By Mike Peake.
The scenery couldn’t have contrasted more with our last tour if it tried. I don’t think I have ever been anywhere so devoid of hills. I have no idea how the hill start on the driving test is done round here but as Lady Sandra pointed out, the sky is big.
Let me start by introducing the cars and crews that set off on the tour.
Our 1st stop was Coningsby airfield, home of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, where we parked up at the viewing spot to look at the Spitfire parked on the apron. We were also lucky enough to be there when the DC3 Dakota taxied out and took off. It even did a few fly pasts for us before setting off with a waggle of its wings, for an air show somewhere in the country.
Of course no group meet would be complete without trying to squeeze fat blokes into small cars and this time Gar and I had to shoehorn ourselves into Tosh’s inaccurately named Austin Big 7 for the amusement of all. (It’s really not nice to laugh at the fat blokes you know! Oh…actually… I see your point!)
The next leg had us winding through some picturesque Lincolnshire villages before ending up at the Kinema in the Woods. This quaint, very old fashioned cinema still had the old fashioned organ that came out of the floor at the start of the old silent films and I would love to have had the time to stop and maybe watch some classic Laurel and Hardy.
However, our head count of cars came up short by 3. Missing were Malc and Les in their Pristine 26K-miles-from-new Austin Cambridge, Kevin and Sheila in their candy pink mobile disco Reliant Rialto and Ash and Thomas in their Mini Scamp. The Scamp pulled in a short while later with the news that Kevin’s enthusiasm had got the better of him and he failed to notice the huge Cambridge had stopped in front of him. Fortunately, no one was physically hurt but the mental scars resulting from having pride and joys damaged will stay with everyone concerned. Kevin will now be fitting proximity activated inflatable crash bags to the front of his pink marvel and on future tours will be forced to set off 5 minutes before everyone else.
Drama over, Lord Simpson of Boston announced that there was an outdoor big screen showing of the Dam Busters movie that evening and this was where you could buy tickets. So we did, like a shot.
The next - thankfully uneventful - leg had us winding through some picturesque potholes and broken roads to the Petwood Hotel.
The Petwood is a beautiful Tudor-looking hotel and was also the off-duty home of the officers of the RAF 617 "Dam Busters" Squadron during the war. It is packed with memorabilia, including the remains of one of the famous bouncing bomb prototypes. After visiting Derwent dam on our last tour, it was great to carry on the theme on this tour and I was getting even more excited about the film that evening.
We stopped here for a very nice lunch in the perfectly manicured grounds. It was the perfect experience of how the posh folks like Lord and Lady Simpson live every day. The airborne theme was also continued as other posh types took off in their helicopter from the hotel grounds.
The final stop of the day was at the Thorpe Camp Visitor centre. It is charming little museum largely centred around 617 Squadrons wartime adventures but also into the Cold War with the Lightning and Bloodhound SAM outside. Apologies to all those I bored to death with my commentary.
It had been a great day with some lovely driving and fascinating stops and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but it was time to head back to the camp for tea and chat before going to the film. Anita was with Gar in the 80 year old Austin Big 7 and Howard was leading the small convoy of cars that were returning via the fuel stop.
Howard was driving his lovely Ford Popular but his after-market indicators weren’t working and he was using hand signals very effectively. It was all going well and a couple of right hand turns had been successfully navigated. It was when we came to a left turn that it all fell apart.
Howard executed the perfect “I am turning left” hand signal. However Gar and Anita interpreted this signal as “I’ve decided to go this way but you pass me and lead the convoy the wrong way as you have no idea where you’re going” - which they did. I did know what Howard's signal meant so we stopped at the side of the road trying to phone them to point out their error.
After the petrol station, it was time for a bit of a change around. Gar wanted to have a drive of Poppy so I found myself in the privileged position of driving Tosh’s Big 7 with Anita by my side. Here I was being allowed to drive someone else’s 80 year old car and Anita and I had HUGE grins on our faces. It was so much fun. OK, it wasn’t by any means quick and the brakes were merely “adequate” when compared to more modern systems. When you turned the steering wheel, it was no more than a suggestion that the car may follow if and when it felt like it but all that helped in forming the car’s character and charm. We loved it.
When we got back to the site, we stood around chatting about the great day and the cars. If I thought the mickey-taking about my boot lid was over, I was sadly mistaken. Lord Simpson wanted in on the act and gave me a book called Paint Craft to much hilarity in the group.
Actually, it looks a jolly useful book and I shall study it fully. Thanks, John!
Gus fired up the BBQ and us plebs gathered around to cook a variety of dead animals. Lord and Lady Simpson of Boston however, settled down to a 5 course meal with Lady Sandra’s Lady in Waiting, Bridget and John’s Batman Howard in attendance.
The rest of us looked on longingly and it paid off. Lady Simpson took pity on us plebs and shared a stunning, multi-layered, amoretto soaked, cream and raspberry gateau that she had knocked up in the caravan earlier that evening.
The gateau was quickly demolished and it was time to head back to Petwood House where the outdoor screening was to take place. Stuffing five fatblokes, Mrs FB, Bella the dog and all the required deckchairs into Gars Zafira was a bit of a challenge, but we made it.
Although I must have seen the Dam Busters hundreds of times and almost know it off by heart, it was a fantastic experience to see it on the big screen at such an appropriate venue. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Yes we may have frozen to within an inch of our lives but it was fantastic and a great evening with great people.
