Friday 2nd September & Saturday, 3rd September 2016
The inaugural Cars in the Claydons event may have been low key in terms of numbers, not in any way helped by the somewhat inclement verging on downright horrible weather on Saturday afternoon, though there were stretches of time when it was almost pleasant to wander the grounds of a stately home looking at vehicles of every conceivable vintage. It wasn’t lacking interest, ambition or action though, which bodes very well indeed for the 2017 edition, tentatively scheduled for the same weekend but this time over two days not one.
It got off to a good start with the preview black tie evening session on Friday with canapes and prosecco in abundance in the art gallery space on the Claydon Estate. We were met by Nick and Alexandra Verney, who have recently taken over the running of the estate from his parents, somewhat unexpectedly it seemed from our conversation with them, and who are now seeking to find new ways of making it profitable. The lovely space that now housed a myriad of motoring and motor sporting paintings certainly made for a good location for a reception, and they also apparently have conference facilities alongside the various artists’ studios and the shiny new teas shop that have sprung up around the courtyard of the old stable block.
The charming staff kept everyone supplied with prosecco whilst Nick and the man behind the event, the unassuming but very driven James Beckett outlined the background to the weekend’s events and some of their hopes and plans for its future. After that it was off outside for a tour of the gardens and grounds to see them and the cars and such that were already present. The lawn in front of the stables provided several competition vehicles, including a lovely Frazer Nash that arrived as we were all standing outside, and that made the loveliest noise. Music to any petrol head’s ears I would say! It certainly was to mine anyway.
After that we took in the lawn where there were a number of vintage tractors, several road cars, a small oil tanker, and – on the stretch of lawn set aside for the concours d’elegance – something very scary looking hidden under a custom-built cover!
As if that were not enough, hidden away behind the house, in the kitchen garden, behind a row of apple trees was this:
It’s not everyday you encounter a Le Mans 24 Hours winning car hiding in an orchard. It looked glorious with the rain from an earlier shower beading the bodywork, and was one of a number of vehicles James had somehow persuaded Audi to bring out. As I say, he’s a quiet man, but he gets things done.
By the time we returned from the tour of the grounds it was starting to get dark, so we said our goodbyes to several people we know, and headed for home and dinner, prepared to return the following day when more machines would be present for our entertainment, always providing the weather wasn’t too dire.
It wasn’t looking too good when we set off on the half hour drive back to the Claydons, and the rain kept up a steady flow all the way there. There was talk of it easing though so we kept going and parked up just in time to run into some friends of ours getting out of their car about three spaces along from us in the car park. We went in together but the rain started to come down harder and we lost track of them as we nosed around the lawn in front of the house, being particularly taken with several of the older and rarer cars parked up out there.
These included this splendid beastie which, when the bonnet was opened, turned out to be powered by a motorbike engine which the owner admitted he had stripped down and rebuilt on the dining room table, all the while imagining just what his late wife would have had to say about it!
Over on the concours lawn the beast under the cover had been revealed and what a monster it was. The Fafnir had a 10 litre engine and looked like a very serious bit of kit, what with the very long front end, and the cut out radiator grill. I suspect it probably sounds wonderful too, but sadly it wasn’t in action during our visit.
Also sounding pretty impressive was the compact but decidedly not bijou trials bike course where various riders of all ages were having a go as they competed for the Claydon Cup. The bikes were of all ages too with some having racked up half a century and sounding and smelling all the better for it, and some about as modern as you could get including a pair of electric machines, one a cut down version of the adult one for a father and son pair. It was equally interesting talking to both sets of owners and trust the 8-year old to remember the time his dad ran out of power.
The area around what used to be the swimming pool was the trials paddock and thus full of bikes, but the adjoining lawn had several old GP bikes parked on it. Sadly there was no one about to explain their provenance but they looked lovely anyway.
After a short sandwich and beer break while we waited for it to stop raining again we moved on to the Audis and Jaguars in the orchard, arriving just as the Le Mans winning Audi had its doors open providing a great view of the myriad switches, dials and controls the drivers have to cope with.
Just as we’d finished nosing round the various areas the rain started to come down yet again, so we deemed it an excellent moment to head back to the car park and go home!
I’m now looking forward to next year’s event very much as there is talk of using some of the massive estate for other action stages, perhaps with a short rally stage or similar. Meanwhile, I wish Nick and Alexandra the best of luck as they and James start to plan for 2017.