It all started about 15 years or so ago, when one Triumph owner said to another, “Do you want to go to England” to get some parts at a “TR Spares Show?”. “Spares” is parts in the Queen’s proper English. And so it began. For many years the Stoneleigh Park Triumph Spares show was the “go to” place, myself joining in the pilgrimage on what became the largest group, in 2003. About of a dozen of us from our local Triumph club, the DVT went on a 3-day adventure to rummage through parts bins looking that that bit made of un-obtainium here in the states. Gearboxes and overdrive were disassembled in hotel rooms that later made theirway to our cars and Carlisle.
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Fast forward to 2016. The offer was extended again, this time not one but two trade shows! Being a Triumph guy, the reason to make this journey is deeply anchored in attending the now TR/MG spares show and the next weekend at Stoneleigh Park was another show called “Race-retro” an international historic motorsports show. Hmm? Two shows, one each weekend? Just what could we do with the week between? That didn’t take long to figure that out!
Our fearless leader Bob, contacted just about everyone in England who ever had anything to do with motorcars and made arrangements for what would become our longest adventure ever! Originally, the title for this report was going to be: One classic British car show, two auto jumble/trade shows, 200 miles to British car test roads, one steam railway, two racetracks, one factory tour, five British car museums, one very old warship, one dinner with well-known motorcar author, one UK TR Club meeting, 1100 miles of UK roads, 2200 miles of hedgerow, countless roundabouts (some twice), a dozen pubs and of course 68 pints of English beer, but I thought that was too long?
Anyway, this year, the four of us hit the ground running at Heathrow with about 90 minutes of sleep and headed directly for the Excel Centre to attend a new show now in its 2nd year, the London Classic Car Show. This very large convention center had two large halls filled with all that the UK and Europe has to offer, from Alfa to Wolseley they were all there showing off their finest. What a great show! Prewar, postwar, modern super cars and rally cars, all sports or racing cars. Parts vendors and fellow British car restorers were there to show off their talent, history and heritage. There was a very strong presence of the Jaguar E-Type as almost every aisle you walked through there was yet another restored Jaguar. Many were for sale or better yet wonderful recreations of the E-Type with stronger, light and better materials are now offered in the marketplace! I also had the pleasure of meeting Philip Porter, the Jaguar book author that is very well known for his reference books. Every hour cars were paraded through a motorway inside the arena! Those rally drivers really like their gas pedals! Sir Stirling Moss was there signing autographs (man he gets around!) This show had lots of automobilia, top auto artists showing off their creations, auction companies, UK car clubs and some very historic racecars! Well worth the visit.
Later we headed northwest to Kenilworth and made a quick preview stop at Stoneleigh for a peek before they opened the next day. After pub grub, beer and bed, we were ready to dig through countless bins and tables looking for those rare bits and parts for our cars. As chance had it, I had the pleasure of meeting three fellow Triumph Italia owners at Stoneleigh through something called Facebook? Who knew? Our spares success was measured by the increased weight of our bags when we checked at Heathrow a week later! At lunch, we also shared a pint or two with a former Jaguar employee who was responsible for the quality of the Jaguar SIII engines as they came back with warranty work. He was quick to tell us that the warranty period is over! His picture is in the slide show if you want to identify him! I picked a nice B.A.R.C. Brooklands badge and we went to the pub for dinner…and beer.
With our first weekend behind us it was time for us to hit the open road. With Mark at the wheel and after a good deal of research by Lou and his intensive google map review, we are headed out on what was and still is the test roads used many English car manufactures. After getting lost and found a couple of times (near top secret military sites!) we came to find that their test routes usually included an acceleration run up a hill, a pub at the top and a downhill brake test! We did actually spot what we think was the new Jaguar SUV on a test run! (white plate/red letters) Driving through the English countryside was very nice as we were now in the heart of Cotswolds. We circumvented Chipping Campden several times! That’s another story. I have been before and it’s a beautiful English village not to be missed!
Not in our plans, we came upon the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway where we were given a full shop tour of the Toddington yard including the loco shop where we found six steam engines under various stages of restoration! Now cut off from the railroad mainline, some 900 volunteers keep this Cotswold vintage railroad operational for their tourist season. What a treat!
We stopped later to visit the Bugatti Trust, a small building rich with Bugatti history located at the foot of Prescott Hill where many came and still come to run the hill climb. UK Bugatti enthusiasts gathered in 1987 led by the late Hugh Graham Conway, and Bugatti Molsheim Limited, created this museum that holds many original archived drawings and photographs of Ettore Bugatti. It’s was truly a gem and a surprise as we deviated from our original itinerary.
Still off course we found a famous motorcycle and sports car race track. The Thruxton Motorsport Centre as it’s known today is the home of BARC British Auto Racing Club which is the equivalent of the SCCA and more here in the states. Still closed for the season we stopped on the BARC office to say hello.
Over the years our group had met Graham Robson off and on as we traveled the UK and he came to the states for our VTRs. We met him for dinner at a pub in Southampton and Graham was his usual charming self. His passion runs deep and his memory is sharp as he recalled the days surrounding the sales of the Jaguar XJ220. He signed a couple of books for Lou. More pints and bed as we were in for a bit of change of pace tomorrow.
It’s mid-week now and are we headed to Portsmouth, one of the major British naval cities and home of the Museum of the Royal Navy. We chose to tour the H.M.S. Victory which is a 104-gun ship of the Royal Navy built in 1759 that fought the war against American rebels and was best known as Lord Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Magnificent!
Later we headed off to Beaulieu for the National Motor Museum best known for their gigantic auto jumble every spring and fall. Fueled by the passion of Lord Montagu’s private collection, and located on his estate, this national museum is now open for all to see. Just outside the front door was an enclosed exhibition of the zany antics of the three “Top Gear” drivers with at least 2 dozen cars from their shows. Can’t help but smile at that! Inside a much more serious exhibition from the dawn of motoring from 1875 to present day F1 technology. At first, one is greeted by a very large collection of brass era cars, classics and the best British and European motorcars and from Lotus, Jaguar, Austin Healey, a large collection of motorcycles and a very nice selection of caravans! This is one of the best, if not the best British car museum I have ever seen! This is a fabulous collection of over 250 cars some in very well done dioramas. While walking up the gangway on the second floor I looked down on some racecars and there it was… the greatest racecar of all time! The 1970 Porsche 917K driven by among many greats, Brian Redman, Jackie Oliver, Derek Bell and of course Steve McQueen, in the movie LeMans! Wow I didn’t see that coming! I also got a shop tour where the staff is currently restoring Lord M’s Ghost! I definitely need to return to the Beaulieu and the National Motor Museum to spend more time! So much to see and take in!
Well worth the visit and their village bakery had delicious Mincemeat squares! That night we attend the Coventry Chapter of the TR Register monthly meeting where we ran into even more Triumph guys, a few of which actually worked for Ken Richardson on the TRS Racing Team at Lemans in 1959-1961 seasons! After a couple pints these guys graced us with some very interesting tales… not the stuff you read in the books!
This was a fantastic week, as we all checked off many items on from our bucket lists! For me, standing on the race track at Brooklands was the best! I did set a new personal best record and drank warm English beer for eight straight nights and I am finding that I sleep better now! Well worth the trip and I was very happy to be part of our longest UK trip with my DVT Triumph buddies.
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Hey…Want to go to England next year to get some spares?