There is just something so fundamentally British about the village fete – a congregation of a local community for a number of reasons; perhaps to raise funds for a worthy cause, a flower show, a gymkhana or, as in this instance, a rather wonderful gathering of classic cars and motorbikes, welcome to the Frenchay Vintage Vehicle Show.
After noticing an advertisement for the Frenchay Vintage Vehicle Show and checking with my other half, Lynnette, that we weren`t pre-booked on one of our regular summer weekend jaunts to an Antiques market in yet another attempt at her apparently purchasing the entire content of an episode of TV`s ‘Antiques Roadshow’ (don`t ask…), we made our way to Frenchay on the outskirts of Bristol on what must have been one of the hottest days this year, perfect.
The show was being held at the village museum, which is actually located just inside the main gates of the expansive Frenchay Hospital complex and, after parking in the first available bay, we began our leisurely stroll around the show in the baking heat (sorry to make such a fuss about the weather, non-British readers, but a near three-week long heat wave is a rather unsettling event for us Brits!).
And what a show; after Lynnette fell in love with a stunning 1950`s Bristol and her suggestion that it might be a good choice of classic car for us to own in the future (I feel a life of crime approaching, bless her – I couldn`t fund it any other way…), we stumbled upon the work-in-progress restoration project of the ‘Freikaiserwagen’ and which, despite its name, was originally built in Bristol in 1936 and is likely to have been only the second or third, mid-engined sports car ever built in this country.
Put together in its day from a collection of parts rescued from local breakers yards, the ‘Freikaiserwagen’ sort of resembles the marrying of a medieval instrument of torture with an ancient bedstead, but was fearsomely quick from the off and took numerous British Hillclimb event records during the various iterations of its development until a tragic accident in 1950 took the life of its creator, Bristol Motor Cycle & Light Car Club member, Joe Fry, destroying the ‘special’ in the process. It would be fantastic to see this car run again and the full story is told in Rob and Hugh Dunsterville`s fascinating book ‘Freik’ – worth tracking down a copy.
Further into the show, and among the many cars exhibited was a beautiful Triumph TR3, several excellent Stags, an amazing black over lime green, hand painted, 1950`s Armstrong-Siddeley, a gaggle of pre and post-war MG`s, numerous Fords of a wide variety of models including a very rare convertible Capri (Crayford conversion, perhaps?), many Morgans and various Singers and Hillmans, including a well-used Husky estate to which Lynnette took an immediate liking as we would be able to fit Ossie, our metre tall Lurcher in the back.
More to my taste were the real rarities including a fabulous 1930`s Alfa Romeo sports car (sorry, I didn`t make a note of the model, but it resembled a P3 with twin, horizontally mounted spare wheels on the back), a gloriously styled 1958 Borgward Isabella Coupe and a rather wonderful Isetta ‘Bubble Car’.
For fans of two-wheeled freedom, motor cycles were equally represented and the show contained a large number of the most marvellous pre and post-war examples of the very best British marques, with Vincent, BSA, Triumph, Norton, Velocette and locally produced Douglas` all present and very correct.
So, an absolutely wonderful local show in that typically understated British way, and a rather delightful and interesting means to while away an afternoon for any classic car or motorbike aficionado, with some real surprises to add to the occasion and a very good cup of tea and slice of delicious freshly baked, homemade cake for that mid-afternoon break – thank you, ladies.
And then, just as we were leaving, Lynnette points out another motorcycle parked outside of the main show area. “That`s lovely” says Lynnette, as I try to absorb the fact that I`m actually looking at a 100 point, concourse example of the rarest of British motorcycles, a Brough Superior, adding, “you could have one of those”.
Hmm, I wonder if the owner would be prepared to take my house in part exchange? Good enough for Lawrence of Arabia, good enough for me…
How does this event make you feel?
In one word: Nostalgic
As a favourite meal: Tea and scones
Anything Else: Quintessentially British fete come Vehicle Show revealing what gems are tucked away in local garages and lock-ups.
Key Ingredients: Perfect for a summers afternoon and on the door step. Of course the weather always helps.
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