Motoring through ’05

in a Post Vintage Thoroughbred

A report of the year’s activity

Owning a car like a MKVI is a life changing experience, you meet the most extraordinarily friendly people, the car is admired and waved at everywhere it goes and there are loads of organised events that you can take it to on almost every weekend of the year. One not only has the pleasure of restoring it to its original condition and finding out just how impressive a vehicle it was in its time (even now for that matter!) but also of using it for all sorts of gatherings where it is only required to look decorative while you enjoy the company of like-minded enthusiasts. These are purely social, rarely involve technical discussions and thus are enjoyed as much by wives as they are by owners.

The report of our French trip in June has been on the site for several months now but it is only a small part of the year’s activities that began in March by quickly dispensing with the RREC’s GW Section AGM and getting on with an excellent Sunday lunch in a decent Hotel near Bristol.

James Tucker and his wife Sian are registrars for Derby Bentleys and they seemed delighted to have us at their first outing of the year in mid-April at The Long Mynd Hotel in Shropshire. It was bitterly cold and wet but a perfect location and a really well organised event. Shropshire is a magnificent county, Church Stretton a most interesting town and we were able to visit Ironbridge as well. In all about 26 cars turned out, mostly Derby’s but a lovely 20HP by Binder, a new Continental and three MKVIs were there as well. It was surprising how far some had come; they were from Scotland, East Anglia, and the South Coast and made our 80 miles or so seem a very poor effort.

The French trip was followed by a visit to the RREC Annual Rally at Kelmarsh Hall in Northampton where about 1000 cars gathered for a mostly social event, it was bitterly cold but enjoyed by all and only marred for me by a combination of Norman Geeson’s high axle ratio and Northamptonshire Police’s zero tolerance of speeders. JTM50 now has three points for doing 48mph in a 40 on a road where it didn’t matter a Damn!

We visited Shelsley Walsh in August. It’s a hill climb and Britain’s oldest motoring venue to have been in continuous use since its inception 100 years ago. I went to a VSCC event where there was a crowd of a few thousand and a feeling that we had taken a step back in time. Everyone was friendly and enthusiastic, it’s a beautiful valley in Worcestershire and the car park was about one quarter vintage or classic cars with more than a smattering of WO Bentleys. It would have been a perfect day had I not managed to cover myself with the yoke from my lunchtime Bacon and Egg sandwich – they are compulsory at these events and I shall have to master the technique of squirting them inwards rather than downwards and sideways, if I am to be accepted in such illustrious company!

The Goodwood Festival of Speed has gained a reputation as the world’s premier Historic motoring Event and I do not doubt that it is for the Celebrities who attend as guests of Lord March. It is also a rare opportunity to see famous riders and drivers and their cars and motorbikes but, despite all the claims to contrary, it lacks the intimacy and the genuine enthusiasm of either Shelsley or Prescott. One can never quite escape the feeling that, as a member of the public, we are merely financing Lord March’s Party for Celeb’s and that many fellow visitors would be just as happy at Alton Towers.

We stayed in Swansea with Robin and Jayne Wayne for a Welsh section Picnic at Dinifwr Castle, it was a round trip of some 240 miles for JTM50 and despite cruising at 70mph on the M4, it seemed to use little or no oil and return about 19mpg.

Prescott Hill Climb Prescott Hill Climb later in August is a much bigger and more expensive VSCC event than Shelsley but just as enjoyable. There was an enormous selection of quite extraordinary old cars including some that I’d never seen before and we had lunch with William and Sarah Whitehead and Kelvin Price from nearby RREC sections. There were quite a few WO Bentleys there but they do not seem to take socialising as seriously as the RREC. Prescott is the home of the Bugatti Owners Club and their museum and archives are always worth a visit while you’re there.

The President’s picnic at Buscot Park was another opportunity to meet up with friends from other sections. Adam Kimberley was able to demonstrate extraordinary culinary expertise by heating his Cornish Pasties in the engine compartment of his T type. The traffic jams from London were long enough to ensure perfection and he’d like it known that this was done this without watching a single TV cookery show!

The official Register event was a weekend in the Peak District in Callow Hall. It was a wonderful hotel but rather small and so sadly many regulars were unable to come, however we all enjoyed ourselves and are looking forward to next year when my French Trip should have a full complement as I am sure will the RREC 60th Anniversary of the MKVI in September at .

Last year the GW Section of the RREC had a meeting with Bristol owners’ at Frampton Court, unfortunately it could not happen again this year but instead I have invited them to join our 2006 French trip. Peter Campbell of the Bristol Owner’s Club responded by suggesting that I visit the BOC Annual Rally at Kemble Aerodrome. They are fascinating cars from a company similar to Rolls Royce in that they also made aero engines. They made Planes, Buses and Trucks too.

Inevitably, after the war, the Bristol Aeroplane Company were concerned that reduced demand for planes and engines would mean many losing their jobs so, to try to avoid this situation and with the help of Godfrey Frazer Nash’s German contacts, they were able to procure a German engineer and the rights to manufacture certain BMW designs. The result was Bristol cars, like Rolls-Royces were built to aero engine standards but were decidedly more sporting in character. They were technically interesting and innovative cars then and they still are today. It was a great day out and a chance to see some extremely interesting cars including a brace of BMW328s from which the six cylinder Bristols evolved.

There was a large RREC contingent at the Tredegar Park Vintage Transport Festival organised by Welsh Section Chairman Kelvin Price (he came in his 3L WO). It was a massive show with all sorts of interesting vehicles, trade stands etc. and it provided us with an opportunity to study the impact of fast food on the residents of South Wales.

My cars have done around 5,000 miles this year between them and the time has passed quickly and enjoyably, we’ll round the season with a GW Section lunch and then use the bad weather to fettle and improve them for next year. In the meantime if anyone has a Bristol 400 and would to exchange it for JTM50 please get in touch!

Praise must go to the Australian RROC for the extraordinary quality of their bulletin Praeclarum, it is far and away the best of the clubs associated with R-R and Bentley and only the BDC’s graphic design compares. David Neeley, the editor has an amazing talent and it is no wonder that they are attracting new members and editorial contributions from all over the World.

We have a new website from John Prescott, one time host of the RREC site and it is proving immensely popular and soon, the RREC will launch their new one too. There is no doubt that all this web activity and the recent arrival of Skype will bring more and more of us together and increase the pool of knowledge that we all need access to from time to time in order to keep our cars going as they should.

As Norman Geeson correctly observes most of our cars tend to be “shiny and buggered”, owners spend a fortune on the cosmetics and yet delay or ignore all sorts of mechanical problems – this site was conceived to make owners aware of this sort of thing and help them sort it out, however if you have the time, the RREC Hunt House is one of the best club facilities in the World and well worth a visit. Each year they run a series of technical Seminars that are presented by Specialists familiar with individual models. They are exhaustive and cover all the workings of the cars so that you understand yours. There are even ramps that you can jack them up on so that everyone present can see if they are being looked after properly.

ashley james