2015 sees the 40th anniversary of the Vauxhall Chevette, and so I was determined to get mine along to the Vauxhall Bedford Opel Association (VBOA) event at Billing, Northamptonshire. The VBOA is a UK umbrella group for clubs related to General Motors’ products, and for many years they have taken over the Billing Aquadrome for their annual show which must now be by far the largest gathering of such vehicles in Britain.
Unfortunately I was only able to attend on the Sunday (as apparently the Saturday benefitted from wonderful weather). Sunday by contrast varied between bright sunshine and monsoons more worthy of Nepal than Northampton. However this was all unsuspected when I picked up Mr Turner, the gentleman who has been responsible for keeping my cars on the road and fixing them when I break them, before heading up from the south coast.
We pulled into Billing at 10:30 and trundled around to the Chevette Owners Group (COG) stand where about 30 cars had already been parked up. Having just had time to say “hello” to the various members we jumped back into our cars for our moment in the (literal and metaphorical) sunshine - taking part in the Chevette parade around the central arena. Once safely back at the stand I had a chance to take a look around.
Although a bit shy of the hoped-for 40 examples, the COG gathering served to emphasise the variation found in this lively small car. Sadly, being GM’s first ‘global’ car, we didn’t have an example of the American version but Malcolm David’s stunning Kadett estate showed what the German’s had done with theirs. In addition, we had three of the equally rare vans along with 4-door saloons, 3-door saloons and of course the hatchback. A super-rare black HSR joined Vauxhall’s own HS and George Spagnoli’s HSR replica as representatives of the performance versions, the last being a worthy winner of the “Victor Cup.”
Of course it wasn’t all about Chevettes (although they were also represented on the Droop Snoot Group and the Cavalier and Chevette Club stands), especially as this year also sees the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Nova Sport. In such a notable year for this hot hatchback it was entirely appropriate that the Nova Sport Register with Just Opel Vauxhall won the award for the best stand whilst Sean Kell’s factory fresh example (it even had the paper stickers still on the tyres) took the Chairman’s Cup. Other momentous anniversaries being celebrated were the 40th anniversary of the workhorse Mark 1 Cavalier and the 25th anniversary of both the pretty Calibra and the absolutely barking Lotus Carlton.
2015 also saw the first attendance of the newly formed Bedford Enthusiast’s Club, bringing heavy haulage to sit alongside the rep-mobiles, hot hatches and other assorted cars. It has to be said that the finish on the stunning black O-Type Bedford lorry wouldn’t have disgraced a Rolls Royce, however one cannot help but wonder how it would look after lugging a few heavy marine castings up and down the country.
Over at the Vauxhall Cresta Club the two-tone world of the rock n’ roll era was well represented with cars ranging from the religiously restored ‘factory fresh’ to the impressively customised, the latter represented by one Cresta shorn of its rear doors and with a monstrous, modern V8 under the bonnet. What took my eye though was an example in “barn find” condition; having grown up in the 1970s this is how I remembered the Cresta and other cars of its era. As nice as it is to see the pristine or ‘tidy-but-used’ cars, personally I hope that this one will be kept in its current state.
The VBOA gathering at Billing is also useful for stocking up on those difficult-to-find parts, something anybody who runs a non-mainstream classic will appreciate. My own trawl through the myriad stands was fruitless, but had I required a complete side pressing for a Viva body shell or a Kadett coupé door then it would have been a different story!
In total the weekend saw more than 2000 vehicles attending. It may be that the older cars are those of most interest to us but it was nice to have nearly all eras represented. Having said this there didn’t seem to be an awful lot pre-war or 1950s cars, although just about every variant produced by the three companies from the 1960s onwards must have been there. In fact, a single day proved to be insufficient for looking around the whole site so it is not inconceivable that an enclave of older models escaped me.
Other award winners over the weekend were Fred Collins claiming the Griffin Trophy with his Type A Bedford, Mark Clow being awarded the Treasurer’s Trophy for his Vectra, and John Corbett securing the Organiser’s Cup with his mark 3 Cavalier. When the rain lashed down it drove most people under cover but still failed to dampen the easy going and friendly atmosphere of the VBOA’s annual gathering. This and the incredible variation in the vehicles present lead me to suspect that we shall have to head North for it again next year.
For more information on the VBOA, visit their website here: http://www.vboa.org.uk/
This article is dedicated to Droop Snoot Group member Brian Hawkes, who was killed in a road traffic accident this week while driving his Firenza, a car he had owned from new. Rest in peace, Brian, and our thoughts are with your family and friends.