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Castle Combe

28th June 2014

Report from Tony Tucker, Events Co-ordinator                                                        

As usual, Castle Combe was looked forward to by club members, especially as we planned a repeat of the classic cruise through the Wiltshire Downs that was such a success a few years ago. Unfortunately, thunder storms were predicted, after a period of hot, sunny summer weather.

Those taking part in the cruise, led, as in the past, by Martin Hunter, began to assemble at Chieveley Services on the M4 by about 8am. David Room was the last to arrive and, given the breakdown on his way to Stoneleigh Park last month, we were not certain whether we would see him or not. However, his car had been serviced and declared fit for purpose and his confidence was high.

The good news was that David did indeed arrive just in time for the start of the cruise. The bad news was that his Speedster was blowing clouds of smoke from just about everywhere possible at the rear of the car. As the air cleared and we saw that it was indeed David stepping out of the Speedster, we realised that we might have a problem on our hands.

But wait! Technical Guru Len has disappeared under the bonnet of his car. A moment later and, quick as a flash, we are confronted by a figure clad in red boiler suit and clutching a large tool-kit. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s SuperLen!!

Disappearing under the rear of David’s car, our hero slices off several inches of split breather tubing and, after 15 minutes of hard work (watched, I might add, by David, who stood regally beside his car and surveyed the scene with great aplomb) we were ready to start our journey!

The cruise was, as before, quite an experience. With hoods down, we passed under the Bridge of Sighs at Marlborough College and headed across the Marlborough Downs, passing West Kennet Long Barrows (older than Stonehenge) and Silbury Hill (tallest pre-historic mound in Europe) before taking a short detour to see the Avebury Stones (all this aided by a printed email message from Martin outlining the route and its historic highlights!)

Alas, at Avebury, we had to put the hoods up, as it had started to rain, but this did not spoil the rest of the journey, which took us past The Lansdowne Monument and one of the many local pre-historic white horses carved into the chalk hills.

Upon arriving at the circuit, we found Vernon and several other club members waiting for us, giving us a total of 10 cars, plus the loyal Ron Temperton, who sold his Spyder some time ago now, but still attends a number of our events.

We had not been long admiring the turnout of cars and enjoying the usual bacon rolls and hot dogs when the heavens opened and a downpour of truly biblical proportions engulfed us – thunder, lightning, even hail stones – and the cars were quickly surrounded by lakes of muddy water!

Fortunately, the weather soon improved and the rest of the day was, for the most part, sunny and bright, which enabled us to admire the many classic cars at the show.

 

click on any image to enlarge

As usual, there were all sorts of Porsches, Jaguars, Triumph TRs and many others. This year, however, there was a quite exceptional turnout of Healeys under the banner of the Association of Healey Owners (AOHO) and they were parked right alongside our own Speedsters. Their club organiser explained that they do not attend many shows and that this was their first time at Castle Combe. He also gave me a potted history of the Healey (we’re talking Healey 1946-54 here, not the Austin Healeys, which do not qualify for this club).

Several of the Healey cars were either the only one known in existence or one of a very limited number produced and I was told that many of them I would never see elsewhere. Donald Healey had made the chassis for all these cars, but there was a variety of elegant bodies and styles of car on display, some with Riley, some with Alvis and some with Nash engines.

On the end of the line was a majestic two-tone royal and silver-blue Elliot, next to it a burgundy Tickford, a red Silverstone racing model, an elegant two-tone Abbott drop-head coupe, a green Abbott Roadster, a cream Sports Convertible and several other cars, including an incredibly rare Healey Duncan Drone, a massive hulk of a car built to be priced at under £1000, which, at the time, was the level at which the government’s 66% purchase tax came in (this being the reason that Healey eventually gave up his own business and joined up with Austin).

Among the other cars which caught my eye were two Porsche 993s, one blue, the other black – both fine examples of one of my favourite Porsches, the last of the air-cooled! There was a delightful cream Jaguar XK120, a nice convertible made by Swallow and a gull-wing Mercedes with a hell of a lot packed under the bonnet!

Apart from the early thunderstorm, we didn’t do too badly with the weather, but forecasts of some evil stuff to come by tea-time led to an earlier than usual departure for some of us with distances to travel – and sure enough, I hit some fairly heavy rain on the way home. I’m happy to put up with that, however, for this show, which one again provided the club with an excellent day out. 

Tony Tucker

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