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Stafford show shine

The 30th Classic Mechanics Show at Stafford County Showground (14-15 October) attracted a much larger audience, significantly eclipsing the April Stafford attendance and thus reflecting the growing power of the classic Japanese bike movement. The show also reflected growing confidence post-Covid.

The basic split for the Stafford world-leading classic shows has been British bike bedrock for April and Japanese for October. Recent years have seen something of a machinery overlap as the younger Japanese-centric generation has expanded its influence, the leading club, the Vintage Japanese MC, having a presence on five stands in October.

“You couldn’t move in here on Saturday,” said VJMC vice-president Doug Perkins, who has been with the club since its foundation in 1982. “We had people queuing both days to join the club and renew memberships – never known anything like it.” Tireless VJMC show officer Andy Bolas, nodded his agreement on show attendance.

Potential buyers examine 1952 500 Moto Guzzi Falcone Sport from the Tony East Collection. It made £13,225 (including premium) in the Bonhams auction

The first Classic Bike show was established in 1980 at Belle Vue, Manchester, by Alan Whitehead, now 78, who started as an event organiser in 1972 with the Bolton Autojumble in Lancashire. He moved the Classic Bike show to Stafford in 1988, where it became a truly international event with an allied major classic bike auction.

In 1993, Whitehead could see the potential for a second show in the £multi-million classic movement, and so introduced the Classic Mechanics Show in October of that year.

In 2000, Mortons bought both shows, sensibly keeping founder Whitehead involved as a consultant. The Mortons show team, headed by Nick Mowbray, introduced various changes, successfully keeping the momentum up and further developing the shows.

Covid in 2020 brought a temporary halt, forcing Mortons and many other businesses to re-think their strategies.

For October, a custom section was added to broaden appeal. Main guests were members of the Henry Cole TV team (Henry Cole, Guy ‘Skid’ Willison, and Allen Millyard). Cole is surely Britain’s most televised motorcycle man at present. The Cole men proved very popular, specials builder Millyard firing up his monster V10 8-litre Dodge-engined special to the crowd’s delight. This bike holds the two-up Guinness world speed record (183.5mph), Cole gamely riding pillion.

In addition to the indoor show bikes – many in dazzling perfection – plus indoor and outdoor autojumble, was the two-day Bonhams auction, which reported £2.1m gross turnover, 90% sell-through, and 1100 registered bidders from 35 countries.

The top selling bike was Kork Ballington’s 1979 world championship-winning KR250 Kawasaki (£92,000 including premium). South African Ballington, also entered a 1971 500 Kawasaki racing triple, which made £57,000, the third best seller. Twenty-two machines made more than £20,000, but there were no six-figure results this time.

The sale included machines from the Isle of Man motorcycle museum set up by the late Tony East. All 86 lots, including 16 Triumphs, selling at no reserve for a total of £414,000. Members of the East family were present in the auction hall. East had previously run a workshop equipment manufacture and retail business, ARE, based in Guildford.

While the Stafford shows have a way to go to get back to their pre-Covid pre-eminence, the enthusiasm for classic bikes and the promise of further commitment by classic fans shone through in October.

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