Car of Show in the Classic & Sports Car Club Awards last Friday at the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show went to Derek Chapman’s Jensen P66 prototype, which the former train driver manager bought in 2011.
“I never dreamed that I’d own a car like this but I was made redundant in 2011 and had this lump sum that was intended for my pension,” Chapman explained. “I had intended to use it for a couple of years, but it needed work because the brakes were binding and I ended up restoring about two-thirds of the car. I went right through the running gear, and then decided to take out the engine to tidy up the bay. I took the heads off and found that number 1 was scored so the engine had to be rebuilt.”
The suggestions for the C&SC Special Award – for the Car that Stole the Judges’ Hearts – reflected their diverse passions. One wanted to ride home on a Fordson tractor, while another fancied a gorgeous Ford Comete, but, for once, they all agreed on Ernie Beckett’s superbly detailed 1956 E83W panel van in Farm Services colours on the Ford Sidevalve Owners’ Club stand.
“My dad worked as a tractor fitter,” Beckett explained, “so that was the inspiration. Ford insisted that agents’ vans all had this livery, with the phone number of the firm – Brooks of Newark in dad’s case. It was properly sign-written by Graham Bridges who did a lovely job.”
Compère for the evening, Simon Taylor – aka C&SC’s Throttle – explained that there were many contenders for Most Interesting Selection of Cars, including the competition-themed Bristol Owners’ Club, which brought the Bristol Barb, a Cooper-Bristol and an Arnolt-Bristol. The Club Peugeot UK display featured a 1907 Lion, a 504 cabriolet and a 205T16 Group B rally car. But the prize went to a glorious line-up from the Vintage Sports-Car Club including an Austin Seven special, an exquisite Lafitte cyclecar and, centre stage, Duncan Pittaway’s fearsome 28-litre Fiat S76, The Beast of Turin.
A perfectly detailed beach scene from the Swallow Doretti Register romped away with the gong for Best Themed Stand. It featured two cars, one of which was towing an Albatross powerboat – launched in 1954, the same year as the Doretti – and a delightful Swallow Gadabout ice-cream vendor’s motorcycle combination. The backdrop, to tie in with main show theme She’s a Beauty, comprised photos of ’50s models – such as Mitzi Gaynor and Carol Brewster – who’d all done shoots with Swallows. Runner-up was the Gay Classic Car Group’s fun Beauty Pageant tableau, with a catwalk lined by the likes of a Morris Marina, a Volvo 240 and a Fiat Strada.
A couple of Beauty and the Beast-themed displays were in the running for Best Small Stand. The Matra Enthusiasts’ Club featured a Rancho, covered in muck and leaves, sitting on a convincing ‘rocky’ lane (made from polystyrene), alongside a late-model Bagheera and a 142bhp Murena S (one of only 500). Nearby, the Post Vintage Humber Car Club showed an immaculate standard Hawk alongside the stunning Ford 7.8-litre V8-engined Super Snipe MkIII ‘The Humbersaurus’.
The winner, though, The 1100 Club displayed three different ADO16 marques, with copies of the original technical drawings providing the backdrop as well as period publicity material. A mannequin of Basil Fawlty – with branch at the ready – was about to thrash his red estate, while a sozzled Manuel was collapsed on the floor.
For Best Medium Stand, the judges were impressed by a fine turnout of cars from the Pre-War Austin Seven Club – with pride of place going to one of the dozen Wragg single-seaters – and an evocative Morris-Commercial selection. They were edged by a superbly presented Renault Classic Car Club group celebrating 50 years of the R16 that included a 1965 example and a ’79 TX from the penultimate year of manufacture.
Best Large Stand came down to two distinctive presentations: a remarkable Marcos Owners’ Club set featuring the first car made by Jem Marsh and Frank Costin and the winner, the Mercedes-Benz Club. “Unlike some of the larger club stands,” Taylor pointed out, “you could wander freely around the display to study a wonderful 1932 290 tourer – registered new in Tanzania – admire an immaculate 450SEL 6.9 or even sit in a Gullwing in return for a small donation to charity.”
