On New Year’s Day, socials are held at various venues, notably at The Phoenix at Hartley Whitney where the VSCC had its pre-war HQ, to celebrate the start of another season of vintage motoring. The snow and ice of 1997 had little effect, as we discovered when we went to the gathering at The Verzons near Ledbury, organised by Mark Garfitt, who had arrived in Sally Marsh’s Type 357 Bugatti, his 319/55 FN/BMW brought by Stewart Smith. Also as usual, Julian Risburg of Marston’s presented the longest distance Trophy (it went to Peter Banyon who drove his 4 1/2-litre Bentley Salmon’s dhc 80 miles from Bridgend, taking also the champagne prize donated by Verzon landlords Fred and Jinny Coomber. Marston’s had its 1938 Leyland Hippo brewer’s lorry in the car park.
Bitter conditions did not deter some 66 pre-war cars from assembling. Dean’s Type 51 Bugatti was joined by Felton’s Brescia, driven by Carol Felton’s brother, and Ernie Allen brought wife and daughter in their Type 23. Brian Grey’s 30-98 was there, flanked by Greville Neale’s Chain-Gang Frazer Nash, Tomlin had come in his 3-litre Lagonda and there was the expected line-up of three-wheeler Morgans, three F-types, and JAP, Matchless and Blackburne-engined Twins. A 319/45 FN/BMW from Newent and Mike Dutton’s smart 326 saloon from Bristol backed up Garfitt’s car, and almost every kind of Alvis, a Le Mans Aston Martin and Moffatt’s OM represented the sports car element.
The rarest car there was the smart Aster coupe but the ‘barn discovery” ex-taxi Marmon saloon of J Fenton, still unrestored from last year, attracted almost as much camera clicking. Morris and Austin were out in numbers, the latter including all kinds of Sevens from Chris Gordon’s 1929 Chummy to a Nippy and a neat Special with GN-type front suspension. Noticed also were vintage AC, British Salmson dhc, Citroen Light-15 roadster, Ballard’s Lea-Francis saloon, MGs including an F-type tourer and VA saloon, Rileys one of which was an unusual but attractive disc-wheeled Nine coupe, Sunbeam tourer etc. One brave person had ridden there on a big-port AJS. and a non-motoring “exhibit” was a circa 1880 GWR line-inspection trolley, restored after it was found at Pembridge railway station.