Classics and Retro Action Day at Castle Combe – June 2014

Although the Big Name circuits like Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Donington tend to monopolise the column inches with the events that take place at them throughout the season, there are plenty of equally worthy venues throughout the country, and they all also have a full program of activities running throughout the year. Castle Combe is the circuit nearest to me, less than 20 miles from home, and I’ll admit that I don’t get there that often even though it is on my doorstep. However there are a few events which take place at this Wiltshire location which do tend to get put on my calendar as soon as the dates are announced, and one of these is the subject of this report, the Classic and Retro Action Day. This worthwhile day out combines the attractions of a show with a disparate array of Car Clubs showing the familiar and not so familiar classics belonging to some of their members with the chance for anyone to take their car out onto the track for a few laps. Whilst some see this as the opportunity to show off, others are content with something a little more measured around a circuit which is more difficult to master than it looks. The 2014 event had an added challenge of the weather. Although the day, and hence the track,  started off dry and sunny, an immense downpour mid morning., where torrential rain for a good 30 minutes, along with cracks of thunder, bolts of lightning and some rather sizeable hail stones changed everything within in minutes. After a brief respite, the rain returned for another 20 minutes, but it did not take long for the vast puddles that covered all the tarmac and soaked the track to dry out somewhat as the sun returned for the afternoon, meaning that there was much to enjoy. Here’s what I saw on display:


It was no surprise to find David Roots’ Alfa Special parked up in the middle of the event, as he was the one who had very kindly given me a free ticket to the event. As ever, his car was attracting a lot of attention, with a constant stream of people coming up to have a look.

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Nearby was a rather nice Giulia 1600 Berlina

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Also present was a 1600 GT Junior version of the very pretty 105 Series Coupe and the pretty Spider car which shared much of the same underpinnings

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This A40 Farina was a nice example of the car that many consider to be the first to offer a hatchback. This is one of the facelifted cars that was offered from 1962 until production ceased in 1967.

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Also Farina styled was the larger Cambridge model which appeared in 1959. This is an early A55 version, complete with the tail fins which were toned down in the 1962 facelift which created the A60.

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From the previous generation of Austin models was this A105 Westminster, a top of the range model, adorned with various accessories, such as the very period external sun visor and door pillar mounted spot light.

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Successor to that car was the Farina styled model, and there was one of these A110 Westminsters present as well.

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The little A30 and A35 remain popular as simple classics that put a smile on their owners’ faces, and there were a couple of these in attendance.

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Predating that was this 1940s Eight, one of the models that Austin produced in the immediate post War period.

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Older still was this, a 10 Clifton from the early 1930s.

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Sole BMW was this E28 model 5 series.

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This Equipe 2 litre was based on the Triumph Vitesse, but fitted with a very different looking glass fibre body.

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The Caterham Owners Club had a large collection of cars, all of them different from each other, showing some of the many different variants that they have offered in what is now over 40 years of production. An original Lotus Seven was included among the display.

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Representing America was this fabulous 1957 Bel Air Saloon. The 1957 cars are the most highly prized of the three model years when Chevrolet ran this body style, and the Bel Airs are the most sought after from the range of cars that were offered.

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The Crossfire Owners Club always have a strong showing at this event, and there were more than a dozen of these slightly oddball cars here, with a mix of Coupe and Convertible. Based on a Mercedes SLK chassis, this distinctive car had a relatively short production life and did not sell in large numbers, so this has to count as an impressive turnout.

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Nice to see a Daf, the car that was once the butt of many a joke involving rubber bands. The more powerful models. such as this 55 Coupe, were effective in motor sport, often winning their class in races and rallies.

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Little known in the UK. this small sports car was a contemporary of the MGB, and it was quite popular in the US, where you will still see examples. Most of those have 1600 or 2 litre engines, but the earliest models such as this one had a 1500 unit, and were badged Fairlady. This one currently belongs to the Attwell Wilson motor museum.

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It was good to see an array of rarely spotted Fiats among the display, and prime contender for the “rare” accolade has to be this Strada 65CL. Few of any Strada have survived, thanks to the fact that they were built from low grade steel and rust set in early and quickly, and those that do remain are mostly the sporting 105TC and 130TC Abarth cars, so to come across the very vanilla family hatch version like this is a real reminder of the sort of cars we used to see every day, some 30 years ago.

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The 850 Coupe is equally rare. These were quite popular when new, as they were relatively affordable, and most definitely stylish, but rust claimed almost all of them long before the classic car movement came to prominence.

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The Barchetta is rare, not least because it was only ever sold here officially in left hand drive form. This is one of the late model cars, identifiable by the revised front end styling.

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Other Fiats included a Cinquecento Sporting and a Uno Selecta.

