There are hundreds of car shows and events held annually throughout the UK, catering for owners of all types of vehicle from kit cars to the latest supercars. Many of them feature a strong BMW presence. In this feature we take a look at several events which offer a fantastic experience for tuning nuts, petrolheads and BMW owners alike. 2016 is the 100th anniversary of BMW, and if you’ve never been to a show, now’s the perfect time!
The BMW Show
Naturally, we rank the annual BMW Show top of the tree. Held annually at Santa Pod, the event has shifted from its usual September slot and for 2016 and onwards will take place in June. Northamptonshire’s Santa Pod raceway is of course the Mecca for the British motor enthusiast, with dozens of shows and events each year held at the site.
The main attraction remains one of Europe’s top quarter mile drag strips, which always sees plenty of action. The BMW Show is no exception to that, with owners putting their prized vehicles up in class-wide competitions and individual events. “Run What Ya Brung (RWYB)” remains massively popular, and in 2016 there were some exceptional performances across all classes. The BMW is of course built for drag, with rear engined models powering awesome straight line acceleration, and classic stable handling ensuring the quickest point to point times.
The accompanying drifting events also showcase both professional and amateur drivers; for a modest entry fee you can put your pride and joy up against some of the best pro drifters (don’t forget your driving licence though!) As with the RWYB event, there are trophies and certificates on offer across all classes, along with the adulation of the crowd!
Of course the show is about so much more; owners can show off their tuned road vehicles, classic cars, retro and contemporary bikes and cars and even race cars alongside a multitude of professional exhibitors and the trade. The switch to summer should also boost numbers of both attendees and exhibitors, placing the show squarely in peak season. The venue offers camping on site, allowing revellers to enjoy both evening demos and entertainment and get together with like-minded folk for a fantastic weekend of fun. Fun fairs, eateries, live music and much more all add to the experience, and make this one of the premier events for BMW owners and fanatics. If you’re travelling as a group and planning to make a weekend of it, we’d recommend hiring a van from a company such as Nationwide.
Modified Nationals Show
If you’re more into the tuning side of things, we really recommend the annual Modified Nationals event. Probably the major tuning event in the UK, it’s held at Peterborough Arena around the end of May. The Arena has a group of indoor venues along with outdoor space to maximise exhibition and demonstrations.
The show typically attracts visitors and exhibitors from across the UK and Europe, and there are always loads of Continental exhibitors. There are always loads of club exhibitors, with specially designated areas for both clubs and individuals; you can even buy an early entry ticket, helping you get ahead of the afternoon queues, and giving you plenty of time to set up your exhibit or get a quick handle on where the action will be taking place. With several thousand cars to look at and hundreds of exhibitors, this show is packed to the rafters with things to see and get involved with.
One major attraction is the LiveAction Arena. BMW always has a strong presence in the racing and drifting events, with both professional drivers and amateur enthusiasts showing off their vehicles; the stunt drivers are well worth seeing. Show and Shine areas are set up outdoors, and one nice feature is the ability to get up close with the vehicles and chat with fellow BMW tuners and owners.
As with similar events, Modified Nationals has on-site camping and live entertainment with music going halfway through the night; it also caters well for families, with entertainment for juniors and attendance for up to 2 children up to the age of 13 included with tickets!
London Classic Car Show
If your passion is for vintage BMWs or the older car in general, the annual London Classic Car Show is a must-see. Held at Excel London, the classic show returns for four days in February 2017; the BMW Car Club are regular attendees and exhibitors, showcasing some of the finest classics of the marque.
A primary focus of the event is the runway (aka “Grand Avenue”), where owners can showcase their vehicles to the crowds, allowing everyone to see these remarkable machines in action. The multi-day event attracted well over 30,000 attendees in 2016, providing a captive audience for manufacturers, clubs, exhibitors, and dealers. The event spans tens of thousands of square feet of exhibition and floor space.
Key attractions include auctions and sales areas, invited guest speakers, meet and greet from many manufacturers, and excellent marketing and sponsorship opportunities.
Ultimate Street Car
Another superb event held every August back at Santa Pod is the Ultimate Street Car show (USC). This usually spans across three days, and again attracts attendees and exhibitors from across Europe. The facilities at Santa Pod are in full use, with drag and drift events open to anyone who pitches up with their vehicle, licence and a very reasonable entry fee!
There are thrilling demos and exhibitions from stunt racers, drag teams and clubs, and of course the usual on-site entertainment such as catering and music which caters for all ages and tastes. Saturday night usually features an entertaining flame show, which is well worth sticking around for. Camping pitches are available (book early to secure a good spot).
A big part of the USC event is the Show and Shine, which allows both individuals and clubs to promote their pimped up cars and bikes; everyone is ready and willing to discuss their own tuning experiences and show off their latest mods. The show paddocks are rammed, and over the weekend you’ll have loads of chance to wander round and make new friends.
The Fast Show
Back at Santa Pod, the Fast Show is one of the earliest events on the UK car show calendar, kicking things off in April. Another interactive event, the Fast Show features a handling competition on a specially designed course; this is immensely popular and also free to enter (just remember the licence).
The Run What Ya Brung (RWYB) events are similar to those seen at other major Santa Pod shows, with races along the quarter mile as popular as ever; one neat touch is the dusk and twilight event, where the level of competition seems to turn up a notch in intensity. With daily crowds in the thousands, the Raceway is packed, but the atmosphere is always friendly and fun throughout.
From retro vehicles to classic cars, from the latest modified vehicles and supercars, the event is a fantastic showcase for British and European manufacturers in particular; plenty of German car clubs and exhibitors are usually in attendance, with a strong BMW presence guaranteed among both the professionals and the attendees. To make the most of the event, we’d again recommend you book a camping pitch and stay at least one night; there’s far too much to see and do at the Fast Show to just spend a day there. The evening entertainment is among the best at any motoring show; there’s a themed nightclub, party DJs and a funfair to cater for all.
While the above events are ideal for both BMW owners and enthusiasts, and motoring lovers in general, don’t forget to support any of the many local events held throughout the year. From exclusive club events to public displays, there’s plenty to see and do across the UK.