First, let me wish a very Happy New Year to all our readers!
New Year’s Day seems an unlikely day for an outdoor classic car meeting in the UK. Unreliable winter weather, late night on New Year’s Eve and probable subsequently slightly sore head – these are circumstances not usually conducive to an early start and drive out in an old car to wherever.
And yet… all within an hour or so’s drive of my home, I had the option of attending NYD events at the Cotswold Motor Hub, Stony Stratford (which our own Dave Leadbetter will be reporting on), or the Brooklands Museum. This year I decided to head along to Weybridge and the Brooklands Museum for what is claimed to be the largest New Year’s Day classic car gathering in the UK. This was my fourth visit to their NYD Gathering, and Brooklands has been a regular destination for me in recent years. Along with Bicester Heritage, it’s probably the location that’s most redolent with the atmosphere of air travel and motoring – particularly motor racing – times gone by, with it’s old garages, aircraft hangars, racing car displays, bus museum, old aircraft parked around the site, and especially the section of the iconic banked track – dating back to 1907! – that has been preserved.
Over 1,000 classics, custom cars and supercars usually turn up on NYD at Brooklands. This year, thanks I’m sure in part to very mild weather, was no exception, and this undoubtedly encouraged many classic enthusiasts to unlock their garages and take the dust covers off their treasured cars and hit the salt-free roads towards Weybridge. Indeed, by the time I arrived at the gates in die Zitrone at approximately 8:45 in the morning, there were already lengthy queues. Joining the queue alongside me was a fabulous bright red 1965 short-nose Ferrari 275GTB… probably the most valuable car of the day, and it spent the day merely parked among much less valuable classics, without the armed security presence it would have had if it were mine…
On my way to parking up on the banking, my mobile rang and the dulcet tones of friend of ViaRETRO, possessor of unfeasible amounts of old car knowledge, all-round good guy and owner of the most luxuriant beard this side of ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Paul Hill proposed that we meet once I’d parked. A few minutes later, after parking alongside a very heavily modded BMW 2002, we began our wanderings around the site.
As usual, there was live music and catering throughout the day, a small autojumble, the Brooklands Museum buildings were all open, and by 10:00 the site was full of classics and classic car enthusiasts – in fact, cars were pouring through the gates in numbers for another hour after that; it was clearly going to be an excellent day!
One of the great things about the Brooklands NYD Gathering is the huge variety of cars that show up each year, and this year was no exception. Classics from the early years of the 20th century, through the between-world wars period and up to 1989 were spread across the atmospheric Brooklands site. There was also a section for later sports and supercars, though this area was of limited interest to us.
Following a brief chat with Paul Stewart, Marketing and PR Manager at the museum (who was going to have a busy day), I caught up again with Mr. Hill and resumed our stroll around the grounds to see what classic delights we could find – it wasn’t difficult.
What was difficult was where to start, such were the treasures spread around the site – some parked in the paddocks near the Clubhouse, some around the workshop sheds, others on the banking, and still more scattered among the aircraft. With such vast numbers, it’s hard to pick out particular favourites, but I will try. Paul and I were like kids, pointing out this classic, then that one, and oh just look at those! There were some one-marque club areas, but the majority of cars were parked in fairly random order hither and thither, and because new arrivals were streaming in for most of the morning, it paid to walk around at least a couple of times.
Having drooled over the 275 GTB, which a smart-phone check with the DVLA and further Google research confirmed to be genuine (modern technology can be useful even in our analogue classic car world!) and then at the other end of the classic car scale, looking at a diminutive Riley Elf which Paul had been interested in buying, we came across not one, but a pair of the most unusual cars either of us had seen; these were coachbuilt MGB Berlinette’s from the mid-1970’s. These lovely cars were built by the Belgian Jacques Coune, after discussion with Alec Issigonis, originally with a view to producing them in numbers at Abingdon. Apparently, the reason the design was not adopted by British Leyland for the MGB – the management had decided in favour of the in-house design so familiar to us today – was that it looked “too Italian”, ironic when you realise the approved design came from Pininfarina…
I’ve never seen one before, and personally, if all MGB’s had looked like these, I’d most definitely want one. Their most distinctive characteristic was the stylish kamm-tail, very reminiscent of that of the 275GTB Ferrari – take a look at the photos and tell me I’m wrong. Only 56 were built, of which a mere 12 survive, and two were at Brooklands, including the only RHD one built! They had clearly arrived together and were both seen to leave together later in the day.
Close by these two beautiful MGB’s (not a phrase I ever thought I’d write) was a brute of a De Tomaso Pantera, and a rare razor-edge Type-34 Karmann Ghia. This had been fully restored, and looked very smart, although it sported an interior with our beloved red piping…
ViaRETRO’s two resident Reliant Scimitar fans were well served at Brooklands – a number of GTE’s and a GTC were at the event, with a particularly vivid yellow one the best – obviously.
