Monthly Archives: February 2011

Saluting The Royal Artillery

A grey February morning, a Friday in Esher, Surrey like any other. Except this Friday was different, we were going to have a parade.

For the past 135 years there has been a horse racing course in the town, Sandown Park. One of the traditional winter meetings is the Royal Artillery Gold Cup Day. The Royal Artillery Gold Cup has an unusual entry requirement. Only horses that are owned or leased by those who are serving, or have served, in the the Royal Artillery are eligible to compete.

There has been a feeling in the country at large that not enough recognition has been given to the Armed Forces who serve us bravely, whatever we think of the conflicts that they have been sent to. Overstretched by mendacious politicians, under equipped by a wasteful and bureaucratic procurement process, the military have paid the price for these shortcomings with their lives.

The citizens of a small town in Wiltshire, Wootten Bassett, gave an expression of respect for the sacrifices of the Armed Forces by their informal public mourning. This is held as hearses carrying the bodies of service men and women killed in Afghanistan and Iraq pass through the town after repatriation.

This has inspired others to find some means of showing their gratitude. Someone in Esher had the bright idea last year of organising a march in honour of members of the Royal Artillery just returned from a tour of duty in Helmand Province. It was popular, so yesterday saw a repeat performance. Those regiments that took part in the march included, The Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery, The Royal Artillery Band, Marching troops from various Royal Artillery Regiments and the Royal Artillery Pipes & Drums.

The town turned out on the High Street to applaud the soldiers and wave Union Jacks. It was very understated, very British and very sincere. The beneficiary of collections made during the morning was the excellent Help for Heroes.

I took a camera along and recorded some of the parade:

I know it has nothing to do with motor cars, I do not care. My blog, my rules

John Brooks, February 2011

We’ll Always Have Paris…………..1


It said that people love Paris in the Springtime, well from my perspective the Port de Versailles was pretty good in the Winter. It is the venue for the classy show, Retromobile, a thoroughly French celebration of classic cars and things good automobile-wise.

Top of the Pile

It is a show that has something for everyone that has petrol in their soul or heart. A chance to shake off the coils of winter, say an opportunity to buy THAT book that has been eagerly anticipated. Me? The 1982 Le Mans Year Book was on my shopping list and for just €60 it sits on the shelf along with the rest of the family, only ’83 to go now.

South Park comes to La Sarthe

Of course for all the gold that can prospected there is a little pyrite here and there but for the most part it is a worthwhile affair.

Steam Train

The exhibits looked back a long way, the Cugnot Fardier à Vapeur much further than the rest, some 240 years. Encouraged by Louis XV, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot built the first self-propelled vehicle with the intention of moving very heavy items such as cannon. Amazingly one example survives in the Paris museum, Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers.

Round the Benz

Another first, part of celebration of Mercedes Benz 125th anniversary, is this Benz Patent-Motorwagen. This is widely recognised as the first motor car. There is a tale to be told of course, in that the designer, Karl Benz was on the point of giving up his work when his wife, Bertha, took the vehicle on a long drive accompanied by her two sons. The trip, over 60 miles was the first journey of its kind ever undertaken and generated much press attention. It was the starting point.

Le Sweeney?

One of the charms of the Retromobile is recognition of the more mundane vehicles such as this Renault 4. Somehow I cannot see DI Regan shouting “Vous êtes entaillé” while leaping from this cop car.

Record Breaker

All three major French  manufacturers are well represented at Retromobile. They proudly show off their heritage both on and off the track. Here, “Petite Rosalie” a 30’s  Citroën 8CV with special bodywork broke many long distance world records at the Montlhéry Autodrome, covering over 300.000 kilometres at an average speed of 93 kph over a period of 134 days.

I’ll Join The Legion…..

This Citroën Autochenille Type P17 is something of a contrast. Scarabée D’Or III as it was known, formed part of an expedition organised by Citroën, La Croisière Jaune. On 4th April 1931, the group left Beirut and 315 days later reached the gates of Beijing, a distance of 12,115 kilometres.

Also equipped for the rough stuff but a tad faster, was the Peugeot 205 T16. Peugeot like its sister company, Citroën and rival, Renault had a major presence at the Retromobile.

Diesel Express

Peugeot too brought out the heritage. The Peugeot 404 Diesel broke 40 records during 1965 at Monthléry including a 72 hour stretch averaging 161.49 kph.

Vive La France

Marques that no longer exist were also represented. Lorraine-Dietrich for example.

The Winner of the 1926 Le Mans 24 Hours.

Completely authentic, is the Lorraine-Dietrich B3-6 that André Rossignol and Robert Bloch drove to victory in the 1926 Le Mans 24 Hours, amazing. They covered 2552 kilometres and considering the technology of the time that was a pretty incredible performance. To give some idea of scale, the 2010 winning Audi set a new distance record of 5,410 kilometres.

Lola GT

The world’s greatest race was well represented with the Lola GT showing the direction the the 60’s would take when Ford took over the idea to create the GT40 and its successors.

OK more tomorrow from Paris.

John Brooks, February 2011

I have been to The Mountain

Over The Top

As night follows day the PR releases tumble into the in box on my HotMail account. Most are routine, run of the mill affairs warranting little scrutiny but those from Audi usually get more than a cursory glance, for good reason. The latest is proclaiming the 1-2 finish for the revamped Audi R8 GT3 racer at the Bathurst 12 Hours.

What caught my eye was this image, I would have been pleased to shoot something as good as this. It simply says Mount Panorama. Bravo!

John Brooks, February 2011

Czech Mate

Skoda 1100 OHC at the 2011 Retromobile

Skoda, a rather misunderstood and, during the years of Communist control, an unfairly maligned manufacturer, produced over the years some fine and technically advanced motor cars  – their Popular  model of the Thirties for example pushed our Austin Ten and Morris Eight well into the shade.

Hot Seat

Despite political restrictions, they did manage to dabble on a limited scale in competitions, mainly in national events, although three 1100 saloons did well in the 1948 Spa 24 hour race, winning the 1100 c.c. Touring category, an 1100 Sport ran in the 1950 Le Mans race and rear-engined Skodas won their class in the R.A.C. Rally no less than sixteen times!

Full Of Eastern Promise

Since the founding of the Czechoslovakian state relatively little detailed information about that nation’s  interesting motor industry had found its way into Western Europe until some twenty years or so ago, and so it is not surprising that visitors to classic shows should be somewhat taken aback to see a genuine Skoda sportsracer.

Red Star Express

This splendid 1100 OHC is one of just two constructed in 1958. Based on a tubular frame, they were powered by a twin overhead camshaft version of the 1089c.c. 4- cylinder engine from the Skoda 440 saloon, giving 92 b.h.p. There were two plugs per cylinder and twin choke Jikov carburettors. A five-speed gearbox was mounted off-set at the rear and suspension was by torsion bars, longitudinal with wishbones at the front and angled with swing axles at the rear, where the brakes were inboard. These cars were designed by Ing F. Sajdl and two additional coupé versions (1100 OHC Sport) were built in 1960.

Stylish Skoda

Among successes in national events were three wins in 1958, two more victories in 1960 and also in 1961 and in 1962. The cars made only two official appearances outside of their homeland, in Budapest in 1958 where a 3rd and a 5th were scored in the 1500c.c. race and in Leningrad, where the cars came home first and second.

David Blumlein