Whether it knew it or not, Cheltenham enjoyed a notable social gathering on April 22nd, when Ian Fraser, Vic Norman, Geoff and Rita St. John and others hosted a splendid party in a hangar at Staverton aerodrome to commemorate the 70th birthday of Ronald (“Steady”) Barker. “Steady”, ex-VSCC President, motoring writer, and restorer of some fine vintage motor cars either very large (like his current project, a V16 Cadillac) or very small, has so many friends from so many different walks (or wheels and wings) of life that the party was a large one, the likewise large hangar well filled.
It would be invidious to attempt a guest list. But we spoke to Victor Gauntleft about his ownership of the Napier-Railton and his DH Rapides, commiserated with Hamish Moffatt who was prevented from flying in from his home due to early morning mist, and chatted with Lord Raglan, Guy Griffiths, Michael Burn, Jack French, Eoin Young, Peter Hull, David Franklin, John Howell who had been racing his 16-cylinder Bugatti the day before, Nick Baldwin and many other friends — but a list of all the VSCC and other guests would be very lengthy.
Many motoring editors and their wives were there, from Car and other papers, and the humans were backed up by some interesting cars. There was Steady’s own Renault 45 carrying the name of the celebratory champagne (his friction-drive Lafayette was absent, with posterior problems), Tony Jones had brought the 1908 Napier Sixty which Barker so ably rebuilt some years ago, two early Royces stood side-by-side, a rare Dilambda Lancia contrasted with a balloon-bedecked VW Beetle wearing a “Steady-70” number plate, a reminder that Gordon Wilkins, who was the first British motoring journalist to drive a KDF VW, had come from Italy with his wife, there was even a flat twin propellor-driven Leyat rear-wheel steered saloon cyclecar — alas a replica, and Roger and Judy Collings had brought the venerable Mercedes 60. Apart from the music and the feasting and Barker’s welcoming speech, he treated his guests to a bout of “wing walking” on a Stearman biplane flown by Vic Norman, which included two loops — after lunch too . .! A fine party for a brave and accomplished vintage enthusiast; how nice it would to be 70 again, and that brave!