On a perfect summer day, and with spirits high, a total of 29 participating vehicles plus the much appreciated VW support team’s van and their 60 happy occupants departed from Dover on Thursday 19 June bound for Calais and the sun-bathed open roads beyond.
Among those taking part were many members and friends of the Western Group, including (in surname alphabetical order) Reg and Jo Burnard, Kim and Elaine Henson, John Kendall, Julian and Julie Leyton, Andrew and Katherine Morland, Paul Niewenhuis, John and Jan Powell, also Jeremy Walton and Deborah Parrett (above). By my calculations, in total this fine crew represented about 24 per cent of the participating people and cars!
The very wide scope in terms of vehicle choices for this year’s Classic meant that the line-up was even more interesting than usual. For example, the oldest car on the trip was Paul and Josy Buckett’s delightful 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom II, the second oldest being Andrew and Katherine Morland’s beautful 1950 MG YT Tourer. By contrast, ‘modern classics’ incuding several Mazda MX-5s (respectively driven by Natalie and Martin Hall, Chris and Pauline Laming, and John Price Williams with Louise Wood). In addition there was Paul and Ann Harris’s Audi Quattro, Peter and Denni Frater’s 2002 Maserati 4200 Cambiocorsa Spyder, also Martin and Michelle Derrick’s 1996 Bentley Continental R Mulliner Park Ward.
Earlier Bentleys of note taking part were Gordon and Marilyn Bruce’s lovely 1953 R-Type, plus the much-loved oh-so-elegant 1955 R-Type Continental owned for many years by Paul and June Skilleter.
Stuart and Jenetta Bladon brought their elegant 1980 Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible, while at the opposite end of the classic car spectrum was Kim and Elaine Henson’s 1958 Austin A35.
Lotus was ably represented by the 1971 Elan of Peter and Lynne Burgess, while flying the flag for Jaguar were John and Widad Colley (1957 XK 150), Philip and Julie Porter (with their historically important very early E-Type), Ray and Viv Potter (F-Type ‘S’); Ray apologised that the Jensen FF he had planned to bring was not quite ready…
Another vehicle that wasn’t quite ready in time was Kim Henson’s 1972 Reliant Regal three wheeler; in short, despite best efforts, in this particular game of recommissioning a vehicle that had been dormant for 26 years, it was a case of machine 1, man 0… (The good news is that the Reliant now has MoT and tax).
A single Porsche joined the ranks this time; the 1990 911 owned by Ian and Jean Donaldson. Other marques represented on this occasion by single examples were many too. Such cars were the Lancia Beta Spyder of Ashley and Angela Frater, the ultra-low mileage VW Beetle piloted by John Kendall and Paul Nieuwenhuis, the Triumph Stag belonging to Julian and Julie Leyton, the 1953 Morgan Plus 4 of Guy Loveridge and his dad Jim, the 3.0 litre Mark I Ford Granada (above) driven by John and Jan Powell, the 1984 Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV of Tom and Annie Scanlan, and the 1989 BMW M3 2.3 Roberto Ravalia Edition enjoyed by Jeremy Walton and Deborah Parrett.
Wot, no more MGs? Well yes, actually three more – all of which are owned by John Griffiths, who deservedly received an award at the Gala Dinner for his kindness in loaning two of his cars to others so that they could participate. ‘Team Griffiths MG’ comprised the ‘B’ Roadster driven by Reg and Jo Burnard, the MGB GT V8 Sebring piloted by John and Peggy Griffiths, and the TF 160VVC in the care of Bob and Constance Kocher. It should be mentioned that Bob and Constance, having previously enjoyed taking part in a ‘Classic’, made a special effort to fly thousands of miles from their native United States, specifically to join in with the fun this year too. All agreed that it was very good to see them again, and they seemed to enjoy the event.
Travelling this time in a ‘future classic’ Honda were Jim and Annie Forrest plus Michael and Mary Bailie, and in the ‘possibly not quite yet classic’ VW support van were Mark Fowler and Josh McCann.
By the way, it was pointed out by Julian Leyton that the only two participating vehicles from ‘now defunct’ manufacturers were his Triumph Stag and the Austin A35 (well spotted Julian!).
The participants for this year’s Classic (which, by the way, was over-subscribed) had met at the Battle of Britain Museum on the historic Hawkinge Aerodrome, before undertaking the short drive to Dover, to board the P and O vessel ‘Spirit of France’. Lunch was enjoyed aboard as the French coast beckoned in the sunshine.
On arrival in Calais, the assortment of vehicles headed westwards, many in small groups or individually, their drivers and passengers enjoying the undulating coast road and the sunlit, sparkling blue sea to the north, as the coastal resorts of Wissant and Wimereux came and went, and busy Boulogne was deliberately by-passed.
After a 55 mile run on French roads, the imposing, appropriately-named Grand Hotel at Le Touquet was reached. This was to be the Classic’s base for the following three nights.
In the evening, a short coach trip took the Classickers to the surprise venue of the nearby Casino Barrière, where a champagne reception ‘en plein air’ was enjoyed, followed by a superb meal. For those who wished, there was also the opportunity to play the games and lose a little cash too… Both this meal and lunch aboard the ferry were kindly sponsored by Chris Laming and P and O Ferries.
