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Report from the West Midlands Rally



MERCEDES-BENZ INTERNATIONAL GORDON BENNETT RALLY -13/15 June 2008, TULLOW, Co. CARLOW






The West Midlands Shield, presented to Phil Hetherigton




First a little history: The 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup Race, sponsored by the American newspaper tycoon, came to Ireland because of the remarkable victory by the English driver Selwyn F. Edge in the 1902 race held in France. Rules of the event required the winning country to stage the following year’s race. In 1903 the speed limit in Britain and Ireland was just 12 miles per hour. A special Act of Parliament was passed to allow the circuit to be closed for the Gordon Bennett Cup Race. The race was won by the Belgian Camille Jenatzy in a 9.2 litre Mercedes for Germany. He covered the 327 miles in a time of 6 hours and 39 minutes; an average of 49.2 miles per hour.


It was an opportunity not to be missed by anyone interested in antique and veteran vehicles. We were asked to join the Standard group taking part in the Gordon Bennett Memorial Rally. We had heard from previous attendees how good the event was, so we happily accepted the invitation made by Steve Smeltzer to be passengers in his 1927 Standard V4.


Unfortunately, the V4’s engine was not back from the repairers in time, although it had been promised, so we travelled in the modern car to meet up with the rest of the group. Stan and Christine Gilford’s 1926 Stratford also suffered on the way over to the ferry at Holyhead, and they finished up catching a later ferry in their modern car.


The Standards which did make it to the event were David Groom’s 1920 SLO, navigator Harry Groom, and David Blackwell’s 1926 Stratford driven by Len Barr and Bob James. Len’s Standard Rhyl was also under repair. Jim O’Farrell joined us on the Sunday with his very tidy 1915 Standard Model S.


The trip followed the format from last year with a B&B in Llanfair before catching the fast ferry over to Dun Laoghaire. We travelled by the Dart train to Dublin on Thursday evening to indulge in a meal in Wynn’s Hotel, along with a few pints of the Guinness for those who wished, and a little wine.


Friday morning, after an ample Irish breakfast produced by the lovely Justine, we travelled to Naas across country, well that was the intention, except we finished up doing one junction on the motorway in error! We arrived without other incident at the reception and signing on, which was a free buffet lunch with wine, sponsored by Mercedes and held in the main dealer’s showroom. We performed several detours around Naas before eventually finding the German sector of the numerous vehicle showrooms!


The car park was a sight to behold. Over two hundred vehicles were entered, all pre-1930, many belonging to the first decade of the 1900s, vehicles rarely seen on the road these days except on the London to Brighton run. There were all sizes and types from the "four pram wheels and a tiller" to those built on lorry-size chassis like the Bentleys, from "horseless carriages" to sleek sports cars built by Alfa Romeo.


After perusing as many vehicles as we could and lunching on the fine buffet, we set out to the Mount Wolseley Hotel at Tullow, the headquarters of the Rally, (yes, there is a connection with the motor manufacturer). More vehicles to view and watch arriving, we then found our B&B base for the next two nights, which was a fine Georgian residence with very spacious rooms and excellent breakfast menu, including rhubarb and strawberry compote, and scrambled eggs and smoked salmon!


Over the event we mixed ourselves around between the modern cars and the old Standards. The main run was on Saturday over 108 miles of gentle rolling Irish countryside. Gentle trouble-free routes took us to a Riverside hotel in Leighlinbridge for the lunch stop, with more swapping around we all managed to have a ride in an old vehicle. Afternoon tea was taken in Osborne’s Bar in the village of Clonegal, a typical Irish bar alongside a river, central heating provided in the winter by a solid fuel ‘salamander’ in the middle of the bar, health and safety - Pah!


It was a tiring day, but after refreshing ourselves back at the B&B and a change into "posh frocks" we returned to the Mount Wolseley Hotel for the gala dinner with speeches, plenty of good food, wine, and of course the black stuff (Guinness for the uninitiated).


Sunday morning, after photo shoots in front of the house and goodbyes to Paddy and Maureen Owens, our very genial hosts, we went back to HQ. The Sunday itinerary was a short route to a ruined castle with walled garden, which provided a welcome stroll, especially for the gardeners in the group. From there we made our own route, or rather followed a very kind Austin driver, back to Dun Laoghaire, taking the very scenic road across the Wicklow Gap.


The Stratford behaved well, just needing some adjustment to the clutch (carried out by Bob James), and David Groom’s SLO didn’t appear to miss a beat the whole trip. The weather was fine but chilly, with just a few drops of rain on Saturday.


Our thanks go to the good company we had across the event, to Len Barr for the organization, and a special thank you to Steve Smeltzer for asking us along and doing all the driving there and back. It was a real treat.


Bob & Val Richardson










Two Standard 10s





Fiona Bennett's Prewar 8 Tourer








Rare sighting: two Vanguard Vignale Six estates together








Peter Lockley's 8








This newly acquired Vanguard Estate belongs to Ivan Hancox




I quote from the Park's website: "In Sandwell Valley, Sandwell Park Farm, is a fully restored 18th century farm which was constructed to supply food throughout the year to the Earls of Dartmouth’s estate and Sandwell Hall.


A variety of livestock housed within the central courtyard and adjoining pasture are the actual breeds which would have been kept on the farm at the turn of the century.

The Victorian Kitchen Garden demonstrates the techniques used to supply vegetables and fresh fruit to Sandwell Hall. The farm also contains collection of old agricultural machinery and displays illustrating human activity in Sandwell Valley from pre-historic times."

Everyone was agreed that this was an ideal venue for a Standard Rally, with lots to see and do and a restaurant for lunch.




The prize display





Peacock puts on a fine display















A threshing machine would make a challenging restoration project





Alan and May Withey, the organisers





Best Pre-1948 car was the Maxwell's Flying12





Best Post 48 car was this Standard 8 belonging to Ron Harrison


Fortunately the weather stayed fine for us even if there was a cold wind on occasions. The pictures show many of the attendees including the three prize-winning cars. My apologies to those that I missed out.

Lynda went home with a couple of pounds of freshly cut rhubarb from the Farm Shop and I can vouch for the crumble she made from it - see how easily pleased your webmaster is?

Report and Photos by Phil Homer

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