Possible titles; Stone Age Men, Stone Me! Classic Stony is 15, Men from Stone, 15 years and still Rock Solid

2nd June 2024 and the ‘Stony Stratford Classic Car Festival’ as it was known then- is celebrating its 15th year. This along with its sister event Vintage Stony held on New Year’s day the two Festivals have, over the years, attracted hundreds of thousands of car and bike enthusiasts plus members of the public to the small market town on the A5 in Buckinghamshire to enjoy an informal gathering of hundreds of classic (and not so classic) cars, bikes and military vehicles.

Both the events are organised entirely by a local committee of enthusiasts who are willing to give up their time to ensure that the Festivals take place year on year and in so doing not only are able to bring great enjoyment to all those attend but also to help raise over £110,000 in sponsorship and charitable donations from businesses and the general public that is given to a local charity.

But how did this all start? How did Stony Stratford,  a small Buckinghamshire town famous for its two pubs the Cock and the Bull from where the saying a “Cock and Bull Story” originates from referring to a rather far-fetched story with very dubious credibility, come to run not one but two automotive festivals every year for the past 15 years!

As with all these things it started just as a simple conversation, but this conversation wasn’t any Cock and Bull story. In this case it was early during 2009 at a local Stony Stratford Business Association meeting between Ray Cobley and Andrew Freestone, both members of the Association, both classic car enthusiasts and like the rest of the Association committee members looking for ways to bring more people to the local area.  The conversation quickly turned to the idea of a classic car meeting in the town as a way of creating a unique event that would help the historic town thrive again.  So later that year after a lot of work by Ray, Andrew, and many others that the two persuaded to help them the first Stony Stratford Classic Car Festival was held in the Market Square, and what a success it was!  Attracting a very respectable 150 cars and hundreds of onlookers and enthusiasts the entirely free Festival was an instant hit, superbly blending in with the character of town.

Meanwhile in the village of Adstock, in the middle of rural Buckinghamshire, members of  the Vintage and Sports Car (VSCC) club were meeting every New Year’s Day to show off their pre-1945 cars. The only problem was their meeting was getting far too popular and the small village was being regularly overrun causing all sorts of traffic problems, so unfortunately it had to be brought to a close.

As a vintage car owner himself Ray couldn’t bare to see the Adstock meeting stop  (Ray owns a very nice pre war Humber) so it must have been in a moment of desperation (or madness) he agreed to work with fellow VSCC member Andy Bush start a similar event in Stony Stafford knowing that the town would welcome event in the same way as it had done the Summer classic car event.

From 2010 therefore, amazingly Stony Stratford became host to two free annual automotive street festivals, one dedicated to classic cars  held in early June and one primarily for vintage cars on New Years Day, although an early decision was made to accept motorcycles and where space allowed  classic cars alongside the vintage cars. Furthermore from the outset everyone agreed that both events would be used to raise money for the local charity in nearby Milton Keynes, namely the Willen Hospice Trust.

Behind both festivals a committee had been formed to work with Ray, Andrew and Andy to help with all the organising of the car (and now bike) enthusiasts plus the multitude of matters to do with traffic management, signage, trophies, liaison with the local businesses etc. etc. Tragically Andrew succumbed to illness in January 2014, but the Festival still remembers his significant contribution during the early years of its history through the annual award of the Andrew Freestone Memorial Trophy and indeed much of the Festivals’ marketing materials plus much more beside is still organised by his brother Stuart.

Since its first events both the events have never looked back, growing in size each year and taking over the whole town, they even now attract a flyover by the WW2 memorial flight. Today, under the chairmanship of local MGA owner David Storer the committee is able to efficiently organise both events year on year – although something always catches the committee out!  Very deliberately the committee have tried to keep both events casual and friendly and have worked very hard to make them look informal and not to be taken too seriously. The events are run by enthusiasts and for enthusiasts, so that is why you won’t see any major automotive companies making their presence felt at either event – although there have been approaches.

By adopting the informal approach, the Festivals have been able to take a more relaxed view as to what might be considered as a classic car (although generally only pre-1941 cars are allowed in the market square during Vintage Stony). If someone wants to turn up in a Back-to-the-Future DeLorean or dress as a Woki from the Star Wars film or even in a pink Cadillac then why not, everyone will enjoy seeing them!

Today both events attract well over 500 cars and bikes each and providing the weather holds hundreds of thousands come to see amazing examples of automobilia and also enjoy the day in Stony Stratford.

So Ray’s and Andrew’s conversation did the job! A conversation that might have just turned into another Cock and Bull Story actually turned into an amazing event in the town that everyone can enjoy… and long may it continue for at least another 15 years!

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