It was a very enjoyable evening, but during the course of it all present were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of the ever-enthusiastic Clive Jacobs, instigator of the Guild Euro Classic events. The first of these took place in Brittany in 2001.
The following morning (Friday 20 June) dawned with the hotel bathed in warm sunshine, and saw participants setting off on a relaxing day out, with no major time pressures. Some chose to meander their own way around the local area, with no fixed agenda, while others preferred to follow the pre-planned routes, with a variety of optional places of interest to stop at along the way. Most took advantage of the opportunity to halt for a while in the town of Fruges for a coffee or tea at one of the cafés in the main square.
The Agincourt battle site was the next attraction, followed by the charming walled town of Montreuil sur Mer, before the return drive to Le Touquet.
Friday evening saw everyone dining in the Grand Hotel’s restaurant, a pleasant and informal dinner being the order of the day.
Participants awoke to another beautiful morning on the Saturday of the event (21 June), and after a good breakfast, set off to enjoy the day. Some visited the local market and the town of Le Touquet, while others ventured further afield.
First stop on the day’s pre-planned route was the small town of Crécy, where refreshments could be enjoyed in the local cafés, and some chose also to visit the small museum nearby, and/or walk to the nearby church.
Next on the agenda was the pleasant town of St. Valery sur Somme, located on the Somme estuary, but having the air of a seaside resort. With flower-bedecked houses, lovely views across the estuary from the promenade, plenty of places to eat and drink, and the medieval part of town to explore, this was a popular halt for the Classickers.
In the late afternoon, participants returned to the Grand Hotel at Le Touquet, to get ready to enjoy the Gala Dinner kindly sponsored by Paul Buckett and Volkswagen UK. The evening was an entirely happy affair, with chat a-plenty, and short speeches from Paul Buckett, Paul Harris and Guild Chairman Guy Loveridge, who was participating in a Guild Classic for his first time and he was highly impressed.
As Saturday night turned into Sunday morning, some classic music tracks enlivened the dining room at the Grand Hotel, and the floor was filled with Classickers dancing. Rumour has it that there may have been some Western Group input into the impromptu ‘disco’.
Perhaps it was a dream, but I also seem to recall that the Western Group participants were all on the dance floor strutting their stuff… Who knows how far into the early hours this activity might have extended, had it not been for the accidental breakage of a vital power cable, bringing the merriment to a halt.
RUN FOR HOME…
Sunday 22 June was yet another hot, sunny day, seeing the Classic participants undertaking the relatively short dash back to Calais, to cross the Channel to Dover at around lunchtime. Most were on the 12.35 sailing aboard the ‘Spirit of Britain’, where, again due to the kind generosity of Chris Laming and P and O Ferries, an excellent lunch was enjoyed.
On arrival at Dover the Classickers said their goodbyes for another year, and drove homewards on a beautiful afternoon.
A PERSONAL NOTE
My wife Elaine and I feel very fortunate to have been able to take part in all 15 ‘Euro Classic’ events to date; they have all been different in nature, and we have enjoyed every one.
However, in common with many others taking part, we felt that this year’s was particularly special. It was well-organised yet with built-in flexibility, providing some great driving opportunities but also allowing plenty of free time, and enabling people easily to opt out of some of the pre-planned driving routes and ‘do their own thing’ if they wished.
Notably too, there was a great spirit of friendship and cameraderie among all who attended. In addition, those taking part for the first time this year said that they were made to feel very welcome.
Here’s to the next one then…
Grateful thanks are due to all involved in the organisation and running of this year’s momentous Guild Classic. These include Paul and Ann Harris, plus, from PFPR, Peter, Denni and Ashley Frater. A huge amount of ‘behind the scenes’ work was carried out by the team to ensure that everyone had a good time. (Incidentally, the format for this year’s excellent event took into account the views of Guild members, based on the survey that Peter Frater carried out in 2013, of participants from the three previous Classics).
The generosity and invaluable assistance provided by long-time supporters of our Guild Classic events, Chris Laming of P and O Ferries, and Paul Buckett of Volkswagen UK, is also acknowledged with gratitude and thanks. In reality, without such support such events could not happen…
Last, but not least, several participants this year (myself included!) were truly thankful for the cheerful, knowledgeable and freely-given assistance provided by Mark Fowler and Josh McCann (VW technical staff team) in times of technical challenges provided by some of the vehicles.
Troubles raising their ugly heads included a small, fuse-related problem on one of the MGBs, and, more seriously, the breakdown of the complex in-tank fuel pump on the E-Type (Mark and Josh rebuilt the pump from scratch), plus failure of the cylinder head gasket on the Austin A35 (a new gasket – fortunately carried since 1985 in the A35’s boot) was installed with the Austin in the hotel car park).
Mark and Josh worked hard to ensure that all the vehicles were running and able to return to the UK under their own power! Thanks chaps.
It is not yet known when next year’s Guild Classic will take place, nor where, nor the format it might take. However it is already known that some other Western Group members (who are also members of the Guild) have expressed interest in possibly joining in. My advice, for what it’s worth… If you do wish to take part, you will need to book early as the event’s popularity is growing and the available places tend to be snapped up very fast.
Always (and especially thanks to the sponsorship of the event) the fee charged for attendance represents extremely good value. It is worth noting too that any surplus made on the event is donated to the worthy cause of the Guild’s Benevolent Fund.