2020 started off well and we had a great line-up of events in the South East to look forward to. Oh how things can change so quickly. The terrible storms and flooding in January and February caused such misery to so many people around the country. I hope no VCC members suffered from flooding of their home or garages. The South East Winter Warmer event took place on Sunday 16th February just as Storm Dennis was battering the country. I left home for the 15 minute drive to Hickstead but nearly 2 hours later I had only travelled a couple of miles stuck in a massive traffic jam due to a flooded road. Sadly I had to give up and return home, as did a group of 6 trying to get down from Essex. However, about 40 members did make it to Hickstead and after lunch enjoyed a selection of films provided by David Smart. He covered all of the 2019 SE events and then showed a film of a Rolls Royce tour of Wales.
By early March the Coronavirus was spreading further out from China but I think we were all optimistic that it wouldn’t affect us too much in the UK. But sadly things moved far quicker than I think any of us had been expecting. I have been busy restoring another vehicle over the past 15 months so my Wolseley has been banished from its usual parking spot in my workshop and has been living on its trailer in another garage. With the Creepy Crawly looming in a few weeks I decided to tidy the workshop and unload the Wolseley that had hadn’t been touched since getting back from the Best of West Kent last July. Although the petrol was 8 months old the engine started on the first revolution of the starting handle. She is a good girl! One problem I found was that the cast aluminium radiator tanks, or bottles as Wolseley called them, are leaking again. This is a common problem with these radiators as the aluminium rots and I think all surviving Wolseleys have either had new bottles made or the original ones repaired. I have repaired my ones a couple of times but the need to get new castings made is looming. But for now I will patch them again. Having made a list of jobs to do on the Wolseley I went indoors for a cuppa and checked my emails. Oh dear, an email to say the Creepy had been cancelled. Not unexpected but still disappointing. With the Wolseley in the workshop I will work through all the jobs on my list and then it can go back on the trailer so that I can continue with my restoration project.
In the past I have reported a few times about the little 1900 Clement owned by Tam Large, which he purchased back in 2004. I remember that day well as I accompanied Tam and his late mother when we collected it from Leicestershire. The car has a 3hp De Dion Bouton engine which was specially made for Clement. It’s based on their standard 2.75hp air-cooled engine with a water-cooled head. Mike Sewell has been instrumental in getting the Clement to perform properly. It has proved to be a little rocket as it flies along and often passes much more powerful cars. I was sad to hear that Tam had decided to sell the Clement but I can report that it has now changed hands and is staying in the South East as the new custodian is Ivan Odds from Maidstone.
Talking about custodians, I have recently been involved with an amateur film about my Wolseley called The Great British Custodian. Filmed and produced by young James French from Crawley who is keen on both old cars and film making. James accompanied me on the Wolseley on the Best of West Kent event in 2018 where he did much of the filming. Then he visited my home where he filmed an interview with me. This was followed by him spending many hours editing it to produce the finished film. James entered it for the 2020 Horsham Film Festival where it was awarded the best documentary. It is hoped that the film can be added to the new South East website when it’s up and running. Last time I said that the new SE website should be in use by the time you were reading my notes but unfortunately it got delayed. Maybe it will be working now at www.veteran-cars.co.uk.. I have uploaded the film onto You Tube and you can view it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjTDbt8eMr4 or just search for 1904 Wolseley.
It seems Stephen Curry has been busy at Headquarters enrolling lots of new members. Here in the South East we have six new ones. Seb Marshall and Robert Gill are Full members, Paul Anderson, Andrew Joyce and Peter Geering are Associate members, and Andrew Le Hegaret is a Young Associate member. A very warm welcome to you all and I hope we see you at events and meetings as soon as these can be re-started.
I have delved into my archives of previous South East events for some photographs to illustrate these notes. I hope all VCC members stay safe and well and I look forward to events resuming as soon as possible.
David Ralph (Section Scribe)