Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The camaraderie of classic car connoisseurs, and my first tastes of Leyland

Written for AROnline

Last Sunday I went to a Rover 800 forum and M+MOC forum meetup at the premises of my friend Mal Watson near York. I met up with several old friends, and met some new faces. However, I will remember the weekend mostly for two things. Mal's barn is on a farm, with several private roads, and I was lucky enough be offered the chance to try two cars I have never driven before.

Firstly, Chris from the Rover 800 board offered me a spin in his Startins Regency. For those who don't know, a Regency is a Rover 827Si with two feet added to the middle. I've always liked big cars, and the Rover 800 is an old favourite, so I relished the opportunity to drive my first 800. The first thing I noticed was that the steering is very light indeed - there is feel but it's a very easy car to drive. Secondly, the extra length didn't seem to adversely affect it that much - only when trying a three point turn - that became 5 due to the width of the roads - did I have any problems. It's also cemented my desire to own an 827 - although maybe not one quite that long to begin with.

Secondly, Ray Greenwood, who had given me a lift up from Sheffield, gave me the keys to his Austin Montego 1.6 Mayfair; the car I used to illustrate my last blog.. This was the first manual car I'd driven since passing my test, so my first thought was not to foul up and stall it before I'd set off. However, the gearbox wasn't a worry at all. What was a concern was the steering. Perhaps I'm a limp-wristed fairy nancy-boy, but I found the non-assisted steering unbelievably heavy - here is a car which needs power assistance. I'm assured by Ray that it frees up at speed. From a passenger's point of view, the car surprised me in it's civility. Even at motorway speeds it was relaxed and quiet; more so even than my father's 2001 Jaguar. A twenty-five year old design it did not seem. Again, I'm impressed enough to want one - although a Vanden Plas EFi auto is more my thing I think.

The event also taught me something that those into the old car scene will appreciate. It's not just about the cars, nor even the shows. It's about the friendships you form. This was the first time I had met Chris, and only the second time I'd met Ray. And yet both were willing to let me drive their cars; when neither had seen me drive before. It was only the second time I'd met Mal Watson, and yet he was kind enough to welcome me into his premises like an old friend. I knew a number of people from previous events, and some were new to me. Yet all of them greeted me as an old comrade, and made me feel at home. And because we are BL enthusiasts, there's no elitism such as you'd find in Mercedes, Jaguar, or Rolls Royce circles. It was the perfect way to end the show season.

Except that it isn't the end. In a fortnight I'm doing the NEC show, which should be just as good.

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