Veteran-Edwardian-Vintage, November 1970

A section devoted to old-car matters

The Booker Show (September 27th)

Last year the Wycombe Air Centre held an informal rally of vintage and veteran cars at Booker aerodrome, where “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines” was filmed, a large number arriving in exchange for a plaque each and a simple flying display.

This year, encouraged by the success of the 1969 Booker Show, a much more ambitious affair was organised, by Airways Aero Associations Ltd. and the Uxbridge Vintage Vehicle Society. The idea was much the same, namely, a huge assembly of old motor vehicles, with no Concours d’Elegance or driving frolics to distract their owners from discussing them or the spectators from inspecting them, but with a charge for admission to the public and other attractions added to a more ambitious flying display. There may be some objection to mixing up old cars and historic aeroplanes with a full-scale fun-fair, sideshows, donkey rides, bands, electric organs and a trapeze act, and at times the vast grass expanse of Booker did resemble Hampstead Heath on a Bank Holiday.

But does it really matter, if it provides innocent interest for typically well-behaved and good-humoured British crowds? The attendance was enormous and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the Wycombe Air Park made a bigger profit that day than from all the year’s Aero Club and aviation activities combined.

The programme listed 391 “exhibits” but the numbers ran to some 600–so I trust I shall not be expected to turn in a detailed report!

One advantage of not having a Concours d’Elegance or beauty show is that cars in somewhat poor or shabby condition attend which might not otherwise be seen. The variety at Booker was certainly quite astonishing–ranging from an 1898 Georges Richard downwards, with the added anticipation of seeing Summer’s 2.9 Maserati racer take part in the final drive past. Some cars had contrived to congregate in one-make assemblies, notably the “Chain-Gang” Frazer Nashes, which included a Shelsley single-seater which had had an adventurous run to the rally field, the Austins, Sunbeams, Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Fords.

If any criticism is merited, it is the inclusion in the programme of post-war cars, such as a 1960 AC-Bristol and a 1962 Triumph Vitesse in what was advertised as a veteran and vintage show, which makes one thankful the VSCC exists to prevent this aspect from becoming completely out of hand. It was a bit tedious that whereas the gates opened at 11 a.m. and the rally was declared open by 2 p.m., flying did not commence until 4.15 p.m. Perhaps next year the aeroplanes could be released by 2.30 p.m., to give those coming long distances in old vehicles an opportunity to see the flying and yet get away much sooner? The programme, too, gave only 391 entries and as these closed before September 1st it could, one would have thought, have listed all the vehicles present. It contained some remarkable proof-reading errors, too, such as an HRG rendered as an HRD and a Rude motorcycle, while the Hon. Patrick Lindsay appeared to have entered himself–twice. Nor was the VSCC described, although the other organisations which assisted were given liberal space. Those gripes apart, it was a remarkable occasion. Where else could you see a Coupe de l’Auto Delage and Garrett and Burrell traction engines, rows of vintage motorcycles, ‘buses, military vehicles and vintage aeroplanes assembled in one place in such quantity? There were even stationary engines, this time a 2-1/4-h.p. Fowler, a 1-1/2-h.p. PB Ruston Hornsby driving a circa 1920 air-compressor and a 1928 3-h.p. Type A Lister with sheep-shearing attachment. Walking round, a not-quite-fully-restored but very smart Hillman Husky tourer, a blue Invicta two-seater with outside exhaust pipe, Miss Bartley’s 1938 ex-police 18/85 Wolseley, rebuilt in 1960, a Morris 10/6 tourer, a vast Barker-bodied Daimler saloon with “brassed” radiator, a Hudson Six saloon which languished in a Hampshire manor house until well after the war, a nice 14/40 Delage, the 1904 James & Browne and a completely immaculate Model A Ford Fordor saloon, correct even to its brass-strip h.t. connectors, caught the eye.

There was even a Victorian baker’s cart and a 1947 cut-and-shut Bentley Mk. VI boy’s racer had gate-crashed a way in. Another oddity was a 1931 Model 9 Sunbeam motorcycle pulling an Edwardian wicker sidecar. A very nice 8.3 Renault saloon, a vintage Citroen tourer and a vast Delage represented Continental vintage motoring in this great concourse of motoring history. Philip Mann’s 1914 GP Mercedes apparently thought it was an aeroplane, being parked by the Spitfires, Swordfish and replica Fokker E 111 monoplane which Joan Hughes was later to fly. And surely the GPDA would have looked askance at Leone and Tarnyia, who performed their acrobatics on a flexing pole 80 feet above the ground, without a safety net.

With a few improvements, perhaps one-make parks for the more prolific makes of pre-1941 cars, the Booker Show must surely be an assured success again in 1971?–W. B.