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1989 Proton 1.6 GL Black Knight Crowned winner of 2021 Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional

The car concours unlike any other and world-famous Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional enjoyed sell-out success at Grimsthorpe Castle on Saturday.

Thousands of mundane motors were displayed with pride by a record number of car enthusiasts who were thrilled to attend arguably the season’s greatest concours.

The focal point in the grounds of Grimsthorpe Castle, a 1516 architectural masterpiece of Tudor and Baroque splendour, was 50 carefully selected Unexceptional concours cars. Perfectly parked on manicured lawns, the owners and vehicles alike had to face a committee of six judges and their demanding inspection techniques and tough questioning. All held their nerve as they shared their stories and attempted to bribe the judges with cake, biscuits and, in one case, a glass of sherry.

Hagerty created the first Festival of the Unexceptional in 2014 as a celebration of long-forgotten everyday family cars from 1968-1989, now fondly known as the ‘Unexceptional Era’. The 2021 selection offered one of the best concours lawns in seven years of the festival, with cars arriving from across the nation to be judged as one of the best of the best.

When did you last see an Audi 100E Avant, or a Fiat Strada? A Mazda 929 Estate drew the crowds as a genuine forgotten hero, and the same was true of an ultra-rare Lancia Trevi. An Escort Popular proved the brilliance of a base model and a Daewoo Espero offered a perfect blend of an unexceptional car with an exceptional ownership story.

Hagerty’s esteemed judges took their Thermos flasks to a tartan rug and debated the winners over countless cups of tea and many custard creams. Eventually an agreement was reached, and the 2021 winners were announced.

Best in Show: Jon Coupland – 1989 Proton 1.5 GL Black Knight

Runner Up: Danny Wilson – 1991 Peugeot 106 XN

Feast of the Unexceptional/ Best Picnic: Matthew Long – 1986 Volvo 340 DL

Best dressed: Mark Pallatt – 1979 Ford Escort

The winning Proton, owner by Jon Coupland (30) from Boston in Lincolnshire, is one of just 201 examples, this being the only remaining example. The previous owner put the Black Knight into a garage in 1993, with just 3600 miles recorded, and it didn’t surface again 2017. Now showing just over 13,000 miles, it is the star of Coupland’s three-Proton collection.

The runner-up prize winning Peugeot 106 was bought for just £500 via Facebook Marketplace. Owner Danny Wilson (27) from Driffield in East Yorkshire, brought the peppermint-coloured Peugeot back to life himself, and the judges noted that it was fitted with a carburetter and choke found only on the very earliest examples, marking it out as a true survivor of the scrap heap. Wilson had wanted to be a part of FOTU for many years and was delighted to have been chosen to display his car at the concours for everyday old cars.

Special mentions went to James Green for his 1989 Nissan Bluebird, Charles Whilems and his 1986 Volkswagen Polo C Formel E, Chris Howells and his 1971 Triumph Toledo and Simon Hucknall for his 1977 Fiat 128. All of these cars impressed the individual judges and warranted their place in the 2021 Unexceptional Hall of Fame.

As usual, the Festival car park created an additional show within the main event, with hundreds of unexceptional cars parked on the heritage grass of Grimsthorpe. Highlights included a brace of Bond Bugs, a fantastically preserved Mk1 Ford Granada Coupe, countless Skoda Estelles and Favorits from the pre-VW era, a brilliantly basic Land Rover Discovery 3-door and Sri Lankan Toyota Terecel 4WD to name but a few.

Paul Cowland, television presenter, Hagerty columnist and judge of the Concours de l’Ordinaire who is new to the event, said that it was great to see younger drivers embracing and saving old, everyday cars. “For me, it is the diversity of the scene and the affordability and accessibility that makes events like the Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional so appealing. The fact that the second-placed car cost just £500 car shows how inclusive this scene is – everyone is welcome and there are no egos.”

Speaking at the event James Mills, Hagerty’s UK Editor, said “What stood out for me this year was the number of fantastic cars fielded by younger entrants. It’s great to see the next generation of enthusiasts showing a real passion for everyday, ordinary, and unexceptional classics and demonstrates the growing love for this accessible scene. Our Festival started out as a small, cult event but today we saw thousands of visitors make the trip to admire the unsung heroes of the classic car world.”

Lee Mathewson, Managing Director of Hagerty UK, added “This was my first Festival of the Unexceptional and I really enjoyed the friendliness, enthusiasm and dedication shown by both the vehicle owners and all the visitors joining in the fun. It was a delight to see so many people enjoying a welcome return to car shows, sharing stories with like-minded enthusiasts and enjoying celebrating car culture once again. Hagerty is proud to be at the forefront of the unexceptional movement and looks forward to hosting the Festival of the Unexceptional once again in 2022.”

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