A garden party with all manner of classics

Collecting Cars

Collecting Cars visits ‘Classics At The Manor’, an event with an approach that diverges from the cars-and-coffee format.

For collectable car enthusiasts in the UK, there has never been a greater variety of venues and events at which to indulge in their passion.

From Breakfast Club meets at the Haynes International Motor Museum, to Coffee and Classics at the Classic Motor Hub; and from Sunday Scrambles at Bicester Heritage to lazy afternoons at Caffeine and Machine.

Those with a taste for pre-war cars can also take their pick from around 60 pub meets taking place every month with Vintage Sports-Car Club groups. There are plenty of new and forthcoming opportunities, too. The Factory by Duke of London has just opened in Brentford, and the Veterans Garage is under development in Manchester.

One event with an approach that diverges from the familiar ‘cars and coffee’ style meet is ‘Classics At The Manor’. Conceived and organised by Tom Horna, a 20-year veteran of the motor trade and creator of the Drive Classics Club, this intimate garden party is based in the grounds of St Michael’s Manor Hotel in St Albans.

“My objective was to find a truly British manor house venue, ideally with beautiful lawns and a lake, that isn’t far from London,” explains Tom. “St Michael’s Manor was one of around 10 venues I spoke to and they were simply the best choice for location, as well as the customer service. The fact that the general manager, Richard Marrett, comes from a family of car enthusiasts helps a lot. We understand each other’s needs.”

The cars are arranged informally across the hotel’s lawn. A cluster of Ferraris included F355, 308, Dino 246 GT and Testarossa; there was a super line-up of classic Mercedes-Benz, featuring 300 SL Roadster, Pagoda and 280 SE 3.5 Coupe; and a group of Minis fanned out around a tree.

“My aim is to keep the event elegant, intimate and relaxed, which allows our guests and visitors enjoy it on a more personal level,” says Tom. “Our curated display of around 40-50 cars doesn’t even take up half of the available space, so there is always room for more cars and people – however, growing it may take its charm away. It’s about quality over quantity.”

Near the lake, an Aston Martin DB6 Volante was joined by British brethren in the form of a brand-new Morgan Plus 4 and a Land Rover Series III. Elsewhere, an original 1965 Alfa Romeo 1600 GTA Stradale was joined by a narrow-body De Tomaso Pantera and a Maserati Bora – both 1972 models.

The eclectic nature of the event was perhaps best showcased by the restored and elegant short-chassis Lagonda LG6 Saloon, and the custom hot-rod Willys Coupe – two cars from 1939 that could not have been more different.

“My personal favourite was the Land Rover Series III, which was recently refreshed by a lovely couple, Camila and James. They have turned what was a sad looking car into the coolest Series III in the UK right now, and they did it in their spare time on their driveway. I think they certainly deserved the 3rd place in our ‘Best of Show’ vote.”

The Drive Classics brand is now aiming to host a minimum of two events every year, and Tom Horna tells us that plans are also underway for a UK or European rally.

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