Sunday morning started out clear and warm and stayed lovely nearly all day. Our cars were moved over to the show field and were soon joined by plenty of other cars including our ageing hippy renegade Ford sub-section (you know who you are!). A great day was had sitting in the sun and chatting with old and new friends. It was particularly good to see BL Dan and his good lady again.
Cars of note for me were Carl Dennis’s Austin Princess 3.0l Farina. It was probably the biggest car at the show.
John and Elaine Fisher’s Crayford convertible Mini was probably the smallest car in the show. They share my love of these little cars but have taken it to the next level. They have rather a lot of Mini and Mini-derived cars and they kept going home to bring another one of their collection.
Speaking of Mini-derived cars, Ash Lakey and his son Thomas were certainly enjoying their Scamp. Seeing 5 year old Thomas sat on his Dad’s lap and confidently steering it around the site brought back lots of memories of me doing the same with my Dad and my daughters.
Another of my favourites was Dean Berresford’s lovely 1989 XJS. It was the 3.6l straight six FHC. I love this car and would seriously consider adding one to my collection one day. I actually prefer the straight six to the vaunted V12. In my opinion, it is much more usable with 30mpg and with only 6 cylinders. It is much less scary to a bumbling, incompetent home mechanic like me. I also love those “flying buttresses” coming off the back window. Again, in my opinion, much better looking than the convertibles. Looking through e-Bay, it would appear this car is becoming quite rare now so that Lotto win seriously needs to hurry up.
Finally, this gorgeous Riley owned by Barry Holden. Mainly because it just looked beautiful but also because it was experiencing boot lid difficulties. Barry was doing the sensible thing though. He’d sent it off to someone that knew what they were doing.
The show drew to a close and many sad farewells were said. Having sat in one place all day, Anita and I had a bit of wanderlust though and fancied a jolly jaunt. Skegness wasn’t far so why not pop along and get a bit of seaside, we thought?
Lady Sandra did warn us that it was a bit like Blackpool but we’ve never been there either. The drive there was very pleasant despite the ominous clouds in front of us but we made it and stayed dry. Well, Skeggy was umm, an experience. We’ll leave it at that. We did have some of the nicest fish and chips though and we spotted a Mini and Poppy started again despite not charging all weekend. Unfortunately, it started to rain as we were leaving so I manually flicked on the contact so the battery could charge and I could use lights and wipers.
This happy situation didn’t last long as we started to smell something getting really, really hot in a burning plastic electrical way. Needless to say, I stopped and switched the regulator back off and continued with our drive back to base camp peering round the rain drops.
We had a jolly nice evening though and I only had to put up with Anita moaning about sleeping on the floor in a tent for one more night.
Bank Holiday Monday morning now and, unbelievably, it was still warm and sunny. As we had drunk all the Merlot, OK, I’ll rephrase that. As I had drunk all the Merlot, we were able to get everything back into Poppy and all tucked in without having to put the roof up. We were set for a lovely drive home. We said our goodbyes to the remaining campers, Howard and Bridget and Lord and Lady Simpson, during which we had the singular honour to be invited back to the Simpsons stately pile for a spot of lunch. An invitation that we sadly had to decline as we had a slightly poorly Poppy and if we did have to rely on the AA, we wanted to have a sporting chance of arriving home at some time on the Monday.
Thank you for the kind offer though. Maybe next time?
Car loaded goodbyes said; it was time to leave so I turned the key on Poppy. She turned over VERY sluggishly but just as John set off to get his booster pack, Poppy fired up and we were off.
Despite the ignition light, we had a very pleasant ride home. The way the deck chairs were packed also acted as a very passable wind deflector, making us even comfier and allowing us to go all the way home without having to put the roof back up because Anita’s hair was "tired”.
OK, we did need a bump start in the McDonalds car park at Towcester, but I had parked facing down a slight hill and a kind gent offered to help Anita push, so all was good. (What? Anita had the option to be in the driver’s seat but she chose to push! Honest!) It was at this point that we also realised that all our electrickery had finally run out so we had to resort to hand signals.
After Howards brave attempt at signalling a left turn, I realised that he and I were probably the only ones that knew proper hand signals and if other classic car drivers like Gar didn’t know them, what hope did I have surrounded by muggles in their moderns? So I made Mrs FB stick her arm out for the left turns.
We finally made it home after 474 miles under mostly our own steam. The car was unpacked and one more bump start from my eldest daughter this time, Poppy was snuggled up in her lock up and we could put our feet up with a nice cup of tea.
This just leaves me to say a huge thank you to Sandra and John for organising such a great weekend and I’m looking forward to next year already. Thanks also to everyone who joined in and created a fun time and I really Hope Malc and Les Shaw haven’t been put off joining us in the future.
Finally, Anita and I would like to announce our very favouritist car of the weekend. Of course it is Tosh and Gus Brook’s Austin Big 7. I really loved this 80 year old original and unrestored car and a big thank you to the brothers for their generosity in allowing us all to clamber in and around, drive and just enjoy this wonderful piece of history.
Well my new voltage regulator is ordered so I expect you will hear from me soon. Also, our next event in the Welsh Wales valleys is happening soon, so check out our events section both here on the website and on our Facebook page.
See you soon.
Fatbloke and Poppy.
Filter by Author
Filter by Month