Sunday 26 April was the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs’ (FBHVC) annual Drive-It Day, when vehicle clubs are encouraged to organise events and rendezvous points for classic and historic vehicle owners, to celebrate the beginning of the car show season, or as non-believers call it, the coming of summer.
The Royal Oak pub in the village of Bishopstone in Wiltshire, in southern central England, hosts a drive it family event, with (very loud) live music and expensive organic food, and a special welcome for FBHVC participants. My wife and I took the 1990 Mazda MX-5 (seen here with a 2002 Renault Avantime) for its first public event of the year and here are some of the highlights from the gathering.
This piece is not going to cover all the cars in details, but rather give a flavour of the event and the range of cars, but surely there’s little to add to the first one anyway. In accordance with British Government Department for Transport regulations requiring such a car to be present at an old vehicle event, it’s a Morris Minor; in this case a convertible Tourer from 1962 with the 1098cc A series engine from the Morris 1100 (ADO16) and in an unusual pale shade of yellow.
I was unfamiliar with this as a true period colour but actually it’s now growing on me, ahead of some of the rather dismal pastel shades normally associated with this car.
The Morris’s strongest early years competitor, from within BMC at least, was the Austin A30 or the later A35. This example is an A30, dating from 1951 to 1956. Although smaller than the Minor with a wheelbase of just 80 inches and a width of 55 inches compared to the Minor’s 86 inches and 60 inches, this car was competing against it, given the reach and volume of the main British marques in the home market, the loyalty many had to specific dealers and the lack of competition from Rootes and Vauxhall at this time.
This was Austin’s first monocoque design and was initiated by Leonard Lord at Austin after Lord Nuffield rebuffed his Austin and Morris merger proposal in 1948. It had the same 803cc A series engine adopted for the series Minor in 1953, with an output of 28 bhp or so. The 1956 A35 had 34bhp, flashing indicators and a larger rear window. Over 500,000 of both types were built by 1959, when the A40 succeeded it.
Early examples of the A30 were marketed as the new Austin Seven, picking up a name with long history as Austin’s entry level car, which helped bring motoring to the many before the second war.
Pre-war Austin Sevens were frequently adapted in Specials for hill climb and some circuit competition. This 1931 example is pretty typical, with a light weight body placed on to the regular chassis, with some tweaks for extra power from its 748cc engine as well.
One notable participant, though not with this particular car, in this field was Sir Alec Issigonis, who successfully built a car that competed in 750cc and later 1000cc classes with some distinction.
After the A30 came the Mini, and this is a lovely example of any early Austin Seven Countryman estate version. In fact, it was registered ahead of the official launch of the variant in September 1960, and has been with one owner since 1978.
The owner actually bought it as a daily workhorse runabout in 1978 and was not aware of its full historic significance until the early 1980s. He then took the decision to preserve it and aside from a recent overhearing episode has had no significant issues. The car has “running in” notice which relates to the new cylinder head, after the overheating, and the “FG” on the notice on the side to Farina Grey, the official BMC name for the colour. Not a bad investment for £130.00!
At the other end of the BMC innovation scale, a 1961 Austin Cambridge A55, or Farina as it was also known. This example has a 1.5 litre B series engine and the earlier large fin version of the Farina styling.
And a BMC sports car – a 1965 MGB roadster in BMC competition red and white. I am not clear if this car has any competition history or indeed if it is still active in competition, as it left as we arrived. Sounded great though!
And as it left we got an opportunity for a great side on view of a 1988 Audi Quattro coupe, with a 2.2 litre five cylinder engine hanging out ahead of the front axle and permanent four wheel drive. This is an example of the later version of the original car, with the larger headlights and the digital dash, which is emerging as a truly great classic.
Also present was the predecessor to the MGB, a 1961 MGA 1600. This is one of the last year of the MGA before it was preplaced by the MGB. As a measure of the times, fewer than 6000 cars out of a production total of over 100,000 were sold on the UK market. Full CC in the skunk works.
It was also offered with a twin cam engine, though in low volumes and limited success. Parked with it were an MGB GT, a Rover 2200TC (P6) and a 1967 Ford Mustang.
The MG is a 1974, making it one of the last chrome, rather rubber, bumper, cars and the Rover is 1979. Variants of both used the Buick V8 of course.
