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New format strengthens Motorclassica’s appeal

A more modern twist helps to breathe new life into Australia’s premier motoring event

10 Oct 2022

AUSTRALIA’S premiere celebration of motoring has been run and won in Melbourne this weekend, Motorclassica 2022 marking its return to the historic Royal Exhibition Building for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.


With it, the event brings a new and substantially broadened format organisers say “breathe new life into Motorclassica”, strengthening its future with a range of vehicles that better reflect the changing tastes of entrants and attendees alike.


Speaking to GoAuto at the event, Motorclassica event director, Jon Treherne, said the refreshed format aims to reflect upon what the future of the event might be.


“It was about breathing some life back into Motorclassica. The two-year break during COVID-19 gave us time to sit back and reflect on what is the future of Motorclassica,” he said.


“It is a change for us, and it also means a change in audience as well. It’s about those changing passions, and one of the things I quickly saw was that for us to be able to grow and secure a solid future for Motorclassica, we need to follow those trends.


“It is about bringing in more of the modern. Really what I wanted to do was to share the very earliest cars right through to the pinnacle of modern technology but in a format that does not alienate any of our 10-year diehard fans.


“But we bring in the opportunity to attract a new and younger audience into Motorclassica – and that’s really where the changes come from: it’s about giving new meaning to a broader audience.”


Mr Treherne said that although the modern elements of the event were an evolving part of Motorclassica’s annual display and would be curated each year to ensure the display is as varied and vibrant as possible.


“At the heart of Motorclassica is our Concours, and we don’t want to touch our Concours, it is a very important element of the event. Where the real change is, for me, are the peripherals, the display cars, and the types of features we put in, those are the elements I feel I can ‘fiddle with’.”


This year’s event coincided with numerous anniversary celebrations of important brands and models including Ferrari’s 75th year, 100 years of the Rolls-Royce ‘Twenty’, and 50 years of BMW’s M (motorsport) division.


Indeed, Motorclassica paid homage to the Ferrari brand with a convoy of 75 rare, classic and collectable vintage vehicles taking to local streets on the Saturday morning. The spectacle included such examples as the 250 GT California right through to the latest 296 GTB, crystalising Mr Treherne’s intent for a mix of old and new.


“One of the absolutely refreshing things about Motorclassica 2022 is that we haven’t been here for three years, and there has been a huge pent-up demand, both from owners and enthusiasts,” he said.


“The hobby has never been more popular around the world, and Australia is no different. We are thrilled to be able to put on a great show that people want to be a part of.”


This demand meant organisers of this year’s event had to ‘knock back’ numerous would-be entrants. Mr Treherne said the COVID-19 period allowed more ‘projects’ than ever to be completed, with some 350 applications submitted for consideration.


In all, 140 cars and motorcycles were selected to partake in Motorclassica 2022 – including muscle car era and modern classics – with many more club and special interest vehicles gathering in the Royal Exhibition Building’s grounds.


This year, the outdoors collection incorporated an impressive display from BMW which included the world-first showing of the brand’s new M2 coupe. Secreted away on a purpose-built stage, the exciting sports model was off limits to mobile phone cameras, entrants allowed only to take a first-hand look.


Speaking to GoAuto from the Judges Room at Motorclassica, event chief curator, Mark Jansen, said that although the changes are welcomed by most, event traditionalists were cautious in welcoming new elements to the programme.


“Coming in and retooling a brand that has been in the market for over 10 years meant that people who are in the classic car market, are classic car collectors, or are passionate about Motorclassica voiced their opinions in no uncertain terms,” he said.


“But everybody that I’ve spoken to here and over the last 48 hours has told me that this is fantastic – that this is the best Motorclassica they have ever seen.


“The features that we do, such as the Icons of Speed, will be different each year … if you don’t change it, then you’re not continually evolving and you’re not breathing new life into the show … and really, that’s my job: to ensure the long-term future of Motorclassica.”


Mr Jansen said that future celebrations matched with key anniversaries and celebrations held in conjunction with manufacturers were likely to gain traction locally, filling some of the void created by the demise of traditional motor shows.


“The timing is perfect for re-energising the brand in this way because people are crying out for these sorts of things,” he said.


“Honestly, I’m hearing lots of different attendees commenting about how much they’re enjoying this new format – and the chance to see new and old cars in the one place – and even for me, who has spent over 35 years around cars like these, I still feel like a kid in a lolly shop.”


It was not difficult to appreciate Mr Jansen’s enthusiasm. As someone who has shown, raced, restored, and reviewed cars and motorcycles for the best part of three decades, Motorclassica stands out not only for its quality, but for the variety of vehicles.


Where else can you admire wooden wheel era classics like the 1902 Thomas Model 17 and the latest $5 million Koenigsegg Jesko Absolut beneath the same roof?


But according to Mr Jansen, the decision on just which vehicles to include can bring with it numerous challenges.


“We have an advisory board that meets regularly, and we go through each of the applications and screen them, and then we’ll go out and see the cars. A lot of them are known (to us), and of course there are also a small number of cars that will be rejected simply because they’re not the right sort of cars,” he explained.


“There are also a number of cars which you do not even debate on, they’re an automatic start and it’s a privilege to have them at the show.


“But it’s the cars in the middle that can be difficult, not because they’re not worthy of being here, but because they may not fit a particular theme for that year – and we would then ask them to apply the following year.


“It’s like Pebble Beach in America. There are so many people applying and it’s hard to get into, and I think the harder Motorclassica becomes to get into means it all just builds on the theatre of the whole event.”


Understandably, with the quality of vehicles on show now higher than it has ever been, the judging process is incredibly strict. Authenticity and provenance are crucial elements of the overall process, while over-restoration is viewed as ‘not in keeping’ with the ethos of the event.


