8 September 2015

The Thrill of the Chase

Once upon a time there was a castle deep in an old enchanted forest. Once a year, the castle gates were thrown open, and the people were allowed in to experience the magic that lay within the walls. There they found traders from all over the Kingdom (and a few from Europe) who had set up their stalls, selling wondrous wares. And the magic meant that whatever classic car part they wanted, it would be there- somewhere. They just had to find it. So, sustained by the finest burgers and coffee from paper cups, and with the help of small shopping trollies, the countryfolk set about their task of searching for kingpins for a Humber Hawk and ye olde dashboard for a Triumph Herald.

The Beaulieu International Autojumble sometimes feels a bit like trying to search the internet without Google. 2000 stands, a dealer mart and on Sunday a field full of ‘trunk traders’, with only a few stalls actually advertising what they are selling, means finding the right part is a challenge that makes finding a needle in a haystack look like child’s play. But the feeling of unearthing a hidden gem from the bottom of a box marked “EVERYTHING £5” is unbeatable even if, as is usually the case, it wasn’t what you were looking for in the first place.

I always take a list of parts needed to Beaulieu, and I always return with a stack of bargains, none of which featured on my list. This year I needed a dash binnacle for a VW camper and a set of Alfa Romeo 1750 conrods. I came back with a framed picture of a Spitfire, a wicker picnic basket and a 1964 copy of Glass’s Guide. Oh, and the usual bag-full of fixings and nitrile gloves. I was, you will not be surprised to hear, absolutely delighted with my purchases.

What is it about this process of hunting (and finding) bargains or rare parts that gives us classic car enthusiasts so much pleasure? It is the pride one feels when you can identify the correct widget for your car at twenty paces. It is the satisfaction of finding an original part that you just can’t buy any more. But above all, it is the warm glow of happiness from finding a bargain. I like to think of it as the Beaulieu Feeling.

The ultimate expression of the Beaulieu Feeling has to be the ‘barn find’ car. A few weeks ago I was lucky to experience this properly for only about the third time in my life. The frission of entering a garage, removing boxes from a dusty bonnet unearthing a gem below is beyond compare. Under the garage detritus, I found a rusty 1967 Porsche 912: right-hand drive, with five-speed gearbox, black leather interior and Fuchs alloys. I had been looking for a long-bonnet Porsche like this for years; the moment I saw it, I knew that a love affair was about to start, and a long and hugely emotional relationship stretched before me. After a quick call to the office, (adding the car to my policy cost less than £10,) a deal was done and a few days later the car arrived on my driveway. I’ll let you know how we get on.

What is your best find, either in a ‘barn’ or at an autojumble?

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