Historic scene with Gordon Cruickshank

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WB lots fetch lots and lots
Brooklands Museum secured a slice of its own history when Bill Boddy’s wonderful memorabilia trove was auctioned recently

Almost 200 bidders and a clean slate – that was the end result of the Bill Boddy auction. And the priceless Brooklands records, saved by WB and crucial to the history of the Track, have returned to their proper home.

“We managed to get all those items we had identified as being crucial,” Museum director Allan Winn told me afterwards. “And I was able to buy some things in the ‘desirable but not essential’ category, too. But as they came up early, I couldn’t risk blowing my ‘war chest’ so I could only buy some of those – social things, staff badges and so on.”

Amid fears of the historic Brooklands items going abroad, Winn was able to find a generous private backer to assist, but the purchase has nevertheless taken a major slice out of the museum’s budget as many of the 13 ‘core’ items crossed the £4000 mark. However, historians were alarmed by the idea of these irreplaceable elements of Brooklands heritage – the original BARC minute books, stewards’ notes, record certificates and entry forms – not returning to the Clubhouse where they were handwritten a century ago, so the contribution of Winn’s ‘angel’ was a relief. Allan tells me he’s one of the ‘President’s Club’, a loose association of a dozen owners of significant Brooklands cars, with Lord March as figurehead.

Had WB not preserved them, these leather-bound treasures would be long gone; now, says Winn, they will be conserved and then digitised so anyone can access them.

One Brooklands item that went elsewhere was the barograph the BARC used to predict the racing weather.

It went for £1600 – “the Bill Boddy connection,” said Peter Card of auction house TCA. “That’s double the usual. His Breitling Navitimer watch also went for double, and yet there were some lovely early brochures that went surprisingly cheaply.”

At the preview I was amazed at the range and quality of these catalogues, along with prints, drawings and thousands of photographs. Winn was particularly sorry not to get the box of images of social events at Brooklands, or the set featuring lady racing drivers, but hopes these will in time surface in an archive. Still, he was delighted with obtaining a scrapbook of photos, cuttings and notes on the Hann brothers’ racing – “such a rare thing, a snapshot of the Twenties” – and also the winner’s silk banner for the 1937 500 Miles race, a prime display item.

Before the sale I was able to get a better view of WB’s notebooks than when I visited the house last year. Much more neatly written than the late-in-life scrawl I had to decipher when I was handling his copy for the mag, these gave a fascinating peek into Bill’s early life. Purely for himself, the schoolboy WB wrote fluent articles on marques and races, unaware he would later put versions of them into print, while in his early magazine days he recorded trips in everything he drove, down to the lowliest Morris 8 hired from a Streatham garage.

There was much more ‘memoraBillia’ too – menus, dance cards, club flyers. I’d love to investigate these. The boxful reached £1400, while the lot including Bill’s own first issue of The Brooklands Gazette hit £3200. By the close of a long day everything had sold, including all WB’s cars – even the wheel-less Léon Bollée pick-up. But if anything surprised me it was WB’s nicely mounted bit of Brooklands banking, priceless to him, going for only £320. Yes, it’s a lump of concrete – but it is a bit special.

Chanel hopping
Touring Europe has become a doddle, but wasn’t always so in a converted Morris minibus

Our smooth, rapid Euroshuttle run to Ypres (see right) took less time than driving from London to York, including crossing the wet bit – a contrast to my early family trips to the Continent (it wasn’t even Europe then) in the early Sixties. Going Abroad was then a rare adventure, and WWII remaind a clear memory: French people waved and gave V for Victory signs (don’t crack that smile, it was the friendly palm-out version) at cars wearing the GB oval, seen as France’s liberators.

We toured in a Morris minibus that my grandfather had converted into a compact motorhome lit by hissing gas lamps, and we roamed over France and Italy cheerfully heedless of safety: no one wore seatbelts and I wobbled my way around Le Continong perched in the back on a folding stool playing with my Lone Star Locos (still in a box in the study) while my sisters lolled on the benches.

Back then a drive-on ferry was still novel enough to have its own title – Ro-Ro, for roll-on, roll-off – but Customs was ever a labour of paperwork, and returning from one tour my father stepped into the Douane with a sigh. He came back clutching his sides.

