The Classic Car Show - A History            by Paul Blank

1969 - These MG TCs were just 20 years old

The Classic Car Show, long held at Whiteman Park has a history dating back to 1969. It was originally known as the Classic Car Concours and was run by a group of West Australian car clubs. They later formed the Combined Car Clubs, which in more recent times, changed its name to the Council of Motoring Clubs.

Held at the Children's Playground in Kings Park on February 16th 1969, the clubs participating were the MG TC, Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, Riley clubs and the MG T-Register. All but the last of these still exist, though the Jaguar Club closed-down and became a different club over the years. The car judged to be the Top Car on the day was an MG TC owned by Mike Sherrell, who amazingly, still owns the same car today.

The Jaguar MkV Saloon, shown left at the 1969 show is still around today as well.

In 1970 the show was run again, at the same location. Cyril Poole brought along his black Bugatti, which he'd owned from new. Doyen of the car collector's movement in Perth Percy Markham displayed a 1914 Locomobile and a rare Nazzaro. At least it wasn't just British cars this second year.

Markham had donated a trophy for the best car and was asked to be the judge. The 43-year old Bugatti won, even though it had a home-made hardtop fitted. Exhibitors paid a small fee to cover costs and the public saw the show for free.

Left: Poole's Bugatti, with unique hardtop.

In 1971 the show was moved to the grounds of Channel 7, in Dianella, the TV station doing some promotion on air for the event. An admission fee was charged, being Adults 20 cents, children 5 cents and families 50 cents! The event was (somewhat incorrectly) promoted as "The first Combined Concours d'Elegance". Signs were placed on each car with details of the vehicle.

Over 100 cars were displayed, consisting of:

    Austin Healey - 12 cars            Jaguar - 20 cars            MG - 16 cars            MG TC - 7 cars            Riley - 7 cars

    Rolls-Royce - 19 cars            Rover - 10 cars            Veteran Car Club - 13 assorted cars

Three motorcycles were also displayed. A Jaguar XK140 was voted best car, and it would later become part of the collection of Sydney radio personality John Laws. The MG TC Club won the best display award.    

On February 13th 1972 Channel 7 hosted the event in their grounds again. The entry fee had risen to $1. The prize giving ceremony was telecast, with Jeff Newman hosting.

In 1973 there was no show held in accordance with the view that it should take place every second year. It transpired that 1973 was the only year in which there was no show.

In 1973 the idea of a Combined Car Clubs group was gaining ground, having been promoted by the Riley Club. It was under the auspices of this group that the show would be run for ever onwards.

The 1974 show was planned to return to Kings Park, but at the last moment this was changed to the Zoo in South Perth, held on March 17th. Channel 7 remained the naming rights sponsor, televising the show again. The Zoo reported five times their average Sunday patronage. The best club display was the Riley Club. Their reward was to organize the 1975 show.

It too was held at the Zoo, on Match 16th. The winning club  hosting the next year's show became a tradition for some time. The Riley Club did well, with a record 200 cars attending. This caught the organizers out, with the results unable to be tabulated in time and announced after the show. The Daimler & Lanchester Owners Club won the Best Display award.

With insufficient room at the Zoo, the 1976 show, held on March 14th, was at the Maccabi Grounds in Yokine, and once again was a much bigger show than the previous year. The Vintage Automobile Association was the winning club.

Castledare was the venue the next year, chosen by the VAA. The Triumph Sports Owners Association won the award which gave them the right to run the show the next year. They chose the Cottesloe Civic Centre for the show, held on March 19, 1978.   By this time, not all cars were entered for judging in the Concours.

1978 at Cottesloe

The Classic Jaguar Club  hosted the 1979 show, and chose the Fremantle Esplanade as the venue. The photo right showing Studebakers.

It was moved to a little later in the year, April 29th, to avoid the heat of the early months of the year. Top car was Pat Kerr's 1909 De Dion Bouton.

The Rolls-Royce Owners Club hosted the 1980 show at Fremantle Oval, on March 16th. By 1981 there were two Jaguar clubs and it was the Jaguar Drivers Club which ran the show that year (on March 22nd), using the Claremont Showgrounds. They changed the name of the show to the Classic Car Show and several new clubs displayed for the first time. By now, it was a very big event and the classic car movement in WA was growing rapidly.   

1981's winning club was the Austin Healey Owners Club who joined the show with the Perth Motor Show for 1982, held at Gloucester Park. This was an interesting idea but wasn't an altogether popular move with the clubs.

Again in 1983 (March 13th), the Jaguar Drivers Club ran the show, by volunteering to do so after the problems of the last year - but unpopular decisions saw numbers of cars down for the second year running with several clubs electing not to display at all.

