Sunbeam Alpine Owner’s Club UK - National - Somerset, UK

July 2010                        

I became a member of the UK Sunbeam Alpine Owner’s Club (SAOC) shortly after purchasing my current Alpine in 1996. I have wanted to attend one of their events in the UK for a long time.   The SAOC scheduled its 33rd Annual National meeting this year in Somerset and I decided it was time to go.   Living for a year in Spain has had its benefits and one was the short distance to travel to the UK compared to coming from the USA.    I took a bus to Málaga where I caught a plane to Bristol and from there the train to Castle Cary.  At last I took a taxi to my bed and breakfast at the Catash Inn, North Cadbury, Somerset.  

The National site was the Haynes Motor Museum in Sparkford, Somerset.   The Haynes Motor Museum is sponsored by Haynes Book Publishing which is, of course, the source of all the Haynes repair manuals you are familiar with.

      I thought I would enjoy the two mile hike from my rural B&B to the site but it was more of a challenge than I expected.   I had a choice between walking much of the way along a freeway or on a curvy two lane road with no shoulders.  I liked neither so I tried to shortcut across the fields on one of England’s famed “public paths”.   Fair Warning:  if you travel to England and you are ever tempted to take a shortcut on a “public path”  -  Don’t.

After an arrival day and BBQ on Friday the major events took place on Saturday.  Here is the Saturday Schedule:

      8:30 – 10:30          Track available – only Alpines - one car at a time. 4 laps

      9:00 – 10:00          Breakfasts  (Museum Café)
    10:30                      Concours  (Track Area)
    10:30 – 12:00          Children’s Activities  (Marquee)
    11:00 – 3:00            Driving Tests  (Track Area)
      3:45                      Prize giving  (Track Area/Marquee if wet)
      4:30                      Charity Auction  (Marquee)
      7:00 -    8:30          Dinner (Merlin Suite
      8:30 – 11:30          Dancing with the Dart Valley Stompers (Merlin Suite)

I was naturally very interested in seeing the track action so I watched for a couple hours wishing my Alpine was not 6,000 or so miles away.   This was not a timed event.  Each car took the course as the driver chose.   In some cases the car was full including children the “occasional seat” and the drive was sedate.   Other [always male] drivers were alone and tried to wind it up a bit on the straight only to brake hard for a 90 degree right curve.   The course began with a straight leading to a gradual right curve leading to the opposite straight, which featured an optional chicane.   The 90 degree right curve at the end of the second straight led to either a gradual curve to the starting point or a 145 right turn to a short left hand loop that returned the driver to the turn at the end of the second straight but going the opposite direction, obviously an option not available if other cars were on the track.  From there a left turn led to a lane across the midfield to return the driver to the first straight at about the midpoint.   Only one driver made full use of all these optional routes

        The three minute video below features several cars using the track.  One driver, a German driving a white Series II, is seen doing all the above described alternate routes.   Also note the Balmoral Grey Series IV GT [of which more is written below].

       After the track time the field was opened to all cars for Concours judging and open show.   Nineteen cars entered the Concours.  At the right one of the judges inspects the engine bay with judging sheet in hand.

Below:   Series II from Germany.  

 Group Photo of Concours Cars

Concours Inspection

Below is a 1965 Sunbeam Alpine Series IV GT that is a real “owned by a little old lady and stored in her garage for decades” car.   The owner, John Boggis, is exiting the car in the photo.   This car has 9893 original miles and won Best of Show.  The                 color, Balmoral Grey, was only offered on the ’65.  

Series IV.  It has a rare automatic transmission.          

Below:    Harrington LeMans Alpine and its fine interior

IMG 3395

      In a nearby part of the track infield the remaining cars lined up for display.   I counted 65 Alpines plus one Tiger.   A couple more Rootes cars remained in the camping and parking areas including several Hillmans, Rapiers and several Alpines.

         Entrance to Haynes Motor Museum


The Haynes “Red Room

 They even had my first car:  a Vauxhall Victor                         

  The Merlin Suite at the Haynes Motor Museum              

And here I am at the bachelor’s table!

The Dart Valley Stompers


© Robert Carpenter 2017