The VSCC has a number of New Year’s Day gatherings of the right sort of cars, this year’s especially notable as the first in which the vintage machinery was legally able to travel to them without having made a contribution to the “Road Fund”. One of the largest of these gatherings must have been that organised annually by Mark Garfitt at The Verzons just outside Ledbury and supported by Westons Cider. As this is about an 80-minute drive, that is where we motored in the Grotty Gould Ulster Austin 7, over snow-bordered roads in a hampering clinging mist.
On arrival we found Garfitt and his helpers clearing sheet ice from the hotel car park. But this did not deter the usual enthusiasm, expressed by the numbers of proper motor cars which eventually filled the parking area, even if arrivals were a little later than in 1995. Once gathered there, what an impressive cross-section it made of the kind of cars the VSCC encourages. As if to underline the end of any need for cars over 25 years old to display anything more than exempt licence discs, that unexpected but splendid present from the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, there was a straight-eight Marmon saloon, not taxed since 1954 and in “as found” condition. Chris Clark’s big Lanchester Forty was wearing wedding ribbons — or were these a tribute to Kenneth Clarke, MR for the aforesaid welcome financial saving? Then to warm the cockles, whatever they are, of all true enthusiasts’ hearts, there were four aluminium-wheeled GP Bugattis present.
I noted the smart little Talbot Simmins, a nice 30-98 Vauxhall with abbreviated bodywork, those keen Morgan exponents clustered together, six of them in three-wheelers, the Sima-Violet cycle car and a Humberette which almost vanished before our very eyes in a cloud of smoke. Roger Collings and family were there, the Chitty-like Mercedes-Maybach occupying twice the space of the two A7s opposite, a Ruby and a Box saloon. So they came, braving the miserable weather, in all shapes and sizes, and a multitude of makes, from a well travelled Austin 12/4 tourer to a rare 20/90 hp British Salmson and Marendaz Special. Very welcome was a smart 319/45 FN-BMW tourer. A rare Lanchester Ten coupe was there, and Ian Williamson’s s/c P-type “Cream Cracker” MG was backed up by 18/80, 14/40 and an N-type Special MCs. Julian Bronson’s s/c 12/4 Riley probably thought it was a Monza Alfa as crowds admired it.
Marstons’ distance award went to Mark and Robin Longmore in the single-door 1921 11.4hp Humber saloon from Tamworth, and Marstons had brought their 1938 Leyland Hippo brewers lorry full of barrels. Not to be outdone, Westons Cider showed their Ford Ten pick-up, driven by Mike Roff, and put a bottle of their Classic Perry in every car in the “pre-war” car park. The landlords, Fred and Ginny Coomber, had reason to be proud, with some 63 interesting cars assembled to greet the New Year. Makes not so far mentioned included Alvis, Lagonda, LeaFrancis, HRG, Rolls-Royce, HE, Sunbeam, Standard, Ballot and a Morris van, two riders braved foggy weather, on a 1939 500 Ariel and a 1926 350 AJS, another on a James Auto-wheel, and someone even rode there on a 1934 Coventry-Eagle pedal-cycle. W B