The stories behind your car club heroes

| 24 Nov 2016

The problem with our magazine report on the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show is that – even with two pages – there’s never enough room to include everything, particularly more info about the winners of the C&SC Club Awards decided before the event. 

Take our Club Personality of the Year, Martyn Wray from the Singer Owners’ Car Club. He had no idea that he’d been nominated, so he was none the wiser when I came over on the Friday to take a photo of him with his lovely, recently restored 1½-litre Le Mans. It was for that evening’s presentation. Martyn has been the club’s secretary for the past 33 years and, among lots of other things, has been its liaison officer with the DVLA for its V765 scheme to get cars registered on the Swansea computer for the first time. He’s been successful in getting 200 Singers back onto UK roads.

It’s always a bit last minute when we do the judging, so it was too late for 20-year-old Dom Smith – who won Best Contribution by a Youngster – to get time off from his job as a mechanic. So Imp Club stalwart Richard Sozanski (who also took the photo) arranged for Sir Stirling Moss to present Dom with his prize the day after. 

As Richard explained: “It was thanks to our friends at Peter James, especially Phil Beck. It was like hiding a Christmas present from your children, but it all went off splendidly and Dom was more than chuffed with both the award and receiving it from the great Sir Stirling.” Having grown up going to meetings in his dad’s Imp, Dom restored a Sunbeam Stiletto that’s now his daily driver and has been the club’s first ‘young person’s contact’ for a year.

A youngster also revamped our Best Club Website. Simon Berry works as a web designer, but overhauled the Mk1 Golf Owners’ Club site in his spare time for a fraction of his usual budget. Its template was inspired by the car’s colour chart. The Honda S800 Sports Car Club and Skoda Owners’ Club were both highly commended and all three are well worth a look.

As always, though – even with the internet and social media – we still receive the most entries for the magazine awards: 20-plus usually. In the Most Improved Club category, we liked the J-type Review, which was highly commended as well as the 6/80 and MO Club magazine – now printed on better paper for a much better price.’ Most Improved Club Magazine went to the Rover Sports Register’s Freewheel, which is now printed in colour throughout and distributed more cost-effectively.

For Club Magazine of the Year, it’s usually a case of judging between publications produced by enthusiasts in their spare time and those done by agencies for bigger clubs – and there’s often little to choose between them.

Teacher Dave Wilkins produces The 1100 Club’s bimonthly Idle Chatter, which features event reports, technical articles and running reports on members’ cars. It was highly commended (for the third year running) along with the revamped TR Register’s TR Action, while Club Magazine of the Year went to the TVR Car Club’s Sprint. It’s not contracted out, but edited by unpaid volunteers. It is, however, laid up and produced by a professional graphic designer who happens to be a club member. It’s also printed on top-quality paper – much better than ours, in fact!

As we keep saying, the best thing for any old car is to use it and there were lots of excellent tours this year. We loved the idea of a group of veteran cars (organised by the De Dion Bouton Club UK) tackling a 200-mile rally from Paris to Ostend to retrace the route of one of the famous city-to-city races.

They were edged by a trip that went a lot further but in much younger machinery. They had to drive 800 miles just to get to the start, in cars not known for their economy – and during a French fuel dispute. So the enterprising organisers calculated that, if they brimmed their tanks at the Eurotunnel and each carried 30 litres extra (the maximum allowed on the train), they wouldn’t need to refuel in France. Best Club Run/Rally went to the Jensen Owners’ Club for Turin 1966, to mark 50 years since the Interceptor prototype was driven back from Vignale.

The De Dion Bouton Club UK was also in the running for Best Show/Event, with its inspired celebration of the Imperial Horseless Carriage Exhibition – London’s first motor show, in South Kensington in 1896 – again masterminded by Nicholas Pellett, who even traced some veteran motors that took part in the original event. 

It lost out to an event that was just as long in the planning. About 18 months ago, the 924 Owners’ Club approached the manufacturer about using one of its facilities to host a special event. It gathered 120 examples of the car – including the exclusive preview of a super-rare GTS that was coming up for auction – at the Porsche Experience Centre, Silverstone. Best Club Show/Event went to 92forty.

Ever since our sponsor of seven years standing Lancaster Insurance suggested the award for Best Contribution to Charity three years ago, we have asked the Sporting Bears Motor Club to help us to decide the winner. Which always seemed unfair to me because it’s probably the best-known fundraiser in the classic car world. They raised £43,350 at this year’s show alone, up more than £3000 on 2015. Lancaster Dave Youngs and Ant Anstead (from For the Love of Cars) presented Andrew Lake with the prize.

It also seems a bit unfair, given how much work that all car clubs do during the year, to pick out one for special recognition. Our winner kicked off its 40th anniversary with the announcement of a special charity tour. About 100 cars tour part in its annual overseas tour and eight times that many gathered in Derbyshire for its national rally. The charity tour clinched it, though. It went not only around the UK, but also via each regional branch of the club and raised more than £40,000 for Marie Curie – an outstanding achievement in a 1963 Moggie 1000. Club of the Year went to the Morris Minor Owners’ Club.

We also agreed on the Lancaster Insurance Club Initiative of the Year. As well as pointing that our favourite hobby is worth £5.5bn – up nearly 28% on five years ago – the National Historic Vehicle Survey revealed that 8.2 million members of the British Population are interested in historic vehicles and 11.2 million people believe that owners of classics should be encouraged to use them. It was organised by the British Historic Vehicle Clubs.

As for my own favourites, I loved the Austin Counties Car Club stand (top photo) – they went to town with the detailing – and Adrian Miller’s Brabham Viva, the oldest of six known to survive. ‘Dig this groovy Viva,’ as it says on the banner.

Plus, thanks to Kieron Maughan of Rock Stars Cars, I met the brilliant (car-mad) Andy Fairweather Low, who was a lovely bloke. He bought this lurid pink Marcos new – it had a TV and record player back then – and once owned the only Shelby Cobra GT500 in the UK.

And I still don’t believe that there was a Toyota 2000GT at the NEC. I must have imagined it. That was the one I wanted to take home…

Click here to see the full list of winners