Historic Rallying, go, go, go…

Mario and his female human are quite happy just bobbling along the country roads but this isn’t quite enough for the male human of the family… James likes to indulge in a little more adventurous pursuit – historic rallying.

The sort of historic or classic rallying he does isn’t the pace note, balls out, off road type, even he considers that a little mad (although he did once compete in and got a class win on the classic RAC stage rally) but endurance events for classic cars that require skill and judgement to navigate a complicated route keeping to very specific speeds on regularity sections to arrive exactly or as near as on time at checkpoints. He mainly takes this a stage further and prefers to do the winter events which involve inclement weather and long and difficult night sections.

The reason for writing this post now is that James is currently in Norway having started the Winter Trial today – six days of tough navigation and driving on snow and ice in Norway. He is navigating for Dutchman Herman Maas in a Volvo Amazon 122s. You can follow their progress on his own blog dickingaroundwitholdcars

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James first started Historic rallying as a driver back at the beginning of the 90’s, his first event sharing the driving on the 1991 Monte Carlo Challenge in an A35 with Terry Langridge which started from Edinburgh, it snowed so much in this country that they didn’t think they’d even get to Dover. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any pictures of this car or their subsequent vehicle in 1993 – a Triumph 2000, maybe I will be able to add them later.

By now James had the ‘bug’ and progressed to a 1958 Hillman Minx series 3 with friend Dominic West. Again the event of choice was the Monte Carlo Challenge which had various starts over the years but always finished on the harbour in Monte Carlo after several tortuous days crossing the snowy alpine passes, the ability to fit snow chains quickly in difficult conditions and not getting stuck being a big part of a successful run. 
old-scans177 scan083old-scans181The Mini was followed by a Mini 850 MK1.MiniJames and Dom then decided to get ‘tough’ and built a Riley special. This was a major project with a pre-war car and was quite a different challenge being exposed to the elements. The build of the car encountered a few problems and they were still finishing it off the day before the Monte start at nearby Brooklands. As Dom was working I went with James to scrutineering, the car hadn’t been driven with a passenger and as we drove up the A3 towards Brooklands sparks started coming out of the floor between my legs! The drive shaft was catching on the floor with the weight of a passenger and so the boys had to modify the car that night before departure, of course they had to break off to have a goodbye pint with our mates.

The car was good but the lack of time for preparation was their downfall and they suffered several problems culminating in a wheel falling off. This finished their rally and as they were stuck in a very rural part of France with poor communications they were lucky to be taken in by some friendly locals who put them up for a couple of days – apparently it was like the episode of Ello Ello when two ‘airmen’ appeared in the kitchen. We are still in touch with these kind people to this day.old-scans175 old-scans183 old-scans211 old-scans212 scan082By the end of the 90’s James had a new partnership with Keith Webster and they competed in several Monte Carlo Challenges firstly in a grey Westminster and then in the Wolsey ‘4001BB’ which was fitted up to look like a period Police Car and they competed in full period Police uniforms.This was nearly to get them into trouble, when the local Police in Aix le Bains thought they were real policemen and invited them for a tour of the local police station, including the cells! James and Keith had great success in 4001BB and in 2003 were holding a top ten place until they made the fatal error of ‘overtaking the snowplough’, a little further down the slippery road the car slid into a rather substantial gate post – something they have never been allowed to forget!old-scans179133966_10150111135556800_7521332_o old-scans176
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Booking Sir Sirling Moss in Monte Carlo

DSCN1587 Dom navigated the 2003 Monte for another friend of ours Peter Rowley in his Mark 2 Jag.DSCN1606 DSCN1616 DSCN1627
DSCN1636 DSCN1640132186_10150111135756800_959460_oSo for 2004 the duo swopped to Keiths TR.
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DSCN2816 DSCN2819Several years before this in the Summer of 1999, James had his first go at navigating a full rally – the Summer Classic Marathon to Biarritz for George Melvile in his Alvis. He was rather surprised that he enjoyed the challenge of ‘the maps’ more than driving and it was to be the start of several successful partnerships, he is now lucky enough as part of his job to be asked to navigate on various events and now rarely drives. He is in the very rare position of having class wins as both driver and navigator on the Monte Carlo Challenge.Alvis

Over the years James has navigated on many varied events – Classic Marathon, The Winter Challenge, The Classic Malts, The Emerald Isle, The Meachem, The Flying Scotsman and with Herman on many Winter Trials, all over the Uk and both West and Eastern Europe.DSCN0306 DSCN0308 DSCN0316DSCN5347 DSCN5348 DSCN5356 DSCN5394 DSCN5397 DSCN5418 DSCN5423DSCN3296DSCN2597 DSCN5287DSCN2864 scan081

