Last weekend, Lisbon welcomed the “Motorclássico”, an annual classic car event which ushers in the show season for vintage cars in Portugal. AV is based in this country and the website has a very deep affinity with classics, so we enjoy keeping an eye on this kind of event.
Initially this post was just going to be a pretty straightforward gallery or photo report at the most, but when press coverage of the event started popping up over the last few days and almost all of it read like a copy/paste of the exact same press release, it seemed relevant to add a bit of independent reviewing to the mix. There’s no saying for sure why this happens, maybe the auto press in Portugal being a small community working for an equally small market and with a very limited number of key organizations makes blackballing a real concern? Or perhaps nobody wants to alienate possible visitors for the following edition by pointing out shortcomings to the current one. We can’t say, but speculation aside and before presenting a few – objectively terrible – pictures of pretty cars, some impressions on the event itself:
What was Good
- An eclectic selection of cars – The variety on site made sure it would be impossible to walk away without having seen something that you really liked. There were different things from different eras and price brackets, everything from people’s cars to supercars. The EB110, Porsche 906, and Chapron Citroens headlined the show.
- The “open floor” plan – Roughly 90% of the “Motorclássico” allowed for visitors to get up close and personal with almost every car there; few barriers or velvet rope type limitations meant plenty of detail oriented viewings.
- Quality work on display – The country has very talented people providing high quality restorations. We feel like the stock, factory fresh look – especially on early 911s – some dealers/restorers brought to the show was extremely commendable.
- Friendly clubs (for specific brand owners) – Few represented, but the ones which were present meant the possibility for some very friendly, very informative chats.
Where there’s Room for Improvement
- Identity Issues – The show doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be and that hurts it tremendously. Is it a classics show or a classics sale? It aims for both and ends up lacking in both as well. The Motorclássico is mainly advertised as a classics salon of sorts (cars and motorcycles, although the motorcycles are borderline missing from it), an “expo” if you will, but at its core lives the sale of classic cars. Nothing wrong with that, but we feel that especially with the organization of the event coming from the Caramulo Museum of automobiles, the public expects something different and the vendors seem prepared for something different as well. With a lot of industry insiders going around networking and actively dealing, the general public seems to be regarded as a bit of an unwelcome intrusion at times on some dealer’s floors.
- Spatial organization – There was hardly any. The spaces for each of the vendors and clubs were assigned of course and as stated before, the open space dynamic for most of the show is a great concept for the visitors, it really is. However, because vendors need to maximize their business (since space in the show is – according through the grapevine – expensive), most of the inventory was pretty much bumper to bumper in a lot of places. Not only did this maximize the potential for unintentional damage to the cars like scratches, broken parts, etc, but it also made viewing difficult for the general public and buyers alike; photographing the event also became a huge challenge because of this. The situation was particularly unfortunate since there was space to spare and immense square footage tied up with vendors with no connection to the show’s subject (food joints were the main culprit of this, but there were also toys, tools, and other knickknacks tying up all sorts of room).
- The Space itself – Taking place at one of the FIL (International Lisbon Fair) pavilions, a sort of convention center, the show also suffered with the limitations of the space itself. The pavilion’s floors are covered in ugly marks and scratches from previous shows. There are endless black strips of old glue where patches of carpet were placed for display booths in the past, making everything feel neglected and lacking proper cleaning and care. It seems like a trivial observation but the issue is so bad that it hurts the visitor’s experience since it becomes so annoying and unpleasant to the eye. The lighting system at the pavilion is (at least for this purpose) atrocious as well. These are of course all issues that the Museum can’t control but which FIL should address. As far as the vendors and institutions represented, other than the display for the Museum itself which was properly thought out and had a good and enthusiastic young team running it, most of everything else was a bare minimum effort, either lacking in creativity or being just plain lazy and bad. Sure, vendors are there to sell and not put on a show, but at least give the product a chance and present it with some degree of care.
- The General Visitor Experience – If you were a visitor to the 2019 Motorclássico there were some hurdles to get pass, first of which was admittance. Far too expensive for what it is. It was said by some that the high admittance fee was aimed at lowering the volume of the “just looking” visitors, making sure that more actual potential buyers were present. This was strictly a rumor but if there’s truth to it – as said before – the event needs to settle on one vocation and pursue it. Visitors (and vendors) were also trapped in the pavilion upon entry, since neither tickets nor most passes would allow reentry so if (let’s say) you forgot something in your car, tough luck. Speaking of cars, the lack of a dedicated gathering and parking space for random classic car driving visitors to the event was pretty incomprehensible and a big missed opportunity. Also, the confusion over the show’s vocation could be felt in the fact that although with interesting models, right at the front door the inclusion of two manufacturers with nothing but brand new cars would immediately throw you off. Plus, throughout the pavilion the dominance of pre-classics and youngtimers was impossible to miss.
In this setting, nobody is expecting a Retromobile. That being said, this is the kind of event – especially with its important, seasoned backer – which should be bringing the standards up to the level to which everything else in the same orbit could be held. There are small, very doable changes which would make a world of difference. We’re sure the organization faces all sorts of challenges with the monetary aspect of putting on this kind of event and making it work here, can’t be easy and we commend them for the effort, but that effort does need to yield a consistent final product and at the moment, it does not.
[Note: The organization was not contacted for the writing of this piece and as such, the commentary above consists solely on AV’s impressions on the event from an average visitor’s standpoint]
With that out of the way, let’s finally take a look of some of the most interesting stuff at the show:
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