Winter Verzons

It has been said that pleasure follows pain. On New Year’s Day this was true for those who drove to The Verzons near Ledbury for Mark Garfitt’s celebration of the coming season of 39 varied VSCC fixtures, because an icy morning gave way to a perfect winter’s day. By mid-day the car park for proper motor cars was crammed — and, remember, similar VSCC thanksgivings were happening at 11 other venues. . .

Looking around, one stumbled over a huge and ancient Rochet-Schneider tourer painted in stripes and with an exhaust whistle. Another veteran was a 1904 two-cylinder Decauville. An enormous mauve Packard saloon, its driver wearing a Palm Beach cap, filled much of the space, representing luxury travel, as did a Lanchester 21 complete with chauffeur and flying a Union Jack not quite as big as itself, on which the Rolls-Royces present looked with mild disdain. Another big saloon posed an identification problem with its “HK” badge; it was a very rare sleeve-valve Handley-Knight. Ronald Barker was in his latest acquisition, a square-rigged Dodge Brothers coupé with Budd all-metal body, a Yale lock on its gear lever to keep it in neutral when unattended, and the layshaft put out of commission when in top cog, to obviate oil-drag. This well-built but unpretentious circa-1923 American automobile perhaps cocked-a-snoot at the A-Fords which were rolling in?

There was a field full of Morgan all-sorts, guarded by an early 4/4, and the A7 all-sorts included a trio from Mid-Wales, comprising Seymour Price in the faster of his two Ulsters, a 1930 saloon that is used regularly, and my 1930 Gould Ulster-lookalike. The visitors were drooling over the truly fast cars, like the two 2.3 GP Bugattis, one in racing trim, and Felton’s Monza Alfa Romeo and Brescia Bugatti. Hamish Moffat let retired airline pilot and vintage aeroplane owner Roger Bailey bring his Brescia while he flew his 1929 DH Gipsy Moth biplane into an adjacent soggy, ditch-bisected field, with nonchalent skill. Cyclecars were represented by a Bedelia and a Sima-Violet; the latter has its front number-plate on its forward-projecting flywheel — work that one out! A fine Lancia Dilambda stood aloof and the crowd ran to see Roger and Ben Collings take-off in the Mercedes-Maybach monster. . . Variety is the spice of these “jollies”.

Prizes too! The Verzons bottle of “champers” went to Phil Evans, who had driven his vintage 4-1/2-litre Bentley from Wrexham. Mike Roff of Weston’s Cider had brought a bottle of that estimable drink for each car present in Weston’s 1953 Ford Ten van and flagons of it were awarded to Moffatt for good pilotage, to the Packard as the most eye-catching car, to the Rochet-Schneider because it is old, to Mike Bullett for braving the journey in the Bedelia, and to the riders of Ariel and AJS vintage motorcycles. In addition, old-time cyclists joined in, on an 1894 geared front-driver, a wooden-wheeled 1908 Reliance gent’s sports, a 1924 Rudge-Whitworth Crescent and a VeloSolex. The list I have of the 114 cars attending reads: Austin 15, Bentley 14, Alvis 13, Morgan 7, Lagonda and Rolls-Royce 6, Riley 5, Roesch-Talbot, Humber, MG, Ford and Bugatti 4 each, Citroën, Frazer Nash, Lancia, Morris and Vauxhall 30/98 2 each, Monza Alfa Romeo, s/c Aston Martin, Bedelia, 328 FN-BMW, Decauville, Delage, Dodge Brothers, HE Six, Lanchester, Lea-Francis, Marendaz Special, Rochet-Schneider, Triumph, Mercedes-Maybach, Sima-Violet, Packard 8, HRG and Handley Knight, one each. W B