Traction Owners Club Annual Rallye 2002
A report by the "Hiberno-Helvetian Delegation" (German version)

To cut a long journey short

My intention to visit this year’s Annual Rallye grew last year, when I met Marcus and his family during their holiday in Switzerland. With his Big Six and trailer, coming all the way from Ipswich down to France and up through the Alps, he was certainly the star of the Swiss traction club’s 25th anniversary meeting. And guess who snatches up the prize for the traction coming from farthest afield!

Earlier this year, I made the acquaintance of another TOC member, Richard Sheil, also on home turf. We found out about our mutal hobby via the TA discussion group on yahoo. When it emerged he was coming over on business and had some time to spare, we arranged to go for a spin in my 11BL along Lake Zurich.

Exchanging experiences, i.e. traction owners’ highs and lows, we had a wonderful time. And Richard brought me an issue of "Floating Power" wherein his restoration trials and tribulations are featured. His account fascinated me, and I later translated and published it in our Swiss club magazine. During our conversation over dinner, Richard mentioned the Annual Rallye – would I like to come, perhaps? That would be great, I answered, though it would be rather a long way for me. But you know how it is. Once your mind is set spinning and imagining things, even if they seem unreasonable, you can’t stop really…. certainly not if the programme looks so promissing! I say … a journey from Gibraltar to Blenheim. This is an adventure which I’m not going to miss!

Contacting Robyn Dyke further confirms my intentions to meet more of those friendly, like-minded people across the Channel. I register with the club and for the rallye. A mere week later, Peter Riggs sends me my membership ID, the rally confirmation and a stylish grille badge.

(FP Cover: see picture at the bottom!)

On top of it, several back issues of FP help shorten the weeks ahead before the rallye. And to make up for the fact that I will fly and not drive my own car, both Richard and Marcus offer me a lift from under way.
Having booked a hotel room in Woodstock, I offer Marcus to share it with me as accommodation is getting scarce. He accepts, which not only cuts costs but also solves my problem of local transport.

head on head

black and white


dusty ladies 1

dusty ladies 2

Londons Citroën Secrets, seen from Space Shuttle

I am glad Marcus picks me up from City Airport – not in his Big Six, which is going to Boston, but in his new C5. It’s so new that there’s still cardboard on the floor and bits covered in plastic foil. Not only does it have a traffic alarm and road forecast gadget, but also futuristic satellite navigation. The difficult bit is entering the destination (toggle, toggle, skip, press "acknowledge", enter, ok, return…) but after that, following the directions issued by an artificial woman’s voice is a piece of cake. Of course it’s just not the same. Unfolding double-sided maps and poking your finger in the driver’s ribs, cursing about that illegible print and the sensation of nausea can’t be beaten, can it? But here, even if you go past an indicated turn, the voice gives you new directions, without any of the scolding you might expect from a human co-driver.

Having all afternoon at our disposal, Marcus makes a point of chauffeuring the novice in British things traction to the Capital’s hidden treasure spots of our obscure hobby.

After about twenty minutes on the road, the sci-fi voice whispers "…you have nearly arrived…". I scan the road for tractions, but all I can see is a huge Office World outlet on the Old Kent Road. Marcus parks and leads me on through a narrow street, into a garage, past some half closed doors, round a corner. Then, we make our way past some sleeping IDs and tractions, up a ramp onto the upper floor and ... here it is, the famous "Classic Restorations"! Flabbergasted is the only word I can tink of to describe my feeling at this sight - probaly the densest concentration of TAs I have ever come across! This is truly a temple of enlightenment for any traction enthusiast, a treasue trove of designer artefacts, patiently waiting to relive their glorious past.

Several of them are obviously under reconstruction. Others, nameless and abandoned for the time being, have acquired a photogenic shroud of dust. And this place is so big! It’s only after several attempts that I discover where the two voices in the background are coming from. Marcus introduces me to the Lord over this Empire of Nostalgia, John Gilliard. As it turns out, I had crossed his paths before when accidentially stumbling over the former "Arches" garage.

As we take our leave again, all the richer for some parts and a lasting memory, we enter our next destination into the on-board computer. Admittedly, our throats got a bit dusty in there and we are dying for a drink. What better way to satisfy the urge than proclaiming the famous Michelin slogan "nunc est bibendum" (now we shall drink!) and seeking out the building by the same name. But due to dense traffic and the computer leading us to the wrong end of Fulham Road at first, and it’s already 3 o'clock when we arrive at no. 81, the former Michelin Tyre factory.

