Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Concours d’Elegance

“Hardwick Hall, Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall”. Sir George White imparted this little rhyme to us as he was giving out the trophies at the Bristol Owners’ Club Concours d’Elegance, which took place recently in the grounds of one of the most significant Elizabethan country houses in England.

Now owned by the National Trust Hardwick Hall is situated on a hilltop between Chesterfield and Mansfield, and is found at the end of one of the longest drives I’ve ever seen. The windows are exceptionally large and numerous for the 16th century and were a powerful statement of wealth at a time when glass was still a luxury.

The Club’s Concours is the major annual gathering of Bristol cars and their owners and is centered around the judging of cars in various categories. This year Neil was press-ganged into being a judge by Events Coordinator Turplin Dixon. This was done in the nicest way possible – no pound coin found in the bottom his latte – and Neil found himself judging 2 classes under the welcome guidance of experienced judge Richard Baines – the Anthony Crook Trophy for Types 400, 402, 403 and the Elite Trophy for previous Concours winners - won by Kenneth Andren with his Arnolt Bristol (pictured).

We travelled up to Derbyshire the day before and I was grateful that Neil kept the speed to about 60mph to run-in my newly rebuilt engine. We met Churchill and his owners, Stuart and Tracey, at our hotel and parked a discrete distance from the other cars in the car park. Stuart was up at the crack of dawn polishing and Neil joined him at a more civilized hour but still managed a good hour’s polishing before breakfast.

Bristol Cars, now owned by the Frazer-Nash group, played an active part by providing a marquee with high-quality catering laid on throughout the day. As well as being a very generous gesture, this was taken as a welcome indication of Bristol Cars’ desire to become more closely involved with the Club. Indeed a brief conversation Neil had with Julian Ramshaw, General Manager of Bristol Cars, confirmed their strong commitment to the company’s heritage.

Whether this almost literal ‘buttering up’ of Bristol owners translates to more work for the service centre, or purchases of the yet to be announced new model remains to be seen!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Cars, Planes and Trains

A glorious first Sunday in September and the East Anglian Section of the Bristol Owners’ Club held its summer barbecue.

The day started at Wattisham airfield for a tour of the heritage museum which was opened early especially for the club. The museum contains many interesting exhibits including details of the Bristol Blenheim and Beaufighter aircraft that were stationed there in the early years of the Second World War.

The cars, 4 Bristols and an Aston Martin, were then escorted to the other side of the base (it is still operational with an active fleet of Apache helicopters) for a scene straight out of the cold war. The cars were parked outside one of the hardened Quick Reaction Alert Sheds where during the 1950s and 60s live armed English Electric Lightnings were on standby at all times before being replaced by McDonnell Douglas Phantoms in the 1970s. After the massive doors were slid apart we were allowed inside and found a Phantom and Hawker Hunter undergoing restoration.

We then drove through the Suffolk countryside to Battisford near Stowmarket where John and Gwynneth Hogger hosted a Barbeque in the grounds of their beautifully restored farmhouse. John’s impressive Barbecue cooked the food with wood smoke, which was helped on its way by a heater fan from a Bristol car rigged up to a 12v battery.

A door led though to their neighbour’s garden revealing an extensive scale steam railway – the smell of the coal smoke and rhythm of the trains over the tracks transporting everyone back to their childhood as they rode on the various trains all afternoon.

The summer barbeque is also the section’s fundraising event and it does not need to look very far for its nominated charity as one of its members is a Lymphoma Association Buddy. The buddy scheme puts people affected by lymphoma in telephone or email contact with volunteers who have had a similar experience of lymphoma. Well deserved recipients of the £235 raised on the day.