Many people will tell you more about this Mustang more quickly and accurately than I would. What I do know is this is a 1967 2+2 Fastback with a 4.7 litre V8 engine.
Alongside it was an attractive 1965 car, also with a 4.7 litre engine and a well presented and preserved period interior.
Somehow, I think the earlier styling works better.
Something where the styling may also work, but is more of an acquired taste, is this Pontiac Trans Am, which I recall as being a 1971, and will no doubt be corrected by a Curbivore.
Angela looked at it, read the note about 8-12 mpg and asked if this was American. The training is beginning to pay off, it seems.
And in contrast, a Land-Rover Series 3 from 1984 and a Triumph Dolomite 1850 from 1976. We still see plenty of Land-Rovers (after 67 years, that’s pretty well inevitable and will hopefully last for another 67 years) but the Dolomite is a pretty rare beast, especially in this sort of daily driver condition. If you ever want to get depressed about the British motor industry, compare what Triumph and BMW did from the early 1960s with Michelotti saloon designs.
Triumph and Michelotti were also represented by this very tidy 1964 TR4 – truly a classic British sport scar now but also seen as a bit unsophisticated and arguably over powered for the chassis.
It is hard to deny the charisma and appeal of these cars though, but it would be hard work to drive in may situations.
Citroen was represented by a 1953 Traction Avant. What can you say – a car from 1935 that that was technically competitive, indeed advanced, 20 years later? Remarkable cars.
Elsewhere there was a 1972 DS saloon, with the 1985cc engine. It took something special to replace the Traction Avant, and this was it.
One of my favourite cars, with a special space in my fantasy garage.
Or may be a very brown 1980 Austin Allegro 1100 is your preference? No? Didn’t think so really, but a rare sight in the road now. This has the same engine as the Minor convertible, albeit transversely mounted with the gearbox underneath.
Or perhaps a late model Triumph Herald convertible, from 1971? 1300cc of gentle, easy driving, with an image a bit above a Morris or Austin.
There is a certain appeal to this car, complete with its separate chassis. It is a complete piece of the 1950s entering the 1970s, and looking a little bemused by the process.
You may remember I don’t really go for Volvos, especially the rear drive cars, unlike many CC followers. Well, here’s one for me and for one for others – a 1995 850 Turbo estate and a 1971 144DL saloon.
And now some rather special cars.
This is a 1937 Riley Falcon, a 1.5 litre saloon with a Briggs body. This body would have built by the UK division of Briggs at Dagenham, where it was located next to the Ford plant, and Riley used it to try to improve quality and cut costs over the earlier coach built cars, with aluminium bodies.
Riley advertising at the time said “....we make far too many models of course. But then we have a pretty fertile design department, and we like making nice, interesting cars.” Great for enthusiasts, not so good for accountants. In 1938, Riley went into administration and was absorbed into the Nuffield Organization.
This however, for me, was the star of the show. A 1948 Lanchester LD10 with an Abbott body.
Sir Frederick Lanchester is perhaps the greatest unknown engineer in the history of the British motor industry. His first car ran, albeit briefly, in 1895 and by 1902 was using a form of disc brake. He patented a contra-rotating aircraft propeller in 1909.
Lanchester, led by Sir Frederick and his brothers George and Frank, produced luxury cars and armoured cars until 1930, when the business failed and was taken over for a nominal sum by BSA (Birmingham Small Arms Co), the owner of the British Daimler company. From then on, without Sir Frederick’s influence, the cars began to share components with Daimlers and ultimately became derivatives of smaller Daimlers.
The LD10 was smaller than any Daimler, with a 1287 cc OHV four cylinder engine and in saloon form, a Briggs steel body. This example is an Abbott drophead coupé version.
Drive was to the rear wheels through a fluid flywheel and an epicyclic pre-selector 4-speed gear box. Stopping power came from Girling mechanical brakes. Around 3000 were built before Daimler dropped the Lanchester name in 1951. However, it’s a long time since I saw a Lanchester looking as smart as this, so Car of the Show (my personal award only) was cheerfully given.
All in all, more than interesting enough to forgive what the band did to Pink Floyd’s “I don’t need no education”.