PASSIONATE petrolheads who cruised along Southend seafront last night during an unofficial car meet have defended their “lively” event and say the heavy police presence was “an overreaction”.

Hours after thousands of motorcyclists, residents and visitors browsed a huge array of bikes which arrived for an “unofficial” Shakedown event on Easter Monday, classic cars took over the seafront in the evening.

Echo: Cruising - classic cars drove along Southend seafront.Cruising - classic cars drove along Southend seafront. (Image: Darren Pankhurst)

Police officers were on patrol throughout the day to keep the public safe, dealing with “anyone suspected of acting or driving illegally or antisocially”.

Darren Ronald Pankhurst and his father, Darren Zachary Pankhurst, 58, each brought their classic Mark Three Ford Cortinas along.

“It was really good to see the seafront so lively,” Darren Ronald, 36, said.

“We met Bradley Walsh there and he told me he enjoyed seeing all the cars on the seafront.”

Echo: Darren shares a life-long love of cars with his dad.Darren shares a life-long love of cars with his dad. (Image: Darren Pankhurst)

While police arrested three people and seized four vehicles during the Shakedown event, no arrests were made during the car meet.

Darren felt the police presence was “an overreaction”.

He added: “I don’t really understand why all the extra security was needed. We’ve never had fights or trouble at these car meets. Even when we were cruising, nobody was speeding.

“People in modified or classic cars are even more careful because they don’t want to damage their expensive vehicles.

Echo: Darren and his son brought their Ford Cortinas to the seafront.Darren and his son brought their Ford Cortinas to the seafront. (Image: Darren Pankhurst)

“It was good to see the police around, but the car community is a bit of an easy target. What is there to be suspicious about?”

Darren says both the car meet and Shakedown “probably generated thousands” in revenue for seafront businesses.

He added: “There were queues for food and drink all the way along, which is good for the council and good for the city.”

Echo: Classic and modified cars arrived for the evening event.Classic and modified cars arrived for the evening event. (Image: Darren Pankhurst)

Ahead of the Easter weekend, Essex Police’s Chief Superintendent Waheed Khan, south policing area commander, said: “We know Southend is a frequent destination for bikers and car enthusiasts; the vast majority of whom add to the atmosphere in the city. But we also know events such as these have led to antisocial behaviour in the past.

“To be blunt, we won’t tolerate that.

“So, if you are committing crime or causing harassment, alarm, or distress to people in the city, you will be dealt with in the strongest possible way.”