Above: D-Type Jaguar in 1981 Claremont Showgrounds, Microcar Club at Gloucester Park 1982 and 1959 Buick at Claremont in 1983

This motivated some changes from within the Combined Car Clubs group, the feeling being that the single club organizing system was no longer suitable and placed too great a workload on the resources of a club. A new multi-club committee was instituted for 1984 with representation from six clubs: Studebaker Car Club (Doug McCafferey, Chairman and Kevin Bell), Daimler & Lanchester OC (Steve Seddon), Citroen Owners Association (Paul Blank), Rolls-Royce Owners Club (Neil McLean) and Falcon GT Club (Eric Waddington). Some of these people remained key organizers within the car show committee for years to come.

The revitalised 1984 show was held at Ascot Racecourse on March 18th. There was an impressive resurgence of interest from the clubs and the turnout was excellent. About 350 cars were displayed and a record attendance of visitors. Top car was a 1923 Aston Martin racer belonging to Peter Briggs. The Classic Jaguar Club won the best display award.

It was becoming challenging to find a suitable, fenced venue to show so many cars. In 1985 Lilac Hill in Caversham became the new home for the Classic Car Show and 450 cars were displayed. The event became a part of the Festival of Perth for a couple of years at this time. Channel 7's Telethon became involved, exchanging advertising for the show for a donation of proceeds, which worked very successfully for several years.

The format was working very well and the shows up to and including 1988 were held at Lilac Hill. An autojumble and classic car auction were held in 1987 at the show. In 1988, the start of the huge Castrol-sponsored Bicentennial Rally was included on the day of the show. Several international entrants, including Lord Montague of Beaulieu and Prince Michael of Kent started the rally at the Classic Car Show. Over 600 cars were displayed that year.

The committee decided that a change of venue would enliven things further and allow more space, so Forster Park in Belmont became the show's home for the next two years. March 25th 1990 saw terrible cyclonic weather hamper the show - the first time since inception that there had been bad weather. Even so, the large number of entries meant that space was at a premium again.

Above: Lilac Hill shows. Left: Standards in the Triumph Club display. Right: Heading off on the Bicentennial Rally, destination Canberra.

1991 brought the biggest change ever for the Classic Car Show. The new Burswood Dome (known then as the Superdome) would be completed just in time for the Classic Car Show, and it became the first major event held there. The indoor venue meant that weather wouldn't be a problem. It also gave all day Saturday to set up displays. Many clubs put together very imaginative, creative displays for the show. Space limited the event to 350 cars, but that meant a higher quality of cars - including several that owners would not exhibit out in the weather. The quality of displays was extremely impressive.

I thought the best display was put on by the Studebaker Car Club. They recreated a 1963 showroom, with an array of 1963 models plus a used car section. The display included the original spare parts counter from a Studebaker dealer with boxes of Studebaker parts, as well as original signage. The judges marked the display down apparently because the 1963 TV advertisements were being shown on a modern TV. I was only Chairman of the Classic Car Show, so I had no say... The all-white Jaguar display won.

The show opened on the Saturday evening and all day Sunday. Star attraction was a 1956 Maserati 300S racing car, ex-Stirling Moss, which was valued at the time at $3 million. It was surrounded by a special display of Italian exotic cars (for which there was no club at the time). Record numbers of visitors attended the show.

Above: Mercedes-Benz Club display included Gullwing and the oldest car in WA, a Benz.

The idea had been to alternate indoor and outdoor shows each year from then on. Whiteman Park was chosen for the 1992 show and 1000 cars attended. With the plans for the Motor Museum of WA to be created at Whiteman Park, the show has remained there ever since, moving the the more spacious Mussel Pool area after a few years. After the second year at Whiteman Park, judging cars in a Concours d'Elegance was dropped altogether as fewer cars entered the competition and the work involved was decided to be too much.

Numbers of cars reach almost 1000 some years (in spite of some people's claims of far more) and the show has remained a major fixture in many clubs' calendars. Each year a theme is dreamt up and clubs try to tailor their display to meet the theme. Auto One was the sponsor for several years up to 2014 and in 2016 Shannons became the new naming rights sponsor for the show.

The 2017 event saw some big changes.... After two decades at Whiteman Park, the venue was changed to Ascot Racecourse, giving the show a whole new lease of life. The move was a great success and saw record crowds attend in 2-018.

2019 saw the event celebrate 50 years, at Ascot again, with just under 1000 cars displayed. A small feature exhibit was two MGs - a TC and a TF - which had been shown at the first show 50 years prior, and remarkably, were both with the same owners half a century later. See photo below.

The 2020 show was lucky to be held the day before a lockdown was imposed by the state government trying to tackle the new problem of COVID-19. Fortunately the 2021 show was also able to be held with no restrictions.

For 2022 a major change took place, with the organisation of the show being undertaken by a professional management company on behalf of the Council of Motoring Clubs - still being held at Ascot.

- Paul Blank

The author of this article was on the organizing committee from 1984 to 1991, again in 2017 and a Concours judge several years.

Above:  Images from Whiteman Park shows over many years

Above: Images from 2017 show at Ascot



Above: 2019 Classic Car Show

Copyright CarOpinion/Paul Blank