Faversham (in Kent) has attracted its fair share of visitors over the centuries. Crucially, it was situated at the head of a navigable creek, offering quick and easy access to Europe, pure spring water and a dry temperate climate well suited for growing crops and grazing cattle. All this lead to the town becoming a leading port for the export of British wool and established it as a major player in the production of beer.
And there is more. Faversham boasts several records. It has the oldest company and the oldest village museum in the UK, not to mention the oldest gunpowder mill in the world. The existence of electric current was first demonstrated here and it holds the record for the hottest place in the UK (100 degrees was recorded in 2003). Shepherd Neame, based in town, is Britain’s oldest brewer. Once a leading brick manufacturer, its hand-made bricks form the four mile London Bridge to Greenwich stations viaduct. And it’s not short of historic buildings itself with over 5oo listed in the area.
During its long history, Belgic farmers, Romans (them again!), Jutes, Angles and Saxons, Danes and Normans have all invaded Faversham’s shores at some point in history. But on 22 April 2016 it was the turn of yet another, less intimidating, horde to enter the town. Yes, it was time for the petrol heads to gather for the annual Classic Car Show. Not least of these were the members of the JEC Essex Thameside tribe, arriving in around 20 Jaguar chariots.
Henry Ford once said “History is bunk”, so, enough of the past and into the present to enjoy some of the sights to be seen on a stroll through town…..
There’s no better place to start than the Club Stand. Yes, the MOT garage again, a great place to be when the showers arrive – just don’t park under the leaks from the roof. It was well attended by the club with cars including Mark 2’s, Daimler V8 250’s (Carol and Steve having eradicated the gremlins), Bob and Sue’s recently completed E Type, my 420, several XK8’s and XJS’s and at least one more E Type. A visitor from Tunbridge Wells parked his Daimler 250 with us and next to a late arrival at the Ball – a white on yellow Ford Corsair Convertible – I’m sure I’ve seen that one before. The stand attracted a fair number of visitors too, especially when it rained.
Just round the corner, we were complemented by a smaller, but no less impressive display of our favourite cars. This comprised a C Type replica, two E Types a 240/340 and a Mark 2 with a seriously good interior. Over in the Town Square a clutch of upmarket classics were on show. I saw Bentleys, including a Vanden Plas Tourer, Daimlers, a Lagonda, an Alvis and a Lanchester. More recent was a 1954 Bentley R Type Sports Saloon. Painted Tudor over Shell Grey, this twin carb’d Rolls engined delight cost a hefty £3,170 when new, PLUS £1,841 purchase tax. And we moan about VAT today!
There were some less exotic but no less interesting pre- and post-war machines nestling around the perimeter of the Square, however. A lovely black Vauxhall sporting the trade mark fluted bonnet with a hint of transatlantic styling kept company with Austins, a brightly coloured Morgan, Rileys, Morris, a Model T tourer and a delightful yellow Citroen which attracted much attention, especially from children.
The street behind the Hall contained many British stalwarts of the 50s and 60s most notably an Austin A40 in turquoise (was this the original hatchback?) and the best series 1 Standard Vanguard that I have ever seen. The Swedes were represented by the evergreen Volvo Amazon, famous for being the world’s first car to be supplied with front seat belts as standard equipment. For the more sporty enthusiast, there was a red Ferrari, an orange Lamborghini, a brace of AC Cobras – one of which I think may have been the real thing – a TWR XJ-S, oh and er an Austin Maestro. Did anyone see the stretched Lincoln with the giant greyhound on the roof? Far out!
To vary things a little, Sue and I took a walk down to the old port to see what was left of it after all this time. Well, not too much, really. It is hard to imagine that this somewhat overlooked area was once a leading port. Back in the town’s central car park other clubs had set up their displays – the Stag Owners and the Ford RS Clubs had well attended displays as did several others. Some interesting rare examples were at the party too. Did anyone catch the Rover V8 Estate, the Auto Union or the blue Capri with the Starship Enterprise painted on the bonnet? A very good rendition of the old NCC 1701A, I thought.
There were more Morris Minors, 1000s, vans and convertibles dotted around town than you could shake a stick at. It was good to see some of Henry’s old stagers, particularly the Mk 1 Escorts now becoming rare and collectible, and also expensive but make sure you buy a two-door. (I should have kept my 1300GT). British sports cars from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s were well represented by MG Midgets and MGBs, Austin Healeys and Triumph TRs. Family cars abounded with Austin Cambridges, Rileys, Heralds, Anglias, Prefects, and Vivas. There was the odd Italian – an Alfa Giulia and a Fiat 500 Giardiniera… OK, a 500 Estate which, I believe, had the longest production run of all the 500 range.
Did anyone visit the photographic exhibition next to the bus station? There were excellent photographs with a motoring theme on show. The visit made all the more worthwhile since the photographer was on hand to talk about them. Further into the exhibition, the walls were lined with even more images, some quite amusing such as the grinning red E Type with pearly white teeth in its oval grille. Another photograph I am sure was taken inside the old Imperial Palace Car Museum in Las Vegas. It’s of one of two Saoutchik bodied ’48 Cadillacs. (see article in 2013 Newsletter).
Back on the street, we saw a line-up of PT Cruisers, all of which sported a mirror on the underside of their bonnets and garishly decorated engines, whilst in the Bus Shed you could play with radio-controlled lorries complete with sound effects of air brakes. They also had a new, unregistered Land Rover – a good investment. Opposite were parked the Americana that always wow me. This year’s line-up took in a ’57 Bel Air. A ’58 Caddy (in brown?!), a ’62 Buick Electra 225 and a ’76 Pontiac Grand Prix (good, but not as desirable as the 60’s Catalinas, 2+2’s and convertibles.) I will make mention of the Model Y Hot Rod, nearby – beautifully done!
And finally, next to a ’54 Chevrolet 3100 Pick-Up, and the last car in the line, sat a Renault Avantime in silver over blue. Sort of a coupe Espace and definitely a love it or hate it design by, I think, Patrick Le Quement, Renault’s head of design at the time. It is one of only about 400 on UK roads. I don’t think it did well in its home country either. So buy one now whilst they are cheap – you never know!
Our thanks go to Mary Monk for organising our successful visit.