The crowds were dense. Regent Street, the shopping mecca of London, which on a good day is packed with eager shoppers, was closed to traffic, allowing even more pedestrians to linger. Hundreds of people crowded around a display, taking photos with phones, cameras or tablets, trying to catch a glimpse of something special.
The Regent Street Motor Show, an annual exhibition, highlights modern as well as antique cars, and features a large roster of fun and unique vehicles. It takes up most of Regent Street, running from Oxford Circus to Picadilly Circus and is free and open to the public. The cars are lined up in the middle of the street, allowing the crowds to wander around, snapping photos of their favorites.
The big ticket item for the Regent Street Motor Show this year? The one that had the most intense crowd, the largest security detail, the most eager fans? The Aston Martin DB10, the car featured in the new James Bond film, Spectre.
I have been a lifelong Bond fan, having seen every movie in the franchise numerous times. I was excited for the new film and the lure of seeing the new Bond car up close and personal drew me (and Julie begrudgingly) to the Motor Show on an otherwise drizzly autumn afternoon.
I can tell you that the British take the Bond franchise seriously, very seriously. Just ask the Kate, Will and Harry, who attended the premiere.
While the masses crowded around the admittedly gorgeous Aston Martin, I’m not one to play favorites with cars, so we took off to wander the street. There were racing cars from the 1960s and 70s, including an original Mini Cooper in perfect condition, and the new hybrid sports car from BMW, the i8, with the ridiculous gull-wing doors. As Julie and I sauntered down Regent Street, I was distracted by the new Tesla Model S, the electric car from the US that I am completely enamored by.
The £80,000 price tag brought a sad dose of reality: it won’t be sitting in our driveway anytime soon.
The main draw of the Regent Street Motor Show is a stretch that features dozens of pre-1905 cars. In fact, after the conclusion of the one day event, over 400 pre-1905 cars participate in The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, the world’s longest running motoring event. I can only imagine that there must be a few breakdowns along the 80 mile journey in cars over a century old.
Julie’s was mostly enamored with the period costumes worn by some of the car owners. Crazy goggles and leather helmets were in abundance, as were ornate, Victorian gowns and tweed blazers. There were awards handing out to cars in various categories, including the the Concours d’Equipe, awarded to the “vehicle, drivers and passengers wearing appropriate period dress that, in the view of the judges, best symbolises the veteran era.” Hilarious.
I enjoyed some of the random details of the vintage cars. Since many of these first generation vehicles did not have a roof, most had a wicker umbrella holder next to the driver, for when errands had to be run during a rain shower. The image of someone, dressed in a top hat and suit, driving a car while using an umbrella makes me want to chuckle like a Brit. I would think that a roof would have been an obvious design element for a car constructed in the UK, but apparently not. The brass headlights, clearly an element taken straight from boat design at the time, were impressive, especially in size.
Events are like the Regent Street Motor Show are what makes living in London so exciting. A typical Saturday of shopping can be transformed instantly as you walk out of H&M on Regent Street and stumble upon the new Bond car, or a century old machine. No one does Bond and old stuff better than the UK and we’re happy to be part of it.