VBOA Matters - The Dutch International Rally Ian Coomber, VBOA Chairman
A staggering 123 people and 49 classic Vauxhall and Bedford vehicles converged on the De Rijper Eilanden hotel, to the North of Amsterdam, for the Vauxhall Owners Club of Holland organised International Meeting. With entries coming from Germany, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland and 5 UK Clubs, plus contingents from Switzerland and even Australia in minibuses, this was a truly International event. Brilliantly organised by our Dutch hosts Thed and Marian de Wilde, Rob Hogervorst, Reyer Gerritsen and a team of willing helpers, everyone arrived safely on the Thursday and were soon settled into the hotel which was exclusively for our use. The hotel belonged to a vintage bus enthusiast, so our cars and campers shared the car park with a collection of mainly British double-decker buses and coaches (including a Bedford SB) in various states of repair.
On Friday morning a splendid cavalcade set of on an interesting drive to Zaanse Schans, a living museum in the form of a hamlet of restored houses, warehouses and windmills dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The weather was cool and windy, but at least it was dry. I suppose the wind shouldn’t come as a surprise in a country that has a windmill as a national symbol! The low temperatures were a blessing to many as oil pressure in the older cars received a welcome boost. The run down to the museum demonstrated that Dutch roads had a definite personality of their own. Often running straight alongside the canals and dykes, the legislators had decided to install raised ramps every kilometre or so to deter any enthusiastic driving. The overall result must add up to an environmental disaster as traffic continually brakes and accelerates over these barriers. The height of them seemed at first to roughly coincide with the prevailing speed limit but the author comprehensively disproved this theory by attacking one at 80k which would have required first gear to climb if starting from rest. Lack of seat belts (and a roof) resulted in both occupants leaving their seats and grabbing the windscreen and each other for salvation. Despite these best endeavours of the Dutch Government, route setter Rob Hogervorst then took us on another scenic tour to one of the highlights of the trip, a visit to the Vauxhall Museum owned by Ries and Geiske van Leeuwen. Not open to the public, this is the personal collection of Vauxhall cars and automobilia collected by Reis since 1985. Housed in a purpose-built building behind their delightful house, complete with duck pond and goat collection, the museum has over 25 cars on display, some of which are the sole examples of their type. But even more impressive to many was the amount and quality of the memorabilia which simply could not be comprehended in one visit. The visit was blessed with sunshine and we enjoyed huge quantities of food and refreshments provided by the VOCH as we sat by the private lake behind the museum.
There then followed a serious nearly 90k drive through the Dutch countryside back to the hotel for much appreciated refreshment and an after dinner display by a local dance group. Several countries displayed a previously unknown talent for clog dancing and a lot of old friends had the chance to catch up with all the news.
The Saturday morning loomed grey and windy as the cavalcade set off for the World famous Keukenhof Gardens. On arrival the heavens opened and we were treated to a wet but extremely enjoyable visit to this riot of colour and garden features. As if by order, at the point of departure for another of Rob’s meticulously planned tulip (appropriately) routes back to the hotel, the rain stopped. This time it was just over 130k and took us through fishing villages and ports and the delightful town of Edam. It was here that the author was told that he no longer had his filler cap in place, presumably left at the last petrol stop. The ever obliging Rob phoned them and we resigned ourselves to a trip back there the next morning. However, they were not that bothered in helping us as one of our group had apparently left without paying. Research later that evening revealed that it was none other than Reis van Leeuwen, who presumably thought he was back on the 1000 mile trial!
After an early meal we had a short “prize giving” to recognise some of the achievements of the event so far. Amongst others, Terje Berg from Norway in his ferocious Viva GT was delighted to receive an appropriate set of china clogs for “clogging on”, as the British tend to call enthusiastic motoring, and some furry clogs to replace the fluffy dice on the Charles Barron PA Cresta (and to keep Rufus the nodding dog company). The missing filler cap also put in a surprise appearance having been rescued by a Dutch crew and then it was time to board two of the vintage double-deck buses for a canal cruise and pub crawl in Amsterdam. The less said about the abuse handed out to the crash gearbox in our bus the better, but nonetheless we arrived at the quayside spot on time for an excellent boat trip. Despite some attempts by the younger members of the group to divert to the Red Light District, most of the party enjoyed the pubs and restaurants of the Jourdaan area of Amsterdam until we rejoined our buses in the early hours of Sunday morning for the return to the hotel, more abuse being heaped on the long suffering gearbox which nonetheless won the encounter with ease.
After a late Sunday brunch it was time for final farewells and for the group to go its various ways. It really had been a brilliantly executed event and everyone was looking forward to 2006 when the Swedish club will be the hosts.
Inevitably there had been a few mechanical mishaps, but with the vigorous support of the Dutch club and the combined knowledge of the group about things Vauxhall, all were resolved as the event went along.
If you have thought that this type of thing is not for you I suggest you think again. We had cars ranging from a gorgeous 1924 30-98 to a 2001 Omega and people from 9 countries, many of whom were on their first major car club trip. The organisation and support of the hosts was such that everyone felt able to enjoy a new challenge with confidence and we saw parts of Holland that I can guarantee a lot of Dutch people have never seen! And of course, due to minor navigational difficulties some people saw even more of Holland that the organiser’s intended, but I don’t want to embarrass Terry Cobbold of the DSG by mentioning his name in particular. However, when you hear that he headed for Felixstowe instead of Harwich before even leaving the UK, you get some idea of the scale of the challenge facing Rob and his road book.
Part holiday, part motoring challenge, being amongst friends, old and new, don’t miss Sweden in 2006!