Car Shows
Car Shows

Roger & Corinne Attaway sent the following account of the "Rod and Custom Car" shows that he organized at Belle Vue.  (The image above is from Roger and the one below is from Les Cotton.)

"I was the organiser of the Rod & Custom Shows at Belle Vue between 1976 and 1983

In 1973 Custom Car Magazine staged a Custom Car show at BV on February 2-4th. The then show attendance record was 17,000 for the Fish Show (I think). Custom Car's show broke that record. I understand that they used the top end of the Central & Lancaster Halls. The magazine subsequently ran two more shows there - 1974 - 25-27th January & 1975 31st Jan & 1 & 2nd February. The magazine then decided to run a national show at Olympia.

A group of hot rod and custom car enthusiasts had started a local club in Manchester in '75 called Rainy City Cruisers and we wanted to promote our club. Two members, the chairman - Graham Kelsey & Treasurer - Rodger Attaway, formed a company to run the proposed show. Our first Rod & Custom Show was held on May 15 & 16th, 1976. I should say that neither of us had any experience of staging an exhibition but succeeded with the guiding hand of Ivy Holmes. Our stewards were members of Rainy City Cruisers. The show was a success with 25,500 visitors and acclaimed in various national magazines. We used the Central & Lancaster Halls and the Westmoreland/Kendal suites as an Exhibitor's Bar. We never at any time displayed cars in those suites.

The 2nd Rod & Custom Show was held on 7 & 8th May, 1977. We gave the show a slogan, which hopefully you will appreciate - "Belle Vue is heaven in 77" Our gate increased again (approx 39,000) but the show was marred by a bomb scare just as prize giving finished on the Sunday evening. We had to clear 12,000 people from the halls quickly and without panic - this was achieved and we then discovered that 2 of our stewards were trained bomb disposal experts. No bomb was found.

We had to move dates for 1978 to June 2-4, perhaps the hottest weekend of that year and our gate reflected that at 33,000. By this time  our was established as the number one show in the UK, exceeding the number of exhibits and visitors per day figures of the national shows being organised by Custom Car Magazine."

"1979 (5-7th May), our fourth show, sponsored by Hitachi, was held on the Spring bank Holiday weekend. It received 70,000 visitors and came to the attention of the American show producers.

By 1980 we were using three halls, Lancaster, Central & Derby, again sponsored by Hitachi, the 5th show had over 82,000 visitors in the 3 days and included a live 2 hour broadcast of the Radio One Roadshow which we also linked to our 26 speaker sound system that we installed each year from year two. For the BBC it was a plug-and-play situation. The IASPA (International Auto Show Producers Association) in America accepted the Rod & Custom Show to full membership - the first non-American owned show to be admitted and awarded the BV show a 5* rating (Top rating) Our show was one of the 230 membership shows and rated, by them, at number 5 in the world - number 1 in the world outside the USA.

1981 gave us the opportunity to temporarily import and display the General Lee from the TV series "Dukes of Hazzard" and the show was held between May 2-4th. If memory serves it had around 75,000 visitors. By now, of course, the future of BV was in the balance and we worked hard with the "protection" groups to try and save it but Epsley Tyas had already got the contract in place. We persuaded national magazines to run draft letters to Manchester Council, MPS etc - the magazines later printed the official response such was the response from readers.
We billed our 1982 show (the 7th) as the Last Rod & Custom Show - a success with around 76,000 visitors but the close of the show was a sad affair as many exhibitors thought that they would not see BV again - as did we.

But a last minute reprieve meant we could hold another show - but the media wouldn't entertain it having the same name so we renamed it World of Wheels but didn't achieve the previously levels of pre-show media coverage and the show only received 15,000 visitors. we had to put our company into liquidation."

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