I write this as we are in the final throes of evaluating the third running of the VBOA Spring Parts Day & Autojumble. Because of the excellent new venue found last year by Barry Harvey and John Ankerman, in 2007 we started from a much better cost base than in previous years. We also increased the advertising and the coverage given to the event by Dougie Rankine in Total Vauxhall Magazine really helped to spread the word. The clubs also got the message out effectively, with the result that 50% more people attended than last year. I hope that what they found made it a worthwhile outing. We filled the 180 by 80 foot hall with a mixture of autojumble, club and individual club member pitches. The offer of a 7 foot pitch for £5 proved to be the catalyst for getting nearly 30 club members to bring along a treasure trove of parts, many evidently saved over the years. The number of people leaving the hall with body and heavy mechanical parts and then returning for another search said it all. It was very satisfying for us to see the original concept proposed over three years ago by Martin Frost being realised, largely because the new venue gave us the opportunity to halve the autojumble prices and introduce the £5 club member pitches. Special thanks go to Barry Harvey, Tom Williams (and friends) and Anne Norris for all their hard work setting up the hall and running the event, plus Martin Frost, Mark Copsey and Simon Mack and colleague for lots of help on the day. Events like this just can’t be organised professionally without willing volunteers, so a big thank you to one and all.
2007 was the make or break year for this event and on the current evidence it should become a permanent fixture in the VBOA calendar. We will discuss that at the next VBOA Committee meeting, but we have already made a reservation at the Connexion for March 9th 2008! The only major problem I was aware that we encountered at the Connexion was the car parking. Unfortunately the other hall on the site was being used for a car boot sale so we didn’t have total control over the outside space. We will see how we can tackle that next year, meanwhile apologies to those who found parking difficult or didn’t find the promised VBOA parking area. Food was also a bit over busy at times and we have spoken to the Connexion management who say they can fix that for the future.
Once again the weather was good to us and a very popular addition to the event was the rolling road dynamometer set up by Bernie Bowden of Novatech adjacent to one of the hall doors. A steady stream of customers kept him busy all day, although judging by the look on some owner’s faces there were going to be a few phone calls to engine tuning companies on Monday!
It was also the first outing for the newly acquired VBOA bunting and very good it looked too around the walls of the otherwise fairly unappealing sports hall. Another club who has been investing in a new look is the Vauxhall Victor Owners Club. Back in February they kicked off the first of the 2007 anniversaries I wrote about last year by taking over the main platform area at the delightful Severn Valley Railway station in Kidderminster on the railway company’s ‘60s day,near enough 50 years to the day from when the F-type Victor was first launched at the Gaumont State Theatre in Kilburn. VVOC Chairman Howard Thomas made an appropriate speech before the covers were whipped off seven beautifully presented Victors, including the oldest known car and the Mark 2 from the Heritage Centre. The Heritage Centre also supported the event with an audio visual presentation of the original launch which featured Arthur Askey and pneumatic starlet Sabrina (who later “lent” her name to the works Le Mans Triumph twin-cam cars which featured bulbous fronts to the cam covers). It turns out that a more ancient lady of the same name was the Roman God associated with the river Severn which flowed just a few hundred yards from the station and I hear a rumour that she may well become the VVOC “mascot”. The new VVOC flags and banners looked very smart and appropriate music and dancing was provided by Rob and Queenie Ridgway with F-type owning daughter Maria-Elena. Classic Cars Weekly did a nice write up using a panoramic photograph of the display taken by Vauxhall archivist Andrew Duerden and some of the monthlies are promising to give it coverage too
While at Kidderminster I was talking to Neil Bonner who attended the very first Vauxhall meeting held at Billing in 1982 on what is now the BP petrol station site. Organised by the VVOC, it featured 22 Vauxhalls and one Ford (!). Neil kindly sent in some pictures which are now on the gallery section of the VBOA website at www.vboa.org.uk. All of which leads to the 2007 CCC Insurance sponsored VBOA National Rally at Billing. Our good friends at Total Vauxhall have also joined as supporters of the event and will be using their resources to help us promote the show. Following discussions with Total Vauxhall’s parent, Future Publishing, it appears we both have much to gain from a closer liaison and the VBOA is pleased to be able to endorse the Performance Vauxhall Show held at Santa Pod Raceway on June 3rd as a VBOA supported event.
