Sunday, 12 December 2010

BOCEA Christmas Lunch

Sunday 5 December was the Christmas Lunch of the East Anglian Section of the Bristol Owners Club and 16 owners from across the region gathered at a country house hotel near Bury St. Edmunds.

A break in the wintry weather encouraged 2 other cars to join me in front of Ravenwood Hall; a 1962 407 and a 1982 412. We were honoured by the presence of the 412 as this was the first time in 25 years that it had been out in the winter!

Unfortunately it was also the first time that the heater was required and needless to say after 25 years of inactivity it didn’t work. The patient ministrations of Messrs Dixon and Risebrow failed to elicit any warmth and so a chilly journey home was to be endured by its occupants – at least they’d had a good lunch first.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Gone But Not Forgotten

Geoffrey Burgon and 411 S2

While we were on holiday in the Malverns recently we received the sad news that Geoffrey Burgon had passed away. Geoffrey was the renowned composer of some of the most memorable music for television drama of recent decades.

Geoffrey, who had owned many Bristols since the 1970s, was my keeper from 1994 to 1997 before Neil took me on in 2003. Neil never had the pleasure of meeting Geoffrey but they did briefly correspond by email when Neil was making contact with all my previous keepers.

Geoffrey, who also had a penchant for Lancias, gave up his Flaminia GT to acquire me. He said he remembered me fondly and said I had always been very well behaved!

We also recieved the sad news that Roger Bradford had suddenly passed away at the Goodwood Revival. We first met Roger at the 2009 Bristol Owners Club concours at Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire. We had parked next to him and a 411 S4 which he was trying to sell and Neil spent ages talking to him about the differences between the 410 and the 411.

By a remarkable coincidence Neil met Roger again when Neil was trying to find a late Citroen XM in good condition. He found an immaculate example for sale in Cambridge that was one of the last imported into the country. Neil arranged to view the car but when he pulled up the first thing he saw was a Britannia in the middle of a barn full of Citroens and other assorted cars. He was even more surprised when Roger emerged and tried to sell him the Bristol.

Neil managed to resist the Britannia and didn’t buy that particular XM but managed to find another one that he went on to buy. He kept in touch with Roger, meeting him for the last time at a Citroen Owners Club concours in Gaydon.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Bristol Owners Club Concours 2010

Saturday 18th September

It’s the day of the concours, and predictably Neil is out before breakfast wiping the dew off my bodywork. I tried to tell him it would be easier to move me into the sun but I think he’s obsessed with microfibre cloths and polish. Latest in the armoury is a product called Lucas Slick Mist – a spray wax that he uses to freshen up my paintwork in-between washes. It leaves me with a high gloss shine and, presumably for no other reason than it’s American, smelling of bubblegum.

One of the things I love most about Bristol events is seeing other cars on the road. As we made our way from the hotel to the Airbus site we joined up with several other cars making the same journey. We were waved through the entrance and lined up in the car park that had been reserved for us at the top of the site. This was near where Concorde G-BOAF is displayed. This remarkable airplane, which made its maiden flight in April 1979, was used to prove the enhancements made after the tragic crash at Gonesse. G-BOAF was the last Concorde to remain flying and the last to fly supersonically. She made her final journey home to Filton on 26 November 2003.

My favourite story of the day was relayed to me by Neil after a conversation he had with a volunteer in the Concorde exhibition. When operating on the Miami service, British Airways had to lodge Concorde’s flight plan with the Pentagon. This was so they could instruct their spy planes operating over Cuba to move out of the way. I love the idea of American pilots in pressure suits and oxygen masks having to make way for a supersonic airplane at the edge of space full of Brits in shirtsleeves sipping Champagne.

I didn’t count them myself, but I have heard estimates ranging from 160 to 235 cars present. Whatever the final number, this was without doubt the largest gathering of Bristol cars ever with models from all eras represented. There was a strong showing too from the factory with Fighters, Blenheims and used cars on show. Neil was very taken by a dark blue Beaufighter and was overheard asking the price. I made sure I behaved myself for the rest of our holiday just in case he was tempted.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Bristols to Bristol

Friday 17th September.