Mais ça vaut le voyage! The outstanding Art Deco building, converted into stylish shops and an upmarket restaurant, has magnificent stained-glass windows and several tyre-shaped decorative elements. From the top of the building and from the menu "Bibendum", the marque’s mascotte, greets us, raising a cup of nails and broken glass. All those nasty things which one might encounter on the road but which Michelin tyres are sure to swallow (or “drink”, as in the saying).


Bib's motto: "Nunc est bibendum!"
< The author and Bib

81 Fulham Road, Michelin Tyre Co.

Marcus reading the bibendum menue

Our space shuttle, the all new C5

Rallye at the Rock

Two hours later, we join the crowd flocking in at the "Rock of Gibraltar", a beautiful old pub by the banks of the Enslow Canal. Robyn and Sue make us feel welcome and hand us an excellent rallye package. I especially like the badge with the happy traction on springy tyres. But the package contains many other things; maps, directions, promotion and give-away articles…. still, Robyn is relaxation personified. This can only be the sign of a man who knows he’s done his homework and checked it over twice!
Now, let’s see who’s arriving on the lawn. Did I see a red number plate there? Indeed, the cars gathering are coming from far (Scotland) and wide (Belgium). The Belgian delegation, with the red plates, have no less than three tractions present, and very rare ones at that. Going round them, I spot a sticker saying "wat is Citroën rijden toch formidabel". True, "isn’t it formidable to drive a Citroën".

With so many fine cars about, it’s easy to get to know fellow enthusiasts. Another good focus for introduction are the dogs of course. A friendly woof! at this point to "Solo" from Northumbria (that collar’s off now?), the Dyke’s spaniel "Skipper" and Mr. & Mrs. Richards' terrier, that posed admirably for the portrait below.

Great cars!

Happy punters!

Nice rallye badge!

Early to bed and early to rise

Like everyone else, I relish in the barbecue buffet. And since Marcus is driving, I don’t have to restrain myself on the cyder either! Just before there’s nothing left, an Irish traction pulls in. Hey, that’s Richard and his cousin Cormack who made it as well! Over 400 km in a mad dash – just like them! A hearty welcome and update on the latest stories ensues, accompanied by more of the heavy bevvy.
Marcus and I retire after ten as we’ve not yet checked in at the hotel. Luckily, this is no problem, and the room is ok, even if there’s only one bed. For those who think that this night holds further thrills for us – you are actually right, but it’s not what you think... The latest revelations on TV are about a Dr. Shipman who’s killed over 200 of his patients. Reportedly, he started this gruesome series when he was practising at Todmorden. Sorry folks, that’s hardly a surprise for me – the place name spells "Deathmurder" in my tongue. Here’s to sweet dreams!

When Marcus and I get down to the hotel lobby at 8 o’clock, there’s not a soul in sight. Breakfast from 8.30 they said, riiiiight. To stretch our bones a little, we decide to go for a stroll through Woodstock. At the end of Market Street, we suddenly find ourselves at the side entrance to Blenheim Palace!

Nobody there and the gates wide open. We sneak in, and stand in awe in front of the beautfully laid out Queen Pool and the Palace beyond in the early morning haze. Marcus suggests going down to the lake for a few minutes... Once we’re there, admiring the water features populated by swans, geese and ducks, both of us are curious to "inspect his lordship's grounds" further, which leads us all around the lake and over the magnificent bridge. Nothing like a brisk walk, is there! An hour later, we tuck into our well-earned full English breakfast.

Tulips in the Cotswolds?

At Sturdy’s Castle, we meet our Irish friends who offer us a place in their car for the convoy drive. We enter as the "hiberno-helvetian-lowlander team": Two coldblooded traction stunt drivers from Dublin, a former Dutchman and club president plus a Swiss rallye novice acting as navigator.

Last inspection...

Men on a mission

Next generation

Richard's relatives

Raffle-winning Twins

The convoy starts easily enough and it all seems like plain sailing. But after having sheepishly adhered to our frontman’s tail lights and getting lost, I start paying attention to the documentation.

It helps having been with the scouts for several years, but it takes Marcus to explain to me what reason "tulips" have for showing up in our papers. Ah, these logos show how to proceed at a crossroad? It certainly is more fun finding the way by ourselves and we haste onwards to the airfield. Alas, we arrive too late for the contests – not too late though for Richard to step on the accelerator and try a new top speed of his own.

I wish we could stay longer, but here we go again, for the treasure hunt. Bumping along narrow country lanes, sticking our heads out for clues to the questions; "it’s here...", "no, wait", "we must have passed it"... this is certainly more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

What with all the concentrating on the road, maps, tulips and questions, I start getting confused and imagining things. "What colour is the Peacock?" goes one of the riddles. I peek behind every barn…. surely, Mr. Humphries and Mrs. Slocum must be just round the corner for a clue to the dress of the famous floorwalker?

