GOW Hillclimb


Prescott Hillclimb, 24-25 August, 2018 Words & Photography: Jonny Wilson


Intro: Planning your summer of shows ahead (if not, why not? Turn to our Events listings startin on page 109 and get inspired!). Here’s a throwback to the heady days of last summer and another of the VHRA’s amazing events…

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Last year was another great season for the VHRA, with the second Vintage Nationals back in May at Santa Pod, the ever-popular Pendine Sands and the drag racing at the Atomic Vintage Festival. Closing the season off was the fourth GOW Hill Climb at Prescott Hill, home of the Bugatti Owners Club. This year, I was only able to make the Vintage Drags out of all the other events, and was back on the road heading to Gloucestershire at the mercy of the usual bank holiday traffic and an unfortunate break in the great summer weather we’d been having. Caught in a downpour, it wasn’t looking good for speeding up a hill in vintage hotrods.

            I arrived as the rain stopped and managed to get my tent pitched just before the heavens opened once more. By this time, a large number of vehicles had already arrived and were parked up in the paddock. Luckily, the weather broke again to reveal moody skies and an impressive double rainbow, creating an ideal backdrop to grab some quick pics before it disappeared. With the rain starting again, it was time to head up to the club house, grab a few drinks and listen to resident GOW DJ Tim North spin his finest collection of Gospel, R’n’B, Northern Soul and Ska. In between sets, The Amazing Mr Spannerz Musical Experience took to the stage to perform a rousing selection of R&B classics. The party went on until the late hours, but I decided to retire early to get an early start and grab some pictures before the crowds gathered.

            Race day arrived, with the sun shining again, promising a great day of action up the hill, and by early morning the paddock was bustling with activity. More people and cars had arrived, engines were starting to warm up and track briefings were well underway. Unfortunately, a couple of cars were experiencing difficulty. Steve Dyes’ 1941 Buick Fastback was jacked-up to fix some electrical problems and Steve Hills’ roadster pick-up in need of a pushrod replacement put them both out of action for the day.

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By ten o’clock the Hill was officially open and the usual collection of four-bangers, V8’s and flatheads were charging up it. As with previous years, the runs weren’t timed, but this didn’t stop drivers pushing their cars to the limit, accelerating away from the start line and sliding around Ettore’s Bend before charging full-throttle back up the hill into Pardon Hairpin and up into the tree line. Whilst most spectators stayed around the paddock and orchard, the photographers and brave few hiked up the hill though the trees which provided some fantastic views down the track and even more thrilling action.

            This action continued throughout the morning, with only a few stoppages caused by a couple of drivers running out of fuel, resulting in some freewheeling back down the track. For the second year running the VHRA hosted the Smiles for Miles, organized by Brett Pillinger. It invites a selection of local charities along for event to have the chance of riding shotgun with a car of their choice that had signed up for the day. This year welcomed Acorns Children’s Hospice, Charlton Farm and The Freedom Day Centre and their families, with Rebecca Valverde and her Chevy model A making lap after lap with cars full of smiling guests enjoying the hill.

            With an hour for lunch giving the marshals a well-deserved break, there was time to grab and ice cream or two, plus watch an impromptu fly-past by what looked like the Red Arrows, before it was time to get back on the hill. The afternoon saw more of the same action, so I decided to approach the hill from the opposite side to get some wide shots of the track and a bigger selection of classics in attendance. This was also an opportunity to jump in with Steve Newey and his 1930 Model A Sedan to experience the hill first hand and try to get a few action shots from inside. After a few more runs, I switched to another Sedan, this time Russ Debar’s 1928 model that wasn’t shy on the throttle. Hurtling up hill and screeching around the bends, it was a hold-on-for-your life run with no chance of getting a finger on the shutter. Closing off the track at 4 o’clock saw a cavalcade of cars still in the paddock running up the hill in succession. Unfortunately, the lead car driven by Roland Frost got slightly carried away misjudging Ettore’s Bend and ending up in the gravel, blocking any further cars from going up the hill.

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            With Roland towed out of the gravel, it was time to finish up and head back to the club house to grab some food and end the night with more tip-top tunes from Tim North.  Notable awards went to Rich Nobel’s AV-8 Roadster, A J Denning’s Model A Coupe, Gary McCormack’s 409-powered 32 coupe and Steve Brown’s Model T Roadster, all receiving copies of Men’s File magazine. Picking up the Car of GOW Award was Stuart Loeber’s Model B Ford, receiving a trophy by David Gardiner from Classic Metal Shaping, limited artwork prints from Jacqueline Davies Art and a Stormberg Carburettor, amongst other prizes!

            This was yet another excellent event from the VHRA with special thanks going to the Bugatti Owners Club and the boys and girls of the East Coast Sidewinders who made it all possible.  GOW returns to Prescott this August, so keep an eye out on the VRHA website for further info and updates on their other great events!  www.vhra.co.uk

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