As some readers will recall, I’m a reasonably regular visitor to the Brooklands Museum and have written about several events at this most evocative and – in motoring heritage terms – significant of locations. Their New Year’s Day event has become an annual kickstart to the year for me, and the Auto Italia Day each Spring is one of the most spectacular classic gatherings on the calendar.
Last weekend’s breakfast meeting was the final classic car event at Brooklands for 2019 and after days of rain here in this green and (usually) pleasant land, Sunday was blessed with glorious sunshine so I took die Zitrone via the scenic route through Windsor and Runnymede – site of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 – and just before 8.00 parked up in the paddock area between a red 1988 Jaguar XJS convertible (the best looking variant of the XJS in my humble opinion) and a pale metallic purple ’69 Mk II Triumph GT6. The breakfast alone is worth the drive down, so the Sunbeam Café was my first port of call. Thus fortified, it was time to take a good look at the classics brought along by other early risers, and as usual, there was much to savour.
Before I did so, I took a little peak at some of the rooms that were the nerve centre of Brooklands back in the days when it was an active racetrack. The Clerk of the Course’s office, the billiards room and lounge where drivers and officials relaxed between races….all decorated with period photographs, trophies and other period pieces – even the odd car; you can taste the history.
I hadn’t got far when I bumped into two of my “neighbours” in the paddock – Paul and Mark, owners of a red and black 1975 Lancia Fulvia 1.3S and 1978 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II respectively. Paul’s delightful Fulvia, which he’s owned for three years, has been customised a little to look like a Fulvia HF Rallye, but it’s been nicely done and in period, which makes it OK by me. Interestingly, the matt black bonnet finish is actually a vinyl wrap – it’s not until you run your fingers along its edges that you can tell – well, for me, at least. He was full of praise for its sporty handling in particular, a very different experience compared to the magic carpet ride of Mark’s Cardinal Red Roller. Bought for just £9,000 a couple of years ago, it’s had some investment since, and makes a dramatic contrast to his previous classic – a Corvette Stingray. What both cars share of course is a lazy, loping V8, but that’s where the similarity ends!
As can be seen from the photographs, there were many of the mainstays of our hobby present – MG’s, Triumph TR’s, Jaguar E-Type’s and others in various hues. While these are of course exceptional in and of themselves, there were, as always, a handful of particularly rare and/or unusual cars on display, and it’s those I shall focus on.
In the row behind me was an exquisite 1967 FIAT Dino 2000 Coupé in a metallic grey that suited it very well. I was able to have a chat with its owner Jonathan, who took great pride in showing me around his immaculate coupé. Despite its near-perfect condition, it’s not just a show-pony; in the two years he’s owned it, this gorgeous FIAT has been to the Le Mans Classic, and just recently completed a trip to Spain. I’ve always admired these cars and for me, this superb example was the car I would have most liked to take home.
Of the Americana present, the stand-out for me was a huge and flamboyant 1959 Pontiac Parisienne in red and white – subtle this road-going ocean liner was not, but impressive, definitely!
Less in your face, and more to my personal taste, was a smart white with black flashes 1974 Chrysler Valiant with the optional 265ci or 4345cc 6-cylinder engine, pumping out 284bhp. This was one of two Australian cars at the meeting – the other being a Falcon GT 351 which I’ve seen before.
I like to have a moan occasionally – well, not like, exactly, as I prefer to look at and write about things I enjoy, but if I see something that offends me, I feel compelled to mention it, so it’s time for our “Rogues Gallery” feature.
I’ve made my feelings about replicas known before – and none of the half dozen or so Porsche 356’s or AC Cobra’s present were the real thing – but I also have issues with owners trying to make a car look like something it’s not, unless done with the taste and attention to period detail of Paul’s Fulvia mentioned earlier. One such was a BMW “2002 Turbo” resemble-a-like that was trying way too hard. It had turbo decals all over it, a highly modified and over-decorated engine with – according to one onlooker – a turbo from a Ford Cosworth Sapphire, and even a manufacturer’s plate stating it was a 2002, when the DVLA shows it as having been registered in 1976 as a 1602. I’m not sure what the point is.
This wasn’t the bottom of the barrel – that was a 1980 Porsche 911 that provided proof that no car is safe from being vandalised…surely a crime against taste and if it isn’t, it should be.
Besides these two, an air-bagged ’82 Datsun Sunny Estate, a raised Opel Commodore Coupé on UAE plates and a slightly more subtly lifted Vauxhall Firenza 1800 all went into my little black book. Ultimately it is of course their money and their car, but that 911 – a car that I cherish above almost all others – no, no, and thrice no.
Back to the good stuff – a trio of MGC’s with their bonnet bulges looked very purposeful together, and a quartet of Ford Anglia’s with their frowning radiators looked suitably grumpy at having been evicted from their warm garages at some unearthly hour on a Sunday.
A stunning bright red 1956 Jaguar XK140 DHC dazzled in the morning sun and my beloved yellow could be found on various classics dotted around the site – a delicate 1969 Lotus Elan, a 1981 Ferrari 328GTB QV – one of a pair, the other being in bright green, not a colour often seen on a Ferrari, but I thought it looked great – a 1973 Jensen Healey convertible and a couple of Triumph TR’s all brightened up the space around them. In recent years I keep seeing Panhards when I saw none before – this time a pale blue 1958 Dyna Z – which was kept Gallic company by a dark blue 1955 Citroën Traction Avant and a sleek 1979 beige metallic Citroën CX Prestige.
There was a healthy selection of BMW’s on display – besides die Zitrone, a very tidy ’75 Turkis 2002 tii was parked next to a gold TR7 from 1981, a blue 1961 BMW 502 that I saw last year at the London Classic Car Show, a 735i from 1990 in bronze, and a gleaming white 1989 M3. Finally, it was a delight to see a gold 1972 E3, this one a 2500 that looked terrific glinting in the sun – E3’s are among the lesser-spotted classic BMW’s at shows, unsurprising as there are only around 50 left on the road in the UK.
An hour or so after breakfast stopped being served the Test Hill was opened for those brave enough to subject their classics to the short but steep ascent – I’m a coward so around mid-day I decided it was time to head back the way I came, in the sunshine; a very satisfactory morning.