Such is the competition for a good day out that a preserved steam railway has these days, many organise an additional attraction or event to supplement the working steam locomotive and trains. Often, this will take the format of additional locomotive in steam, open workshops and train driving lessons, and, of course for Curbivores, a classic car show. After all, nothing goes with classic steam like a classic car. Old train people are old car people, as a rule. This 1959 Armstrong Siddeley Star Sapphire was right at home.
So, the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Steam Rally did just that at the beginning of September – let’s have a quick walk through. An Austin Seven and pre-war Rolls-Royce nicely set the tone.
A multi-marque car show is always a variety event, and often, in perception at least, you’ll find a disproportionate number from a specific marque, type or country. In this case, that was Rootes Group products, so we’ll start there.
First up then, is this 1962 Hillman Husky, part estate car, part sedan delivery van sold as the Commer Cob, with windows. Essentially this was a Hillman Minx with 12 inches cut out of the wheelbase. Think AMC Hornet to Gremlin, with a very practical boxy style and a better name. This was also the basis for the Sunbeam Alpine sportscar.
Hillman did a full estate version of the Minx as well – this is another 1962 car with the same 1592cc engine as the Husky, but the longer wheelbase, five doors and a proper dose of Loewy styling.
Also in the Minx family, officially known as the Audax series, was the Sunbeam Rapier.
This is a 1964 Series IV car, the last generation of Audax car to have the 1.6 litre engine. 91 mph, 17 seconds to 60mph.
Alongside the Minx family, albeit actually 300 miles away in Scotland, Rootes were producing the Hillman Imp and its derivatives. This is a 1967 car, with aftermarket wheels.
The commercial version of the Imp, a van with a higher roof line to give an adequate load bay height over the rear engine, was marketed variously as the Commer Imp and Hillman Imp van. With rear windows and rear seats, it was also known as the Hillman Husky. This is a 1965 Commer Imp, as fitted out for the AA (Automobile Association) recovery fleet, and proud to possess radio communication. To be honest, thinking how a recovery service worked without a cell phone or radio gets complicated and inefficient very quickly.
Prior to the Audax series, this Minx Mark VIII was the last of the immediate post war models. This is a 1954 Mark VIII, with the then new 1390cc OHV engine, which survived in increasing capacities in the Minx and Hunter (Arrow) until 1979.
Away from the Rootes cars, there were some other highlights too.
I was attracted to this pairing of 1967 Austin A35 van, in RAC (Royal Automobile Club) livery and 1964 Morris Minor van. Both came from BMC, both dated back to the late 1940s and they shared an engine, the BMC A series. Still they came from different dealers, so that was OK, wasn’t it?
The A35 was also offered as the Countryman, with rear windows and the extra power of a 948cc engine. Power is relative – 34bhp. This is a 1957 model.
The Morris Minor needs no introduction to CC. This is a 1952 car, with the Morris side valve engine.
The saloon is a 1966 Minor 1100, the convertible, a ringer for one my Dad had, is 1960 1000 version, both with the B series engine.
The Minor, A35 and its smaller engine predecessor the A30 were post war equivalents to the immortal Austin Seven CC saw recently.
This Seven is a 1931 model.
Meanwhile, from Coventry rather than Birmingham, Standard-Triumph’s competitor to the compact Austins was the Standard 8, seen here in 1955 format, with wind up windows. This was the first monocoque Standard, and also the last compact Standard. Its successor was the Triumph Herald.
Its predecessor, in the factory if not exactly in the market place, was the oddly proportioned Triumph Mayflower. This is a 1953 car, so close to the end of Mayflower production, which totalled 35,000 cars in 4 years.
The last real Triumph saloon (I’m excluding the Honda based Acclaim) was the Dolomite. This an evolution of the 1965 Triumph 1300, adding a longer tail, new front and rear in lieu f front wheel drive. Engines started at 1850cc, rising to 2 litre for the innovative 16 valve Sprint and ultimately down to 1300, also. But for many, the datum was the 1972-80 Dolomite 1850.
This 1979 version shows one of the strong bright colours used to keep the car, and brand, alive in its twilight years. With Michelotti styling and some engineering ingenuity, the original 1300 concept proved surprisingly durable. I’m not sure why, but I have a soft spot for the Dolomite.
The Riley Two-point-Six was a version of perhaps the last real Riley, the 1953 -59 Pathfinder, before BMC’s badge engineering ate up the Riley brand and the large cars were discontinued. The Two-point-Six (and it badged as such) had the BMC C series 6 cylinder engine and leaf spring rear suspension in place of the Riley engine and coil spring rear suspension of the Pathfinder, and styling that looked even more like the related Wolseley 6-99. This is 1958-59 car, the only year of production, and appears to have come from Norway for the event. Velkommen til Storbritannia!
Also originally from Scandinavia, and perhaps taking the same place in the market as the Riley, was this 1973 Volvo 144GL, built just before the big bumper era. Not my favourite car, as you may know, but a nice example and a great colour.
Nice window sticker too.
This is more my thing. A 1952 Jowett Javelin saloon. Tatra87 has given us a masterclass on the Javelin, so there’s no need to cover it in full detail. A flat four engine, aerodynamic body and torsion bar suspension all pointed to a bright future.
Alas, it was not to be; production volume issues and the takeover of body builder Briggs by Ford brought Jowett’s whole adventure to an end.
Another innovative compact car with a flat four – the Alfasud. There are now perhaps just 250 Alfasuds left in the UK; there are fewer than 20 1.5 litre hatchbacks like this 1983 example. But if you wanted a car that showed the Golf Mk1 the way to go, showed up the Austin Allegro for what it was and kept a Citroen GS on its toes, then this was your car.
The enthusiasts’ favourite front wheel drive car of the 1970s? I think so. One day…..
And the enthusiasts’ pick from the 1980s? Maybe the Peugeot 205GTi, seen here in rarer 1.9 litre form.
This was the start of the great Peugeot hot hatch era, and Peugeot have never quite got to the same heights again.
Also a very rare sight indeed was this 1973 Lancia Fulvia Sport 1600. This is a second series car, so a five speed gearbox, alternator and a conventional front hinged, not side hinged bonnet (Lancia are Italian…). The Coupe was styled and built by Zagato, and can be seen as a competitor to a BMW 2002, rather than a Ford Capri.
A hugely individual, capable, accomplished car with complex engineering that puts Lancia’s recent (terminal?) decline into perspective.
And one more from Italy – a 1965 Fiat 850 Coupe. Fiat had a wide range of rear engine cars, other various sizes and generations from the mid 50s to the late 70s, and this was part of it. A very clean example.
One very rare sighting at a British car show is DAF, and DAF 33 pickup even rarer, like, I didn’t realise the pickup was old in the UK. In 1971, it without doubt the smallest, lowest power and smallest engined pickup on the market, and the only with CVT. A nice reminder of my Dad’s lifetime best friend who drove DAFs for many years.
In contrast to the DAF, the only American car at the show was this 1949 Buick Roadmaster with the portholes.
And a side opening bonnet and the Fireball straight 8.
And to prove we were actually at a steam railway, here’s a British engine from 1949 – no 7903 Foremarke Hall, built at the Great Western Railway’s Swindon Works (now a shopping centre) and withdrawn from service in 1964.
The Hall class were a 4-6-0 configuration mixed traffic engine, and would have been seen all over the Great Western and the BR western region. Two generations were built, in various batches from 1925 to 1949.
You can easily tell it’s a British engine – after all it’s named after a country house.
And remember, do not lean out of the window…..