2005 is the twentieth anniversary of the Cambridge and District Classic Car Club, a club for classic car owners and enthusiasts that is typical of hundreds across the UK and elsewhere, and to celebrate the club organised a classic car gathering in the city of Ely.
The cathedral in Ely, north of Cambridge, was founded in 672, and the current building is one of the most spectacular medieval buildings in England. The famous landmark west front, with its distinctive octagonal tower and Galilee porch, date back to the 12th century. Opposite the cathedral is the 15th century Bishop’s Palace, and it was on the Old Palace Green, facing the west front of cathedral, that the rally was held.
Of course, Department of Transport regulations still apply, so the obligatory Morris Minor, in this case a great 1966 Traveller, was placed right by the cathedral. This way, the clipboard-toting bureaucrat could complete the formalities and then walk in to the rest of the show and take it all in. As we will now.
The 1972 MGB roadster at the top of the page, seen here next an MG ZT260 saloon with a Ford Mustang V8, is an example of perhaps Britain’s most popular classic sports car, which sold around half a million from 1962 to 1981. This is a very nicely maintained example, the owner of which I know well. It’s used, frequently but not daily, and not abused.
There were several other MGBs in the display, including this MGB GT V8, which seemed to cluster together in groups, though through chance rather than design.
Perhaps this MGF helps tell that part of the story?
The MGB succeeded the MGA, and this 1961 example shows a rather stylish way of presenting your number plate and securing your bonnet.
This 1960 Humber Super Snipe estate shows the Rootes Group’s customary aping of contemporary American styling very well – is it a Humber or a 1955 Chevrolet? Certainly, it must get an award for the amount of chrome around the front, and there is something about the external sun visor. These are actually relatively unusual in the UK, but were often part of an export specification for markets with warmer climates. A six cylinder, 2.9 litre engine provided the power.
The rear tailgate was a split twp piece item, dropping down like many an American station wagon…
…Or even like this l965 Singer Vogue estate, also a Rootes product of course, and based on the Hillman Super Minx. This car has the famous Rootes 1725cc OHV engine, and has a bit of CC history as well.
One of the largest cars at the rally was this 1961 Jaguar Mk 9, with a 3.8 litre version of the famous XK engine. This car was superbly presented, and the two tone grey colour scheme seemed evocative of the period.
For Europe, this was a big car, with a wheelbase of around 120 inches and a weight of 4000lbs. Performance was still pretty brisk, though with a 0-60 time of around 11 seconds, and even a circuit racing pedigree.
The Jaguar family was expanded by the 2.4 Litre and 3.4 Litre saloons, retrospectively better known as the Mk 1 and replaced by the evolutionary Mk 2 saloon in 1959. This 1962 car is a 3.8 litre version, and looked splendid in bright red.
Close by was the Daimler version of the Mk2. In 1961, Jaguar bought the UK Daimler company, a purchase which included Daimler’s 2.5 litre V8 engine. Added to the Mk 2, this made an interesting alternative to the Jaguar, with the smooth V8 more than matching the 2.4 litre six cylinder Jaguar for performance. It was actually close to the 3.8 Litre Jaguar saloon, not least because of the reduced overall weight.
This car was originally sold in New Zealand and brought back to the UK as part of personal relocation, and has been subject to a gentle restoration, including an engine rebuild. Visually, there are few clues that it is a Daimler, not a Jaguar, but it sounds quite different.
Of course, if a Daimler or Jaguar is not enough, then how about a Rolls-Royce? This Silver Cloud Series II had Rolls-Royce’s first V8 engine, in 6250cc form, and has Rolls-Royce’s standard factory body, actually built by Pressed Steel at Cowley, Oxford, and later part of BMC.
These cars were Rolls-Royce’s last body on frame design, apart from the low volume and related Phantom V and VI, and have a timeless appeal that suit the cathedral setting well. Do you remember the advertisement claiming that the loudest noise was the clock? Well, this was the car.
Going further back, there were great examples of two of Britain’s favourite cars of the 1930s – the Austin Seven and the Morris 10/4. The Austin (on the left) is a 1938 car with a 750cc four cylinder engine, and a direct lineal descendant of the Hebert Austin’s original 1921 car.
The Morris is a 1932 car with a 1292cc engine, and was a size above the Austin. 0-50 in 27 seconds, over 60mph maximum speed. I think it is fair to say that aerodynamics was not Cowley’s strong point in 1932.
If you were a bit more affluent in the mid 1930s, you might have picked a Triumph Gloria. The Gloria name was used on varying combinations of six engines and three chassis, and was effectively the complete Triumph range from 1932 until the war.
This car is a 1936 Gloria 12, with a 1232cc, 42bhp four cylinder engine, which was designed by Coventry Climax but built by Triumph, who later designed engines for fire pumps, Grand Prix cars and the Hillman Imp.
Later cars had six cylinder engines of up to 2 litres with much improved performance and formed the basis for the best remembered pre-war Triumph, the original Dolomite. Those engines were also the basis for Jaguar’s engines at the time.
One car that has had some CC exposure is the Opel GT, and I show this 1971 example purely because it is one of perhaps fewer than 20 in the UK, and is owned by someone who grew up admiring them, in Germany. Is that front a mini-Sting Ray or what?
Also with a CC pedigree is the SAAB 96, in this case a 1972 car with the 1498cc Ford of Germany V4 engine. Was this the last car to sold in Europe with column gearchange? Or was it the Renault 16?
Armstrong-Siddeley got its rather cumbersome name as a result of the 1919 merger of the automtoive interests of the armaments and shipbuilding company Armstrong-Whitworth and Siddeley-Deasy, which was primarily an aero-engine business. The resulting business with its aero-engine and luxury car interests was not dissimilar to Rolls-Royce, into which the company was ultimately absorbed.
This car is an example of the smallest Armstrong-Siddeley powered by a 1236cc four cylinder engine and was introduced in 1928, as Armstrong-Siddeley adapted to the straitened times of the late 1920s. It has a preselector gearbox developed by W G Wilson of Self Changing Gears Ltd, a company in which Siddeley had an interest. As its name suggests, gear changes were made by selecting a gear ratio in advance of its being needed and when the time was right, the chosen gear was engaged by pressing and releasing the ‘gear change pedal’, which was normally installed in place of the usual clutch pedal.
My other reason for picking this car as a favourite was that the owner hadn’t been aware of the event until he saw the preparations early in the morning as he walked his dog; he went home and brought his car back with him. It was that sort sort of event.
So, an interesting selection of cars in a great location.
If we go back next year, can we fire the cannon?