Campbells and oddballs
Deep in the grounds of an ancient Sussex house is a unique memorabilia collection
I like a jumble. Show me a collection bursting at the seams and I’m entranced. So for me a day at the Filching Manor Motor Museum in Sussex was a working holiday.
The collection was mostly amassed by the late Paul Foulkes-Halbard, a larger-than-life enthusiast who scooped up anything that excited him, from cars to cigarette cards, and carried them to his secluded 15th-century home. As his son Karl explained, he was passionate about the Campbells, collecting anything relating to them and befriending Leo Villa, engineer to both Malcolm and Donald. Which is why as we entered the museum and stopped in awe of the crush of objects, the first thing Karl pointed to was Malcolm’s life vest from his water records and a piece of wreckage from Donald’s ill-fated K7 boat.
Villa bequeathed a lot of material to Paul: in a wall case are overalls, helmets, stopwatches and notebooks from various LSR attempts, while elsewhere hang Bluebird test tank models, the original steering wheel from CN7, Donald’s 403mph turbine car, and a pre-WWI radiator thought to be from Malcolm’s Darracq, the first Bluebird. It was only after inspecting a 1930s MG, an Amilcar and a midget racer given to Malcolm by Ford that I noticed the jet engine in the corner, the Beryl that first powered K7.
It’s not all Campbells: 1920s models, board games, photographs, pedal and motor bikes – ‘Peashooter’ Harley racer, the tail-finned ‘dolphin’ fairing from a 1950s DKW – enamel signs, trophies, petrol pumps, pedal cars, aeroplane propellers, all jostling for attention like puppies in a pet shop.
Before we move on Karl points out some snowshoes – “used on one of Captain Scott’s expeditions” – and I stop to peer at some dusty furniture hidden at the back: four chairs and an ivory-inlaid corner cabinet by Carlo Bugatti. You don’t see that every day.
We move up the hill behind the house to the scruffy sheds where the cars are, and the boats. For inside sit Gina Campbell’s powerboat, a replica of K7 built for a BBC drama, and the K3 hydroplane which Malcolm took to three world water records in 1937 and ’38. After 20 years of restoration to its mahogany-ply hull, K3 finally threw up a rooster-tail of spray when Karl set off across Bewl Water in June. Any experience of powerboats, I asked? “Never driven one before in my life,” he shrugged.
As I explained recently here, K3 now runs a V12 R-R tank engine, but Karl led me over to a dusty corner where in a cradle sat a black metal mass – R35, the original Rolls-Royce power plant. Only three of these experimental engines (which led on to the Merlin) remain, and this one is irreplaceable: it carried Malcolm Campbell to both land (301mph) and water (130mph) records.
Crowding another shed are a huge 1904 chain-drive Mercedes, T35 and Brescia Bugattis, Malcolm Campbell’s Weymann-bodied 20hp Rolls, Cooper 500, vast 1930 Marmon… As you see, apart from the record dynasty, Paul F-H wasn’t bothered about themes, only excitement. So the body panels removed from the Mercedes W154 Don Lee ran at Indy in 1947 lie alongside a supercharged DKW bike and a luxurious Delage.
Over a coffee, Karl showed me the manor, one of the few remaining timber-frame Wealden houses to retain a great hall open to the roof. Its antiquity is a huge contrast to the 20th-century endeavours celebrated in the nearby museum.
Museum and kart circuit are open to groups by appointment www.campbellcircuit.co.uk
Chelsea AutoLegends is the only historic car meet that’s handy for the bus and Tube
West London reverberated to a Formula 1 engine in September when an ex-Piquet Benetton announced that Chelsea AutoLegends had again arrived at the Royal Hospital.
Among the trees stretched an impressive row of Le Mans cars from 3-litre Bentley to Porsche GT1 and winning 956, a current Strakka HPD and a lovely but sadly silent Matra MS670, opposite a slice from the amazing Gulf-liveried collection. The British Women Racing Drivers Club celebrated its 50 years with a display featuring that Benetton, currently driven by Lorina McLaughlin. A massive Toyota 4×4 which drove to the South Pole loomed over passers-by to highlight the Walking with the Wounded charity, while deeper in the trees chrome sparkled on the multiple mirrors of the mods on their Lambrettas.
There was forward vision, too, in the Techno Park where the 1000mph Bloodhound SSC (well, a mock-up) sat by the Drayson Lola electric sports car.
After I had admired the wild Lancia Delta S4 and Paddy Hopkirk’s Austrian Alpine-winning Mini, the man himself appeared, jovially wanting to know why I wasn’t entering the Paralympics. (I did once represent Great Britain at table tennis in a disabled games; I was soundly thrashed in round one.)
It has a pleasant, laid-back feel, this gathering, and with its central London location and eclectic mix – Top Fuel dragsters, supercars, custom bikes and classics of all types – it’s a nice contrast to a race meeting. But unless you’re in the supercar parade, don’t come by car.
Royal seal of approval
The regal surroundings of Windsor Castle don’t quite overshadow some of the world’s finest cars
Followed a Bugatti Royale down the road the other day. Not a replica, but the Kellner coupé leaving the Windsor Castle Concours and pushing through the traffic like any hatchback.
I tend to shy away from concours, especially when I hear of imperfect original metal being stripped from a historic car and replaced with new so that it can look perfect on a display stand. Thus I had mixed feelings as I rode up the Long Walk for the latest high-glamour event. In Diamond Jubilee year it was a coup to set it here, and the lawns of the Inner Ward of the castle, overlooked by the Round Tower, made a spectacular setting for gleaming cars, including some from the Petersen, Mullin and Keller collections.
Earliest was Mike Timms’ 1896 Panhard et Lévassor Omnibus, which he tells me happily hauls eight people to Brighton, but a slew of classes allowed modern supercars to sit beside heroic one-offs such as the Corsica-bodied Daimler Double Six, looking as though it had escaped from Monte Carlo or Bust, the 1934 Le Mans-winning Alfa 8C 2300, a lovely Pinin Farina Bristol 400 and that bizarre Deco Jonckheere Rolls Royce Phantom with its circular doors.
Some entries were proudly unglossy – bravo Nick Benwell’s Shelsley ’Nash and Bill Ainscough’s Prince Bernhard Alfa 2.9. My own highlights were a ‘skimpy’ Squire and a pair of Bentleys I’d sell my soul for: the angular Vesters & Neirinck 4¼ coupé and the Embiricos streamliner (above). I last saw the latter in Arturo Keller’s collection in California’s Napa Valley. The aero-experiment is utterly perfect now, but I preferred it when it used to looked ‘lived in’.
Despite my wry eye there was much to admire here that you wouldn’t otherwise see in one place.
I’m not sure if it’s on for 2013, but start saving: entry plus programme came to £50.
What we’d blow the budget on this month
Ferrari 250GT LWB
The first of the second series, this is one of nine built. Featured in The Love Bug, it won a class award at the 2011 Quail Motorsports Gathering and has Ferrari Classiche certification
Morgan Plus 8
This 1997 model is painted ‘Rolls Royce velvet green’ and is powered by a whopping Rover 3.9-litre V8. Walnut dash and wire wheels evoke perfectly Morgan’s past glories
Retro Track & Air
Raced by David Prophet in South Africa when new in 1964, it was used by the Ashmore brothers in the UK between ’65 and ’66. It has twice competed at the Goodwood Revival
Chassis 02 is an ex-Alan Jones F1 car from 1976. It has just undergone a major overhaul by WDK and is powered by a fresh Richardson short-stroke Cosworth DFV. Ready to race
£250,000 Email [email protected]