1989 Proton 1.6 GL Black Knight Crowned winner of Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional

The seventh annual Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional which took place on the lawns of Grimsthorpe Castle with thousands of mundane motors were displayed with pride by a record number of car enthusiasts who were thrilled to attend arguably the season’s greatest concours.

The focal point in the grounds of Grimsthorpe Castle, a 1516 architectural masterpiece of Tudor and Baroque splendour, was 50 carefully selected Unexceptional concours cars. Perfectly parked on manicured lawns, the owners and vehicles alike had to face a committee of six judges and their demanding inspection techniques and tough questioning. All held their nerve as they shared their stories and attempted to bribe the judges with cake, biscuits and, in one case, a glass of sherry.

Hagerty created the first Festival of the Unexceptional in 2014 as a celebration of long-forgotten everyday family cars from 1968-1989, now fondly known as the ‘Unexceptional Era’. The 2021 selection offered one of the best concours lawns in seven years of the festival, with cars arriving from across the nation to be judged as one of the best of the best.

When did you last see an Audi 100E Avant, or a Fiat Strada? A Mazda 929 Estate drew the crowds as a genuine forgotten hero, and the same was true of an ultra-rare Lancia Trevi. An Escort Popular proved the brilliance of a base model and a Daewoo Espero offered a perfect blend of an unexceptional car with an exceptional ownership story.

Hagerty’s esteemed judges took their Thermos flasks to a tartan rug and debated the winners over countless cups of tea and many custard creams. Eventually an agreement was reached, and the 2021 winners were announced.

Best in Show: Jon Coupland – 1989 Proton 1.5 GL Black Knight
Runner Up: Danny Wilson - 1991 Peugeot 106 XN
Feast of the Unexceptional/ Best Picnic: Matthew Long – 1986 Volvo 340 DL
Best dressed: Mark Pallatt – 1979 Ford Escort

The winning Proton, owner by Jon Coupland (30) from Boston in Lincolnshire, is one of just 201 examples, this being the only remaining example. The previous owner put the Black Knight into a garage in 1993, with just 3600 miles recorded, and it didn’t surface again 2017. Now showing just over 13,000 miles, it is the star of Coupland’s three-Proton collection.
And that winner proved a popular one. Jon Coupland and his remarkable 1989 Proton 1.5 GL Black Knight Edition fended off a truly impressive field of exceptionally unexceptional cars to take the ultimate prize in concours competitions – a Hagerty trophy, shaped like a mug of tea.
Coupland and his winner’s trophy – almost as coveted as his prized Proton.

“I have been a car enthusiast from a young age and only acquired the Proton in 2019, so I have never been to Hagerty’s Festival of the Unexceptional before,” said Coupland. “I was over the moon to be accepted for the concours, so to have impressed the judges enough to have won the overall prize is beyond my wildest dreams!”

The 30-year old Coupland, who is a police officer, didn’t have far to travel, coming from Boston in Lincolnshire. His 1989 Proton is, he tells Hagerty, literally the last remaining example of the Black Knight Edition, of which Proton sold 201 in the UK.

Coupland says the car’s original owner garaged the car due to ill-health, in 1993, having covered a mere 3600 miles. It remained in the garage until 2017, when it was sold to its second owner before being driven for nearly a further 10,000 miles. Now Coupland uses the car sparingly to show at events like the Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional.

The runner-up prize winning Peugeot 106 was bought for just £500 via Facebook Marketplace. Owner Danny Wilson (27) from Driffield in East Yorkshire, brought the peppermint-coloured Peugeot back to life himself, and the judges noted that it was fitted with a carburetter and choke found only on the very earliest examples, marking it out as a true survivor of the scrap heap. Wilson had wanted to be a part of FOTU for many years and was delighted to have been chosen to display his car at the concours for everyday old cars.

Special mentions went to James Green for his 1989 Nissan Bluebird, Charles Whilems and his 1986 Volkswagen Polo C Formel E, Chris Howells and his 1971 Triumph Toledo and Simon Hucknall for his 1977 Fiat 128. All of these cars impressed the individual judges and warranted their place in the 2021 Unexceptional Hall of Fame.

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