Like beer, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to classic cars. To describe things using a complete polar opposite, one man’s “unexceptional” LADA Niva is another man’s “dream” Ferrari F40. You like what you like, and the two camps within the automotive world peacefully coexist.
Now, I have a confession. I’m a fan of the “unexceptional” or - to use a kinder term - the “ordinary” car. I’m no Max Verstappen when it comes to Wheel Smithery, and despite what I like to think, I would not be able to even come close to - let alone appreciate - the limits of a modern day supercar. Plus I think they look a bit silly.
What’s more, whilst I was growing up, my parents neither owned half of the Middle East nor had shares in Gazprom. Therefore, a Sultan of Brunei-style car collection or a garage fit for an oligarch were never things on my radar. However, Middle England during the 1990s and early 2000s very much was.
The cars I grew up with were ordinary, simple machines such as the Volkswagen Golf Mk3, Audi 100 C3 Avant, pre and post-facelift Ford Mondeo Mk1, Nissan Micra K11, and well… you get where I’m coming from.
Ian Seabrook or “Hubnut” On Finding Joy In “Ordinary” Classic Cars
Imagine my joy when earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak to Ian Seabrook, the founder and presenter of ‘Hubnut’, Ian’s YouTube channel which celebrates “thoroughly mundane cars.” Since its foundation in 2013, Hubnut has amassed over 90,000 subscribers and its “thoroughly mundane videos” have garnered more than 40m views.
Despite these self-deprecating tags, Hubnut is anything but. The channel is a charming, zero-budget alternative to usual Car YouTube and Ian’s enthusiasm for the “ordinary” cars of this world is nothing short of infectious.
A few years ago, his road trip across New Zealand in a 2001 Australian Ford Fairmont he purchased there - and then imported back to the United Kingdom! - was as wholesome a bit of “car telly” as wholesome car telly can get.
According to the Hubnut ‘Home’ tab, Ian’s most recent purchase was a 2002 Citroën Berlingo HDi he purchased for £750, and if more often than not you find yourself leaning towards the more esoteric side of the car world, you’ll know that the first-generation Citroën Berlingo has always been cool. Even Jeremy Clarkson thinks so.
Yet as vans - yes, even vans! - have fallen into the modern day car trap of overstyling, Ian explains that the simple, everyman nature of these little Gallic vans have earned them - along with the sister Peugeot Partner and equivalent Renault Kangoo - even more of a cult following thanks to their anti-hero status.
“Since I bought the Berlingo, I’ve been amazed by the response to the videos we’ve been putting out on it!” he tells Dyler.com. “They used to be everywhere 10, 15, 20 years ago but I really think they will start to disappear very quickly.
“Knowing that, it’s lovely to see when people write in saying a relative, family friend, or whoever really had one. We wanted to take it to this year’s Festival of The Unexceptional, but unfortunately we haven’t managed to get it fixed up in time so we’re taking the Fairmont instead.”
“The Fairmont in Australia is an unexceptional car in its native Australia for sure, they tend to serve as taxis there and they’re only starting to gain any sort of a following.”
That, then, is a perfect segue into what comes next.
Why The Festival of The Unexceptional Should Be A Highlight On The Classic Car Enthusiast’s Calendar
The Festival of The Unexceptional is a UK-based Concours d’Élegance-style celebration of well… unexceptional or ordinary cars that were commonplace from the 1960s to 1990s, yet are seldom-seen now. A rare gathering of automotive curiosities from a period before the iPhone. Or Apple CarPlay. Or haptic dashboards.
“When it comes to this event, it’s definitely one I look forward to the most on the automotive calendar,” Ian says. “The beauty of it is that it’s what it says it is on the tin - a celebration of the average. Coming together for that plays a huge role in how enjoyable it is. What’s more, you never know what will be on display!
The idea of being part of almost an automotive counterculture is clearly appealing to Ian. As a self-described awkward type, I’m more than inclined to agree with him - especially when it comes to defining a good car or a bad car.
The Citroën 2CV As An All-Time Favourite And Why Open Mindedness Is Key In The World Of Classic Cars
“I’ve owned over 100 cars, and without doubt the 2CV is my favourite,” he explains. In terms of the driving experience, they’re like nothing else - especially in the way the suspension rolls around. However, I’ve always had a love for the quirky and the unusual…
“When I first got into 2CVs some years ago, people would just laugh, yet once they jumped in and had a ride, they would agree they are lots of fun. I think it’s important to keep an open mind with these sorts of “ordinary” cars.
“A lot of people will just deride them because they’ve heard someone else say “that’s a load of rubbish and you should hate it” without experiencing it for themselves.”
Before Ian prepares his Berlingo for the trip down to Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire for the opening of the Festival of The Unexceptional on the morning of July 30, I ask him whether there is anything brand new-yet-unexceptional on the market that appeals to his tastes.
“Hmmm,” he replies. “I’d say anything by Dacia, really. But a “basic” car today is nothing like a basic car from the ‘70s, ‘80s, or ‘90s. The Japanese carmakers really spoiled us at that time by including loads of options such as electric windows or whatever as standard.
“In overall terms, though, I don’t think you need anything fancy to have a lot of fun. Getting the best out of a low-powered car is a very enjoyable thing…”
Given how much fun I had during a brief afternoon with a Dacia Sandero last year, it’s impossible to disagree.
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