Meeting at Magness’s

Unlucky number 13. 404, the internet code for error. Evil 666, the number of the beast… yes, but please bow for 2020, perhaps the worst number of all (and incidentally divided by five equals 404).

This year has certainly been a disappointment with no shows, club meetings or social gatherings at all. So we are most grateful to member Lester Magness who, when the government began to ease compulsory lockdown, kindly offered the use of his gardens and field for a club gathering of up to 30 people (the maximum allowed under government restrictions) with their cars on Sunday 16 August.

It was strictly self-catering, as safety constraints meant we could not offer any refreshments. However, the club had paid for two portaloos to be placed in the field for the day. The weather on Saturday had been awful, pouring with rain, and the forecast for Sunday was little better, but in fact the rain held off until 4.00 p.m. by which time everyone was packing up anyway to go home.

Some sixteen Jaguars of all periods were there in front of the house, including Lester’s own early Mk2. But Lester had taken the opportunity to bring out in front of the barns four other cars from his collection of French vehicles: two Citroëns Traction Avant, one of which was a pre-war example from Paris, a 1960s 2CV and a lovely 1950’s Renault Dauphine, of which there are just twelve left in the UK apart from the two belonging to Lester.

But that was not all. At Lester’s invitation, other friends had brought along three rare and unusual cars for variety and interest.

The first was a 1968 Lotus Elan Plus 2 in silver, registration RAH 400F. Rare enough as a model, this particular example was unique in that it was the car given personally by Colin Chapman to F1 world champion Graham Hill. There is a well-known photograph on Getty Images of Hill standing next to the car and his light aircraft.

The second was a rally-tuned, two-stroke Saab 96 Sports. Its owner had imported it direct from Sweden where it had been almost fully restored and tuned by a Swedish rally driver who suddenly fell ill and died in his mid-50s before being able to complete it. Complete with its freewheeling system (since otherwise the two-stroke engine would seize under engine braking which interrupts the supply of lubricating fuel and oil), the car sounded amazing when it arrived and drove off.

Finally, an extremely rare Moretti 500 coupé imported from Italy. Based upon a 1960s Fiat 500—indeed you can easily see the engine, chassis and dashboard under the skin—the tiny two-seater coupé was built by Moretti SpA, a company which specialised in microcars from 1925 to 1989.

Overall, a fascinating day; thank you Lester!

Richard Gibby