I’ve just had a very interesting weekend, amongst some of the rarest cars on UK roads. It made me realise that an open mind really is a very good thing!
I’d organised Shitefest ’14. This is the annual gathering of folk from the Autoshite forum. It is a superb forum where cars ranging from the 1960s to the early noughties are enjoyed. It doesn’t really matter what they are, there will be someone there who likes them and there’s the absolute opposite of snobbery. Sure, there is an in-joke that all Vauxhalls are rubbish, but this really is just an in-joke. Put strange people together, and strange things happen. Don’t ask about Pineapplists.
Anyway. I nervously awaited the hordes at a carefully selected site just a few minutes walk from home. This meant I could take all three cars. Lovely!
Folk turned up and it became a truly magical weekend, aided by the Hafod Hotel whose site we used, and some incredible weather. On the Friday, cars included a large selection of Scottish Volvos, a delightful Fiat Panda Mk1, a Volkswagen Scirocco, a 1993 Cadillac Eldorado, more Volvos not from Scotland, a Freight-Rover Sherpa, a Triumph Acclaim and a Lancia Beta in disreputable condition as well as a fair few more. A pub quiz was enjoyed and then there was much nattering around a fire. Perfect.
On the Saturday, I planned nothing during the day. There really is no need to play everything to the hour. Just leave folk to their own devices. Some went out for the day, but most people opted to swap cars. Getting the most out of their ‘drive any car third party’ insurance cover, folk enjoyed the local roads in different machines. Autoshiters really are trusting as most of these runs were unaccompanied. I’m ashamed to admit that I wasn’t so trusting and sat in my cars when they were taken out. The Sirion did a few trips, a few people drove the 2CV around the car park and a few were treated to demonstration runs out on the road. A 2CV CAN be quick! But not uphill.
It was also a chance for me to try some other vehicles. This was hugely enjoyable. While I had great fun at the Heritage Motor Centre’s press day the other week, I get a buzz every time I clamber into a vehicle I’ve not driven before. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fiery sports car or a Vauxhall Cavalier Mk3 with rusty wheelarches – it’s a chance to put my perceptions to the test. You can look forward to individual road tests in the near future, but a Peugeot 504 diesel estate really won my heart – and I wasn’t alone.
On the Saturday evening, I led a scenic drive to Aberaeron for food, before we headed to the superbly quirky and enthusiastically run Internal Fire Museum of Power further down the Welsh coast.
This was the biggest challenge to be honest. The drive there was a good hour, leading a convoy of seven cars on a cross-country trip on Welsh roads. We got well away from major routes and saw spectacular sights – like many Fiat Multiplas and a shabby Peugeot 205. Then I had to get everyone fed pretty quickly (the New Celtic Restaurant did a great job with their take-out counter) and moving again to get to the museum.
We arrived only half an hour later than I’d planned – I really hadn’t factored in enough time for food – but it was well worth the wait. Thanks to the Arts Council, museums are encouraged to open at night on the weekend I’d chosen for a car rally. Arriving at 7:30pm was therefore no problem at all. It was a huge bonus to my planning for the weekend. Huge engines were running, and we were treated to an up-close introduction to the Orbital Two-Stroke Ford Fiesta that the museum usually has tucked away. Sadly, it wasn’t quite running (attempts had been made) but it was great to see such a rare car. To the best of my knowledge, there is only one other in the UK, at the Haynes Motor Museum.
Other highlights were the running of the Proteus Gas Turbine, which can apparently drink 40 litres of fuel in a minute! It made some people feel better about their ‘thirsty’ cars. We then headed back to the hotel, following a still-twisty but more straight-forward route that allowed us to get more of a crack on. Even the heavily laden 504 made good time. The reason for the rush? A Hyundai Stellar had arrived at site!
It’s a crap photo as I was over-excited and didn’t have a tripod. Sorry. It wasn’t just because it was a super-rare Stellar either. This one packs rather more of a punch by having a Rover V8 engine. It was a project started many, many years ago, when Stellars weren’t quite so rare. The Autoshite massive didn’t berate the owner for the non-original motor, but just applauded its magnificent noise! The car isn’t yet road legal and was actually still in Anglesey that afternoon having the exhaust custom made. It arrived being towed by a Volkswagen LT – in itself something of a rarity these days.
Sleep eventually happened, then we woke up and folk gently began to head home. Very gently. Some even had a cream tea first. I could tell you many more tales about the weekend, but that’s probably enough words for now. Suffice it to say that I’m very glad I organised it, very glad it was so well supported by local businesses, and so glad people came from miles away (385 miles in one case) just to stand around in a car park full of crap cars. It is so nice to have a meeting where cars aren’t judged, just enjoyed. Even the Kia Pride. Inspirational.