Ten of the awards were decided ahead of the NEC show, starting with the Best Club Website/Use of Social Media. Two stood out: the recently overhauled Stag Owners Club website (at www.stag.org.uk), which impressed for its appearance, speed and targeting of facebook as a key mechanism for reach classic car fans of all ages. The winner, the Rover P6 Club features up-to-the-minute news, good use of social media – with links to the twitter feeds of other classic car clubs – and is easy to navigate. The club has also correlated its use of facebook to an increase in membership. See more at www.p6club.com
Clear winner for Most Improved Club Magazine was the Nissan Figaro Owners’ Club’s quarterly Figgyworld, edited by Kevin Fagan, which used to look quite dated but now runs on a clever Flipping Book. It loads quickly, offering you a corner to turn the page and enlarges the top or bottom half of a page for you to read it and clicks back to the whole page. It comprises a great mixture of event reports, owner’s stories and technical articles. The digital format also enables the club to keep annual membership down to £15.
Club Magazine of the Year is always the most popular category, with nearly 20 entries including several former winners again in contention – including the Mercedes-Benz Club Gazette, the AROC’s Alfa Driver and the consistently excellent TVR Car Club Sprint. Honorable mentions also went to a couple of top-quality quarterlies, the Bristol Owners’ Club Bulletin (edited by Marc Atkinson) and The Spirit, edited by Richard Charnley for the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club’s SZ Register.
The winner, though, was Most Improved Club Mag a couple of years ago. Since then, the Military Vehicle Trust’s Windscreen (edited by John Carroll) has increased in frequency to six times a year, as a glossy, perfect-bound publication covering all aspects of the particular organisation and printed on top-quality paper. It features event reports, book reviews, restoration projects, reader’s feedback and lots of archive material. Plus, it’s superbly written and nicely laid out.
There were several outstanding contenders for Best Club Run/Rally, two of which ventured into the wilds of Scotland and further north on the 623-mile Scottish Vintage Austin Enthusiasts’ Club Spring Weekend, and the MG Car Club Caledonian Centre’s Orkney and West Coast Tour, an epic 1900-plus miles.
But they were – just – edged by a shorter, madcap trip, but in rather more extreme conditions, that took in some of France’s most spectacular scenery and most famous hillclimbs around Vercors Royans. The 190km circuit for the Panther Car Club’s WinterBlue Foxes included a peak of 1630 metres. Those taking part twice had to dig their cars our of deep snow. Once they’d excavated their vehicles, the masochistic rules stipulate that side windows should be down – along with hoods – and snow chains can only be used as a last resort.
It was almost as difficult to decide the Best Club Show or Event. A remarkable range of 80-plus cars – including the three oldest surviving examples of the marque – gathered at Staunton Harold Hall for the Wolseley Register to toast 120 years of the marque, while the Austin Counties Car Club returned to the photo locations used by the make in period as part of the club’s 40th anniversary.
The one that edged it, though, also celebrated a remarkable turnout for a special occasion. 21 years ago, Messerschmitt Owner’s Club members swarmed into the grounds of a Hampshire farm run by club president Ken Piper, who in the late ’50s and early ’60s was one of the leading competitors in a Tg500. On their return visit, 58 cars, including 18 Tg500s, converged on the same setting – still run by the same person (now 88) – for the Messerschmitts revisit Ken Piper Rally.
Like last year, Best Contribution by a Youngster, was one of the hardest categories to decide. The two who stood out had both restored and maintain their own classics, both their first cars – for 19-year-old Dom Smith of the Imp Club, it’s a Sunbeam Stiletto. He’s now the young person’s contact for the club.
He missed out on the top prize to someone slightly older – but still just 21 – David Milligan, who grew up with examples of his favourite German marque in the family. When he bought his rare Regatta Blue Volkswagen Golf 1.3 Driver, it was colour-coordinated, on the wrong wheels and had a GTI interior, but he has exactingly restored it to original spec.