It’s 6.30 in the morning and Neil and I are at the Port of Harwich ready to greet the Bristol cars disembarking from the ferry as part of the Bristols to Bristol run. I am parked on the side of a roundabout and get a great view of cars heading away from the port and out onto the A120. It doesn’t take long for the 5 Bristols to appear as well as a bonus assortment of other classic cars amongst the moderns.

We follow along the A120, A137 and onto the A14 towards Cambridge and on to Oxfordshire where a lunch stop has been arranged at the Merry Miller in Cothill. We arrive at 10:30 to be greeted in the car park by John Howden-Richards. As we are too early for the pub to open, John invites us back to his place where coffee is taken in the garden while admiring his collection of Bristol ephemera. This is housed in a summerhouse with a collection of pictures, books and a well stocked bar! I can imagine many a pleasant evening spent reminiscing about all things Bristol.

Back to the pub, where we meet up with the rest of the cars making their way to Bristol. For those on-route from the continent, English beer and Scottish whisky are popular choices (for non-drivers only of course) to accompany the food on offer before we all make our way to Bristol where the car park at the Filton Holiday Inn resembles a concours in its own right.

Neil gives me a quick polish before getting ready for the black tie dinner at the splendid Council House in the centre of Bristol. This is in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Bristol Aeroplane Company around which this weekend’s events are organised. This extraordinary enterprise diversified into the building of buses, boats, satellites, missiles, mobile phones and prefabricated buildings, as well as the cars we have all grown to love.

At the dinner Teb Marius, European Secretary, was presented with a commemorative plaque crafted in Bristol Blue glass in recognition of his organisation of the whole trip. I would like to extend my thanks to Teb and to John, but also to Geoff Hawkins Chairman of the club, Geoffrey Herdman President of the club and Turplin Dixon Events Coordinator for their planning and organisation.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Summer BBQ

There was another great turnout at the Bristol Owners’ Club East Anglian summer Barbeque. 10 cars (9 Bristols and an Aston Martin – Bristol used to make some bodies for AM) lined up under the sunny East Anglian sky. Oldest first: 401, 405, 407, AM DB5, 409, 2 x 410, 411, 603, Britannia.

Further convinced that the various models look right in certain colours, Richard Kemp’s newly painted Britannia looked stunning in Sherwood Green even though it was yet to receive its final polish. The colour had the effect of softening the sometimes controversial styling.

Styled in-house by Dudley Hobbs and built at Filton, the 603 and its derivatives can look awkward and oddly proportioned from some angles. The subtle re-working of the tail on the Britannia helps pull the whole composition together into a much more attractive whole.

Thanks again to the Challacombe’s for hosting the event, to everyone for bringing food and raffle prizes, and also for raising a staggering £350 for the Lymphoma Association.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Rougham Airfield Wings and Wheels

Look at the photo, and beyond me and the car in front, is a Rolls-Royce Griffon Engine; a 37 litre V12 as fitted to the Shackleton maritime patrol aircraft. This stationary engine and propeller formed a twin display with a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine; a 27 litre V12 as fitted to the Spitfire. When both were running at full power the noise was tremendous and the ground shook with the power of 64 litres consuming 2 gallons of fuel every minute.

My fuel consumption isn’t quite that bad, but on the journey to Rougham Neil stopped at the local Shell garage for some of my favourite V-Power fuel. I noticed they were still flying banners for their new standard petrol, FuelSave, which was launched recently. Shell are claiming the equivalent of ‘up to’ an extra litre per tank (a 2% saving on their figures) due to using new detergents and a new ‘efficiency improver’ that shell claims ‘lubricates where normal engine oils can’t’. Shell will have terabytes of statistics to back up their claims and I’m sure there must be some improvement in fuel efficiency, but I‘m skeptical about the extent of their claims for 2 reasons.

Firstly, their claims for saving an extra 1 litre of fuel per tank are based on a minimum fill of 50 litres. Now, if you have a Shell Drivers’ Club card, you will know that the bonus vouchers you receive are based on a fill of 30 litres. The question is, why don’t they have a standard fill? The cynic would suggest they could only claim savings of an extra litre of fuel per tank if they stretched their definition of a tank by 60%.

