Vintagery at The Verzons

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Vintage-car drivers apparently regard bad weather as a challenge, because more than one hundred pre-war cars turned up on New Year’s Day for the annual gathering at The Verzons Hotel near Ledbury, very few who started out turning back, in spite of fog, icy roads and iced-over windscreens. No doubt other VSCC venues had similar support that day, as I hear the Red Lion at Llanfair Waterdine did. The “rubber-neckers” seem to love it, too, the roadside verges outside The Verzons soon being lined with modern cars.

Only “proper” motors were admitted by Mark Garfitt to the car park, of which 22 were Austins in varying sizes. The Welsh A7 contingent was decimated this year by ‘flu and social engagements but Seymour Price came in his fast Ulster and I used my 1930 Gould Replica, neither of which missed a beat. The most interesting arrival was Ian Rendall’s 1918 Stutz Bearcat two-seater, so American in style, with two spare wheels up behind. It had not altogether escaped the searing cold, its radiator steaming a bit, probably due to ice in its lower regions. The prize donated by the hotel landlords, Fred and Ginny Coomber, for the driver coming the greatest distance went to Robin Parker, in Dunn’s 4.5-litre Bentley, but better known for racing the vee-twin BHD. Runners-up were Sydney and Barbara Goldstein in a rare Type 40 Bugatti saloon from Hampstead, although I am convinced it was driven down by the patient black dog which was at the wheel throughout…

Organiser Garfitt was in Sally Marsh’s Type 35T GP Bugatti, which with Sir John Venables Llewellyn’s T35, both stripped for action, were exactly as Ettore intended them to be! That is, ready to race — but on this freezing day..!

Other Bugattis were a fine skiff-bodied Type 13/22 brought by Keith Hill, who had made the new body for this early Brescia. Ernie Allen was there with his family in the T23. Indeed there were seven Bugattis all told. The highest performance car present was undoubtedly Roger Collings 8-litre Bentley, and others of this make ranged from an open 3-litre to an 8-litre saloon, eight in all, equalled by the Morgan fraternity, whose line-up consisted of six three-wheelers and two pre-war 4/45. There were the expected makes like Alvis (7), Lagonda (4), Riley (11) and Rolls-Royce (3), in various varieties, and Chris Clark used his stately Lanchester 21 saloon, John Nicholson his railway-carriage-like Edwardian Lancia Eta, backed up by a couple of Lambdas. I liked the 9.5hp Renault tourer driven by a lady who looked all set for a run along a French boulevard, just as the MG PB coupe with its Brooklands and JCC badges might have been on the way to the Weybridge Flying Club or some driving tests at Weybridge.

Chris Gordon, who has bought a Frazer Nash, had decided that a Fiat 500 Topolino was better suited to the Arctic temperature and Rodney Felton had contributed his 2900B Alfa Romeo and his Bugatti. A boat-tailed Edwardian Renault and a showroom condition Citroen Light-15 roadster made a nice Francophile contrast and Hamish Moffatt was there with his open OM. Luscott-Evans two-stroked in in his Trojan and so it went on. A yellow Model-A Ford coupe, a nice 1750 Alfa Romeo two-seater, two Frazer Nashes, one with BMW engine, the Crouch-Helix, in good health again, a 30/98 Vauxhall, an HRG, a Lea-Francis, a couple of Wolseley Hornets, a pre-war Rover 12 and the motorcycles. What a marvellous turn-out!

Marstons Breweries entered into the spirit of these New Year Day forays by bringing their impressive 1933 Leyland Van, (they also run a 1932 Leyland) and providing a shield on which the winner’s names will be engraved each year, for display at “The Verzons”. I have no doubt at all that it will all happen again in 1994, apart from the monthly meetings at this venue and Garfitt’s special summer assembly. WB