TV show in North York Moors fuels drive for cars like dad had

Middle-aged and mostly male, they flock to the North York Moors in pursuit of their lost youth.

It is not the scenery of the National Park that attracts them but the chance to sit again in a Ford Capri like the one their dad drove.

Fuelled by a programme on an obscure TV channel, the market for classic cars has driven a tourism phenomenon not seen since Heartbeat – which on a good Sunday morning can generate £1,000 in parking alone.

The old bangers which go under the hammer in Derek Mathewson’s auction room are not pre-war jalopies but fairly recent models that still linger pleasantly in the memory.

Derek Mathewson washing down a 1962 Standard Ensign Deluxe. Picture: James Hardisty.

Morris Minors, Triumphs and MGs that their owners had written off are traded for thousands among collectors for whom one car is never enough.

“The market is full of surprises,” said Mr Matthewson, who runs the family firm with his sons, David and Paul, and grandson, Jack.

“Last year we collected a Sunbeam Lotus that had been sat in a farmyard near York for 20 years and was absolutely rotten. It ended up fetching £14,000.

Then there was a Mini Cooper S that had been scrapped and we thought might make £5,000. It ended up going for £18,000.”

Mathewsons prepare for their next classic car auction

The prospect of emulating the buyers who have struck gold on the TV show, Bangers and Cash – three series of which have now been filmed at the Matthewsons’ garage – brings enthusiasts to the monthly sales from all over the country. The latest one is this weekend, but given the current medical emergency it will go ahead with bidders only.

“We’re asking spectators to steer clear this time,” said Mr Matthewson, whose own fascination with old cars began 50 years ago when he picked up a Riley 468 and a BSA Bantam motor bike.

The restriction will disappoint not only viewers of the Yesterday channel but also Mr Matthewson’s neighbours in Thornton-le-Dale, some of whom have seen a bonanza on the back of the bangers.

“The village has been absolutely full every time. There isn’t a spare B&B to be had,” he said.

“They tell me it’s even busier than the 1990s, when people came here to see where ITV filmed Heartbeat.

“Our car park is full by half past nine in the morning and in fine weather there’s an overspill car park run by the sports club. The £1,000 they take on auction days has boosted their income considerably.”

The cars most have come to see are the ones they remember from childhood, he said.

“We’ve moved on two generations in 20 years. Pre-war cars are now extremely difficult to sell, because the people who remember them are no longer in the market for them.

“The sort of guy that buys a classic car today is probably someone who never owned that model himself but his dad or uncle did.

“It’s pure nostalgia – people like to buy cars they can relate to.”