“I didn’t want a GTI,” he said. “I wanted something different. I did everything apart from the spraying and detailing. I had the crank reground and rebuilt the engine. I’d never been to a car show before but won Best Standard at the of the VW Mk1 Golf Owners Club AGM. People expect someone my age to have a modified car, so when I turn up in this they ask if it’s my dad’s car.”
As Taylor pointed, it was also difficult to decide the Best Contribution to Charity – with so many worth causes, and so many clubs all doing their bit to raise fantastic amounts of money – but there was one that stood out. “Our winner, Chris Wickers, of the Volvo Owners’ Club, has lost friends and family and has seen the support that MacMillan Cancer Care has given to all of those involved. This year, with the support of his wife Yvonne and 15-year-old daughter Lucy, who went on the journey with him, they drove 1991.9 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats to mark 30 years since the launch of the Volvo 480. And they’ve so far raised about £2500 for MacMillan Cancer Support.
The Club of the Year winner, the TVR Car Club, also excelled itself with charity work, raising almost £10,000 over the past 12 months, including more than £2700 for Wiltshire Air Ambulance. It also became the first car club to take over the Millbrook test facility for a meeting that more than 10% of the club’s 5500 members attended.
This year’s Club Personality of the Year, Peter Lee of the Transit Van Club, was nominated not only by members of the club that he set up 10 years ago, but also has several citations from various other sources. As show manager of one of the UK’s biggest motor museums pointed out: ‘He set up the club long before the Transit became popular. He drives it forward, organises runs for charities and makes sure the club is represented at various shows and rallies around the UK and abroad.’
Ford’s PR people said: ‘We could not have had any better support from anyone inside or outside of Ford when it came to all matters historic on the Transit – he was our ‘secret weapon’! His infectious passion helped us to do our jobs even better.’
The presentation concluded with a new prize, the Lancaster Insurance Club Initiative of the Year, which was devised as a way of recognising the changing role of classic car clubs. The judges were hugely impressed with an initiative to tackle the lack of technical skills in the classic market via the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs’ Apprenticeship scheme.
“But in the end,” Taylor explained, “we felt that the gong should go to an individual club. Our winning scheme recognises that classic owners have differing mechanical abilities. Some will strip down a cylinder head of a lunchtime, whereas others might be reluctant to take a spanner to their pride and joy.
“So the ideal solution – and one that could be adopted at any club with sufficient resources – would be technical seminars aimed at basics, such as MoT prep work, intermediate (tackling your suspension perhaps) and advanced levels – maybe an engine rebuild. Just such a scheme – and it’s already proved successful – has been set up by set up by the TR Register, which wins the Lancaster Insurance Club Initiative of the Year.
Classic & Sports Car Club Awards, sponsored by Lancaster Insurance
Best Club Website/Use of Social MediaRover P6 Club, www.p6club.com
Most Improved Club MagazineFiggyworld, Nissan Figaro Owners’ Club, edited by Kevin Fagan
Club Magazine of the YearWindscreen, The Magazine of the Military Vehicle Trust, edited by John Carroll
Best Club Run/RallyWinter Blue Foxes, Panther Car Club
Best Club Show/EventKen Piper Return, Messerschmitt Owners’ Club
Most Interesting Selection of CarsVintage Sports-Car Club
Best Themed StandSwallow Doretti Register
Best Small StandThe 1100 Club
Best Medium StandRenault Classic Car Club
Best Large StandMercedes-Benz Club
Best Contribution by a YoungsterDavid Milligan, VW Golf Mk1 Owners’ Club
Best Contribution to Charity Chris and Lucy Wickers, Volvo Owners’ Club
C&SC Special AwardErnie Beckett’s 1956 Ford E83W panel van
Car of the ShowDerek Chapman’s Jensen P66 prototype
Club of the YearTVR Car Club
Club Personality of the YearPeter Lee, Transit Van Club
Lancaster Insurance Club Initiative of the YearTR Register Technical Seminars