Bill Boddy Tribute Day

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Gordon Cruickshank

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Brooklands, Surrey

Brooklands on a sunny day: ERA and Bugatti engines snarling, Bentleys on the banking… For a few wonderful hours the sights, sounds and smells were those Bill Boddy would have known in The Track’s halcyon days in the 1930s. It was the only proper place to remember our late founder editor, and a paddock full of the right sort of car and people showed how special his memory is. When engines fell silent motor historian David Burgess-Wise interviewed people who knew or worked with Bill, including Grand Prix winner Tony Brooks, our guest of honour for the day.

It was Brooklands which captivated WB in 1927, and when in the early ’30s he found himself working there on a magazine about motoring and flying, he was in heaven. From that point he offended every meeting he could, and the Tribute Day brought cars he would have seen racing here. A Bentley 41/2 which ran in the first Double 12, Wooding’s Talbot 105, Clive [ones’ record-breaking three-wheeler Morgan, Arthur Dobson’s ERA R7B, the Bentley special ‘Mother Gun’, and of course the daddy of them all, the Napier-Railton, holder of the ultimate lap record at The Track.

In the morning the crowd lined the Test Hill as everything from a chuffering veteran Humbereffe to a snarling Ferrari 166 Barcheffa tackled the challenging slope but while there was a Railton-Terraplane in the paddock, no one tried to emulate the famous off’ photo at the crest of the hill. Later in the day the Members’ Hill reverberated to a sound not heard for decades a massed start on the Finishing Straight. A squad of ERA, Alta and Type 35s sprinted onto the banking and disappeared round the corner, noisily followed by the heavy metal the Railton and Mother Gun, Stanley Mann pushing it right up the hallowed banking to give us a tiny flavour of what WB knew so well. It was dramatic and exciting, even if we knew they all had to shut off immediately and demurely return at low speed… It wasn’t the real thing, but it reminded us that almost the only reason we still have the historic concrete and the atmospheric infield is thanks to WB’s campaign for their preservation.

Cars of every era reflected his wide interests: brass gleamed on the RAC’s 1901 Mors and the National Motor Museum’s 1903 22hp Daimler, both cars that WB drove on Brighton Runs, while the STD Register had assembled a terrific display of Sunbeams, Talbots, including Roesch team cars, and even a Gwynne 8 to honour their founder and patron. Barking exhausts on a Hispano-powered Berliet suited Bod’s appreciation of aero-engined specials, and Austin Sevens from Nippy to Brooklands Specials recalled his fondness for this democratic transport, while its German counterpart was there too in the form of the first Volkswagen that Boddy ever drove, a 1947 example which made him a longtime fan.

Bill’s vital Motor Sport collaborator was present in spirit, too a full-size photo of Jenks holding up the (real) crankshaft of his straight-eight Duesenberg which sat alongside, while on hand too was the E-type which carried our Continental Correspondent around Europe.

Fuelled by a Standard House (Motor Sport‘s home for many years) reunion in the clubhouse the night before, it was a day of non-stop reminiscing as colleagues, historians, racers and readers came together to pay their respects to WB, the most famous initials in the business.

Gordon Cruickshank

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