The origins of Classics at the Castle go back to the early Silverstone Classic meetings in the 1980s, where 356 Register participants were allowed a small space to present a few cars. Entry standards were generous; it was just a case of whoever turned up!
As the Silverstone event grew, so too did the Club’s need for more prominent forms of presentation. This led me to realise that, with so many members and model types, the Club’s presence could and should become something much larger. A call to the membership resulted in a chronological 100-Porsche parade (including a tractor) around the circuit at Silverstone.
Following on from this success, a Club Display Register was established to support future events. Tony Flint and I organised meetings at Althorp and then Highclere, with memorable presentations by dedicatedsupporters. Sadly, the success of the Register was short-lived, but the concept behind it lives on.
Two 356 Register events were held at Beaulieu National Motor Museum, and the first on 19 June 2004 was well attended. However, a second on 17 September 2006 had only modest support and Porsche Post provides this report: “The overall number of classics and moderns present was down on the previous year’s event, with the meagre presence of 912s (only three cars and two of these were for sale), two 914s, three real Carrera RSs (and one goodish replica!) and, noticeably, only a small turnout of good quality 911s compared to the large quantity of all sorts of last year.”
A change was evidently in order, and conversations about the location of further meetings reached the consensus that a move north of the New Forest would be a sensible consideration. Andy Prill mentioned that there was a possible alternative venue at Hedingham Castle and that the owner could be amenable to hosting an event. A meeting was arranged with Jason Lindsay to see Hedingham Castle and grounds and it was realised that Hedingham was ideal, in both location and setting. It would be the perfect venue to host an annual event that would attract more support.
News of the intended change of venue was revealed and promotion progressed. On the day itself, the attendance was overwhelming. Porsches and even non-Porsche cars arrived up to 4pm in the afternoon, with parking almost becoming a problem! Only the KG-badged Porsches were admitted to the event area, with AG models and non-Porsches parked out of sight. This was much to the chagrin of a few, but we were starting out as we meant to continue. The event was always intended to focus on the 1950-1973 KG production models (orange bar badges only) and that principle still applies today.
Clearly on to a good thing and buoyed by this success, Hedingham has been home to Classics at the Castle for coming up on 20 years now. Year by year, the event became increasingly synonymous with the KG concept and was endorsed by the subsequent appearance of ‘special’ cars from the Museum in Stuttgart and from private collectors and enthusiastic owners. It was soon luring like-minded enthusiasts from all over Europe and as far away as America and Japan too. The most memorable comment I can recall came from a visiting American Porsche fan and it wasn’t about the venue, but about the event itself. He had previously engaged me in conversation at the entry gate on arrival, but then came back a short while later to say: “I need to congratulate you and your team. I have been here less than half an hour and one thing is quite clear: this is not a ‘MY car is better than YOUR car’ event!”
We were also fortunate to receive encouragement from and the support of Geoff Turral, then-chief executive at Porsche Cars Great Britain, who had already introduced the display of early production model types as a promotion for Porsche Classic in a few dealership showrooms. Geoff viewed Classics at the Castle as ‘the right event at the right time’. The support of local Classic Porsche specialists Lee Maxted Page and original venue-finder Andy Prill has also been very welcome indeed.
The event continues to be a celebration of the early history of the Porsche production and competition model types which formed the company’s worldwide reputation on road and track. As a result of contact with Stuttgart and the recently introduced Porsche Classic organisation, we were able to secure and show rare and notable race cars from the Museum collection, which were delivered by transporter direct to the Castle. The provision of these cars inspired the pre-event Saturday evening curtain-raiser in the form of dinners with guest speakers including Porsche drivers Vic Elford, Bob Garretson, John Fitzpatrick, Gils van Lennep, Jurgen Barth and Richard Attwood. These talks were often supported by the factory with appearances by the cars they drove.
It also introduced the sight and sound of the moving car parade along the driveway. These parades proved very popular with participants as well as with members of the public, many of whom had never heard a Carrera 4-cam with a Sebring exhaust or a 917 engine. A memorable sound! Sadly, these had to be stopped for safety reasons. However, this year, there is a plan for a ‘slow parade’ with a small number of cars selected from the 75 Porsche KG cars. These cars, which will be the highlight of
a 75th anniversary display of production period model types, will be parked on the top level facing the castle keep.
Further thanks are in order for Simon Bowrey and Jamie Richardson, who have been key to the organisation and continuing success of the event, and to Ricky Caesar and many others for their loyal support.
This year, I look forward to welcoming classic car enthusiasts – both event regulars and those visiting for the first time – to this year’s meeting on Sunday 17 September. Tickets are still available, with further details available from the link below.