Dozens of classics ring in the new year in Somerset

| 2 Jan 2018

Words and pictures: James Mann

More than 75 classic car owners braved wintry conditions to attend the Yeovil Car Club New Year’s Day meet at Haselbury Mill in Somerset. The event, which has been running for four years, attracts a broad range of historic vehicles from vintage to modern classics. “We are a very broad church and welcome all those interested in motoring,” said club organiser Graham Dewar.

One of the oldest cars at the event was a stunning 1927 Rolls-Royce 20HP, which was parked by a new stone tithe barn, a reconstruction built just ten years ago. Another pre-war visitor was a delightful Austin 12/4 saloon and a very original 1933 Morris Ten Four, owned by Alan Hawkins for nearly twenty years.

An appearance was also made by the first production Jaguar ever built: chassis 679001. Owner David Roper picks up the story: “I bought the car for £50 in 1968 when it was just an old sport car, and although the body was dented on nearly every panel it was still fast.  At the time I didn’t realised its significance but discovered it had been built as a left-hand-drive roadster and converted to right-hand-drive when the hard roof was added. It was given to Le Mans winning driver Peter Whitehead in 1950. I completed the restoration in 2010.”

There was also a good turn out of Morgan Plus 8s and Plus 4s, with Chris and David Flanagan bringing their Plus 8 from Bridport despite the driving rain. By lunchtime the bad weather had blown through and more cars arrived, including a beautifully restored 1956 Land-Rover Series 1, which owner Keith Parsons had completed two years ago and had subsequently won a number of trophies.

A 1972 Volkswagen Beetle was also beautifully restored. Robert Mitchell bought the car as a rolling shell when he was just 13 years old and spent the next five years learning the skills to restore it with assistance from his RAF technician father. “When I first got the car my friends all thought I was mad as it was just a pile of bits, but as the car came together they realised what a great project it was,” said Robert, who now works as a toolmaker using the techniques he learnt restoring the Beetle.

Richard Acton brought his 1947 Canadian-built right-hand-drive Chevrolet Fleetmaster from Charmouth in Dorset. “Its the first American car I’ve owned,” says Richard, who runs another club on the south coast, the Classic Friends Car Club. “The big Chevy cruises at a steady 50mph and although listed as a ‘Sports Sedan’ when it was launched, it only has 90bhp on tap and weighs over two tons.”

Colin and Angela Robertson’s 1976 Ford Cortina 1.6GL estate also caught the attention of many visitors, and featured many original parts including the interior.

The Yeovil Car Club can trace its history right back to WWI, when it started among employees at the old Westland works. The club was formalised into its present form in 1948 and boasts 130 members.