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As is usually the case at an event and venue like this, there are plenty of old Fords to see. Whilst it is the more sporting ones which tend to create the interest for most people, I always enjoy seeing the surviving versions of the more prosaic models, the cars that were once so common on our roads that you never gave them a second glance, but which are now long gone. There were several Escorts in this category, with not just a trio of Mark 2 1.6 Ghia models, but also the more workaday 1.3 GL as well.

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These were not the only Mark 2 Escorts, with a very nice RS2000 parked up next to that 1.3 GL car, for instance.

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In a similar vein, as well as the RS Turbo and XR3 Escorts from the Mark 3 generation was a nice 1.6 Ghia hatchback.

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There were a number of Mark 1 Escorts. As is usually the case, it was the sporting versions that were in evidence, though it is well known that the survival rate of these can exceed 100%, with people taking the shell and chassis number from the lesser cars and recreating the Mexicos and Twin Cams that were always very rare when new.

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Completing the Escort line up were a couple of RS Cosworth versions of the otherwise much derided Mark IV car.

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The Mark 1 Capri Owners Club had a great display with a wide variety of cars ranging from the entry level 1300 models up to the top spec 3000 GXL.

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This bright orange Mark 2 Capri was parked up all by itself. Again, a car (in a colour) that was once common, but is now rare.

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Sierra has all but disappeared from our roads now, and memories of the rather feeble 1.6L suggest that this is not entirely a Bad Thing. It is the RS Cosworth versions that you most often see at shows and events, and there were several of those present, in both hatch and later Sapphire saloon guise. There was also a nice example of the cheaper XR4x4 hatch.

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Nice example of fast Fiestas are rare, as most were either written off or have been modified. This white one aas a very original looking RS 1800 car and it was joined by a black model and a facelifted first generation XR2.

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Rarer still was this Crayford modified Fiesta Fly.

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There were not many Cortina present, but I did come across a couple of rather nice Mark 2 1600E, both of which were painted in red, which is unusual for this model,  and there was a Mark 2 Twin Cam Lotus.

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Fast Focus were much in evidence, with examples of the first and second generation RS cars as well as some STs.

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The Abbott bodied Prefect Estate that I first saw at the Bristol Classic Car Show was making another appearance here.

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This is not a genuine GT40, despite the number plate, but a well produced replica of a famous car the original of which was sadly destroyed long ago.

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This lowered F100 Pick Up comes in the “and now for something completely different” category. An interesting machine, for sure.

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This Mark IV Zephyr V6 was parked a couple of cars away from mine in the public car park.

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I had a good long look at the back of an impressive array of Healeys, as I had just got to these little known British sports cars when the heavens opened, and I was able to take shelter under the edge of the building behind them. Small numbers of a lot of different models were produced in the late 1940s, and identifying them is not that easy. Best known, probably, is the Silverstone, which at the time, was the fastest “production” car made in Britain.

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This rather brutally shaped device is a Healey Duncan Drone. It was built with a throw away body to keep the list price, and attendant 66% taxes, down on the domestic market. Extras for this car would have included a second seat and the spare wheel. This particular car took the start of the 1949 Mille Miglia at 6:25 am with James Cohen and Reg Hingett aboard. Sadly, after travelling just 35kms, the car collided with a bridge, and Reg was killed instantly. Whilst James would eventually be repatriated back to the UK, he too would succumb to his injuries.

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Also on display were a mix of Tickford, Abbott and Nash models.

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The local Avenger Tiger owners, of which there are a few, clearly bring their cars out very frequently, as almost any event in the Bristol that I attend seems to have these distinctive machines on show. This was no exception with three of them present.

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There were some very contrasting Honda sports cars here. The familiar ones are the recent S2000 cars, a modern classic for sure, much missed as Honda saw fit not to replace it with anything when production ran down a few years ago.

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Far more intriguing were the older cars, which comprised a mixture of S800s and the diminutive Z. These tiny machines have a very devoted following, which is stronger, I learned, in the US than it is here, as there are far more of these cars over The Pond. There are believed to be over 100 of the S800 (and its predecessor S600) in the UK, though several of them are in SORN mode, whereas the Z is very rare, with only a handful still extant. From what I could tell, your chances of seeing one are greatest in the Bristol area as that is where 4 of them live! Beautifully engineered, these cars have high revving engines which means that their performance belies their size, though the owners of the white S800, who had come down from Sussex, did say that 70 mph see over 5500 rpm on the dial, so these are not quiet cruisers!

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There was a row of nice Jaguar models parked up in the middle of the event, with display cars ranging from the XK140 through several E Types to more recent XJ8 and XK8

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Sole Lancia that I recall seeing was this Series 3 Fulvia Coupe.

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I followed this early Series 1 model most of the way from the M4 to the venue.

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There was a rather nice Series 2 version present as well, brought along by the Attwell Wilson motor museum.

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There were surprisingly few Lotus models at this event, but I did come across this early Elise.

