A trip to Sarthe London

Chelsea AutoLegends blooms and springs late-summer surprises

Having missed last year’s inaugural event I didn’t know what to expect when I strolled through Sir Christopher Wren’s handsome Chelsea Hospital into the grounds where the Flower Show takes place. I assumed there would be a couple of rows of cars parked on a square of grass. Instead I found something like the Goodwood Revival paddock transported to central London and spiced with Le Mans cars new and old, modern supercars and more low-chassis lnvictas in a row than I knew were leff.

Draped along the rolling paths through the Royal Hospital’s secret woodland were British road cars of all eras, a temporary Ace Café thronged with bikes and bikers, and in a glade among the trees, a coven of Minis. Pity the skies opened and most of us took shelter where we could. Luckily I made it into the VIP corral where the event’s Sixties Privateers theme had brought together well-known faces from the era. Moss was everywhere as always, but as I sat down with a coffee I found myself among Colin Crabbe, erstwhile F1 privateer whose Aston Zagato was on display, Jean Bloxham, a rapid racer in her day, her husband Mike Salmon, and Peter Sutcliffe, both respected GT pilots. Look out for stories with them in future issues.

I also met Paddy Macklin, son of Lance and grandson of Noel, the driving force behind lnvicta. Despite his pride in his heritage, Paddy is no car man he’s just returned from a solo round the world yacht trip the old-fashioned way. GPS? No thanks he used an atlas… From Paddy I learn that the Macklins, an old Irish family, used to be McLaughlins until an actor forebear simplified it for his ‘bill matter’. And all this conversation was possible as there were no racing engines blaring. I’ve always thought I’d like the Revival even more if there were a ‘quiet’ day in the middle…

Gordon Cruickshank