Best wishes to all our members for 2016, which looks to be an excellent year with some new shows, our club stand at the Silverstone Classic weekend and 19 cars travelling to Reims this summer.
To start off the year, Doug Warren and I decided to attend the New Year’s Day Gathering at Brooklands. As we were the only two from our club, we did not meet up at Thurrock beforehand but travelled separately; I decided to ride my bike through the centre of London as much the quickest route from my house – although somewhat nippy in the chill of 8.00 a.m. on 1st January – while Doug took the more sensible choice of driving round the M25.
Fortunately the weather was kind; yes it was fairly cold and grey, but mercifully dry. As a result there was a great turnout and the queue of classic cars waiting to get in stretched back almost a mile, unfortunately exacerbated by a broken down E-type blocking the entrance. How embarrassing!
The New Year’s Day Gathering is just that, a friendly meeting of enthusiasts rather than a show. Entry is free, although one can of course pay to go round the Brooklands museum. People travel from all over London and the South-East (perhaps further afield?) to take part and park in the grounds or on the famous banking. As a result there were some very unusual cars that one rarely sees. On the way there, I rode along the A3 just behind a Chrysler Alpine GL from the late 1970s; not a car that I lust after, but it was once common on our roads and is now rarely seen – just six remain registered in the UK according to www.howmanyleft.co.uk.
One very rare classic was a Cisitalia (202, I believe). Designed in 1947 it was the first ‘modern’ design and hugely influential, even if it is not especially well known. Before the Cisitalia, designers tended to treat each part of the body as a separate, distinct element—a compartment for the passengers, another box for the engine, with wings and headlights as separate appendages. In the Cisitalia, there are no sharp edges and a single body shape maintained the overall flow, creating a sense of speed. Almost all car makers quickly followed suit.
Coming right up to date, Doug and I both were struck by the brand new, hybrid Porsche 918. Top Gear fans may remember Richard Hammond driving one around Imola last year, with blue flames coming from the two enormous exhausts in the roof line just behind the driver’s and passenger’s heads. With a normally-aspirated 4.6-litre V8 engine plus two lithium ion-powered electric motors, it develops 887 bhp and is prodigiously fast. It will do 0-60mph in 2.2 seconds, 0-100mph in 4.9 seconds and 0-180mph in 17.5 seconds, up to a top speed of 210 mph.
Back to older cars, and the sight of a huge Sunbeam, a family Austin (10?) and a tiny Austin 7 all in a row brought to mind the famous John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett sketch from That Was The Week That Was about the upper, middle and working classes.
There were plenty of European and American cars, including a lovely Ford Thunderbird, the first right-hand drive modern Mustang, early Mercedes-Benz, Cadillacs, Lincolns and Buicks, plus some Japanese including an early Nissan Skyline from the 1970s. SS Cars/Jaguars also made a good show with a lovely SS 3.5-litre parked just under Concorde, a Mark IX in more or less the same colours on the banking, some XK120s, Mk2s, E-types, a nice clean XJ6 Sovereign for sale and, of course, an outstanding XK8 convertible, courtesy of Mr Warren.
There must have been about a thousand or more cars there and the place was packed, with more cars arriving throughout the day. If the weather looks reasonable next year, I shall certainly go again on New Year’s Day 2017.