The British Motor Show – everything I want from a car show

It’s like they read my mind!

As I sat listening during the press conference announcing the re-launch and effective re-imagining of the British Motor Show, I had a strong sense of déjà vu.

Rewind nearly two years and yours truly had been proposing something very similar to the concepts being presented, but in a very different place (Dubai) to a very different audience (an events company). It’s the next ‘evolution’ of car shows I evangelically proclaimed. And today the very word ‘evolution’ flashed up in the presentation on screen. Vindication of a kind. I almost wiped away a tear.

You see  I’ve been ranting and raving at motor show stands for years – boring, banal, beaten by the internet. For two successive Dubai Motor Shows – 2015 and 2017 – I had been involved in contributing to a small part of that evolution myself, having been commissioned in my previous role at Motoring Middle East, to run live stage shows which we ensured were informative but entertaining and fun.

It was never going to be enough though. Car show organisers have to go a lot further. In fact I believe they have to go all-in or fold altogether. Sadly I see too many international shows taking the latter route. To veer radically away from the traditional motor show format where people pay an entrance fee to come and look at cars they could have clambered all over at the local dealership anyway is, I guess, too much of a gamble?

But if you’re already teetering over the mountain precipice contemplating the inevitability of vertigo’s magnetism, gluing on some feathers has to be worth a try, right? After all Icarus almost got away with it.

Well for the reincarnation of the British Motor Show, after it’s pretty much 16-year hiatus, they’re not only feathering up, but slinging on a jet-pack and snapping on a pair of flight goggles. Chocks away! Appropriately enough we’re at Farnborough International – home of the Airshow. The next one will be at the end of July next year and exactly a month after that, we will have the new inaugural British Motor Show.

Just as I envisioned it’s not just going to be shiny new metal on shiny new stands. It will feature a live stage, stunt driving demonstrations, custom and classic cars (along with an area for car clubs), a kids motor show, driving experiences with an on-site 2km test track (even children as young as 10, will be able to get a taste of driving), technology show and celebrities including the stars of Wheeler Dealers and Car SOS.

The organisers expect 50,000 visitors for the first edition of the annual show (with the aim of increasing that to 100,000 within five years). They’re hoping to entice potential car buyers (and sellers), motoring enthusiasts and even families looking for a fun day out, not just with engaging content, but also keen ticket pricing at £18.50 per adult (children are free) or £37.00 for a family of four. Tickets are already on sale and for a limited period there is a 25% early bird discount available on the website Free park-and-ride will be available as well as shuttle buses from public transport terminals. Owners Club members will be able to park on site by prior arrangement and get a concession on entry tickets.

The show will span three halls with 40,000m² of space, including a new permanent exhibition space that opened in 2018. Farnborough has been hosting the airshow since 1948 with typically more than 200,000 visitors. Interestingly carbon fibre was first developed for use as a strong material at Farnborough, and Fast & Furious spin-off Hobbs a Shaw was partly filmed here in the main hall! How’s that for automotive links?

The British Motor Show 2020 will focus on five distinct areas:

  1. Classic and Supercar halls
  • Classic cars and supercar displays
  • Owners’ Clubs areas
  • Celebrating automotive anniversaries
  • Featuring previous stars of the British Motor Show
  • Car SOS Live
  • Supercar paddock
  • The Car is the Star – Modified and Film Cars on Show
  • Automotive marketplace with a range of supplies
  • ‘The Piazza’ – featuring automotive arts and crafts
  1. New car and manufacturer halls
  • Currently available cars on show
  • New car launches
  • Latest tech and automotive gadgets
  • Mini Motor Show in the Kid’s Zone
  • World Car of the Year Winners lineup
  • Specialist suppliers

  1. Automotive and Technology ‘Future Halls’
  • Electric Vehicle Zone
  • Tech Theatre hosting product demonstrations and education sessions
  • Alternative driving experience – hybrid, EVs and Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars
  • Industry and technology suppliers
  1. Live Content
  • Imperial cars live arena
  • The Live Stage
  • Outdoor attractions
  • Drift Arena and Drift Taxi
  • Paul Swift stunt shows
  • Motorsport demos
  • Supercar and classic car parades
  • Mountain bike & and BMX displays
  • Celebrity Q&As
  • Wall of Death
  • Slot car racing
  • Simulators
  1. Two test drive opportunities
  • 0km test track on site within the grounds
  • Test drives on public roads around the venue

Nurturing passion for the petrolheads, catering to car culture, furnishing fun and games for the family, infusing a yearning for driving into the youth, providing a market for buyers and sellers, harnessing pop culture and tantalisingly teasing the tech of tomorrow – is The British Motor Show being too ambitious? Is it trying to be too much? Attempting to offer everything to everyone?

Well heck, why not? Something’s gotta stick. Just as long as they don’t fly too close to the sun, right?

Anyway I can’t be critical of this endeavour, I can barely be objective, after all it feels like my own playbook. I don’t want to see motor shows die out altogether, and I had a plan for how to save them and mutate them for a modern audience. Clearly, I was not alone in my thinking or even my ideas, and the real vindication will be when The British Motor Show does succeed. Which it will. And I’ll be there to witness it. Will you?


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