Another British sportscar classic that both Paul and I loved was a red Bristol-engined AC Aceca, with its distinctive exhaust pipes. Close to that, another British favourite, a vivid yellow Ginetta G15, and a few yards away, one of my favourite Fiats, a Dino Coupé, albeit this example had an unnecessary yellow stripe across the bonnet.
We made a slight detour from the banked section of the track up to the top of the Test Hill, where the workshops of Brooklands Cars can be found. Specialising primarily, but far from exclusively, in the restoration of AC’s and AC Bristol’s, and open to visitors on the day, the workshop was full of spectacular cars. Among them were a convertible and, on stands, a coupé version of the superb AC 428, in my eyes one of the most successful and now very rare examples of the combination of English engineering, Italian design – in this case, by Frua – and V8 US muscle-power. Even amongst a dozen or more AC Ace’s, Cobra’s and Aceca’s, this pair stood out; I particularly love the coupé.
Back down the hill and walking through the paddock areas, more treats for the eyes everywhere you looked. Among the highlights in front of the Clubhouse was a lovely white 1939 Frazer-Nash BMW Type 321 and just a couple of cars away, a fabulous 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C adding a huge amount of glamour to the day, as did a wonderful 1964 Maserati 4000 Monza MB Special a few yards away. More Italian style was scattered around the site in the form of a handful of Lancia Fulvia Coupés, two very pretty Aurelia B20’s, and a delightful 1961 Flavia Berlina, with its fabulously eccentric switchgear. Lancia used to make such beautiful cars….
In the furthest corner of the site you could find gems such as a dark blue 1977 Lamborghini Uracco, a very unusual 1967 Mercedes Benz 220SE Fintail Estate, also in dark blue, and a striking orange Citroen GS Estate.
Parked among the aircraft was an even rarer version of the VW Karmann Ghia, a 1971 TC145. Designed by Giugiaro and built for the Brazilian market, some 18,000 were made. This one had, for me, been somewhat spoiled by having been lowered. Modified and custom cars were dotted all around the site – they’re not my thing, and while some were spectacular, I question the merits of doing this to such a rare car…
There was lots of Americana – an imposing 1964 Pontiac Parisienne (one of my favourite American cars, for its clean styling), an early jet black Ford Thunderbird, various Stingrays and a particularly eye-catching pair of duos parked underneath aircraft wings – a brilliant yellow (that colour again!) Mustang Mach 1 alongside a white 1957 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, and a dark green 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner next to a white 1967 Chrysler Imperial. In the clubhouse area could be found another distinctive American pairing, this time of an orange Dodge Challenger R/T and metallic blue Chevrolet Camaro, but my favourite American car on the day was a properly patinated red and white 1966 Ford Falcon Estate.
More Americana could be found parked out near the BA Concorde; a mighty – and impossible to miss in lurid metallic green – 1961 7.1 litre Chrysler Imperial Land Yacht with tail fins almost as big as the aircraft’s, and just about beating those on a red 1958 Cadillac Coupe de Ville which sported possibly the most ostentatious rear bumper ever, which could easily double up as a bench for four. It carried the very appropriate number plate, BIG 58.
Between the paddock and the aircraft hangars was a gorgeous orange 1972 Opel GT 1.9 which has been in the Cornelius family since 1973, and a few yards away, a very rare sight – not one, not two, but three Porsche 914’s, all in green. One looked like the rare 914-6, but there was no further evidence to say it was one.
For fans of Japanese classics, there was much to enjoy. Besides the regular Datsun Z-cars and early MX-5s, a Toyota Celica 2000ST Liftback, a very rare 1st-generation Supra, and an ultimate period metallic brown 1979 Mitsubishi Colt Sapporo GS/R were to be found – Paul was particularly delighted with the rare Mitsubishi.
Other standouts included a superb 1965 Renault R8 Gordini, a very handsome lavender (?) Jaguar XJC, a superb red BMW 3.0CSL as well as a 2002 Turbo that looked to be the real thing, and no less than three Aston Martin DB2’s, including a deep blue 1956 DB2/4 MkII FHC, for which the owner was open to offers.
Most ridiculous car, among several entrants, was a coin toss between a Vauxhall Cresta ludicrously mounted on monster-truck type tyres, and an air-bagged “rat-look” Austin Allegro estate… both were wrong on so many levels, but ultimately the Allegro “won”.
Most memorable car of the day – well, on most days, it would be hard not to choose a Ferrari 275GTB, but this time, it was the two “mini-275GTB’s”, if you will, that stole the show for me – the stunning pair of MGB Berlinettes, enough to make even me want a B.
There was so much more, and I could go on picking out individual cars, but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves – editing them down to this selection was not an easy task! Enjoy!