Haynes Museum Breakfast Club – February 2015

Hot on the heels of the sad news that the very first Breakfast Club meeting, known as “Cars and Coffee” and held in Irvine, Souther California for the last 8 years was to close, thanks to a combination of the event getting too big to manage and complaints form a local landowner, came news that yet another such event was to start up in the UK, adopting the same sort of format which has proved so popular with enthusiasts. I have David Roots, owner of the lovely Alfa Special that has featured in many a report on events in the South West or with an Italian flavour to them for alerting me to this new Breakfast Club, which is to be held on the first Sunday of every month at the renowned Haynes Motor Museum, near Sparkford, just off the A303 in Somerset. Having seen plenty of online comments on a couple of forums where people said that they planned to go, and with a forecast of dry if rather cold weather, I set out to see for myself whether enough people would come to what is quite a remote spot with their cars. They did. Here’s what was on display.


2 Abarths here, one of which was mine, making its first outing of 2015, and the other a newly acquired 595 of a local resident.

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Highlight for me was when this 4C Competizione model arrived. One of the Launch Edition cars (it is number 316 of 500 European spec cars), the owner has had it since last summer, buying it “second hand”, with 160 miles on the clock. He turned out to be quite an Alfa enthusiast, owning also a 916 series GTV and Spider and running a GT 3.2 as his everyday car.

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Having publicised the event in at least a couple of different on-line places, I was expecting to see David Roots turn up in his distinctive Alfa Special, and sure enough, not long after 9am, he arrived, well wrapped up as insulation for the morning cold that would have been a feature of his drive over from Frome.

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Caterham owners are a hardy bunch, second only, perhaps to Morgan drivers, so although it was chilly this was no deterrent to those who brought their Sevens along. And there were several of them. A close inspection revealed that although the basic shape and design of this car has changed little in the 42 years since Caterham started to produce it, but that there are constant detailed changes which mean that very few cars that you ever see are completely identical.

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This 2CV Van arrived mid morning, just as I was thinking of departing.

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Sole Ferrari present was also one of the first to arrive at the venue, a 246 GT Dino. You don’t often see these in this colour, with bright red and yellow being far more common.

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I had quite a long chat with the owner of the Mountune-modified Focus ST. A local enthusiast, he said that it is quite hard to track down fellow owners, as they are scattered all over the country. I did point out that I knew one – but that he is indeed quite a way  from Sparkford. Perhaps one month the two cars, and owners will get together here, or in some other place?

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This little G4 was almost completely hidden from view by the gigantic Ford F150 Lightning which was parked on one side.

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This Avenger Tiger is one of the most inveterate attendees at the Queens Square Bristol Breakfast Club meetings. Named to evoke memories of the Sunbeam Tiger, the Avenger Tiger concept began as a publicity exercise. Four door Avenger Super cars were modified by the Chrysler Competitions Centre under Des O’ Dell and the Tiger model was launched in March 1972. Modifications included the 1500 GT engine with an improved cylinder head with enlarged valves, twin Weber carburetors and a compression ratio of 9.4:1. The engine now developed 92.5 bhp at 6,100 rpm. The suspension was also uprated, whilst brakes, rear axle, and gearbox were directly from the GT. All the cars were painted in a distinctive yellow colour scheme (“Sundance”) and were readily identified by their bonnet bulge, rear spoiler and side stripes, all of which were standard. The car was set off with “Avenger Tiger” lettering on the rear quarters. Road test figures demonstrated a 0–60 mph time of 8.9 seconds and a top speed of 108 mph (174 km/h). These figures beat the rival Ford Escort Mexico, but fuel consumption was heavy. Even in 1972, the Tiger developed a reputation for its thirst. Production figures are vague but it is believed that around 200 of the initial Mark 1 cars were made. In October 1972, Chrysler unveiled the more “productionised” Mark 2 Tiger. This time the Avenger GL bodyshell with four round headlights was used. Mechanically identical to the earlier cars, the bonnet bulge was lost although the bonnet turned matt black, and there were changes to wheels and seats. These cars went on sale at £1,350. Production was around 400. Red (“Wardance”) was now available as well as yellow (“Sundance”), both with black detailing. The car here, therefore, is a Mark 2.

