Hurrah! The International Autojumble has returned after two years of absence! The king of Autojumbles is firmly established as Europe’s largest outdoor sale of automotive memorabilia. The event has been an integral element of the European motoring calendar for almost 50 years, taking place on the weekend of the 4th and 5th of September within the tranquil grounds of the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu. It can also be described as the ideal event for those who aren’t really hunting for a specific part, but who like the thrill of the quest, discovery, and satisfaction that comes with rummaging.
Car and Classic selflessly spent the whole weekend at this year’s Autojumble, as a perfect opportunity under fair and dry weather to help paint a picture of the weekend. It was a fantastic opportunity to savour the joys of car-related banter, bargain hunting, haggling, and reconnecting with people again, armed with a handful of notes, which was a novelty in this increasing age of paperless money. The first step was to create a rough itinerary, which was made easier by the neat rows of stalls. Each stall is also numbered, so it’s a good idea to keep a mental list of stalls of interest because you’ll often notice something interesting and walk right past it, only to regret not buying it later. With over 1,000 stalls, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to visit them all in one day!
There are three distinct sections to the event. The Autojumble takes place on the red field sections, which are made up of three big grass fields with stalls, tents, and pitches. The classic car displays were on the bank field alongside the green field which included a mix of more displays and promotions. The final area is split into two, for auctions sales and private vendors to entice buyers into securing the car of the dreams.
While the main draw is the Autojumble, there are plenty of opportunities to buy, observe and muse over a whole feast of classic vehicles. The Bonhams MPH selection scoped over 100 years of motoring and proved that there is something for every facet of classic car ownership, depending on the size of your pockets. This 1917 Simplex LaFrance is one of a handful of the American built roadsters, powered by a 9500cc 4 cylinder engine, the engine having been developed for use in commercial vehicles. Still on an American theme, this stylish 4 door 1960 Chevrolet Corvair with a recorded 58K on the clock caught our eye. The Corvair’s card was marked from the start, due to its wayward handling, but the execution of a comparatively compact rear-engine car, in the mould of the VW Beetle has to be applauded during an era where the US was churning out similar heavy metal transport for the masses. It remains the only mass-market American built rear-engined car to be produced.
For the more adventurous/optimistic, there were also plenty of cars that needed a bit of elbow grease and sizeable effort to tackle. The public’s interest is always captured by the selection of unrestored derelict cars posing as projects and the raw challenge of restoring a previously abandoned wreck into a usable proposition is the mark of a brave individual, but the kudos points are there for the taking. Three Daimlers once belonging to the vendor’s late mother were last used in the late ’80s and were sold alongside a separate batch of Reliants. This included a 1970 Bond/Reliant Equipe coupe prototype, which suggests that there are still plenty of barn treasures to be uncovered.
There were opportunities for private individuals to sell their cars too. As the classic car market continues to boom, perfectly demonstrated by the Car and Classic auction website, where millions of pounds are being processed monthly in sales and purchases. Long considered as safe investments, the market continuous to remain buoyant, the demand for post ’60s baby-boomer family cars are firmly placed as shrewd investments. Obviously, condition, provenance and appeal constitute the success of a sale, yet cars never considered as valuable assets continue to surprise and delight. Even the news of the gradual wind-down of fossil fuel-reliant products and increasing environmental concerns have yet to dent the appeal of the classic car. The irresistible glorious blend of oil, petrol, and leather still has that allure for many.
Two cars in the Automart that captured Car and Classic’s sense of adventure were this Lancia and Mini both being sold by Peter. The Lancia has lived its life in North Carolina, having been carefully owned by a golf course owner. The car was shipped over to the UK and whoever bought the car will not need to worry about corrosion issues as it has to have been one of the cleanest Beta’s we’ve seen. Now, this is not the case for Peters other car. Found in Devon, the attractive floor start Austin Mini Countryman in Surf Blue has only 16K on the clock and runs like a sewing machine. The car was snapped up quickly by well-known car customiser and designer Andy Saunders and will form the basis of his next project.
Hagerty, fresh off the success of their iconic Festival of the Unexceptional event, had a display of 5 cars that sum up their welcome presence on the classic car scene. The stall was manned by a friendly selection of their staff, who embodied the passion and uniqueness of the event. Among the five cars parked on their stand, was James’ near-perfect 1989 T72 Nissan Bluebird. The collection provides a perfect opportunity for the public to speak to the organisers and owners of the cars at the stand, who may remark that examples of these cars can still be seen in the public car park by unassuming owners who still view them as daily drivers, workhorses, or in the case of a gentleman who told James that he had most likely helped assemble that very car in 1989.
As an interesting companion to the Hagerty stand, the organisers at Beaulieu also held a very similar stand championing the celebration of the bread and butter family car, under the Forgotten Favourites banner. Among the display of Vauxhalls, Maxis and Toyotas on display was Richards unique Leyland P76. Created by the Australian arm of BL for domestic markets, this V8 powered sedan was intended to take on Holdens and Fords. Although its success was limited, this wonderfully restored specimen has received a great deal of attention, care, and (obviously) money in order to make it possibly the best example in Europe. In the same section was Mark’s Fiat 131 Mirafiori. As a twin-cam engine powered family sedan with some surprisingly slick design touches, it was a brisk and stylish alternative to the Ford Cortina. This LHD example was imported from Italy and has been with Mark for almost 10 years. Like many classic car aficionados, his motivation for owning one stems back to his younger years and he actively sought out the best example he could find and enjoys displaying the car.
