Cars and Coffee, but at the moment it’s really just Rare Cars and Standard Coffee in a Nice Building.
And while I’m critiquing…
Thank you for your wonderful article. My family and I drove down from Sydney to attend this year. We have previously been to both the 2016 and 2017 Motorclassica events and in comparing these to what we have just viewed, we are sadly disappointed. The prior years offered a more diverse, and more numerous, range of cars and motorcycles. This years’ turn out seemed paltry in contrast and we noticed wide empty spaces that previously held stalls and exhibits including artworks, Motorclassica et al merchandise purchasing opportunities, car accessories and car gadgets. We are grateful that our initial foray into Motorclassica and its concours quality car show occurred in what we now feel was its peak period.
by Robert Pepper
Thanks Carin, sorry you were disappointed. Glad I wasn’t the only one to notice the empty spaces. Please share this article 🙂
Apologies for the accidental thumbs down – I blame my stupidly ultra-sensitive phone screen – your article is indeed excellent.
by Chris Wills
In respect to your article there is a whole different story behind this year’s Motorclassica than that of previous years so it may have been prudent to have contacted the organisers first before writing such an article. To convey a proper assessment of any show its always best to contact those who actually organise it.
by Robert Pepper
Thanks Chris. The article was my impression of the show, an opinion piece. I’m happy to represent other views too, including the “whole different story” you reference which I’d like to know more about, and your own.
by Trevor Ryan
Fabulous detailed review Robert. As a exhibitor I agree with your comments, I strongly agree it could be improved.
As a complete Ferrari nut, the story of 70 years was completely lost.
As a exhibitor, no one came up stairs, perhaps 5% of the overall show crowd.
With only 10 exhibitors upstairs it looked baron, empty and unexciting. Why would you go upstairs to see relatively nothing.
The overall consensus by people we did have the opportunity of talking to, they were disappointed. One guy drove from Adelaide and was disgusted as he was looking forward to what was new from exhibitors only to find emty space.
My personal 2019 experience upstairs is why we booked at stand this year. 2019 was busy and vibrant with heaps of diverse automotive exhibitors.
It was great catching up with you at the show.
by Chris Wills
Thank you Robert, I appreciate your thoughts written and there is a lot we can improve upon like any event and your thoughts will be definitely taken on board. This year’s show was much more challenging than past shows after a break due to Covid with many new obstacles faced. To be honest we felt great relief to have actually made it happen as it required a huge team effort from the many people involved. Anyway thank you for attending the show and for providing your views.
by Robert Pepper
Thanks Chris I look forwards to attending next year, and continuing to encourage others to attend.
by Chris Wills
Thank you Robert much appreciated.