Mathematicians amongst you will have worked out that Billing 2007 will be the 25th show on the Billing site. Organiser John Ankerman is already engrossed in negotiations with the clubs to accommodate bigger attendances and more clubs. We will be running the same format as the last few years, with the Saturday dedicated to individual club activities and the Sunday to VBOA run events such as the parade ring displays and the Chairman’s Cup (and the additional silverware donated last year) for the best cars in the show. Running throughout the show will be the best autojumble in the UK, if not the World, for Vauxhall, Bedford and Opel owners. I appreciate that many club members want to spend their Billing weekend chilling out with friends, but following the success of the Spring Parts Day event, we are making a special pitch offer to affiliated club members of just £10 (half price) for a “pasting table” ( 10 x 10 approx) size pitch for the two days of the show. These can’t be had in multiples (unlike the spring event) so the full pitch rate of £30 will apply to club members and regular autojumblers taking a regular 25 x 25 autojumble pitch. Contact Ian Coomber on 07812 525164 if you want a pitch.
2007 is the centenary of the foundation of Vauxhall Motors Limited as a stand alone car manufacturing company with its headquarters at Luton. To celebrate, the special central Billing display this year will attempt to assemble one of each production car model type to come out of the Luton facilities. It comes to around 40 cars and it will be a unique display for the historians to savour. Crucial to the venture is locating the cars and we will be working with the Vauxhall Heritage Centre and clubs to identify suitable vehicles. It was vital we got two particular cars or the venture was doomed from the start. There is only one of the Pomeroy designed A-types of 1908 in the UK and only one of the S-type sleeve valve leviathans (see the History section of the VBOA website) left in the World. Luckily both owners have agreed to loan their cars on July 7th and 8th. Expect to hear a lot more about this display and Billing in general as we start to gear up for this year’s show as we want to make Billing 25 the best yet.
Sadly, I have to report the death after a gallant battle with cancer of long time VBOA committee member Stuart Stringer of the Vauxhall VX 4/90 Drivers Club. Stuart had worked in Vauxhall Engineering and owned the ex-David Jones FD which he kindly displayed for us at Billing last year in the “back to the future” display. Because of Stuart’s passion for all things Vauxhall and Bedford, the family asked for those attending the funeral to bring their old cars. On a fine spring day a grand display of Luton’s finest was on hand to say farewell to Stuart and Vauxhall provided the 1931 Bedford bus from the Heritage Centre to transport the family and to complement the Eagle converted Vauxhall Carlton hearse. Stuart will be missed by everyone who was lucky enough to have known him.
With spring very much sprung I am sure cars will be coming out of hibernation all over the country and venturing back out to shows and runs. If I can get the steering column and box (it appears to be from the same maker as the Titanic) back in the car after some advanced bodgery to try and eliminate the “30’s film star effect” of sawing from lock to lock on a straight road, then our Hurlingham will be transport of choice to Switzerland in May for the International meet. We will be joining 17 other British crews for what looks like a very exciting series of tours around the Thun area, with a total of some 40 cars attending from 6 counties plus our hosts from the Vauxhall Owners Club of Switzerland.
The VBOA Annual General Meeting is on April 15th and I think on current evidence we can say that things look pretty healthy for the association for the foreseeable future. Indeed, 2008 is the centenary of General Motors, owners of Vauxhall since 1925 and Opel since 1929. We can expect our colleagues at General Motors Europe to be beating a very big drum next year and we will be ready to assist in any way possible.
I’ll end with my usual suggestion to keep an eye on the VBOA website as new stuff goes on frequently (including the ever expanding overseas members gallery) and it features all our upcoming events plus the essentials of how to get there etc. and wish you happy motoring in your Vauxhall, Opel or Bedford.