The Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne is a spectacular location in sunny weather. Even when the mist is swirling around the base of the cliffs far below the unprotected cliff top location it is equally magnificent! This year I counted over 150 vehicles and this show gets better year on year if the weather is favourable in either respect. With this show you need a classic car that is about 30 years old. That meant of the five AROCKES members that attended there were three classic Alfas displayed and two very different vehicles from another marque also owned and cherished by section members.
The history and evolution of the Memorial is covered in last year’s report which was also a fantastic and equally memorable show as the weather was again near perfect all day. We were also privileged again this year to receive the attention of Spitfires buzzing around the site all day from about 1030, and the roar of the Merlin engines was an uplift and attention grabber during the course of the day. Last year there was a trophy for best classic in show but this year there wasn’t … I did wait till four in the afternoon and was one of the last to leave but this sadly did not happen, shame really as it always tops a show off a treat. That said, the organisers are a really chilled out crew, do a fantastic job and made me welcome last year when I attended in the 2016 Alfa MiTo. This is one of the friendliest, best organised classic car shows that I have attended in the last five years and that is all down to the organisers – so hats off to them – if only all classic events were this intimate, chilled out and friendly.
Attending members were: Jill & Andrew Fulcher in the 1976 Mercedes LS1418 11 litre 192 BHP Tractor Unit; Jack Hodson in The Alfa 155 Q4; myself in the Alfa 1992 S4 Spider; Steven Jackson in his Alfa 1991 S4 Spider and last but by no means least Graham Duplock in an absolute treasure of a 1968 Porsche 911 L. They are all magnificent vehicles in their own right and all with an individual history and relevance.
This is the first time I have had a chance to have a close up look at Jack Hodson’s 155 since most of the interior was out at the Historic Masters at Brands Hatch in 2018 when I first met the vehicle.
This 155 has the same 2 litre engine, gear box and four wheel drive system found in the Integrale and Coupe. It is rated as 190 brake horse power and is fitted with a Squadra Tuning Chip. This lovely car was used daily for ten years and has been owned by Jack since he was 18 years old in 2004, the vehicle being made in 1993. It is an ongoing restoration and currently Jack is considering an all four corner wheel refurbishment. To experience the power of this Alfa you can have a peek at footage from a track day a few years ago at Brands Hatch at https://youtu.be/lZq3-bohfFs
Next we had Andrew and Jill Fulcher in the 11 litre Mercedes LS1418 tractor unit and a true classic owned by the Lenham Storage Ltd, for which Andy is one of the firm’s directors.
Andy is perhaps better known as the owner of Fulcher Racing and is often seen at circuits in the Filippo Beno olive oil sponsored 147 around the U.K in the Twin Spark series. The Mercedes was fully restored over 20 years ago having been in the possession of Lenham storage since the late 60’s, But now is in need of another resto to counter the “creepage” of time but still a magnificent beast of a vehicle!
Of note on the near side of the tractor unit was this mysterious sign which piqued my curiosity, and once pointed in the right direction by Andy Fulcher led to the following unique discovery.
The sign was evidence of a company called “The Worshipful Company of Carmen.” A Carman fellowship has existed since before 1277 and it served to ensure horse drawn vehicles carried goods at reasonable rates in The City of London. Each cart being marked on the shafts with The City Coat of Arms and a number on a brass plate. By 1838 the administration was run by The General Purposes Committee and the annual fee was five shillings in the county’s first vehicle licensing system. The Corporation of The City of London, being the sole purveyor of this still current legislation, are the only organisation with the power to still mark carts today. The owner of the vehicle or “cart” and the ability to carry goods was required to be a member of The Fellowship of Carmen. By 1965 this monopoly was abolished, although by then it was mostly ignored and the tradition was abandoned. Albeit in deference to the legislation, arrangements were made for cart marking to be allowed to take place once a year.
In 1982 a few liverymen decided to reinstate the tradition since the legislation was still active and to symbolically present their vehicles for “marking.” The event since then has blossomed and around the middle of July each year a number of vehicles present themselves for car marking at the Guildhall in The City. Last year, after the marking ceremony, there were over six hundred guests seated for lunch in the Great Hall of the Guildhall, such is the popularity of the Cart Marking Ceremony today. Vehicles are typically branded with a hot iron and that is what the Classic tractor unit driven by Andy Fulcher displays.
Next we had the 1991 Series Four black Spider exhibited by Steven Jackson. I had a good look at this particular beauty and noticed lots of subtle differences between this fine example and mine; such as the bonnet release being part of the dash board on the left whilst mine is tucked away under the same right hand drive. It even had the same Nardi steering wheel, but as keen as I was to track Steven down he had escaped before my stalking came to fruition. I rather suspect he feared being accosted to buy an AROCKES badge and car windscreen sticker and made good his escape whilst my attention was diverted … by a rather nice Porsche owned and showed by AROCKES member Graham Duplock.
Graham Duplock is better known in AROCKES circles for exhibiting his Alfa GTV 2000 but this Porsche has special memories for me as it is one of my first childhood memories when my father brought home this model whilst it was under development of its pneumatic gear box. Over fifty years ago the gear change was accompanied by a distinctive hiss of air but on the final later development had a clicking sound only audible from the cockpit. At the time, as a child, I thought the car was a dragon and only now realise how the memory fits in as my father was one of those responsible for the testing of the vehicle. Only 14 of these vehicles were imported to the U.K from a total production run of 347 and only two were in Polo red as Graham proudly demonstrates.
This 911 L would originally have a single tube exhaust but I feel that the twin pipes rather suit this classic and is a compliment to time. The vehicle itself has undergone considerable restoration and is one of Graham’s collection of three classic vehicles. One of which, his Austin Cambridge originally owned by his father, was used to transport all three of his daughters to church to be married.
Then we have yours truly in the other Alfa series four Spider. I have been driving it around for the last few months prioritising what needs to be done to raise the vehicle up and have many thoughts on the subject with what to do over the winter hibernation. Certainly going to keep some of the lovely bits the previous owner improved the vehicle with. But its probably a case of good old fashioned maintenance.
All in all a pretty good classic car show for an age of vehicle that we rarely see on the roads these days and, for which over the last few years, has seen an ever increasing number of vehicles as well as tourists as this event is finding notoriety in the press and internet. Also thanks to the organisers who put on an incredible intimate celebration of anything over 30 years old with a wheel at each corner.
Realistically, the venue could accommodate at least double the numbers attending as exhibitors only occupied one section of the “Tri-propeller” memorial and this year saw record attendance which seems to build year on year. You are not at a loss for things to do either during your show vehicle downtime. There is the state of the art museum in the form of the “Scramble Experience”; the more than adequate cafe and quality shop; but most of all chilling out to the spectacular views. France appeared so close that you felt as if you could literally step across the channel. But personally, I took on all the displayed names of “The Few” that made this experience possible.
“Bob” waiting for his fighter pilot owner to land. In truth, sadly he failed to return and his name is etched into the wall of the fallen.
“Chillin” out and taking a 20 minute siesta … it was a long week.