Let’s go straight into the reason why Car and Classic attended the event. Looking like a motoring bazaar, with delights and surprises at each stall, the occasion acts as an opportunity to spark up conversations and appreciate a shared passion. The human interaction and the joy of bartering, which after recent events seems like a genuine pleasure, the physical interaction as well as understanding the decorum of the Autojumble is just a tiny part of the appeal. This is not something that can be achieved on a computer website auction, where a couple of clicks are followed by a package in a few days. There is something irresistible about holding and inspecting something that you have discovered yourself.
While the core of the stall owners were well-established old-hats at this Autojumble lark, and have created their modus operandi through experience and connections, there were several businesses that were new to the scene. Having originally set up after buying much of his stock on eBay over the last year and collecting items in bulk, Jon set up his stall and was rewarded with an impressive return on his first day of trading. The secret is knowing your customers and being flexible with the prices. Having a receptive and friendly team behind you also goes a long way.
Graham is an Automotive Historian who has been a long time stall-holder selling automotive literature and has been a regular fixture in the covered tent section for decades. Specialising in classic car brochures, he has built up a loyal customer base thanks to his ability to locate ‘hard to find’ sales material. Graham has seen the hobby expand over the years and is well qualified to gear his sales approach and business model to adapt to customer demands. He told us “With the recent paperless approach to car brochures, sales literature will soon become obsolete for all but the most expensive of cars”. However, on a more positive note, he adds “There will always be a market for Sales Brochures thanks to collectors, but also car owners who wish to add that final detail to their car”.
Other promotional materials, such as original posters and car-related signs are also hugely collectable. Often bought as display pieces in garages or studies, the graphic design, much like bygone car brochures, symbolises a past graphic illustration era where bright vivid imagery and punchy text styles hold a nostalgic as well as aesthetic value. The framed Wakefield sign is the former name of the Castrol company, which used the name after founder Charles Wakefield founded the company in 1899. It was used until 1909 and stall-holder Paddy told us that finding this unique example was quite a catch.
Toys are deeply connected to the nostalgia aspect of the Autojumble, with die-cast items, kits and other collectables offering opportunities for grown-ups to buy a toy car guilt-free as a ‘memento’ of the day. Of course, there are casual buyers seeking a model of their actual car and there are also those who are serious collectors, seemingly with very little in between. Several specialists were in attendance, including well-known Matchbox collector and seller John Moore who had had a beautiful and irresistible selection of 1960s Regular and Superfast Matchbox toys. The era is often referred to as the golden age of Matchbox, when the Hackney factory had cornered the small scale toy car market, with a selection of realistic models almost identical to the ones your parents might have driven. The values, particularly for rare colours often run into the high hundreds, with collectors all over the world seeking to fill gaps in their collections.
As the name implies, the International Autojumble is the main Autojumble organised by Beaulieu, following the Spring event normally held in May. The International event is more geared to attract overseas sellers and buyers, although there is no hard and fast rule to this. With a still impressive 25,000 attendees over the weekend, the numbers for obvious reasons are slightly lower than past Autojumbles, with both Brexit and Covid factors taking their toll on European attendees. The bustle of overhearing international languages from all over the world, bartering, chatting and laughing is one of the main aural delights of the event and will hopefully return. Dick from Jancia, a Dutch Lancia collector attended this year’s event at a fairly considerable financial cost but still rates the event as unmissable.
The weekend is obviously focused on all things automotive, but many people use the event to set up stalls as a perfect opportunity to clear out their garages, storage areas and sheds. Each stall is uniquely different, often a reflection of personalities, lifestyle and interests. With many people making efforts to display their wares in an attractive and appealing fashion, one should never discount the messy and unorganised set-ups as there are potential gems to be found in the rough. Sam’s stall was full of engaging tat, accordingly themed to appeal to curious passers-by and perhaps long-suffering partners of Autojumblers. It is general knowledge that Sunday afternoons are ideal to swoop up bargains, as sellers are faced with repacking heavy and bulky items, so never be afraid of playing the game when the time is right!
Of course, the main reason for the event is the opportunity to obtain car parts. There are plenty of traders with long-established businesses that can sell you new parts alongside the parts that have seemingly come off a scrap heap. However, these potentially act as window pieces for buyers, who will spot something and inevitable ask the seller whether they have a panel for a particular car.
The main appeal of the Autojumble, other than the opportunity for your reviewer to buy toys, tat and treats, was the numerous photo opportunities. The opportunity to capture the day is hugely appealing and presents many unique compositions. It’s also a great area to people-watch, as those with boats and mansions interact with others on the outskirts of society, all of whom share a passion for motor vehicles.
For the time being, that’s all there is to it until the next Autojumble, which will take place in May 2022. A truly wonderful experience and one that every classic car fan should experience. As a visitor, all you have to do is bring some cash and try not to overthink the reasons or logic of purchasing a bomb-shaped pedal car.