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.