Features: Cameron Gibson’s – The Monte Carlo Historique Rally start at Glasgow

After the absence of a year, the smell of high octane racing fuel, and the sound of highly tuned engines have returned to Glasgow. The Monte Carlo Rally was this year bigger with more cars in attendance and even colder! Yet despite the coldness, I could not pass the opportunity to see these cars once more. This year the venue was near the crane on the banks of the Clyde. With the crane lit up in the background, the sun going down and the cars roaring off, it was a perfect setting.

In all 83 cars attended, most going the full distance to Monaco. It included in the usual vintage rally suspects (MG midget, for example) there were a few surprises; if I said the words ‘AC Cobra’, what comes to mind? A big American V8 powered brute with a British background and Carol Shelby’s fingerprints all over it, which could show a Corvette a thing or two, perhaps? Whatever comes to mind, it has to be said that the Cobra was very imposing, and attracted a lot of attention.

An imposing Cobra makes an appearance

There has been a string of hot Vauxhalls over the years, yet very few made an impact as this did… The Opel (read Vauxhall) Monza. Just think what seeing this for the first time would have been like in the Eighties; rear wheel drive, a big potent engine, an all-digital dashboard, and the most important accessory for a go faster car in the eighties –Recaro seats. The Monza was Vauxhall’s attempt to woo buyers from BMW 6-Series’ and the like. Much like the Omega tried with 5-Series. Remember when Vauxhall made cars like these? Anyway, this GSE model was proper a bad boy Vauxhall and I loved it.

Opel Monza stirs the emotions

It couldn’t have been a Monte Carlo Rally without one of these turning up to the party; a Lancia Stratos. It seemed that even with the uncertain times which we all face, you look at not only this car, but everyone turned out to watch the send-off and the happiness that these cars brought to everyone who turned out. As the Lancia is a very famous and prestigious brand, it attracted a lot of attention from all who came across it. It was awe inspiring to witness such a car with such power, noise and poise. The Stratos’ styling has barely aged since its first appearance. It was very alien compared to the European saloons which were parked just a few yards from this rallying legend.

The famous Stratos attracted enthusiasts alike

This year, several Swedish cars were in attendance, to my delight. All models involved seemed suited to the task facing them since they were a Volvo Amazon, and two Saab 96s. All of which had some Rally successes back in their heyday. The sight of two of the cars, which created Saab as we know it, side-by-side was one which was poignant given Saab’s recent bankruptcy. However, at the same time, it was almost impossible not to at least smile at the sight of them. The Volvo Amazon is a relatively rare sight too, and that particular example looked factory fresh, not tarnished, nor aged since the day it rolled off the line at Gothenburg.

Sweden’s Finest

Handmade British sports cars appeal greatly to me. Be it a Bristol, or like this example, a Morgan. This example was a +4, in green and it came with a big V8 -a proper car then, for a Gentleman to tackle a gruelling rally to Monte Carlo. The cold and wet weather of Glasgow may have caused problems though, for the exposed Morgan, but with that lovely creamy V8 rumble I would not have complained were I to be the driver.

While on the subject of roadsters, a Fiat X1/9 cropped up. This rare example of seventies Italian design is rumoured to have had some rallying experience, since Abarth created a prototype X1/9 as a works rally competitor. This was not one of those rumoured to exist, it was a standard. This meant it still had a throaty engine, a mid-engine layout and Bertone styling. Again the X1/9 was proof that these rallies bring out cars which are rarely seen by the public.

A Fiat X1/9 braves the elements

That concludes the rundown of the cars which, to me, jumped out and grabbed my attention. Granted, it maybe a small amount, but cars like these were never ones for being cash cows for the manufactures-they were designed for a different purpose; to go racing. During the send-off  there was genuine love of all things vintage. The cars and the  feeling of the night were just right. For example the 1940s Dance troupe, ‘the Kennedy Cupcakes’ provided the music and the dance moves to entertain the large crowds. The fact that there was an enthusiastic, large crowd there to see of the cars shows that in this country there is still a love of motorsport, regardless of the formula or level.

Classic Motorsport is very much alive

I fully recommend that you attend one of these events, be it a rally like this one, or an international, top level one. Rallying itself is a brilliant, enticing and exciting sport to watch or take part in, but here it was the cars which took centre stage. They were there for you to look at, to enjoy, not locked away never to be seen. You are also amongst like-minded individuals who love cars and racing. Therefore, for any vintage car or racing enthusiast, go to a rally and enjoy it.

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