The 2015 Australian Motoring Festival is not a Motor Show. And it’s better that way.

FOR MANY YEARS there were motor shows in Sydney and Melbourne.  Virtually all the manufacturers duly spent many, many dollars to bring along their latest cars.  Each stand was identical – gleaming models (and the cars were pretty clean too) with very little to do or see other look at new vehicles.  And sorry, a new Corolla or Mazda 3 is just not that exciting.

2015 Australian Motoring Festival
The new Mercedes AMG GT, successor to the SLS Gullwing. This car’s famed ancestors are on display elsewhere at the Festival.

The motor shows waned.  First they became binannual.  Then they alternated between Sydney and Melbourne.  Then the manufacturers decided they just weren’t getting the return on investment and refused to attend.

The show organisers realised something Had To Be Done.  So they decided to create a show that would bring punters in – attractions that would make you want to attend even if you weren’t actually interested in buying a car.  This is wise, and a model that every other show organiser would should follow rather than simply lining up rows of vendors who want to part you from your cash.  Make a real show of it, in the olden sense of the word which means entertainment, and then lots of people attend and see the cars by default.

To see how it all worked out for the Festival your humble scribe dropped in on Thursday evening.  Had I not had a media pass in hand it would have cost me $30, rather steep for the couple of hours before the closing time of 8pm.

Or maybe not.  While pretty much all the stands had packed up, there were very few people around and that proved to be a blessing.  [ UPDATE: from the Australian Motoring Festival Facebook page“We’ve closed our outdoor activations due to the weather conditions. If you have a ticket for tonight come back one day Fri-Sun when the weather’s a bit better!” ]

I quickly walked past retail section with the usual suspects displaying their wares – all fair enough, but nothing I’d not seen at a hundred other shows – and found the main hall full of classic cars.

I spent the next hour saying “oh my god is that a…YES, YES it is!”

Only meant to take a couple of shots but got carried away.  For an car enthusiast, this is absolutely brilliant.  There are some very rare and interesting cars on display, with informative boards explaining the history.  There’s everything from pre-1900s historics through cars just a few years old.  Some are from rare car collections (very rare in some cases), others are just club members cars.   It’s all nicely well laid out too, with muscle cars in one area, vintage in another and so on.  There is however a distinct lack of 4X4s…not happy about that!  Just a Blitz.  There’s a big section on Bibendum, the Michelin Man, and other car-related curios.

Apart from the classic cars the Ferrari display is worth a visit, as you’d expect.  You can gaze in awe at the LaFerrari and its ancestors. 

2015 Australian Motoring Festival
Can you name all these Ferraris? Best response from my friends is “mine, mine, mine and mine”. Hint – the one on the left is really a hypercar!

There’s a display of every single one of Australia’s Best Cars (as judged by the motoring club organisations), and Mercedes have a big commitment with lots of cars to drive in small circles slowly on a track but hey…at least they’re there, unlike most of the other manufacturers, and I’m not about to knock any interaction with cars.  Motor shows of old used to be pretty much look not touch, and a drive was out of the question.

Now to the big question.  Is it worth it? 

If you find cars interesting, then definitely for the classic car display, you’ll spend hours there.  For the the kids – yes, some activities but nothing you wouldn’t find elsewhere, if your objective is only to entertain small children for the day then I wouldn’t bother, but there’s enough there for a few hours. 

2015 Australian Motoring Festival
You don’t see these on modern cars due to safety and theft problems. Plenty in the hall though, including an MG sporting a kangaroo.

If you’re buying a new car – there are just a few manufacturers present – Mercedes, Toyota, Isuzu and Ferrari were all I noticed, so if your shortlist includes those then go.  In fairness, when I was there on the Thursday night most of it was shut down due to weather so probably didn’t get quite the overall experience it will be this weekend including the test track.  Oh, if you get a chance, definitely take a Tomcar ride.  I’ve driven them myself and they are a total blast but also a useful tool of the trade. 

Bottom line – if you are a person or family that enjoys varied attractions of the automotive variety, then I’d definitely give it a shot.

Here are the URLs for more information:

Anyway, good on the organisers for giving a proper motoring festival a go. I hope it does well in the future.

UPDATE: a reader has taken umbrage with this review.



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