Hagerty’s love affair with the everyday cars that have powered our nation started in 2014 when it launched the Concours de L’Ordinaire at the inaugural Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional.
Such is its success, the Hagerty team has to sift through hundreds of entrants to select fifty concours finalists, a difficult job considering the rarity of many of the models and the extraordinary efforts their owners go to in maintaining their condition.
• What is exceptional when it comes to Unexceptional cars? To find out, Hagerty analysed past successful concours entrants at the Festival of the Unexceptional • Body-style, colour, country of manufacture and other data sets analysed to attempt to find the definitive answer • Hagerty reveals the most Unexceptional car in history, but an example has never won a Festival of the Unexceptional concours trophy • The Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional returns to Grimsthorpe Castle on Saturday 30th July 2022 • Tickets, priced at £20 per car, now on sale
Delving deeper into the subject, Hagerty sought to discover what defines peak Unexceptional, by taking a look at the data behind the previous years’ entries and winners.
The definitive Unexceptional car is surely something beige, ideally with a brown vinyl interior and lacking anything but the most basic of instruments. Winding windows? Guaranteed. Plain black bumpers? Of course. Garish colour-coordinated seatbelts that clash without a care for the designer’s original vision? Now you’re talking…
Hagerty’s data-crunchers studied finalists from that first 2014 Festival right through to the successful 2022 entrants – more than 360 cars.
Firstly, Hagerty experts looked at the colours of all the cars: beige was in a lowly fifth place, with blue cars out on top (with 73 entrants) – just one ahead of red. When the panel looked at the cars that had won prizes, the same was true: blue came out on top again, all but one of which had been Best In Show or awarded second place.
If there’s one thing that attracts the FOTU judges, it’s a four-door saloon, with this body style accounting for 44 per cent of all finalists. The judges agreed: 10 of the 26 winners were of this persuasion including all but two of the Best In Show winners.
In terms of countries of origin, the UK dominated in the same way, with another 44 per cent of entrants made on these shores, and French cars in second place with 14 per cent. Which brings us to an interesting point: although they are the second-most represented country, the judges have awarded a solitary second place to a French car, plus a couple of public awards.
Five examples of Asian motors have made it into the winners’ enclosure, with three attaining the coveted Best In Show title. These included the only ever Malaysian motor, Jon Coupland’s 2021 Proton GL Black Knight, giving that country a perfect record of one entry, one overall win.
But what about the manufacturers? Again, the Brits have the advantage here. Austin is out ahead in the selection stakes with 12.5 per cent, and nearly half of the winners are represented by British marques, but it is an Italian brand – Fiat – that is the only manufacturer to have won more than two awards.
And now, the grand unveiling of the quintessential Unexceptional car. It had to be a car built in 1989, it had to be an Austin 4-door saloon, and it had to be blue.
What is this utterly unremarkable offering of everyday transportation, you say? A 1989 Austin (or ‘Rover’ if you’re picky) Montego.
Has a car of such perfection graced the hallowed lawns of the Concours de L’Ordinaire? Ian Fletcher came close last year, with his glorious 1985 blue Montego HL, but that was an estate.
Maybe, just maybe, a blue Austin Montego saloon in basic trim, the optimum ordinary car, will be one of the 50 cars taking part in the concours, on 30 July?
Fans of the event are encouraged to find out for themselves and reserve their tickets, which are selling fast.