Butties gone, apple crumble and custard next
Drove to King's Lynn for Saturday's Anglia Car Auctions Classic Car event. They don't let you bid unless you've registered at the office, so there's no danger of finding you've accidentally bought a monster whilst scratching your nose. Hundreds of people come for the spectacle or seeking after that dream on wheels they've always wanted to own. Maybe they will find it; such things exist and here is the proof.
This is not the sale where you buy the sensible work-a-day vehicles for hauling paint or animal feed or ladders or grannies; this is not where you buy a wife. This is where you buy a mistress. The crowd is 95% male. The clothes are Clarkson, but proper bloke jeans and leather bomber jackets. As this is an Event, not just a sale, the jeans and shirts are clean.
There are one or two golfing jumpers with plump wives on their arms; in the Mormon fashion these are men come to buy a second wife and they want the approval of the first wife. A fat lot of good it would be to have the missus at odds with the other missus.
It's £4 on the door to get in, for which you get a catalogue and full access to the cars. Unlike a museum where you aren't allowed to touch the display, here you can open everything and even get in if you wipe your shoes.
The gates open at 10am so there is plenty of time to have early lunch in the cafe, although it is a crush before the auction starts. Then have a good look round the offerings, making notes of the lots you are particularly interested in. Everybody looks very serious; as thoughtful as a farmer leaning on a fence and figuring the price of cattle at a county show.
The fascinating - it means hopelessly expensive and will take all your time - projects are the ones which have been discovered hidden in the back of barns or old buildings. One day a 1954 Sunbeam Talbot 90 Drophead Coupe was parked in a dry but very dusty garage, possibly because it needed some repairs.
Going by the condition of the cars which have been found after twenty years in store, this one might have been parked around 1970 after 16 years on the road. This is not just a car sale; this is industrial archaeology. (For a full picture, see the first link. The car is the first item on the catalogue).
Eventually it is time for the sale proper, so everyone makes their way to the great sheds where the cars will be driven through - it's generally a bad sign if they can't even make that short journey - and either dealt of held in front on the auctioneers dais.
There is a sign on the door showing we are in Kansas:
There is a tang of religion in the air which is full of the incense of hydrocarbons. The auctioneer leads the ceremony from his pulpit and everyone has their catalogue out, marking the price or bids for the cars they would have liked for themselves. A few cars are withdrawn either because they fail at the door or because they never make the reserve price at the block.
Then auctioneer treats them all the same with his manic chant, the glory of which is to make it sound like he is running on a wheel when everyone can see that he's just a man standing with a microphone. From the floor and at his elbow there are phone bids coming in from people who are giving instructions from home.
The car of the show was the surprise star; lot 96, a 1974 Citroen Pallas mechanically sound and exceptionally restored by a body shop specialist. Delta blue with a black leather interior.
The detailing of the original design shows that when the French think about Futurism they are touched by genius. The white stripe down the side, for example, is not merely a visual motif. It is a ridged rubber scuff-strip which fits in to chrome holders and can be renewed to protect the car.
This car looks like a space ship and is as fresh as the day it came off the drawing board. In the end there was only one bidder for it, who got it at the reserve price of £20,000.