Club life

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Dear Reader,

Reading, listening or looking at the outpourings of the motoring media you could get the impression that our whole world is in complete disarray. It is all doom and gloom, or turmoil or strife, our whole sporting scene is on the brink of total collapse and there is little hope for our future. It is a pity that some of these writers weren’t around in September 1939, because from the third of that month our whole world disappeared overnight, with very little warning, and it was six full years before it returned in any tangible form.

Can you imagine it today if motoring and motoring sport in all forms stopped overnight, even for one year, let alone six? I refer to a global war, in which the only mechanised movement would be for military vehicles. It could happen, it has happened before, but we all hope it never happens again. But to read some of the writings of the professional “gloomsburys” you would think it was imminent. They seem unable to write anything unless it is in a “negative” mode, but I find great solace in reading the many club magazines that I receive, compiled and written by enthusiasts for club members.

I find I am in pretty close touch with about 25 different clubs, not a member of them all, naturally, but in touch through their magazines which they so kindly send me. These clubs or one-make registers are all run by the voluntary efforts of their members, no one is out to make money, or boost their egos, or to empirebuild; they all do it for their love of the sport or their obsession with a particular make of car, or even a particular model. They range from clubs with some hundreds of members, to those with a mere handful; in fact one has only three members, but they all keep in touch with their members through magazines or newsletters. Some of them are handsome, well-produced, glossy magazines, others are a couple of type-written sheets, but they all exude the same atmosphere, that of enthusiasm for their own particular vehicle, whether it be cars, motorcycles, commercial vehicles or whatever.

Compared with the total number of such clubs, registers or groups, spread throughout the country, those that I keep in touch with are a small proportion, but I like to think it represents a fair cross-section of the overall scene. To read about epic journeys by a handful of old cars which transport their owners to Scotland or the south of France, just for their own pleasure, is most satisfying. These are about people just getting on with their own enjoyment, with no media-coverage or publicity covering up some ulterior motive.

Apart from providing enjoyment for their members a lot of the clubs, especially for obsolete vehicles, do a remarkable job of searching out spare parts, or getting new ones manufactured, to keep their vehicle running. Some have even formed spares companies, run on a non-profit-making basis, providing the very life-blood of their vehicles and their enthusiasm.

This enthusiasm below the level of professionalism is a real tonic, after suffering too much “doom and gloom” from the negative writers. It is all so positive, and there are no axes being ground.

Two examples I will give of this pure enthusiasm for the cause, both done within clubs of which I happen to be a member, involve instant action of a nature that is very personal to the club involved. One club had a famous engineer as its president, and even after a very long time with the club he never lost his enthusiasm for everything the club did and stood for. In his final years his health began to deteriorate rapidly and he was not over-endowed financially. The roof of his house was badly in need of repair before winter came, but he could not really afford it, though he never said anything about it.

One of the members found out about this domestic predicament and in no time at all, unbeknown to their president, there was a whip-round among the members and sufficient money was raised to have the job done for him.

The other example of club spirit was when a club whose vehicles have a long and distinguished engineering history, of which the club is very conscious, heard quite by chance that a lot of historical material had surfaced and was being put up for auction. Now the club already had very strong archives so naturally was interested in this further material. Again some instant action was needed and the word was circulated with the result that the members put sufficient money into a kitty so that the club was able to bid successfully to acquire this valuable material for its archives.

The world outside may be in turmoil and on the verge of collapse and all the writing may be “negative” but in the enthusiast club world there is still a lot of “positive” action.

I have mentioned the good job that one-make clubs or registers are doing in keeping old cars active, and it is to be hoped that anyone owning an old car is a member of the appropriate club, even if he thinks he will not need help, just in order to support the cause. In this aspect the “collector” causes a bit of a problem because he may collect for the sake of collecting, having no real interest in any particular make or model. It is unlikely that he will join any of the clubs, and if he joins one, why not all of them? But that is something the clubs can do nothing about. In these “hard times” some collections are being disposed of, usually by auction, and when I read in a club magazine, whether it be for Maserati, Lagonda or Austin 7, that someone has acquired a particular car and joined the appropriate club, I smile to myself and think “Good, that’s another one into the family fold.”

There is another aspect of this one-make activity, an example of which made me smile. This club has a very special outing to Italy, once every 10 years. It started in 1969 and the last one was in 1989, after which some bright young thing heard about this splendid outing to Italy, but had no idea of the whys and wherefores of the event. She was heard to say to her boyfriend, “Darling, that trip to Italy sounded marvellous, we must get one of those old cars and go with them next year.” A friend of theirs said quietly, “The next club outing to Italy will be in 1999.” The reply was “Oh! Why isn’t there one next year — it seemed such a good trip?” There is a moral in that little story.

Yours, D S J.

This month’s Three Memorable Moments come from Victor Bryant, of South Harrow, Middlesex:

1. At my first motor race being amazed to see Bruce McLaren come round Druids hairpin at Brands Hatch to find John Surtees in his Lotus stranded across the track. Bruce selected which gap to go for and raised his hand before driving through with apparent ease. (1960).

2. At a time when all British cars were green I was fascinated to see the RED V8 BRM of Scuderia Centro Sud, driven by Lorenzo Bandini (1963).

3. At a wet and miserable day at the Race of Champions, seeing Jacky Ickx overtake Lauda’s Ferrari at Paddock Bend. The reaction of the crowd toward a “non-Brit” was wonderful. (That was hero-time, especially for me standing on the infield D S J)

I am pleased to report that answers to my plea in the November issue of Motor Sport for readers to let me know when they first saw a racing car in action live, not on TV, are beginning to come in.

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