One of the more demanding events is Le Jog a four day event in December from Lands End to John O’Groats with very little sleep and often very inclement British Weather. Many of these have been navigating for Roy Williams in the Bigley Special, a Riley 12/4. One year they managed to roll the car, were back on the road in under half an hour and still won the class.54150_10150100639416800_7577383_o 57142_10150100639371800_141769_o 78190_10150100639541800_4524060_o 132687_10150100639491800_5716112_oHe has been involved in several rolls and incidents over the years, luckily with only damaged pride and most often with the car being able to carry on with the event. 54017_10150100623736800_6351442_o PorscheThis post is getting rather long now and I’ve realised how many ‘holidays’ (he calls it networking’) James has been on over the years! I hope he has a good, safe and successful week in Norway, do look at his blog to see how they are getting on. Hopefully they will do well, the only downside is the rather lovely trophies he gets to bring home!171066_10150135614026800_999594_o

 

 

 

 

 

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The Renault Fiftie…

In a previous post we reported on taking Regie the Renault in 1996 to the 50th anniversary celebrations for the Renault 4cv. Well Renault also choose to celebrate this significant date in their history in another way, by producing a ‘modern’ version of the 4cv – The Renault Fiftie which was ‘launched’ at the 1996 Geneva Motorshow.Renault-Fiftie-posterRenault-Fiftie-4cvRenault-Fiftie-drawingRenault-Fiftie-interior-drawingDSCN4201DSC02714

We were very excited about this and had hoped to see it at the anniversary celebrations but unfortunately it was on display elsewhere. We did manage to get a look at it, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed the following year and thought it looked even better in the ‘flesh’. We have seen it again since at Retromobile. This was the first of the ‘rebirth classics’ – a new car designed based on a loved classic, it was followed by designs for the new VW Beetle, BMW Mini and of course the Fiat 500. Unfortunately unlike the rest, the Fiftie was never put into manufacture, although the prototype was a fully functioning car. The all new mid-mounted 1.2l engine survived and made it into production in the Twingo and Cleo.Renault-Fiftie-beachCOX19969030406COX19969030702

Designed by Benoit Jacob under the direction of Patrick le Quement, Renault’s vice president of corporate design, the Fiftie was built on a cutting edge carbon fibre and aluminium platform lifted from the Renault Spider. The body work drew heavily on it’s predecessor with a three slat ‘Moustache’ front grill, a pointed front end, curves, rear louvers with the overall shape also bearing a passing resemblance to the 4cv. The prototype was even in yellow in honour of the original little ‘butter pat’ as the early yellow 4cv’s were known. The wheels were inspired by the ‘star’ wheels of the early 4cv complete with the air vents in the rear wheel arch and added to the period look.Renault-Fiftie-retro4Renault-Fiftie-retro Renault-Fiftie-retro2 Renault-Fiftie-retro3Renault-Fiftie-wheel

Inside the design was utilitarian in the spirit of its ancestor with linoleum on the floor and linen and wickerwork upholstery but the dashboard was something much more futuristic with a large screen mounted in the middle of the dashboard that grouped the car’s entertainment, climate control, driver assistance and telephone functions into a single unit. The seats were fixed with the steering wheel and pedals being adjustable. The roof was in four removable panels that could be stored under the rear window so the Fiftie was a decoverable – just like Regie! The design included a wicker picnic basket hidden in the boot.COX19969030810 Renault-Fiftie-interior Renault-Fiftie-interior2 COX19969030814

The contemporary, fun, Fiftie received very good reviews at the time  with people loving the mix of past and future, it’s happy go lucky attitude and cute but dynamic styling but the carbon-fibre body was expensive – the one off was reputed to have cost £3 million and was too costly to put into production and so the Fiftie remains just another one of Renault’s wonderful concept cars. Looking today of the huge success of the ‘retro’ remakes of the Beetle, Fiat 500 and Mini one can’t but help wonder if this was a costly mistake by Renault, especially as nearly 20 years on it still looks up to date. We for one would have loved one! Fiat500-1 mini-2 vw-2

Blowing away the cobwebs…

Mario finally got an outing on New Years Day and an opportunity to blow away the cobwebs with a run in the countryside. Regular readers will know that he was rather poorly after the strains of the Revival taxi rank and since then James has been rather tied up with major restorations projects which pay for us to eat and so hasn’t had time to investigate the problem. On New Years eve he managed to have a quick look but with no obvious problems brought Mario home, the extended rest must have done him good as he ran well.

So after the festivities of the night before we got up on New Years Day and set off for our regular haunt, the beautiful, unspoilt The Stag at Balls Cross near Petworth for the VSCC local NYD car meet. It was a shame it was a rather overcast and damp day as the rest of the week had been glorious, crisp, cold with bright blue skies, but there was still a good selection of vehicles and they were still arriving as we left. Again Mario ran smoothly so the earlier problems remain a mystery, although James has a few things he wants to investigate further when he has some time. We got a good spot outside the pub and met up with other car enthusiast friends. This was predominately a VSCC meet so Mario did rather stick out as one of the youngest and the brightest there!

DSC08113There were a few later cars there including the fantastic Facel Vega which James works on and which is the car he trapped his finger in the door of, a few weeks before Christmas! We had a lovely surprise when we popped to the bar as James had won a voucher for a meal at the pub in their Christmas Draw so that’s something to look forward to. We’ll leave you with some pictures of the day and wish all our followers a very happy 2015.

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