Location, Location , Location… Strange Days At A Very English Chateau !

Hudson and Chateaux ImpneyNestling just off the busy M5 motorway not very far from Birmingham is a gloriously eccentric hotel – Chateau Impney. The story goes  that this elaborate former stately home was built by the wealthy owner of a local salt-mining operation to make his homesick  French-born wife feel a little more comfortable. To that end he employed a French architect and the resulting house certainly looks as if it’s been dropped into the English midlands landscape from somewhere in the Loire Valley.

Back in the late 50s and 60s a hillclimb was run on the lengthy and picturesque driveway – but circumstances changed and the sound of racing cars vanished for 5 decades. In July 2015, they were back. And in style. The car-mad Spollon family now own the place (as well as an ERA, a BRM and a lot of other wonderful machinery) and they really went to town on creating one of the most attractive motor sport venues you could every imagine

So the course (longer than it was back in the day) was in a great location, overlooked by the Chateau and thousands of happy spectators . The Chateau itself was also in a great location, a mere five minutes off a major Special Chateau ImpneyM5 junction and about the easiest motor sport venue in the country to actually find. We were selling books and photos (as usual) in a trade-area sited in  large car park between the end of the course and the paddock with about 80 other traders…. sadly that wasn’t a good location. In fact is turned out to be a dreadful location. Missed by most of those who came through the gates it was tucked away without signs and out of reach of commentary  and food outlets.  Jaguar D Type Willie Green

Some you win. Some you lose. I’m sure next year will be a different matter.  This was first and foremost a motor sport event and it was a cracker.

All the entries were pre 1967 to reflect the venue’s history and there were so many eye-watering cars in the paddock it was hard to know where to look next. ERAs , Maseratis, Lotus’ (Loti ?) Coopers, Jaguar C and D Types (one driven by historic racing doyen Willie Green – right) Bugattis, Morgans, a Grand prix Scarab(right)  and lots and lots of spidery little  “Shelsley Specials” based round JAP engines and GN cyclecar chassis’ (above left). Most popular however were the wild and wooden-wheeled Edwardians, bellowing away with drive chains rattling and driver perched up in the fresh air, looking a bit odd in modern helmets and fireproofs.Scarab Chateaux Impney 2

The car everyone talked about was “The Beast of Turin” a recreation (using original engine and contemporary parts) of Fiat’s unsuccessful S76 Land Speed Record challenger from pre WW1. It is HUGE. Fiat Beast and Darraq V8 Chateau ImpneyIt also has no actual exhaust system as such, just open ports on the side of the very tall aero engine that belch out flames a yard long. It’s truly a sight to behold.  Parked alongside it in the paddock was it’s near contemporary, the much more successful 200hp Darraq V8 which did hold the coveted record in 1905 and is now owned by crowd favourite Mark Walker. Mark’s driving style “does the car justice”, shall we say?  Untill now it’s always seemed to be THE monster in the Vintage paddock but the Fiat now dwarfs it completely. The ‘big’ Darraq now looks trim and compact.

If you like your ERAs then this event was a dream. There was the ex Bira R12C (seen here outside my stall) , the ex Gerard R4A(top right) , the daddy of them all, the ex Raymond Mays R4D(bonnet raised) , the super-sleek GP1, Barrie Williams at the wheel of R3A, the ex Wharton R10B, the ex Dobson R7B and the AJM1 which is a 1980s recreation that has seen a lot of action in the meantime.

ERA R12C Terry Crabbe Chateau Impney 2015ERA R4A Chateau Impney

ERAs R4D R11B GP1 Chateau ImpneyERA GP1 Chateau Impney

ERA R10B Chateau Impney Sadly Barry Williams’ event was curtailed after one run when the transmission failed on his car but that gave him time to call round to our stall and have a chat “You’re in the wrong place here mate!” he said.Earlier in the day AUTOSPORT’s famous snapper Jeff Bloxham said exactly the same thing . Late in the day, not long before I started packing up one of my regular customers Jim Pantel appeared  “I didn’t even realize you were here” . Quite.

Next year… Next year I am sure the location of the trade stalls will be sorted. This is too good an event to leave such an obvious loose end flapping Here’s to 2016 and more motor sport at a very English Chateau.

4 thoughts on “Location, Location , Location… Strange Days At A Very English Chateau !

  1. Paul Veysey

    I’ve heard from several of my trader chums, who absolutely agree with what you have said Simon.
    Apart from the quality of the cars in the paddock, there also seemed to be a feeling that one couldn’t actually see terribly much of what was going on on the hill itself; that it was perhaps a little slow ? This was voiced by long standing spectators of hill-climbs.
    I wasn’t there myself, as buying a 6×3 marquee would have made it rather expensive, and the organisers were not keen on selling anything other than ground space.
    Next time perhaps……….

    1. simonlewis Post author

      Hi Paul – I did wonder where you were, I must admit. Thought it might well be your sort of event. From what I hear the viewing was good if you found the right place. The nature of the venue made it a bit tricky to work out where best to go and a lack of programmes meant a lack of maps in people’s hands , which made the location problem worse. Lots of drivers said the area we were in would have been better as the paddock , which seemed a bit cramped, although more photogenic. It would have been more spacious, flatter and allowed easier loading/unloading. All of this strikes me as classic teething-trouble which can be worked out by the organisers for next year. There appeared to be a willingness among the organisers to listen and find out such things so I reckon 2016 will be much more polished. All the elements are there and the Spollon family seem very enthusiastic and keen to please everyone. But this year you would have done your nut… there wasn’t a bar or a coffee stall anywhere in sight of us!

  2. Paul Veysey

    And there of course is the most heinous crime of all: no decent coffee or booze within lurching distance. Looks as if I shall have to add the purchase of a generator, espresso machine and fridge to my marquee for next year. Getting to be a bloody expensive show !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *