Few things in life lead to a greater sensation of pure joy and inner peace than a relaxed drive in a classic car along undulating back roads through breath-taking scenery.
Admitted, I attend quite a few of your typical park-in-a-field classic car shows throughout the summer. I quite enjoy them too, as I am unfortunately thoroughly insatiable when it comes to looking at and not least dreaming about a wide variety of classic cars. As such, I find it quite pleasurable strolling through some random field or across a well-kept lawn, admiring rows and rows of classic cars in all shapes and sizes. However, it just can’t compete with sitting at the controls of a classic and actually using it for what it has always been intended for: Driving!
This last Sunday, my very good friend, Paul Hill, dropped by for a weekend of sitting in the garage with a cup of coffee, telling stories of classic cars and not least taking part in the Peaks & Dales Charity Run organised by The Hare & Hounds Classic Vehicle Club.
From about 8am on the Sunday morning, classic car owners started to assemble at the Memorial Park in Marple just a stones through west of the picturesque Peak District. Just over 100 classic cars took part in this year’s leisurely tulip rally – the 22ndin H&HCVC history. We arrived early enough for bacon butty and tea while attaching the mandatory rally plate to the front on my NullZwei and admiring the other stunning classics preparing for the day’s cross-country drive.
I was particularly drawn in by the fabulous 1935 Alvis Silver Eagle of Mike Littlewood. My interest in pre-war vintage machinery has increased exponentially in recent years, and to me these early Alvis’s sum up everything that’s enticing about these pioneers of early performance cars. To drive an event like this – or longer still! – in something like a pre-war Alvis, Big Bentley, Delage, Hispano-Suiza or perhaps a Vauxhall from before the GM take-over in 1925, is simply a dream which I must fulfil some day.
In stark contrast, a small Hillman Imp in a colour which no manufacturer would ever dare to offer in this day and age is equally guaranteed to make me smile. Just as the red 1981 Triumph TR7 did – even more so as it was kitted out to within an inch of its life with a proper eighties go-faster spoiler and sideskirt kit. It perfectly epitomised that era… The rare Mazda RX-3 looked downright sexy, sounded even better and displayed its delicious patina with pride. It also reminded me of just how much I’m looking forward to Claus bringing our recently purchased Mazda RX-7 Elford Turbo to the UK!
At 9am the oldest car participating was flagged off onto the route, followed in chronological order by the rest of the field with one minute intervals. There’s no competition element to the drive, so with drivers deciding on their own pace, small groups of cars were quickly formed as we headed towards Chapel-en-le-Frith. From there the tulip book guided us along narrow and twisty B-roads through beautiful countryside with several steep climbs and descends. As we got closer to Bakewell, most of us stopped for a short break at the top of the long 18% incline to Monsal View with stunning views over River Wye and the Monsal Trail. As we pulled into the parking area, the oldest car on the run – a Ford Model T flatbed truck from 1915 owned by Arthur Dewberry – was equally catching its breath after stubbornly fighting its way to the top of the hill, with the gravity feed carburettor reportedly struggling somewhat towards the end of the steep incline.
After taking in the many excellent details of the 103-year-old Ford, we entertained ourselves by watching the rest of the field make their way to the top of Monsal View. A deep V8 burble from a trio of Triumph Stag’s sounded awesome as did the characteristic beat of a Porsche flat-6 reverberating through the valley below.
Soon enough we continued largely southbound via engaging backlane roads towards Youlgreave and down to the planned lunchbreak at the heritage railway station in Wirksworth. This is the headquarters for the 9-mile Ecclesbourne Valley Railway. Dating back approximately 150 years, the station reopened 16 years ago and the line slowly expanded from there. Today there are both a limited number of scheduled departures as well as special events using various heritage trains – mostly diesel from the fifties but in recent years also adding a few earlier steam trains to the fleet. Our lunch was purchased out of an old carriage and the atmosphere enjoyed to the most as we consumed it sitting on one of the old platforms.
This break was of course also yet another welcome opportunity to gawk over the wonderful classics which were parked up just outside the railway fence. A second pre-war Alvis intrigued for a while, but it was Peter Slater’s amazingly well-restored 1987 first-generation Honda CRX 1.6i-16 which utterly blew me away! Peter had spent a full four years restoring his little Nippon coupé to perfection. A true labour of love with parts being bought from all around the world. And the result was accordingly fantastic. This little eighties 16 valve screamer was truly a gem, and when did you last see one?
We departed Wirksworth in a westerly direction with our tulip book leading us along remote single lane country roads embraced by those charmingly British drystone walls. The route offered both picturesque scenery and quant little villages. This is what owning a classic car is all about. Driving it as it was intended, on engaging B-roads far away from congested cities and mind-numbing highways. At one with your motor car – your every sense tingling from the experience. This is where we find happiness.
We drove through Longnor and from the south into the old spa town of Buxton where our 72-mile Peaks & Dales Run came to an end. The organisers from H&HCVC marshalled us all into the beautiful Gardens within the town centre where our classics were left on display for a couple of hours. It was a last opportunity to chat with other participants while we wandered up to the Pavilion for refreshments.
Paul and I quickly agreed that it had simply been an excellent day out. Mental note to self: Really must sacrifice a few of those park-in-a-field classic car shows in favour of participating in more driving events with my classics…