Retro Rides Gathering


ould the long-running Retro Rides Gathering be classified as the benchmark to rate all modified classic car shows? Perhaps. If the criteria is to present an unpretentious yet slightly ramshackle but always inclusive and social event. The event is effortlessly cool because of this. So, is it the cars or the venue that makes Gathering such a draw? Well, both clearly do, but it’s also the character and vision of the people who bring their cars to the show that helps to create that ‘Retro Rides’ feeling once a year in the hilly Worcestershire countryside.

Now settled as the home of the August event, Retro Rides takes over the Shelsley Walsh hill climb, providing the closest experience to a rootsy motoring camping festival. The Gathering doesn’t need gimmicks like live bands, bouncy castles or showers. Those who camp, or rather experience sleep deprivation, combine the social side with the experience of the sheer variety of cars in attendance. It’s an environment where like-minded people bond and share ideas – the very extension of how Retro Rides started out.

It starts off as a web forum back in the early 2000s to cater for the UK’s classic, retro and modified car scene. Set up to inspire and to communicate ideas, the forum can easily lay claim to being a pioneer in spreading the interest amongst the online classic car community.

A keen sense of ‘google-fu’ is useful, but like any inspiration, it’s the hard work and dedication that really cements the Retro Rides Forum as a force.

You often bump into people you feel you should know, after reading about their meticulous build threads, comments and knowledge. You recognise their car and then associate it with a forum username. It’s rather rewarding to finally meet and speak to the owner.

Like all contemporary shows, the age of vehicle and demographics shift consistently and the Gathering is no exception. This is typical of the Forum’s ethic and is reflected by the diverse range of cars and people who attend the event.

What Retro Rides encompasses, is character. Each car is an extension of the owner’s personality and whether you have a £100 monthly car budget or regularly remortgage your house to rebuild a car, everyone is on the same level. has selected a few photos of the day which hopefully help to capture the feel of the Gathering. Don’t forget to keep an eye on their future events on – they also take over Goodwood for their Spring meet. That’s right. Two events that are full of Retro Rides goodness.

An early start seems to be a common theme at the Gatherings, as there really is so much to see. Queues dissipate quickly thanks to the efficiency of the marshalling. Overheating was an issue for a handful of cars but if you’re going to breakdown this surely is the best place for help…

Like any self-respecting show, awards were given out to a selection of vehicles. The Hong Kong Phooey award is in memory of JDM pioneer, Simon Baldwin. This years winner was Dale Grosvenor-Gibbs with his unique Datsun X-1R replica. The car started life as the Datsun Cherry 120A, imported in very small numbers from 1973 to 1975. Dale has spent thousands on getting the car right and plans to upgrade the engine.

Another winner of an award was Pipey McGraw for his unique 1994 V8 Toyota Century. Created by Toyota to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the company’s founder, the Century was made to serve senior Japanese dignitaries. The basic design of the car dates from 1967, thus appealing to the more conservative elements of Japanese society. This head-turner uses air suspension.

The pristinely original mix with the not so pristinely original. The event is inclusive to all cars, with a flexible mid-’90s cut off date. Some chose to take advantage of the hill climb, others simply park up and catch up with friends.

The paddocks are accessible to anyone, again common sense and goodwill mean that a racing decorum is maintained. The hill climb rises to 328 feet above the countryside and lays claim to hold one of the oldest motorsport events in the world.

Very much a product of the ’90s, the Peugeot 106 has lived under the shadow of the 205 for many years but are now recognised as an ideal and far cheaper alternative. This Series 1 Rally and suitably stanced 1.1 provide the inspiration for us to go and check the small ads…

While the Gathering is mostly known for modified cars, standard cars are also welcomed. There can’t be many events in the world where an open-top Jensen shares the parking area with a race-spec 1960s Skoda.

Continuing on the non-modified theme, this ultra-rare Fiat Argenta was a genuine surprise. The car was a replacement for the handsome 132, but even the punchy Twin-Cam engine failed to give the luxury Fiat kudos in the UK. The car is a recent import from Ireland.

Never an event that takes itself too seriously, originality and individuality is very much part of the Retro Rides DNA.

Another show winner was this Honda-powered Fiat X1/9. The conversion is quite a popular option for US owners, combining the reliability of the peaky K Series Honda engines with the drop-dead gorgeous styling of Bertone’s baby.

Several race-prepared cars were major draws, cementing the event’s credibility. Keith Murray’s Audi 80 was specifically built for hillclimbing and Trevor Collars 500+BHP Cosworth YB Turbo Ford Sapphire settles down after a fresh from run up the track.

Two decades separate these starter classics. The rear engine Imp is the best alternative to the ever appreciating Mini. The Nissan Micra also make excellent starter classics. Reliable, easy to modify and not likely to dump oil on your driveway on a regular basis.

RRG is just one of those events that tops up the mojo tank. It motivates, it inspires and it showcases what’s being done in the modified classic car world while also allowing some standard, cherished tin to shine. It is, for us at least, the perfect event.