Blenheim Palace, Oxon, July 9 & 10th
It certainly feels like the Pre-’50 American Auto Club has well and truly settled into holding its annual Rally of the Giants get-together at Blenheim Palace. For years it had been held at Knebworth House and that venue’s natural ‘bowl’ setting, with shady trees seeming to be the ideal spot. Moving to Blenheim took the show further north, away from London and the South East and some feared it would impact on attendance, as all those extra miles can make a big difference to older antique and vintage motor cars. However, these fears seem unjustified now; Blenheim is an equally stunning venue and more importantly for the Pre-’50 Club, its owners and management are much easier to deal with and value having the event there.
Sunday was the main show day, although this year an unsettled forecast put a dampener on things and the day began looking as if the heavens would open any moment. All things considered, it was a vast improvement on the previous year’s torrential downpours and it may indeed have been the memories of those conditions that put some people off. Nevertheless, there was a healthy turn out of Pre-’59 AAC stalwarts and show field was full by lunch time, just in time for the sun to make an appearance.
The Rally of the Giants – or RoG – is the one event on the American car calendar when, as the club’s name suggests, you can be guaranteed to see one of the biggest gatherings of Twenties, Thirties and Forties American cars, pick-ups and other commercial vehicles all in one place. Lost names such Packard, Pierce Arrow, Studebaker and Nash all come back to life at this event and it really does have a completely different – shall we say – more refined atmosphere than some other events on the American car show calendar – more strawberries and cream, blazers and boaters than Guns ‘n’ Roses, Jack Daniels and confederate flags – you get the picture.
Typical of the type of stunning car you can see at this event was David Palmer’s 1936 Packard 1402 seven-seater limousine, fresh out after an extensive restoration. Equally stunning was Miles Bickford from Coven, Staffordshire’s 1937 Buick Century. Despite the Pre-’50 AAC’s name, there’s always a healthy turn-out of later vehicles; Ed Batty from Oxford brought along his new acquisition, a right-hand drive 1966 Galaxie 500, believed to have been sold new to actress Janet Johnson. Rather more unusual was Bob Boswell’s 1951 Chevy Panel van, still wearing its original signwriting from a florists in Massachusetts and a transplanted Camaro/Corvette motor under the bonnet.
Despite being the UK’s largest gathering of Pre-War and Fifties American vehicles, there are always plenty of other newer Americans on display as well; in fact bringing things bang up to date was Tesla’s stand, with a couple of Model S cars on display. By early afternoon the clouds were back and it looked as though the earlier promised rain was back (it wasn’t!) but this brought proceedings to a swift end with a rapid prize-giving and close of events. We’ll be sure to keep you informed of the dates of next year’s event – although a little bird tells us it’s looking like it will be July 7-9th.
Footman James Car of the Year Heat Winner
This 1933 5 Passenger V12 Town Sedan belonging to Bob Lucas took the fourth heat of the Car of the Year competition. This magnificent vehicle, which weights almost two and a half tonnes, is built on a 140-inch wheelbase and is powered by a mighty V12 motor. With its enormous headlamps and dual spares mounted on the running boards, it dwarfs modern cars and makes its presence known by its sheer size.
It’s refreshing to hear that Bob treats and drives the car like any ordinary vehicle (it will sit at 60 or 70mph on the motorway quite happily) and when he pops along to the shops in it, parks it across two spaces and buys two tickets! A full feature on this remarkable Cadillac appeared in the July 2014 (CA279) issue of Classic American magazine, or you can pop along to the Classic American stand in Hall 5 at the Classic Motor Show over the weekend of 11-13 November 2016. Make sure you get your tickets in advance! See www.necclassicmotorshow.com or call: 0871 230 1088.