Step back in time with us to Easter 2019 (April 19 2019 to be precise!)
Wheels Day, Rushmoor Arena, Aldershot, Hants
Enjoy more Classic American reading in the monthly magazine.
Click here to subscribe & save.
Words & Photography: Ben Klemenzson
What a difference a year makes. Whereas last year’s Wheels Day was probably the worst wash out in memory, this year… well, few can remember such a hot sunny Easter! And that’s the thing with Easter, sometimes it comes in March when technically it’s still Winter, other times in April like this year, it’s as if Summer has come early. With 24 degrees of heat and not a cloud in the sky, the Surrey Street Rodders were almost guaranteed a bumper turn out of cars and punters.
Wheels Day always kicks off early and finishes relatively early too, even on a balmy hot Good Friday like this year’s … which to my mind is strange; doesn’t everyone just want to loll around, enjoying the sunshine and taking in all the amazing cars? And of course, it’s the cars we come for: Wheels Day is unique on the American automotive calendar in being an event where American vehicles happily rub up along British classics, VWs (or Dubs as they call them… I think!) and rods, customs and all other manner of weird and wonderful four wheel transportation.
For that reason you’ll have to make an exception for the occasional non-American vehicle that’s made it into this report; although we all love American cars, we’re also petrol-heads and as such take an interest even in vehicles that don’t hail from across the pond, such as Sam Roberts’ Trabant, which he drove all the way up from Portsmouth (he must have set off on Wednesday!).
To see cars like that parked next to any American vehicle really puts into contrast how different American automotive engineering was compared to what the Soviet Union/East Germany came up with … and indeed, it was parked up next to an exceptionally nice 1968 Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS belonging to Nigel and Mary Bishop from Hove in West Sussex. Featuring a 350 small block and four-speed manual, this matching numbers car carries some nice rare options, including the auxiliary lighting package and fibre optic light monitoring system (pretty self-explanatory). The Camaro is for sale, so check out the Classifieds in the back of Classic American next month.
Another stunning car up for grabs (there seemed to be a lot of cars for sale at the show this year,) was a gorgeous teal blue Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme with a 330 motor, power-windows and a price tag of £22k.And if it was a nice wagon you were after, there weren’t many nicer wagons there than the Golden 1970 Plymouth Satellite up for a very reasonable £15,850. Runing a 318 and auto, it had had all the steering, suspension bushes done, as well as the shocks, exhaust, battery, springs, brake and lots more. Not for sale, but equally impressive was Giles Sadd’s 1978 Silver Anniversary Corvette which he’d brought up for the day from Romsey in Hampshire. It’s always nice to see unmolested original cars and Giles’s car is exceptional so and was exactly what he was looking for when he bought it Stateside and imported back home to the UK.
There were a couple of Ford retractables on display, including the very handsome 1958 Ford Skyliner belonging to Phil Morgan from Aldershot. Imported from Texas, Phil ruefully admitted he’d unwillingly started to become a bit of an expert on the engineering side of these cars… well, you’d need to be, wouldn’t you?!
Interestingly, whilst there were a lot VWs there of various types and condition, there was also a rather cool-looking ‘gateway’ car on display, one that offers VW fans the opportunity to get into American vehicles without completely leaving their roots behind: the Corvair. One such ‘flat-six’ enthusiast was VW specialist Steve Walker, who’d come along with his son Harry and very cool-looing patina’d ’63 Monza. Lowered and wearing Cosmic wheels off a Lotus, the car hailed from Sacramento originally, so had zero rust, but a very crusty patina’d look from the hot sun up there.
Wheels Day is pretty formulaic; people turn up early, walk around the cars and the stands, have their lunch and start leaving after that. It’s a shame really, as the trophy-giving at the end really highlights the best of the best from the show and underlines the variety and different types of vehicle on display. And if you got exhausted trying to walk around and see all the cars, all you had to do is stay and watch the prize giving and the cream of the crop literally drives past.
Typical was a truly gorgeous 1934 Ford Coupe with a Chrysler Firepower Hemi that had a six inch chop and all the quality hallmarks of work done by Buckland Automotive. It was good to see the Mopar Muscle Association pick up Best Club Stand; their take (and the prices!) of a used American car lot circa 1975 always brings a smile. And almost as if to prove the point that Wheels Day is variety of four wheels, best in show was a truly lovely looking… 1952 Mercedes 220!
Kingstown Shipping and RH Insurance Car of the Year
Look familiar? Long time readers of Classic American may recognise this handsome 1965 Chrysler 300L belonging to Geoff and Jan Mitchell which has appeared previously in the magazine many years ago. Geoff and Jan are familiar faces on the American car scene in the UK and are involved with the Pre-’50 American Auto Club (Geoff edits the club magazine) and own a number of American vehicles, including a 1957 Chrysler New Yorker and a 1979 Winnebago amongst others.
Geoff went out specifically looking for a real Sixties American coupe almost 25 years ago and despite being a Chrysler man through and through, he was willing to consider other Marques and models, such as the first generation Buick Riviera, Cadillac Eldorado or Pontiac Bonneville. Luckily for Geoff this car was found in Colorado (although it was originally from Southern California) and he bought it and had it shipped to the UK. When the car arrived it wore flat paint, was covered in dust, the exhaust was hanging off … and it only had half a pint of fuel in the tank. Not a great start, but Geoff got it going, drove it home during which the initial disappointment evaporated with the upbeat realisation that it was in actual fact a very nice car to drive and that it had absolutely no rust at all.
Under the bonnet sits a 413 wedge engine (rated at 360bhp/ 495lb ft of torque,) which made its final appearance that year in Chrysler passenger cars, the automatic transmission is Chryser’s legendary Torqueflite and it carries some very attractive options, including leather seats which have been restored, air conditioning and power-windows. Other interesting features on the car include a vacuum gauge which sits atop the console and the electro-luminescent dash in the reconfigured/updated version of the car’s ‘jukebox’ dash. Since Geoff and Jan have owned the car it’s been resprayed in a colour similar to the original Spanish Metallic Red and undergone a lot work courtesy of Martin Savill at RPM (Rare Performance Motors) of Aldershot, Hants.
NSRA: ’32 Grey Ford
Edsel Ranchero, Lee Day
’34 Ford Coupe w. Hemi power, Paul
Ford 100E, Liz Ann Doyle
1963 Chrysler 300, Mark Rumble
Best Club: Mopar Muscle Association
Best in Show: 1952 Mercedes 220, Ron Hartford