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South Wales Classic Car Club

(March 01, 2013)

South Wales Classic Car Club

A Social Club on Wheels

SWCCC Welsh-manufactured Gilbern on a road run
The Welsh-manufactured Gilbern on a road run

The South Wales Classic Car Club is about more than tinkering in a garage or dirt under the fingernails. Whether it is pigeon racing, poetry reading, prayer or politics, like-minded people will always come together to share their interest. So, what is the appeal of a classic car?

For some it is the joy of owning a piece of sporting history; of being able to say "this is the actual car that won its class at Le Mans in 1958." The sporting achievements of a particular car make or model can also be alluring. For example, the wealthy may be encouraged to collect Ferraris while the less affluent are inspired to paint their minis red with a white roof, in tribute to the giant-killers of the Monte Carlo rally in the 60s.

A SWCCC road-run in autumn sunshine 2012A SWCCC road-run in the autumn sunshine

For others, it is the appeal of the vehicle to the senses: the graceful curves of a Bugatti Royale or a 1930s Alfa Romeo have seen them elevated to the status of art exhibits in respected international galleries. Similarly, the sound of large, powerful engines thundering down the Mulsanne Straight (at the Circuit des 24 Heures, near Le Mans) will quicken the pulse of many, in a way a modern, fuel efficient vehicle cannot.

Perhaps even more difficult for the non-enthusiast to understand is the appeal in the smell of some old vehicles. This could be the wood, leather and cigar smoke of an old Rolls-Royce or Bentley, or that curious combination of petrol, oil and slightly damp carpet, redolent of many more humble mass-produced cars. It is an attraction that crosses all social (and income) brackets with roadworthy classic cars ranging in value from £600, for a modest 1960s family saloon, to millions of pounds for rare or sought after marques.

The annual show appeals to people of all agesThe annual show appeals to people of all ages

One of the enduring appeals of the South Wales Classic Car Club is that, unlike some of the snootier owners or drivers clubs, it attracts and unites enthusiasts from across the spectrum. For example, one member's collection of Jaguars includes a rare 80s model worth more than the average house. Another member is a former Land Rover design engineer working away to restore an Edwardian-era Ford, whilst for many others, their pride and joy may be that former staple of the District Nurse, a Morris Minor or perhaps an MG or a sporty Ford Cortina. The Club welcomes all enthusiasts to the extent that owning a classic yourself is not even a requirement – just an enthusiasm for the cars of yesteryear.

Club nights are held once a month, where members can come together not just to swap advice on restoration matters but simply to socialise with those who understand their interest and also to hear guest speakers who may talk on anything from the true story behind the film Zulu, to the experiences of a former dancer at the Moulin Rouge. Other events include regular road runs, whereby members meet at a pre-arranged point to receive written instructions that will take them on a drive through scenic countryside; pausing at a place of interest for a coffee stop and then continuing their journey to a suitable hostelry for a lunch with their motoring friends.

Members gather to chat before a road runMembers gather to chat before a road run

Members of the South Wales Classic Car Club are particularly fortunate in having a wealth of attractive countryside through which to journey on relatively quiet roads. One run may take them inland through the Brecon Beacons National Park. The next could sample the delights of the Gower Coast.

Road runs are typically between 50 and 60 miles each way, which is generally agreed to be long enough to provide an interesting run, yet not too far to be uncomfortable in an elderly vehicle. Many older cars are quite poor on fuel consumption, so longer drives have an economic consideration to take into account too. For this reason the Club abandoned events involving greater distances and overnight stops some years ago, though small groups of friends still enjoy their own private excursions.

 

SWCCC is open to owners of all types of classic car
SWCCC is open to owners of all types of classic car

The joys and (sometimes with old cars) the challenges, of road runs are surely one of the gentlest and most sociable forms of motoring activity. Not only this, but these impromptu classic car displays at coffee stops or lunch venues give rise to that other phenomenon of classic cars: their ability to inspire smiles of nostalgia amongst passers-by. There can be few classic car owners who have not had comments such as "my Dad used to have one of these," or "I used to drive a car like this." The joy of owning and preserving a part of social history that, by its nature, is often on public display has a powerful appeal.

Since the South Wales Classic Car Club was founded, back in the early 1980s, it has held an annual show (this year on May 12th near Junction 35 of the M4). From modest beginnings, it has grown to become the biggest one-day show of its kind in South Wales, attracting hundreds of exhibits, including not just cars but farm vehicles, buses, trucks, Jeeps and motorbikes. The show is an opportunity for enthusiasts to show their prized vehicles to an admiring public and to foster a wider tolerance and understanding of older, slower, vehicles that may be encountered on the road. The entrance fees collected also enable the Club to donate thousands of pounds to charities in South Wales. Each year, Club members vote for guest charities which, when chosen, may be just one of the recipients of a cheque for a £1,000 or more.

A SWCCC charitable donatationHeadteacher of Heronsbridge Special Needs School Glynis James (centre), with outreach worker Margaret Collins (left), receives a £2,000 cheque from SWCCC Chairman Alan Thomas and SWCCC member Kirsty Jones

Membership of the South Wales Classic Car Club has been stable at around the 100 mark for many years. Longer working hours and commuting times, combined with the 'instant gratification' of satellite TV and the internet, have caused many clubs and societies to struggle to maintain and attract new members. But the surprising, and encouraging, fact for the SWCCC is that the turnover of its membership is also stable at around 20 percent. New, younger members continue to enter the Club and as they look back to the cars of their youth it is reaching the point where the Club itself is now older than some of the classic cars in its membership.

The SWCCC annual show is run entirely by volunteersThe SWCCC annual show - run entirely by volunteers

Someone once declared "just because a car is old doesn’t make it a classic." This is surely a fundamental misunderstanding of the pleasure to be had from classic cars. If modern cars are faster, more reliable and more economical than their predecessors then surely all that is left to distinguish a car is when it becomes associated with the memories of times past – a classic to someone, irrespective of value, performance or quality.

Glyn Bryan, 1 March 2013

South Wales Classic Car Club website: www.swccc.net

 

 

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