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Save the planet, buy an old car

The festival season starts here. For me, it kicked off on Sunday, catching the tail-end of a three-dayer at a field in Lincolnshire.

Mark Andrews at the Burghley House classic car show
Mark Andrews at the Burghley House classic car show

Then it's Weston Park on Sunday, followed by the Arrow Valley the week after. Who knows where the rest of the summer will take me? But the season will probably end with a very eclectic line-up at Himley Hall in September.

Now at this juncture, my idea of a good festival might be slightly different to that of others.

While the cool kids flock to Reading, Glastonbury or the Isle of Wight, my summer of revelry began at the annual gathering of the Rolls-Royce Enthusiast's Club at Burghley House, in Stamford.

Mark Andrews doing his bit for the planet

In many ways, I imagine the show is very much like Glastonbury. Walking around a muddy field in the driving rain, paying over the odds for fast food out the back of a van and queuing up for a chemical toilet.

But instead of spending £200 for a ticket to watch a load of obscure bands you never see on Top of the Pops, I spend £200 on petrol to drive a 46-year-old car halfway across the country to stand in a muddy field looking at other ancient vehicles.

Then again, you're not really a proper classic car owner unless you embrace a certain degree of masochism.

The classic car show at Himley, near Dudley

I remember how I had only had mine a few weeks when a drunken driver in a 4x4 tail-ended it, smashing the rear light cluster. And when I say, drunk, I mean drunk. Attempting to flee the scene, he drove straight into a parked BMW, got out of his car and then passed out at the roadside, taking a kip on the grass. So I attended my first show with a car that looked like it had been in an episode of the Dukes of Hazzard, and had to wait another three months before it was finally shipshape again.

Indeed, having to wait three months for even the most minor of repairs has become something of a way of life over the past 15 years.

The other thing about classic cars is that they keep you constantly skint. When my car failed its MOT on two leaking shock absorbers, my friendly fast-fit centre quoted me £1,300. A bit pricey, I thought, but it's got to be done.

To which the mechanic replied, "No that's £1,300 each side, sir." Then, after another mechanic relieved me of £3,000 to carry out the work, he kindly informed me they hadn't been leaking after all.

Which is probably why classic car shows are such fun – you have to have a good sense of humour.

The other thing about these events is their egalitarian nature, where the rich and famous will happily share their priceless cars with plebs like me and my 1976 Silver Shadow. It's a bit like the Cafe De Paris in Monte Carlo – if you can afford 20 euros for a Kir Royale, you get pretty much the same experience as a billionaire jet-setter.

Indeed, I have often been amazed at the generosity of people when it comes to valuable cars. At one event, I stared in disbelief as a club bigwig casually tossed the keys to his £700,000 Bentley to a young lad who fancied a spin.

"It's all insured," he chuckled, nonchalantly.

The Festival of the Unexceptional

But while the shows give club members the chance to experience cars they will never be able to afford themselves, there is often just as much fun to be had from the ordinary fare. July 30 marks this year's Festival of the Unexceptional, a celebration of motoring mediocrity which will see hundreds of Austin Allegros, Morris Marinas and Talbot Solaras converge on Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire.

It will probably rain, the cars will be beige, and the owners will be as mad as a box of frogs. You don't have to be bonkers to pour your life savings into a 1972 Austin Maxi, but it doesn't half help.

And if you're still not convinced, here's another good reason why you should buy a classic car – it's good for the planet. Make do and mend, repair cafes and the like all the rage these days, and believe me, I've done my bit. The reason I drive a 6.75-litre V8 is because I'm an environmentalist.

I don't suppose it will be enough to make Greta crack a smile. Then again, few things are.

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