Wrotham Steam and Classic Rally

Usually the addition of the word Steam to the title of a car rally is a bit of a put off  but nouveau classic owner and TV member Jules is far from worried. In fact these events are useful for him and others in many ways. Read below to find out more as he digs into the scene from his low slung lead replacement viewpoint.  

The opportunity to take our classic car to a show is too good to miss as usually she’s used for commuting, daily drives to shops, schools and swimming pools. She, yes, sorry, Suzie, I know it’s a cliché, yet our car’s a girl, and what a girl. Suzie is a blast. Being so small, light and low to the ground the experience is like driving a comfortable go kart. Who is Susie ? We decided to enter into the classic market  and after the necessary research we settled on a 1970 Austin Healey Sprite; nothing spectacular in terms of ‘classics’, yet a car that will make you smile every time you go out. Suzie does provide a lot of smiles. Get the revs up in the 3500 range and you’ll rock along at a fair pace, not bad for a 47 year old who drinks a little too much and smokes a little more than she should. It’s all fun, and during our short ownership since October 2015 she has already proved her worth in smile factor alone. She hasn’t let us down, with runs to the New Forest and Poole as well as regular trips to the coast, it’s easy to say our classic car experience has been very positive. Let down just the once by the slave cylinder, which incidentally is housed in the gearbox. This is an issue as a replacement part cannot be found so it had to be machined from new.  Yes this came at a cost, yet the result is a clean and solid gear change. Other than that she is as she came to us, a gleaming beauty. Anyway, banging on about my car isn’t the only point of this, it’s the experience of a classic car rally too.

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We departed early on Sunday morning to get this years hit of relationship building with cars, people watching, and of course looking out for any essential future purchases. The car show is only a short hop from home and it was nice to be ferried there by my equally enthusiastic partner Louise. She gave Suzie the appropriate thrashing and we arrived with smiles on our faces and hair windswept, for one of us at least. We joined a queue of early post war cars all waiting patiently behind the inevitable breakdown at the front of the queue. With all the decorum of a streaker at the opera, Suzie rudely broke ranks and pranced past the old timers, bucking and bouncing along the rutted field with her distinct clatter and purr adding to theatre. Suzie is a rebel and teased everyone who then broke ranks and we appeared to be leading a wave of cars toward the now bemused parking marshal. 

Let it be known this wasn’t our first rodeo. We went to the same show the previous year and it was such a good experience that we had to return this year. I’ve never been particularly invested into one subject. I like cars and classics. I can tell you how much you can pick one up for, yet after that my knowledge is pretty limited. So going to this show and possibly having to chat ‘car’ wasn’t high on my list of things to do on a Sunday, yet the eclectic mix of people and personalities proved to be a very enlightening experience. Some of the classic people are absolutely bonkers, and the level of detail they go into can be mind boggling. I had one guy describe his Ford Pop down to the last nut and bolt. I couldn’t help but listen to him, he was hilarious; his monotone drone was completely opposed to the passion reflected in his beaming smile and enthused expression. Again this year I was delighted when I heard a small boy (no more than ten years old) excitedly say to his dad, ‘look at that SAAB, it’s not just any SAAB it’s a SAAB Sonnet 3, not only that, it’s got pop ups’ ... that’s when he lost me. I knew it was a SAAB, yet that was about it.  His excitement was infectious, and anyone in earshot turned to look at what he was taking about.

We immediately headed off at the slow paced wander reserved for museums, art galleries and of course, a boot fair. Dragging our feet through the tall grass we made our way past a mix of e types, Fords and Morris Minors. For the classic car nuts, everything was there, new mark 1 escorts, to old…. I have no idea what the oldest is in this context, yet you see where I’m going with this. It’s easy to get lost in the detail of these cars, and spend far to long admiring the lines that gives each one of these classics their individuality. Once past the social barriers of starring at someone’s car whilst they are, on occasion, sat in it; you can become immersed in the character and feel of the car. If you’re up for just wandering past a load of pretty cars on a sunny day, get yourself to a classic car show! 

Moreover the mix of people attending these shows is great. Walk along the market and you’ll hear the banter of a proper market trader and the excuses of the fake interested buyer. You can find yourself rubbing shoulders with a collector of toys cars one moment, and swerving the sweaty shirtless the next. Here you have it all, a constant source of entertainment every which way you turn. Arguments and heated discussions seem to be founded in all social gatherings, and the classic car show doesn’t disappoint. As is the weary companion, resignedly following the invested party with a look of fiend interest. 

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Cars are exciting, and in the dawn of the electric age, classics could be considered to be the pinnacle of when personality was truly reflected in car design. Not to be mistaken with a brand or brand values, personality goes to much deeper, Modern day cars struggle to find the individuality that classics naturally possess. Touch screens and generic formats appearing to be the order of the day. Classic Car (and Steam) shows are important and for everyone young and old.  Make sure you go to one soon.

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