Secondly, the new FuelSave campaign coincided with the start of the school summer holidays. Now, because I don’t drive with Neil every day, I asked his Citroen XM (only a 3.0 V6) who is happy on Shell’s standard fuel and therefore has been consuming FuelSave unleaded by default, whether his average fuel consumption had improved; and it had – by 1.5 miles per gallon (actually a 5% increase). Now, back to the school holiday connection; traffic is clearer, no jams and commute times have been cut by a third -  a recipe for decreasing fuel consumption if ever I heard one. The question is, how much of this is attributable to Fuelsave and how much to a sudden lack of traffic?

So, has this all been a cynical exercise by Shell’s marketing department? We’ll see what happens to the XM’s fuel consumption when the schools go back. I wonder when the FuelSave campaign is due to end …?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Classic Cars and Wheels

This was my first time at this show, held at Stonham Barns near Stowmarket, so I was unsure of what to expect. What I found was a well organised show with a wide variety of vehicles from all eras. I think the title of the show is a bit awkward – perhaps the organisers felt that just calling it a Classic Vehicle Show was a bit obvious?

Anyway, the award for question of the day went to the gentleman who asked whether it was true that you could only buy a Bristol if you were a member of the club! If he had known anything of the history of the relationship between the club and the manufacturer then I could have forgiven him for thinking the opposite was true.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

King's Lynn & District Motor Club Rally

The 33rd Annual Vintage & Classic Rally organized by the King's Lynn & District Motor Club took place on Sunday 11th July 2010.
This is the first chance I’ve had to take part in this event, which has been highly recommended to me in the past. Not really a rally, but a gentle amble through the picturesque lanes of Norfolk in the company of some of the finest classic cars in East Anglia.
An early start at the Sandringham Visitor Centre and the opportunity to cool down after my 90 mile drive for me and to take on coffee and pastries for Neil. A high quality entry of 95 cars gradually assembled with Bristol represented by 5 different models – 401 (Warwick Banks), 405 (Brian Kidd), 407 (Nick Challacombe), 410 (Neil), 411 S4 (Martin Bennett).
Armed with a tulip map and aided by direction arrows and marshalls we then enjoyed a 55 mile run to the lunch halt at Fincham. Carvery’s were taken in the Timbers Hotel and picnics fortified by real ale were enjoyed in the grounds while admiring the cars.
After lunch, the run continued for another 20 miles to the finish at the National Trust's magnificent Oxburgh Hall. An interesting queuing system at the cafĂ© did nothing to dissuade those eager to partake of afternoon tea (Neil) before prizes were awarded to the cars. An inexplicable error with the scoring meant that none of the Bristols picked up any trophies, but the winners were nevertheless well deserved (1925 Morris Cowley, 1934 MG Magnette, 1951 Jaguar Mk V, 1964 Jaguar E-type, 1968 Triumph TR5).
A 65 mile trip home rounded off a very enjoyable day. Many thanks to the King's Lynn & District Motor Club, and the principal organisers Ivan and Adrian Cunnington, for putting on such an excellent event.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Cressing Temple

Yesterday I went to a vintage fayre held by the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity at Cressing Temple in Essex. Helen Rollason cancer support centres provide complementary therapies, counselling and support groups for cancer patients, their friends, families and carers. Helen Rollason was a much-loved BBC Sport presenter who fought her battle with colon cancer in the public eye.

Cressing Temple takes its unusual name from the medieval monks of the Knights Templar who founded the two vast wooden barns in the 13th Century and which form the centrepiece of this delightful rural estate. Acquired by Essex County Council in 1987 to safeguard the future of the barns, buildings and garden, it is now part of their Country Parks portfolio. I hope that in the midst of the current financial crisis the Council are not tempted to sell these unique buildings off.

A previous (alleged) attempt to sell off the barns by the former leader of Essex County Council failed. Lord Hanningfield, aka bachelor pig farmer Paul White, won’t be able to try that again as it now looks likely that he will be spending time away from his pigs at Her Majesty’s pleasure after being investigated for falsely claiming expenses. His attempt to hide behind a 300-year-old law exempting MPs and Lords from prosecution over proceedings in parliament failed and did nothing to enhance his reputation and overturn the Essex stereotype of dodgy barrow-boys on the make.