Waving his pen the Customs man asked “Your name, and name of ze car, pliss?” Dad explained it was a Morris minibus, and the French form-filler carefully wrote: “Monsieur Maurice Minibusse…”

A sprint as well as a marathon
Classic rallying has a huge following nowadays, but in the late 1980s remained very much in its infancy

I went to Belgium for dinner. It was for the start of the 25th Classic Marathon, the event that kick-started the classic rally movement. Hard to imagine that 25 years ago, if you owned a Singer Vogue, Triumph Herald convertible or Rover 3-litre, the most fun you could have in it was going to the pub on a sunny day. Then, following a couple of pioneering classic events, long-distance rally fan Philip Young decided to invite 60 owners to hammer hell out of their cherished wheels for a whole week over tortuous roads all the way to Italy. And back. Almost forgot that bit, as did most of us who, having slithered up and down every Alp Young could stitch together, arrived at Cortina d’Ampezzo, had a bowl of pasta and turned around to start the second half. And we were having a (short) sleep each night. I can’t imagine what Liège-Sofia-Liège was like.

Organiser Jeremy Dickson, who now runs the Marathon as the CRA half of HERO, had managed to get Pirelli back on board for this silver anniversary event (perhaps it needed some good exposure), so I felt at home – especially as my mount and driver for the ’89 event were entered.

Despite owning Eagle, which specialises in radically upgrading E-types, Henry Pearman has kept our winning Series 1 3.8 pretty much as it was in 1989, apart from knocking out the scars from where we had to biff a truck aside to hit our target time. It may be a regularity event now, but those early Marathons felt like seriously high-pressure stop-start road races, and on traffic-clogged stretches such as along Lake Como we spent lo-o-ong moments on the ‘British’ side of the road to jump the jams and hit our control without racking up the single Fail that would have lost us our Alpine Cup, and the event. But on the open stretches, slewing up the zig-zag tyre-howling Stelvio or slithering down the gravelled Gavia, half-watching Henry flick the wheel lock to lock past unprotected sheer drops as I juggled stopwatch, map and calculator – well, that was pretty bloody exciting. More so when we had a series of punctures while leading: on three successive stages Henry desperately changed tubes at the side of the road using tyre levers as rivals streaked past (mostly pausing to offer help – it’s a friendly sport). And then we had to overhaul them again on snaking mountain single-trackers, each car with two wheels in the ditch – well, that wasn’t so dull either.

So while I felt a pang at not being able to partner Henry this time, giving his rally rookie co-driver Karen a crash course in tulips and timing made me feel a bit better. So did wearing my 1988 Marathon sweatshirt to the send-off dinner on a tiny island in the moat around the Ypres ramparts, where I met fellow veteran Roy Hatfield among half a dozen pioneers of that seminal event about to tackle the Ardennes, the Jura and the Dolomites. Good to see Peter and Betty Banham on hand with tool kit too – the ever-cheerful pair competed on the first Marathon but are better known as the event’s flying fixit crew.

I did that first Marathon in a Sunbeam Rapier, so I was pleased to see Rapiers come second and third this year, behind the 911 of Charles Colson and Guy Woodcock. And ‘our’ bronze E-type, still wearing number ‘34’ from 24 years back, got into the upper half of the field. Since Henry is more used to racing a Porsche 962 than doing 17mph in regularity runs, that’s not bad for a ‘rookie’ crew.

Dream garage
What we’d blow the budget on this month

Duncan Hamilton
Ferrari 365BB Spyder
Jenks used to argue that these had 180-degree vees rather than flat-12s. He might also point out that Ferrari never made a Boxer Spyder; this was converted later.
£95,000, www.duncanhamilton.com

Richard Thorne
Carver One
If your Lamborghini is too ordinary (or too wide), slip into a Carver and pretend you’re flying an attack helicopter. Skinny supercar or weatherproof ’bike? Fly it and see.
£29,995, www.rtcc.co.uk

All Aston Martin
Aston Martin DB6 Volante
As successor to the more famous DB4 and 5, the 6 had more room and the flip-up tail suits the convertible better than the coupé. This one packs power steering and hood, too.
£399,950, www.allastonmartin.com