A record number of enthusiasts of the motoring mundane gathered at the imposing surrounds of Stowe House in Buckinghamshire to take the ultimate motoring nostalgia trip at the fifth anniversary edition of the annual Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional Concours de l’Ordinaire.

Classic vehicle insurance specialists Hagerty International created the first Festival of the Unexceptional (FOTU) five years ago to highlight the attrition rate of some of the most popular and best loved vehicles of our recent motoring past, with the event now becoming a focal point for the core enthusiasts who take real pride in their rare and long-forgotten everyday family cars of the 1968-1989 ‘Unexceptional Era.’

The FOTU concours cars filled the front of the beautifully manicured Stowe lawn, with 50 expertly selected Unexceptional models vying for title of Best in Show. These included a wonderfully original 1979 Citroën GS X3, one of only two roadworthy survivors in the UK, a 1975 Volvo 66 GL saloon – the oldest known example of this ex-DAF model – plus an as-new and very scarce 1971 Fiat 125, an early 1982-built Ford Sierra 1.6L and a very beige (Harvest Gold in BL parlance) 1975 Austin Allegro 1100 with its Quartic steering wheel and hot and sticky PVC brown interior trim.

Among the many cars falling into the ‘I haven’t seen one of those in years’ category was a 1975 Volkswagen 412 four-door saloon (Britain’s sole survivor), plus a 1985 Mazda 929 Estate, a 1982 Peugeot 104 Z ‘Shortcut’ coupe and a wonderfully bland dark blue 1989 Vauxhall Astra Mark 2 Estate that looked like a photocopier sales rep’s company car.

With the bland leading the blind, the six-strong judging panel of mundane motoring masterminds – including TV’s Edd China and Jon Bentley – admired the selection of taupe, brown and yellow family saloons and estates, many equipped with rubber flooring, squidgy vinyl seats, no radio, manual wind-up windows and ‘genuine’ faux Formica wood inserts. Finally they announced the winners to a large, expectant and sun-tanned crowd:

Best in Show: 1977 Chrysler Alpine (Guy Maylam)
Second Place: 1981 Datsun Bluebird GL saloon (Kev Curtis)
People’s Choice: 1982 Fiat Strada 65CL (Gavin Bushby)
Junior Judges Choice: 1979 Vauxhall Cavalier L 2-door saloon (Jason Himpson)
Best Dressed: Edward Morley (1972 Renault 16 TS)
Feast of the Unexceptional/Best Picnic: Julie Gandolfi (1983 Mercedes-Benz 200T)
The Best in Show winning pre-Talbot 1977 Chrysler Alpine was an exceptional example of a truly unexceptional car, fully restored and finished off just the night before the 2018 FOTU by Chrysler/Simca enthusiast Guy Maylam. The Chrysler is one of only 13 Alpines left in the UK, a pioneering family hatchback that won the coveted European Car of the Year title for 1976 but failed to wrest sales away from more successful contemporary rivals such as the Ford Cortina, Vauxhall Cavalier and Morris Marina.

As a three-time FOTU participant and supporter (his sole-surviving Simca 1100 Estate was commended last year), Guy spent over 1000 hours of hard slog bringing his rare Alpine back from the dead. He said: “This example was a dreadful car, but once you start a restoration, it’s difficult to stop! My Best of Show win was third time lucky and totally unexpected. I really appreciate what Hagerty has done for the bread-and-butter car movement, and the Unexceptional justifies having these unloved cars.”

The second-placed, low-mileage 1981 Datsun Bluebird 1.6 GL saloon was utterly unexceptional in every way, with entrant Kev Curtis and a couple of friends really getting into the spirit of the event by dressing-up as dodgy used car dealers, replete with period pork pie hats, an old car showroom desk, period beige plastic telephone and old copies of magazines and car valuation guides. FOTU regular and keen Fiat enthusiast Gavin Bushby was delighted to receive the sought-after Peoples’ Choice award for this very original 1982 Fiat Strada 65CL, complete with wonky glove box lid, just how it was built (by robots!) in Turin 36 years ago.

Being the Fifth Anniversary of the Hagerty’s celebration of the brilliance of the bland, two additional special displays of Unexceptional cars were also held at Stowe House. The first of these saw the welcome return of each of the previous FOTU Best of Show winners, an uncommon Alfasud-powered 1985 Nissan Cherry Europe that won in 2014, the 2015 winning 1978 Ford Escort 1600L 4-door MK2, a 1980 Morris 575 ‘Marina’ pick-up from 2017, and the 1983 Datsun Sunny 1.5GL that took the award last year.

These past victors were joined by the previous runner-up cars, plus past People’s Choice winners, including a 1971 Ford Cortina Mk3, a pair of Hillman estates (1974 Avenger and 1968 Minx) and the world’s oldest Austin Allegro, a pre-production December 1972 1750 SS. The other special ‘Invitation Class’ display saw a number of vehicle manufacturers presenting ordinary cars from their own marque heritage collections, including Mitsubishi Cars UK bringing its original 1974 Colt 2-door press car along, joined by Toyota GB’s 1967 Corona, Audi UK’s 1971 80 Estate and the Vauxhall Motors Heritage fleet’s 1971 Viscount PC.