Classics steam into Kempton Museum gathering


The world’s largest working triple-expansion engine drew a fascinating array of vehicles to the annual Classic Car & Bike Show at Kempton Steam Museum on 28 September. The selection ranged – in size – from a fine Vintage Motor Cycle Club turnout to a quartet of DeLoreans and even a retired 1997 Dennis Rapier Mk4 Water Tender Ladder owned by David Rowell.

“I wanted one of these because it was the ultimate,” explained Rowell, who drove down from Harpdenden. “It’s a proper, purpose-built fire engine, with a low chassis, coil suspension and it was seriously over-powered.” The Cummins 8.3-litre V6 is good for 250bhp: “A Kent force got 105mph out of one of these on the way to a shout! I recently took it back to Partridge Green in West Sussex where it first served and they asked if they could have it back.”

Nearby was the immaculate ’81 280SLC of Mercedes-Benz Club stalwarts Freddie and Sue Price. “I bought it about six years ago, when it was in a bit of a state after not being used for three years,” Freddie explained. “The seats were reupholstered – using the correct Mercedes material, which is still available – by my son David at D-Class trimmers, and the body was resprayed by my son Barry at Multi-Tech.” Just 14 280SLCs are known to survive.

Opposite the Merc was a gorgeous pair of Italian coupés, the Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV and Ferrari 365GT 2+2 of Andrew Stevens and Kelly La Velle. They were just back from a trouble-free 1000-mile trip to the Circuit des Remparts meeting in Angoulême in the Alfa.

John Deveson brought the beautiful ’56 AC Ace Bristol that his uncle bought in 1960 and has now done more than 300,000 miles. “My mother was about to sell it to a local garage as an apprentices’ project when he died in ’82,” he explained, “but I managed to stop her in time.”

Deveson’s special guest (sitting in the car) was John Turner, who raced the AC at Le Mans in ’59, coming seventh overall and first in class. “We went, half-heartedly, to a cavalcade of Le Mans cars a few years ago and there it was, third in the parade,” Turner recalled. “I was speechless. Then John kindly invited me to drive it and it felt just the same – as good as it was all those years before.”

Behind the Ace was the lovely Opel Manta that Malcolm Bailey’s parents had bought new in Durban, South Africa, in October ’75 and imported to the UK when the family moved here. “It’s had a busy 12 months,” he said, “having been to Ireland and Scotland earlier this year.”

Nearby was Roger Armstrong’s delightful 1923 Cluley 10.20 – one of 10 survivors from about 800 made by the long-defunct Coventry firm between 1920 and ’28. He rebuilt the car himself, replacing about half of its ash frame but retaining all of its part-steel, part-aluminium body. 

A varied American Auto Enthusiasts’ Club line-up – including a gleaming ’57 Chevy station wagon and two vast Cadillac convertibles – also featured a mint pair of Model A Fords.

Highlights among the younger machinery included the DeLoreans – owned by Michael Ward, Michael Knowlton, Matthew Woodall and John Dennys – and the 2002 Lotus Esprit V8 of Stuart Nield: “I’d been looking for one for ages – since ’88 I suppose – having seen some that had problems, and then this one came up on eBay about six months ago.”

The show is organised by C&SC contributor Gaynor Cauter, who was delighted with the turnout. The star turn as always, though, was the magnificent Worthington Simpson engine, which ran three times during the day.

To find out when it’s next in steam, click here.

Some of the other cars around the show:

A varied selection of Citroëns included this rather nice early SM…

…and Darrin Brownhill’s wonderful DS project alongside this fabulous Lagonda.

Pristine V8-250 – one of many Daimlers and Jags at Kempton – with superb Borgward Isabella.



Chris Martin

Great turn out, I always prefer the mix that appears at a gathering like this to a one-make line up typical of most club rallies. The 280SLC caught my interest, as I have often wondered how much I could save in petrol over the 450! Love the Borgward and AC Ace and that Dennis would be a fun drive too, but then I guessed who wrote this report when I saw a familiar tail-light to the right of that red Lotus. Would love to see that giant engine steaming one day, I will have to plan my next trip to UK around one of their dates,


David Evans

Well spotted Chris! I tried to crop it out but didn’t quite manage it. You’d have loved the SLC; it’s won best SLC at least once at an M-B Club day, but I didn’t realise the 280s were so rare. There’s a street-parked cream-coloured one near C&SC Towers, in fact. Freddie and Sue who own the white one also have an R107 SL and a couple of other Mercs...
And thank you for the Romans Hot Rod Association report; we’ve also used that in the November issue.
chief tea-maker, C&SC

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