I am glad we slow down and rest for some time at Cogges Farm. A special group of splendid tractions have already lined up, with a clutch of hens and historic farm buildings as a backdrop. Further on, in the orchard, I get a chance to talk with Robyn about the excellent rallye documentation he’s provided. Once again, very well done, Robyn!

Two epiphanies

Long Hanborough’s Bus Museum is another highlight of the day. While I pose with the "Spice Girls Bus", Richard and Cormack get their picture taken in front of a Hong Kong double decker. Inside, several beautifully restored overland busses bring the time from after the war back to life. A time, when people had to rely on public transport and few were blessed with such gems as our tractions – or are they? Outside the museum, I find Richard in his blue overall under his jacked-up car, adjusting the brakes! And he does this five or six times over during the rallye, getting a better feeling for it every time. That’s how you learn. When he appears again, he cuts his head on the bumper – oh no! To everyone’s relief, the car remains unscathed.

We come across the second epiphany after the rallye. On one of the quiet roads between Woodstock and Kirtlington, an imposing, sleek, black Bentley R-type Continental swooshes past us, its beautiful Mulliner fastback trailing off in the mirror. As I find out later, this was one of only 208 ever made! I have to come back again for some more oldtimer spotting, that’s for sure!

Oxfordshire scenes

Richard adjust his brakes on the fly

A rare 5-speed BX-engined traction

Morris Drinkers and raffle surprises

Maybe I missed the point about the performance before dinner, Morris Drinkers I think they’re called. Why attach bells to your legs, dress up fancily and throw all those sticks in the air instead of going to the bar straight away? Just joking – of course. I enjoy them tremendously and the performance is really quite extraordinary. Like the flowery sugar pot which I win at the raffle! It’s the first time I win anything, but being the last to be drawn, I also have to take what’s left. Nevertheless, many thanks folks! At least some return on my investment of two quid.

The Yeats twins Amelia and Georgina deservedly win the treasure hunt prize, a big box of chocolate. It probably didn't even make it back to where they were staying for the night.

Sunday spectacular

We meet again early on Sunday morning at Sturdy’s Castle. The VW Golf Club have their meeting on the adjacent lawn. Acres of loudspeakers, subwoofers, neon colors... well, different strokes for different folks! I catch a glimpse of Robyn, who, unimpressed by the rivals, beams at the number of tractions he was able to bring together.
As the Yeats family don’t feel like joining the Oxford convoy, they ask Richard and Cormack, who are delighted to be among the chosen twenty. We travel along roads which are only open to traffic on special occasions, thus providing undisturbed photo opportunities on the historic cobblestoned streets and back alleys of Oxford's Colleges. One TVR barges in though, but the comparison is a fascinating study in time travel.

Follow that car!

Drop head gorgeous

Time Machine 1

Time Machine 2

Tractions return

When we arrive at Blenheim, most club members’ cars are already parked on the lawn in front of the Palace. After a first round of the cars, I take a tour of the Palace’s rooms and relax with a sandwich in the pleasure garden. But then I get lost trying to find the maze. Not such a good idea, perhaps? At the end of the path, there’s a sign saying "trespassers w". Where did I see that before? Anyway, I scramble through the hedge, jump the barbed-wire fence and land in a ditch, only to be spotted exactly when one of the small passenger trains goes by, leaving me looking like a poacher.

Alright, back to the cars. It’s a bit unfair, but when you have a gathering of mostly one model, any other car sticks out. Hence, the beautiful black and cream Rosalie catches my eye, as well as the open Hotchkiss tourer from the twenties. It’s the oldest car in the rallye, but it’s a magnet for the younger oldtimer fans!

Beautiful Rosalie

Picknick in style

Perfect family car

Blenheim salute

And the winner is...

All too soon it’s three o’ clock and the prizes are awarded. I don’t recall all the winners, only Tim Walker seems to be the lucky man of the day with several cups at his feet. Finally, Bernie and Paul grin like Cheshire cats when they bring forth a warped piston as the last trophy. It goes to Bill, who made a narrow escape on the tour through Norway, when a loose rock fell on the front of his car. Until it’s fixed, it will be the "traction with the least attraction"....but Bill and his wife take it in good humour (see above, "next generation").

Many thanks again to Richard, Marcus, Robyn, Paul, Bill, Bernie and everyone else who made this dream of a traction weekend come true!

Sincerely, Caspar Türler

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