VBOA Matters 5/6 - A Perfect Sunday? Ian Coomber, VBOA Chairman
After getting up at the crack of dawn to watch the best Grand Prix for many a year (Japan), it was time to set out for the last VBOA meeting of the year, being held one hour earlier than usual so that we could all get down to the Vauxhall Heritage Centre for the exclusive VBOA open day. After days of gloomy weather, it was a pleasure to put on the gloves and hat on such a fine morning and take my faithful Hurlingham to its Luton birthplace. With just a touch of frost colouring the fields and mist hanging in the autumn leaves and the speedbird mascot on the rad cap pointing south, even the oil pressure looked better than normal. This is what owning a classic is about!
Our meeting ratified the full membership of the latest new club which had passed its associate membership period with flying colours and had another lively debate about dividing next year’s VBOA National Rally Chairman’s Cup award for best vehicle in show into two or even three groups and how you would do this. The meeting decided to leave it to Barry Harvey and me to present a final proposal for approval at the January meeting, but whatever was done we were not to lose the simplicity of this year’s event and let the thing get too serious. It was designed in the first place as a bit of fun and to get as many different vehicles as we have clubs in the ring so everyone could enjoy the huge variations in design and origin that make up the VBOA clubs.
It was no great surprise to me that no one had volunteered to run the next Billing autojumble, required because John Ankerman was fully stretched with the Spring Spares Day and Autojumble (March 19th, which is definitely not Mother’s Day, at the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre, which is definitely not Stoneleigh), overseeing the overall Billing Show, maintaining/restoring 9 Vauxhalls, a young family and a “open at all hours” type of job. The ideal person is someone who is retired and with a bit of time on their hands. Realising that I was essentially describing myself, I ended up volunteering with Ann Norris and John helping out. John will warm up the regular autojumblers about Billing when he sends out the Warwick invitations, so we should get some efficiency up front. Incidentally, John has bought an ex Vauxhall Motors push bike with a wicker delivery basket on the front which was used in the Luton plant to deliver tools and light parts from the stores to the line. John reckons it will save his feet next year; however he didn’t like my suggestion that he should wear a Luton straw boater hat when riding it.
Doing the autojumble will limit my ability (and desire) to run another big centrepiece like this year’s competition car display, however, the “one-off”/dream cars idea is gathering momentum and as that is a fairly simple display to put together I am sure we can do that as well as all the other things.
A big item was to discuss and agree the pricing information we had received back from the club experts for submission to Practical Classics. I will now write to them with our collective wisdom and will do my best to communicate our views in a constructive and non-confrontational manner.
Next we challenged ourselves to spend some VBOA funds on items which would improve our image when we face the public. Ideas such as signage for shows, direction signs and headed notepaper were tabled on the spot, but club reps were challenged to come to the January meeting with ideas so we could set up a definitive shopping list and get on sourcing things. In that vein, Mike Booth donated a new architect’s measuring wheel which so speeded up the lining out process at Billing this year. We found its even speedier if Mike comes attached to it, so here’s hoping for next year!
Finally we discussed some of the national shows that clubs variously attend and wondered if the VBOA could add any value in getting involved, for instance by working with Vauxhall or the show organisers. We resolved to agree a list of the “must do” shows in January and come to a position on VBOA involvement. Our next meeting was set for January 15th 2006.
I was very pleasantly surprised to find on arrival at the Heritage Centre that there was already a fine turn-out of club member’s cars and trucks, complementing the treasures inside. Indeed during the course of the day over 100 cars and commercial vehicles visited the site and what a diverse lot they were! Bedford made sure we were secure (a WW2 army truck), fed (A -Type baker’s van), rescued in case of breakdown (a magnificent ex army QL tow truck) and OK for general transport (a ML flat bed truck). Understandably there were not too many Opels, it being deep in the heart of “enemy” territory, but one magnificent exception was an ultra rare Bitter coupe, based on Monza mechanicals but with up rated engine. Other fine cars included a Lotus Carlton, Silver Bullet and Silver Aero, Victors and Crestas, a great turn out of older models from the Vauxhall Owners Club, some sweet Vivas and Chevettes, a strong gathering of performance modified Calibras, Vectras, Cavaliers and Astras and John Novell’s latest “barn find” acquisition. This is a 1934 A Type chassis with a tri-carb conversion and a fibreglass body which had been loosely attached to it in the 60’s. Indeed the only attachment appeared on closer inspection to be of a domestic rather than automotive source which led to the suggestion that it should be called the Flying Bedstead.
Vauxhall put on a display of the latest models, provided goody bags for visitors and gas filled balloons for the kids (and several adults!). A food stall dispensed hot drinks for free and sandwiches etc. could be bought by the needy. As the weather was glorious for the time of year it was great to see people comparing notes and just spending time talking to one another. I was delighted to see Tony Burnip, the man who did so much to establish the Heritage Centre in the first place, David Kirke, a GM Europe Director in his stately 23-60, Ray Cooper, a former restorer in the Centre and absolutely gob smacked to see Neil Heilbrunn and his daughter who I had imagined were at home in Australia. We had met Neil 3 years ago as he had brought his beautiful 30-98 over for the Centenary 1000 Mile Trial. On this occasion he was visiting the UK to see his daughter who works in London and had heard about the open day. The VBOA world is indeed an incredibly small one at times! Vauxhall and others donated some raffle prizes and £150 was raised for the local Pasque children’s hospice. Vauxhall were pleased with the turn out, so if we want I am sure this can become another annual fixture in the VBOA calendar.
As the Hurlingham pressed on up the A6 and home for Sunday dinner and I indulged in my favourite pastime of lip-reading fellow road user’s reactions to Mr Toad and his bizarrely coloured vintage car in full flight, I was moved to reflect that this had indeed been a near perfect Sunday. If only the grass would finally give up growing……