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The third generation CRX, known in the US as the del Sol, was very different from the two previous designs. It proved not be that successful a design shift and the model was not directly replaced in Honda’s range.

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Staying only a very short while was this Europa. Based on the popular Elise, this Europa was launched at the Geneva Show in 2006, and enjoyed a four year production life, during which time it struggle to gain the popularity of the car on which it was based.

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I understand from a forum thread I found, that several Maserati models are likely to be at this event next month, but there was just the one, a 4200 Gran Sport, this time. This one had a non standard exhaust, which made a rather pleasing noise, especially as the car was reversed into position, but the vibration was enough to set off the alarm of the Nissan parked next to it!

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Contender for car with the best sound track at the event was definitely this one, a C63 AMG Coupe, which makes all the right noises, whether it is at speed, braking hard when the owner almost missed the entrance, or as he motored gently into position.

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Top effort from the 350/370Z Owners Club who had clearly got their act together to amass a significant number of cars. There was a good mix of 350 and 370Z models here., all of them closed Coupe versions. Strange isn’t it, that when seen together they don’t look all that different, and yet whilst everyone seems to like the 350Z, the later 370Z has failed to hit the same spot with the vast majority.

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Parked up separately was the “full fat” brother, the GT-R.

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A nice example of the Cayman was, for most of the morning,  the only Porsche model in the gathering. I am sure that will change over time and the 911 brigade will start to attend as well.

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Later this “356 Speedster” arrived. With a G plate, and the characteristic sound from its engine of the long lived VW Beetle, it was quickly evident that this is in fact a (very nice) replica rather than an original model.

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This is a much loved Clio V6 which the young owner told me is his everyday car, so it gets plenty of use on the roads around Minehead where he lives. He proved to us all that the boot space is even more non-existent than it is with the Alfa 4C, but with the smiles per mile figure so high, he said he does not care!

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Subaru sales in Europe have fallen off the side of the proverbial cliff in recent years, in complete contrast to the situation in America where they are finding increasing levels of favour especially in the snow-belt States. One look at the current products and it’s not hard to see why this should be, as the cars have lost the Subaru mojo that made them special. The last model that enjoyed universal approbation in Europe was this generation of Legacy, now a couple back, made from 2004 to 2009. Good looking, nicely finished, and fin to drive, especially with the flat-six 3 litre engine under the bonnet, it has real appeal, so no surprise to see a much enjoyed example at this event.

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The Subaru you might have thought would sell well would be this, the BRZ, but it has not, and even in Toyota guise, fewer than 3000 found buyers in the whole of Europe last year. The market can be quite fickle some times, as this car ticks all the boxes that everyone appeared to be asking for, lacking perhaps just the outright oomph that would make it fast as opposed to brisk.

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When this first generation MR2 arrived, and parked near the Subaru BRZ (aka Toyota GT86) there was a conversation about why Toyota appeared to have lost interest in the enthusiast, which was who the MR2 was aimed at, and some rueful comments about them appearing to concentrate solely on “appliance” seeking customers, with cars like the Yaris, Auris and the entire US range. They may be the volume sellers, but a few halo models are always good for image creation.

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Launched in 1956 as the Amazon, Volvo’s medium sized family saloon came in a bewildering array of different models over the next few years, some of which followed a logical name/numbering, and some did not! Four door models were generally identified with a 2 in the last of the three digits, with any letters indicating extra potency or not of the engine  This one is a 122S.

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This was a promising start. With another month for word to spread, and the prospect of some slightly warmer weather I would expect to find more cars present on the 1st March, at the second Haynes Breakfast Club. I plan to be there.

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