Does anyone remember early on in their childhood being told that in order to play with the next toy you have to put the others back first? Occasionally you could get away with having them all out at once or better still, taking your toys to a friends house to join forces.
Well, later on in life it requires a little more organisation than just asking to go for a sleepover but the feeling of getting all your toys out at once is in no way diminished!
Earlier in the year we were staying with Katy and David, some family friends, prior to going on holiday.
I must explain that for the rest of this blog, David will be called Rats. Don’t be confused, they are the same person. My Dad is called David and Rats is obviously called David, so to avoid confusion David will remain David whilst the other David will be called Rats….. Stay with me!
My parents were also down for the week returning Rats’ car to him after Dad rebuilt the engine. On one quiet evening a plan was hatched. William Medcalf, a well known vintage Bentley restorer, is having an open day. Bring a vintage/classic car or bike, have a look around the workshop, some coffee and a bacon roll, then toddle down to Goodwood where Rats has organised for the whole ensemble to be shown around the Boultbee Flight Academy. A fantastic chance to get up close and personal with some spitfires!
And so fast forward a month, it’s Friday, I finish work and pack up the Land Rover to burble east into Hampshire. The sides of the tilt rolled up and cool evening air rushing in through the vent flaps. I arrive around 6 to find that boys one and two have already been playing with Rats’ Bentley mk6 special. Unfortunately a knocking noise from the top end means we are down a toy (top end rebuild on that one coming up), no matter, we’ll take his 3 litre Bentley and the Land Rover!
Consoling ourselves on our broken toy with some beer, wine and take-away curry, we turn in early for an early morning start.
The following morning is bright and warm as our slightly bizarre Bentley and Series convoy departs for Liss. It takes about an hour and traffic is light which leaves the roads, dappled with early morning sun all for us, fantastic.
We’re among the first to arrive at Medcalfs and I hide the Land Rover around by the workshop (well it is green but I didn’t really expect to get away with it!) whilst the 3 litre starts the forecourt display. The converted petrol station makes for an excellent showroom/garage with gleaming examples of vintage Bentleys of all types. But as spanner wielders, it’s the workshop we’ve come for. And what a workshop! A row of cars on each side face each other in various states of repair and undress, each in their individual bays with tool chests. Long distance rally veterans still with mud on await maintenance, gleaming Sunday drivers in for check ups and skeletons mid restoration are all on display. There’s also the engine room with shelves of heads, blocks, cams and valve gear, new pistons….. Time to grab a coffee and have a good nose!
After a look around and a bacon sandwich the tour turns to the car park and the fantastic variety of cars.
Jaguars, Morgans, Aston Martins, a Corvette, a Triumph stag, Minis and even an Italian Nazzaro! The sunshine has really brought out a good show. On top of that we meet some lovely people and make a few new friends including Mike. He’s brought his 3 / 4 1/2 and his 4 1/2 litre blower, (both of which are immaculate) and happily shows us around his current project. Having sourced the original chassis from the ‘bobtail’ Bentley, he’s lovingly rebuilding the car, accurate to the last rivet. It’s amazing to see the craftsmanship that still goes into these rebuilds and just goes to show that there is skill of hand a plenty at Medcalfs. After a bit of car park chat Mike remarks, “you seem like a C.L.U why don’t you take my car”? and lends Dad his 3 / 4 1/2 for the day.
“Chap like us”!
So it looks like we’ve gained a toy.
After a quick drivers briefing we are dished out a map each and the precession to Goodwood begins. I leave the Land Rover in Liss in favour of traveling in the new toy and we gain a passenger (Auntie Winn) who isn’t actually Will Medcalfs Auntie but his neighbour! She is however wonderful company and puts us right when we fail to read the map correctly!
On to Goodwood. There’s a track day on which adds a mixture of engine noises to the already exciting atmosphere. If its location at the iconic Goodwood airfield isn’t romantic enough then try this. Boultbee flying academy is not only a training centre for pilots wanting to fly vintage aircraft but also the home of some of the remaining airworthy and probably the most cherished aircraft of all time. Spitfires. They retain one of the only 2 seater training spitfires built, the wreckage of which was rescued from a scrap yard in Cape Town. Not only do they train future pilots and keep this treasure in the air but they can put you in the passenger seat as well!
We start with a hangar tour followed by Boultbees history, some technical aircraft facts, anecdotes on learning to fly at Boultbee and a good nose around the spitfires. Then they wheel one out in front of the hangar and Rats fires it up for our fix of the V12 Merlin (yes he’s a Spitfire pilot!). A quick warm up, mag check and then the revs rise. What a noise! Even at this stage she bounces in the chocks trying to get free and you can tell she wants to be airborne. But not today. With the temperature climbing fast Rats throttles back and shuts off to a round of applause.
What a day! All that remains now is to do it all in reverse. Taking a scenic route back to Liss we wind our way through Hampshires villages, burble through rich farmland under avenues of trees and eventually pop out back at Will’s garage. I collect the Land Rover, and we set about dropping Mike’s car back to him (well I suppose we’d better really)! Truly though, to lend someone your vintage Bentley on your first meeting I found quite astonishing and big thanks go to Mike for being such a great CLU!
Unfortunately, with Monday and grown up things like work looming, it was time to head back and put everything back in the toy box. But what a weekend.
Massive thanks to William Medcalf and all his team for their effort in setting up the day, we’ll be back for another go! And to Boultbee for allowing us to snoop around, if you fancy half an hour over Dover or the Isle of White in a Spitfire then give them a call.