Friday 27 December 2019

Rally - Deja Vu

It was whilst the annual Glasgow Carnival was in full swing inside the Halls of the SECC this Christmas week that a certain visitor was hit by a blood rushing  wave of nostalgia. A flashback to past times inside those very same Halls brought up images of the old Scottish Motor Show which used to be staged at the huge Clydeside venue.

Coincidentally the final such Show was held 20 years ago last month. This bi-annual motoring exhibition immediately preceded the Carnival. As the Motor Show moved out and cleared up the detritus of catalogues and stickers, the Fairground folk and their rides moved in for the yuletide period.

It could be argued that the Scottish Motor Show was just a cut price version of the London based British Motor Show as the manufacturers simply shipped the stands and exhibits from London to Glasgow. So what if it was? The Scottish punters benefited from a much glossier presentation than the market otherwise deserved.

Originally staged in London, the British Motor Show moved to the NEC at Birmingham in 1978 at which point attendances at the Glasgow event started to fall away and fewer manufacturers supported it each year. The beginning of the end.  Sad really, the Scottish Motor Show could trace its roots back to 1897 when a group of Edinburgh bicycle dealers put on an exhibition at Waverley market which included the very first horseless carriages. In 1905, the Scottish Motor Trade Association which itself was founded in 1903, took over the event and transferred it to Glasgow in 1912.

80 odd years later, tThat final Show in 1999 featured a tribute to Scotland's 8 world champions on  2, 3 and 4 wheels with a never to be repeated display of machinery representing all of those disciplines. It was accompanied by a pictorial Hall of Fame which celebrated our champions with a display of life sized images. Attendance that year was well down at just over 115,200, but that was also partly due to the fact that the Euro 2000 Finals were underway at that time and both Scotland and England were fighting for places. The weans were denied a night out collecting brochures and nicking gear knobs as faithers sat glued to the telly.

Anyway, a certain Scottish motor sports journalist had been engaged by the Scottish Motor Trade Association (SMTA) to create that exhibit which filled Hall 5 to capacity. In fact that same journalist assisted with quite a few Shows prior to that - like the one two years before.

That was special. The show was officially opened by Scotland's top tin top racer and double British Touring Car Champ, one J Cleland Esq, while a leading London based impresario had been engaged to stage a daily and evening motoring themed spectacular for show visitors. Turns out, he was Tony Ball, (faither of Michael - and who actually turned up one evening to see the show!), and he sold the SMTA on the idea of bringing in the stars of the top telly show at that time - Gladiators. All muscles, six packs, fake tan and glitter. in other words, 'Strictly' without the jigging.

Included amongst the stars such as Wolf and Rhino, Lightning and Rio, was the telly referee, 'Mr 3,2,1' himself, John Anderson - and his whistle! Oh, there was one other. A certain motor sports journalist was again called on to share the MC duties with Mr Anderson and also to help with the Pit Stop Challenge and the motoring elements within this glittering extravaganza - but only on the basis that no spraytan or lycra was involved!

Pure dead gallus, or what, eh? Aye, them were't days.

Anyway, that's enough nostalgia for one week, a New Year beckons with new heroes to be found, memories made and challenges met. Make no mistake, the future of forest rallying and perhaps even the wider sport is at serious risk. Best enjoy it while we can, eh?



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