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There were a trio of these distinctively styled British sports cars present, including an early 1800 GT model

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A very nice 4200 Spider

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Needless to say, this SLS AMG was attracting plenty of attention. A very dramatic car to look at, and to listen to when the engine is fired up.

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There were a couple of MGA models here.

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Naturally, there were several MGBs and Midgets as well.

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The Metro Turbo was quite popular when new, but there are very few left and next to none which are in as good a state as this one, which looked absolutely immaculate.

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The Magnette was a sporting saloon offered in the mid 1950s – the sort of car that a 3 series buyer would have wanted back in the day.

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Predating it was a YB, a sporting saloon from the late 1940s and early 1950s.

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This car had been brought along by the local Attwell Wilson motor museum. It is a prototype, hence the different front end to the familiar Issigonis Mini, and it is special as it has a radical Gearless transmission. Needless to say, it did not make production.

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There were plenty of production Mini models, too, including a very nicely presented Countryman lacking the half timbered rear side finish, making it rare, along with an early car, a couple of 1960s Coopers and some more recent ones.

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Just about the only Mitsubishi present was this Evo VI.

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A Skyline, I believe, but with four doors. One of many cars that rarely saw anywhere other than Japan, this was certainly something different.

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A nice showing of Manta included a number of Mark2 (or B, in Opel speak) cars, including some of the early models as well as an Irmscher tuned late model car. The white SR model had spent its early life in the Channel Islands, and accordingly has only covered a few miles since new.
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This facelifted Monza GSE, a stalwart of local events such as the Queens Square Breakfast Club meetings, was also on display.

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A small gathering of sporting Peugeots, but they were parked in area which made photography difficult, so there are only pictures of a couple of rather nice 205 GTi models.

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Elsewhere I came across this 304 Convertible.

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The Porsche Owners Club had a varied selection of cars ranging from a 944 through all manner of 911 models.

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A line of 356 models were, needless to say, not 356s at all, but more modern replicas. Even so, they still looked pretty good, and no doubt provide their owners with lots of fun.

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The Scimitar GTE was well represented with SE5 and the later SE6 cars on show.

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I found this 3500 car in the public car park.

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It is perhaps a measure of how far Subaru’s halo has slipped, that there were not that many of these cars present. There were a few modified and a few original examples of the first and second generation Impreza to see.

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This open topped Stiletto looks so neat that you have to wonder why Rootes Group did not produce this version themselves. This one belongs to one of the enthusiastic local Imp Owners Club members.

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Another showing for this fastidiously restored Swallow Doretti. These cars celebrate their 60th anniversary this year.

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This very nice GT6 Mk 3 caught my eye early on.

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The full range of TR cars were here, with TRs 2,3, 4. 5, 6 and 7 all on display.

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The Stag was not forgotten, with several of these lovely grand tourers also on show.

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This rather nice early Vitesse was the same car as I had seen at the Bristol Classic Car Show a couple of weeks previously.

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It was not the only Vitesse as there were a couple of later models, in convertible guise as well, including a Mark Series 2 car finished in Damson.

The Dolomite still has huge appeal, and there were a couple of these sporting saloons from the 70s in attendance.

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I also have a soft spot for the larger saloons that Triumph offered, and this was a nice Mark 2 2000 model.

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As you might expect, there were plenty of TVRs present, with a strong showing from the local Owners Club. Models ranged from a “wedge” 400SE to the S, a couple of Chimaera and Griffith and Tuscan to the T350 and Tamora. This last one had the special photochromatic paint finish which apparently, were you to need to respray the car, would cost over £5000 just for the paint itself.

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It was nice to see this second generation Cavalier CD. These cars were very popular when new, and would have appealed to the sort of person who nowadays will almost certainly be driving a decent spec 3 series, A4 or C Class. No matter what Vauxhall does to the Insignia, persuading people that it is a car to lust after as they did with the Cavalier is probably just about mission impossible!

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Many would have lusted after a Chevette HS when they came out in 1978, too. This was a very blatant homologation special, with its tuned engine, destined only to sell in small quantities.

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Sadly for Vauxhall, not that people did lust after this, the VX220, so production did not run for long.

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I’ve seen this Magnum 1800 Coupe at a number of events in the area lately. A rare survivor.

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When the rains came down, the owners of this Type 2 would have been better off than anyone else, as they could have simply retreated to their spacious motor caravan!

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This Beetle was actually in the public car park area. It was absolutely pristine – very nice indeed.

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The 122 was a well built large family saloon that happened to be an effective rally car as well.

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This 15/60 was parked up with the other Cambridge and Westminster cars, its close relatives.

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Despite the frustrating weather which caused me to seek refuge for quite a while during the morning (which I found and managed to stay dry, even having unwisely left my umbrella in the car), this was a good event, and one which is well worth putting in the diary for 2015.

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