Beaulieu Hot Rod and Custom Drive-In Day

Beaulieau, Hampshire, July 16th

Words & Photography: Ben Klemenzson, Beaulieau &

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It’s always nice to go to a show that you’ve heard a lot about over the years, but never had the opportunity to attend; such was the case with the Beaulieau Hot Rod and Custom Drive-in Day. Traditionally held on Father’s day Sunday, it’s clashed with another event run by Classic American’s parent company Mortons previously; however this year it didn’t, so we were  able to earmark it as a Car of the Year heat and bring along the Classic American stand.

            Beaulieau is located in the beautiful setting of the New Forest and not far from Southampton, so you can’t really get further south than this. Although Sunday started off drizzly and grey, the turnout was pretty good considering many people would have opened their curtains that morning and been deterred by the wet stuff – Obviously the American car folk of Hampshire are obviously made of sterner stuff! Not only that, but there were several other American/ rod & custom shows taking place over that weekend all over the country, from the NSRA Fun Run at Rutland Show ground, to the VHRA’s annual shin dig at Pendine Sands and the AACI’s Summer Nationals at Billing Aquadrome.

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            Despite being a one day show, the organisers manage to pack a lot in and things kicked off early with exhibiting cars arriving from 8am, although the show actually opens to the public at 10am. The layout is a relaxed one, as cars line up along the avenue into the site, as well as in the arena, which is the focus of activities. Taking centre stage this year were the before and after creations of Andy Saunders, namely one of his latest creation the 1937 Cord 812 Westchester nicknamed ‘Tetanus’ and what will presumably be his next project: a rather dilapidated looking Riley RM, which undoubtedly will undergo a remarkable transformation in the near future.

            Andy was on hand to discuss the cars and even gave out the trophies at the end, including his own awards for best custom, but more on that later. Beaulieu has made quite a retro theme of the event, with plenty of stalls dealing in vintage clothing, accessories and even one gentleman who was selling off part of his collection of 400 vintage radios and record players. There was a vintage beauty parlour offering retro make-overs and prizes for the best dressed entrants, as well as live music all weekend long from The Spitfire Sisters, the Bad Detectives and even some jiving lessons… and not forgetting the strolling Mariachi band, which is such a unique feature of this event and put everyone in an upbeat mood.

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            Although the show is mostly about rods and customs, there were plenty of straight-up, non-modified American vehicles as well, although one Corvette that seemed to be getting a lot of attention was not quite what it first seemed. Owner Mark Hemsley explained that it had been completely rebuilt from scratch, with a 383 Bowtie block hooked up to a six-speed AF box and all the suspension had been reworked with a five-link independent suspension set up. More conventional was the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air belonging to Kevin Parsley from Portchester, who had come along with son Tom. Nowadays two-door hardtops or convertibles are out of most people’s price range, but a four-door hardtop like this has all the glamour of a coupe, with all the practicality of a sedan.

            Another eye-catching American was the 1972 Buick Estate Wagon belonging to Guy Glover, who seemingly is the Isle of Wight’s Mr Buick, as this is one of several Buicks he owns. If seeing a 1957 Ford Thunderbird at a car show in this country is a rare sight, then seeing two, and both in similar colours and stunning condition… well, what are the chances of that?! This was the case, as Bryan Chitty was accompanied by his son Simon who had actually bought his father said T-bird from California. Improvements whilst under his ownership included fitting radial tyres, a new stainless exhaust and a new convertible top. The other stunning ’57 T-bird belonged to Brian Fosdike and it scooped The Kingstown Shipping and RH Insurance Car of the Year heat, which you can read about in the sidebar on these pages.

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            Andy Saunders picked as the winner for his ‘Car of the Show’ prize a Cadillac-powered (8.2-litre!) Pro Street 1980 Ford Cortina belonging to Michael Castle’s as his car of the show, which sounded as frightening as it looked and is apparently completely road legal and had driven down from Middlesbrough! Said Andy of the Cortina and its owner: “It was tricky narrowing it down from my 32 favourites but this Cortina is fabulous and epitomises what we were doing on the custom scene in the late Eighties and early Nineties. It was built 30 years ago but has only recently resurfaced and the work that has gone into building the car is absolutely incredible . . and road-legal. It doesn’t get any better than this!” Amen to that! By the afternoon the sun came out, trophies were awarded and everyone agreed that considering how the day had started weather-wise, all in all it had been a good turn out and good event overall!

Kingstown Shipping & RH Insurance Car of the Year Competition Round 3

The first generation Thunderbirds are much loved around the world, and this particular one bears a very special place in the affections of its owner, as it is the same as a Dinky toy version he had when he was a little boy. Dreams do come true if you make them and that’s certainly been the case for Brian Forsdike who after a life time was able to track down this superb example of his ‘dream’ car.

            This stunning Gunmetal Grey T-bird features a 312 cu in V8 engine mated to a two-speed Ford-O-Matic auto transmission and boasts power-brakes and –steering, as well as the oh so attractive hardtop with porthole side windows. For ’57 Ford extended the Thunderbird, making it longer and altering the front grille styling. The spare was moved into the trunk and it was the final year for the Thunderbird as a two-seater; in the 1958 Model year it became a four-seater.

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