Speaking to GoAuto from beneath the majestic Victorian era dome of the Royal Exhibition Buildings, chief judge, Neil Matthews, detailed the importance preservation plays in maintaining the ‘story’ of entrant’s vehicles.


“It is a very important thing that people are able to come to an event like this and see a range of different cars from over the last 100 years or more, in absolutely amazing, Concours condition; and we’re very lucky to have that here in Australia – it really is as simple as that,” he said.


“When you look at the quality of these vehicles, under the bonnet, and the detail of the interior, it really is mind blowing. These people have poured their heart and soul into these cars, and we’re quite blessed in Australia to have such a variety of cars, often that people have imported to remind them of where they grew up.


“I think that’s really what excites me most. I’ve judged cars all over the world, and I can tell you that we have some very special vehicles you simply don’t see anywhere also, and I think part of that is because Australia is such a multicultural society.


“But you’re right, from a judging point of view we see that a car must not be over-restored. It cannot go above factory condition, that definitely detracts from judging – and we do see a bit of over restoration from time to time, which can be a problem.”


Mr Matthews said that judging at Motorclassica was conducted to international standards meaning vehicles that were restored from hand-built examples, or from the production line, were held to the same high standards, with an emphasis on authenticity throughout.


“There are a strict set of guidelines and rules that we use so that whether we’re judging a 1923 Rolls-Royce or a ten-year-old Bugatti Veyron, those guidelines allow you to basically judge any car,” he explained.


“We use these guidelines in judging all around the world … and let me tell you, we’re talking about some very competitive people here. Everybody strives to achieve, that’s why they’re here. They’re all here to win – and that’s why the judging must be done right.


“For our entrants, a win at Motorclassica is a very big deal … and the event pushes a lot of people – and a lot of restoration businesses – into the kind of sparring that brings this kind of quality out for everyone to enjoy. That’s just really what it’s all about.”


In addition to the professional judging, Motorclassica entrants were also invited to critique their peers and vote for what they considered as the best in show.


This year, the coveted trophy was awarded to Craig and Scott Emmerson whose 1912 Cadillac Model 30 looked right at home in the Victorian era surrounds of the Royal Exhibition Building.


“This weekend was a melting pot of car enthusiasts coming together to share in the celebration of the automobile,” Mr Craig Emmerson, who entered the car he had restored with his twin brother, told GoAuto.


“For any entrant, it is a huge honour to be selected to show your pride and joy in this unique setting – this is certainly the way I feel about being asked to exhibit our 1912 Cadillac. I did not nominate the Cadillac for Concours judging this year, instead I chose to simply display the car as part of the Veteran Car Club exhibit.


“In the weeks leading up to the show, many hours were spent cleaning and polishing every detail, including the four-cylinder copper water jacket engine.


“From Friday all the way through to the final day of Motorclassica I happily answered questions from the eager public wanting to know about the Cadillac – it’s a joy to share the stories and the passion in what it takes to restore, maintain, and drive this now 110-year-old car.


“The award ceremony was held on the Sunday afternoon, and we had a great vantage point over the proceedings. The winners were truly deserving, and there were some amazing cars here. We were amazed when the judges announced our Cadillac as the winner of the Entrant’s Choice award.


“I think I was a little shocked when the announcer called out our names but also filled with so much pride. I accepted the trophy in front of a 200-strong crowd of peers and was so honoured to have won this award.


“In many ways, this is one of the most significant honours to receive. It is recognition from your peers – and that means so much. It will be a day to remember for a very long time to come.”


2022 Motorclassica Concours Final Results:


  • Vintage & Post Vintage (1919-1945):
    1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet B, Lindsay Fox

  • Post War (1946-1960):
    1960 Ferrari 250 GT Pininfarina, Chris Oxley

  • New Age Classics – British & European Closed (1961-1970):
    1961 Porsche 356B Coupe, Theo Dimopoulos

  • New Age Classics – British & European Closed (1971-1980):
    1973 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV, Peter Vandersluys

  • New Age Classics – British & European Open (1961-1980):
    1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SL, Robert Sirgiovanni

  • Modern Classics (1981-1992):
    1988 Giocattolo Competizione ‘Group B’, Jason Overland

  • Supercars (1993-on):
    2001 Ferrari 550 Barchetta Pininfarina, Anthony Pearse

  • Australian Classics (1950-1980):
    1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 3, Nick Borrelli

  • American Classics (1950-1980):
    1967 Chevrolet Corvette C2 ‘Split Window’, Jim Peters

  • Classics from the Track (pre-1960):
    1934 MG K3, Gary Kleinschmidt

  • Classics from the Track (1961-on):
    1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7, Aaron Senes

  • Icons of Speed:
    1973 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV, Peter Vandersluys

  • 75 Years of Ferrari:
    1973 Ferrari 365GTB/4 Daytona, Marc Rutty

  • 60 Years of Shelby:
    1965 Shelby 427 Cobra ‘Street’, Duncan MacKellar

  • 110 Years of Bertone:
    1970 Lamborghini Miura P400 S, Willam Zuccon

  • A celebration of Lotus:
    1976 Lotus Esprit S1, Carl Lakkis

  • A celebration of Porsche:
    1961 Porsche 356B Coupe, Theo Dimopoulos

  • A celebration of Muscle Cars:
    1967 Chevrolet Corvette, Jim Peters

  • Best Motorcycle:
    1972 Kawasaki Z1-900, John Clifton

  • Restoration of the Year:
    1961 Porsche 356B Coupe, Theo Dimpoulos

  • Preservation Class:
    1920 Ford Model T Coupe, Phil Turner

  • Best of Show:
    1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet B, Lindsay Fox

  • Entrant’s Choice:
    1912 Cadillac Model 30, Craig & Scott Emmerson

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