Cressing Temple also hosts a highly successful biannual event in its own right and I will be back there next year for that. At a previous show I was honoured to represent the Sixties in a special grouping of cars celebrating motor cars of the last century. I think they have something equally special planned for next year but to be honest it will be enough just to be allowed to park in such magnificent surroundings.

And what of Lord Hanningfield when he's paid his debt to society? Well, he could always go back to farming pigs. What about the smell I hear you ask? Well, the pigs will just have to get used to it!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Flat Pack Fenders?

Layer Marney Tower on 30 May 2010 and I’m the only Bristol here but there are plenty of interested people speaking to Neil. As well as general car talk it's always nice to hear stories about Bristol Cars the company, and a former owner of a 403 told Neil a real gem today.

Having had the misfortune to be involved in an accident, he called Bristol Cars in search for a new front wing and spoke to Tony Crook who said he had them in stock and would send one out.

When the delivery arrived it consisted of a single flat sheet of metal - surely some mistake? When the surprised owner of the pristine sheet made enquiries, an equally surprised Tony Crook said there had been no mistake. All that was required was to form it into the correct shape – “they are all hand made you know”!

With a great deal of ingenuity a pattern was taken from a straight car and a carpenter enlisted to make a buck. The panel was beaten and the shape of a wing duly emerged which was then fitted to the damaged car. 

If you still have your original bucks and the skills required to wrap metal around them, as Bristol do, why expect your customers to try and emulate the factory’s craftsmanship and risk substandard repairs to the cars that bear your name?

Hopefully attitudes at the factory have changed and anyone ordering a wing for a 403 today would receive something that held more than a passing resemblance to something you would actually find on a car.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Wings & Wheels

Last weekend I went to Henham, near Southwold in Suffolk to Wings & Wheels 2010. Lots of interesting cars (although there were no other Bristols) and some spectacular flying. For much of the day a succession of light aircraft used the airfield, but the highlight of the day were the Breitling Wingwalkers - the world's only aerobatic formation wingwalking team.

They performed a breathtaking sequence of acrobatic manoeuvres and handstands whilst strapped to the top wings of Boeing Stearman biplanes. These manoeuvres included, loops, rolls, stall turns and even inverted flight! During all of this, the wingwalkers experience speeds of up to 150 mph and 'G' forces of up to 4G!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Oh I don't like to be beside the Seaside ...

Sunday was the 40th anniversary of the Ipswich to Felixstowe run. However true to form for an English Bank Holiday Weekend the weather was atrocious. Heavy rain and strong winds lashed the park in Ipswich while we waited to set off, and although the drive to Felixstowe wasn't too bad, once at Felixstowe the rain started again and the wind whipped up the sea. 2 other Bristols accompanied me (another 410 and a 411 S4) but we didn't stay long. Neil didn't even get his ice-cream.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Dodgy Dip Switch in Ipswich

Driving through Ipswich at night the urgent flashing of other drivers alerted me to a problem. When Neil pulled up behind another car he realised that my headlights were not on, only my sidelights. He checked the headlight switch and found it to be on then flashed the lights using the column stalk – only to find all 4 headlights coming on as they should and startling the driver in front. He pulled off into a retail park where a furniture store had thoughtfully built a glass-walled showroom ideal for testing one’s lights. Various switches were tried again until a press of the floor mounted dip switch restored normal functioning. 

This was of course forgotten about until he needed to use the headlights again and found the same problem. Last weekend he decided to investigate further and after studying my wiring diagram concluded that it must indeed be the floor mounted dip switch that was playing up. Armed with a screwdriver and multimeter he contorted enough to remove the switch, pressed it by hand and observed sparks emanating from the underside behind the connections. A check with the multimeter confirmed current was at least flowing to the switch, so Neil put everything back to make sure it did not get lost and went inside to look for a new one. A quick search online found a remanufactured switch on the original Lucas part number on the Holden’s site and this was ordered. 

He replaced the switch today, reconnecting the 3 wires in the correct order, and straight away normal functioning was restored. We went out for a celebratory drive, and just to make sure checked the switch on our return home.

The floor mounted dipswitch is such a useful device, freeing up the hands and giving the left foot something to do, that it's surprising that it no longer appears on new cars. Perhaps the desire to provide a proper place to rest the left foot took precedence, or perhaps the Blenheim still has one?