A friend of mine said to me once: ‘I just don’t get it - why would anyone be interested in old cars?’

The fact is that these vehicles are far from just a means of transport. For many they instantly bring back memories, whether as a child in parents’ or friends’ cars, or later, driving on a shoestring in our youth.

Individual and distinctive, these vehicles are historic automotive architecture. They are recognisable from a distance, and recall times when vehicle design was not global, in contrast with today’s stereotypes.

Recalling times of industrial and cultural history, and fashion, these cars symbolised times of austerity, affluence, and pre-computerised ingenuity. All but the most recent were hand-built and, to ensure their retention, are now maintained and driven with patience, love and care. To drive one, without power assisted steering and brakes, with uniquely placed gear levers and controls, and ‘dated’ handling, takes engagement! Don’t expect them to start instantly either…

Great British Life: Classic cars assemble in Yealmpton's Market Street for the King's Coronation Celebration Classic cars assemble in Yealmpton's Market Street for the King's Coronation Celebration

Advertisements of these vehicles reflected times when the means of transport demonstrated status, and social values of the day, with innuendos in such slogans as: ‘The car you always promised yourself’, ‘Your mother wouldn’t like it’, ‘The perfect car for a dirty weekend’, ‘You’ll never feel small in a Mini, and ‘You can do it in an MG’. Specific models were often classified as being suitable for the company chairman, bank manager, solicitor, doctor, sales reps, etc.

My car journey started in the very early Seventies with ‘restoring’ a Vauxhall Victor, which then funded a Mini, which, even when considerably modified, not only provided daily and work transport, but also my dabbling in a little motorsport. I frightened many of my friends with my enthusiastic driving, but I survived without major incident.

Some wonderful years of top-down MGB ownership were followed by a string of sensible family cars which also served as high mileage work vehicles around the lanes, villages and towns of the West Country in my career as a surveyor and estate agent.

Great British Life: Roger's MGB on the Rallye des Menhirs in BrittanyRoger's MGB on the Rallye des Menhirs in Brittany

It was possibly inevitable that I would re-engage with cars at some later stage and so it was in 2016 that I acquired a Mallard Green MGB roadster, which instantly put a smile, not only on my face but my wife’s. It was in the MGB days that we met, with our first holiday together exploring the coast of West France in this iconic British sports car with a leather suitcase strapped to the boot lid.

A whole new world of classic car pleasure has unfolded, far beyond just re-living my youth.

To discover how this world now thrives take a look at the website of the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs, the umbrella body to which almost all classic vehicle clubs in Britain belong. The organisation exists, ‘to uphold the freedom to use historic vehicles on the road’. It does this by representing the interests of owners of such vehicles to politicians, government officials, and legislators both in the UK and (through the Federation Internationale des Véhicules Anciens) in Europe.

Great British Life: The MG Car Club members meet at a Devon pubThe MG Car Club members meet at a Devon pub

Environmentalists will be pleased to note that this carries with it the responsibility of embracing current owners’ needs whilst also looking after the planet. This is facilitated by a new partnership with Tree-V, a carbon offsetting company, by putting together a simple to use, but highly effective way for any historic vehicle owner to carbon capture their emissions.

As examples of the popularity of this absorbing hobby, the Devon Vintage Car Club, established in 1968, has some 235 members with about 350 classic vehicles between them. Over the years it has raised in the region of £75,000 for local charities. One of the largest marque clubs, the MG Car Club, founded in 1930 by 30 owners, now has 470 members in Devon and Cornwall, about 9,500 in the UK and over 50,000 in associated MG Car Clubs internationally.

An industry of artisan craftsmen thrives on every aspect of restoration, not only engine building and bodywork, but re-trimmers, radiator builders, exhaust manufacturers, part fabricators, tyre and steering wheel manufacturers, electricians, and servicing (no computer diagnostics here!)

Great British Life: The Yealmpton group gather en route to the Rallye des Menhirs in Brittany. Photo: Arnold BergerThe Yealmpton group gather en route to the Rallye des Menhirs in Brittany. Photo: Arnold Berger

Very locally, groups of friends get together, not just to discuss piston rings and gaskets over a pint in the local pub, but to socialise and sometimes go on tour.

As an example, the village of Yealmpton in the South Hams, has some 30 enthusiasts, with over 60 vehicles between them! Over the last few years, the group has ventured over the Channel in May to Northern Brittany for the Rallye Des Menhirs, based on Yealmpton’s twinned village of Milizac and organised by AVAP (Amateurs des Véhicules Anciens du Ponant). This year 14 cars left on Plymouth’s Brittany Ferry to Roscoff, initially to be based in the beautiful market town of St Renan, and then to the Cote de Granit Rose, while some carried on later to the prestigious Tour de Bretagne.

Steeped in hospitality, these light-hearted events showcase the countryside and its cuisine, as locally sourced refreshment is provided liberally at each checkpoint, while everyone we pass raises a smile and a wave. At the post-event lunch at Milizac the Piston Broke award, a superbly mounted polished and mounted engine part, is given to the person contributing most to the event, which this year was given to one of the longstanding Breton management team.

Great British Life: Saltram Rotary's Lyneham Classic Car Show Saltram Rotary's Lyneham Classic Car Show

Events can broadly be divided into Shows and Runs, the former being significant charity fundraisers. Saltram Rotary Club, for example, organises an annual Classic Car Show, primarily to support Devon Air Ambulance at the private Lyneham Estate, just north of Yealmpton.

Initiated in 2018, and, despite initially cautious expectations it has raised nearly £10,000 for the trust in the four years of its existence. Typically attracting in the region of 300 classic vehicles, and 2,500 visitors, the show also has numerous food and drink outlets, craft stalls, a bouncy castle and, lately, performances by the South Hams Singers, and Totnes Jazz Workshop, making this a true day out for all the family.

This is modest in terms of shows, with some like Powderham Historic Vehicle Gathering run by the Crash Box & Classic Car Club every July, which is now in its 48th year. The enormous Wadebridge Wheels, also held in July at the Royal Cornwall Showground, is organised by Wadebridge Rotary Club and raised £28,000 for local charities in 2022 alone.

Great British Life: Saltram Rotary's Lyneham Classic Car Show Saltram Rotary's Lyneham Classic Car Show

Transport is an essential element in most people’s lives, and many enjoy the journey, not just getting from A to B but exploring our beautiful county, whether by bus, train, bike, motorcycle, horse or car. There is a certain satisfaction in steering a classic vehicle that has survived 40 or 50 years or more, and has not been recycled, while also giving a great deal of pleasure to bystanders. Park the car and someone will always come to talk with a smile, usually with an opener like: ‘I used to have one of those!’

Alternatively, come to the wonderful Lyneham Estate, Yealmpton, Plymouth, on Sunday, September 3 from 11am and see for yourself, and support Devon Air Ambulance Trust at the same time.