INTERNATIONAL TIMES 38
Hendrik Moulds looks back on a truly memorable 356 International meeting
This year ʼs annual meeting of 356 owners was held in Ware, England, between 3rd and 6th May and, as far as I know writes Hendrik Moulds, is the longest continuously held gathering for Porsches in the world. Each year the club from a different European country hosts the meeting, taking it in turns to show the best their country has to offer. It continues to be enthusiastically supported worldwide by 356 enthusiasts and this year ʼs event had attendees from Sweden, Germany, Holland, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Russia, France, Australia, Denmark, Luxemburg, USA and of course the UK. This year the number of cars participating was limited to 140 and is smaller than most previous meetings, which can host over 300 cars.
This was to be the 13th time I had attended one of these meetings and 15 years since it had previously been held in the UK, when we gathered in Brighton – that meeting also happened to be my first, so I was eager to attend this year as well. I participated in my RHD 1953 Cabriolet (with the top down constantly) and it was a novelty to set off on the morning of the first day of the event as normally it takes me multiple days, a ferry crossing and sometimes flights to be able to participate in these events. However, they are more than worth the trouble with great food, drink and camaraderie. For me personally, this year ʼs event was exceptional in these attributes being ably organised by a small team headed by Fred Hampton, Simon Bowery and Jamie Richardson.
We were due to begin arriving from 2.00pm on the Thursday, so it was an easy 200 miles for me to drive south to Hanbury Manor Hotel, a fantastic stately home built in the Jacobean style and set in 200 acres of grounds, including a golf course, so there was plenty of parking for the cars. Once parked in my designated space, I checked in and went to collect my information and goodie bag.
This consisted of a polo shirt and enamel grille badge for the event, as well as gifts from the sponsors – and beer! There was also plenty of time to relax, meet up with old friends and make new acquaintances, as well as admire the cars as they arrived. For those with money burning a hole in their pocket, there were stalls from Karmann Konnection, PR Services and Diane Morrillʼs 356 Registry Goodie Store.
Although there were only 140 cars participating this time there were some exceptional vehicles in attendance, including three examples of the aluminium Gmünds, two of which took part in some of the driving routes. The participants were split into four groups depending on the age
“IT’S 15 YEARS SINCE THE EVENT HAD PREVIOUSLY BEEN HELD IN THE UK AT BRIGHTON…”
of the 356, starting with Green, Blue, Red and finally Yellow for the ʻmodernʼ 356s. This was the organisersʼ attempt to stagger departure times so as to ease any traffic congestion in the surrounding area, a policy which was very necessary and proved effective.
Once everyone had arrived, we had a delicious buffet dinner at the hotel set in one of their beautiful dining rooms. Afterwards, some retired to the bar for several drinks late into the night and were ʻjoinedʼ by The Hoff! This turned out to be a mistake for those of us who were part of the Green group, as we were due to set off the next day at 8.00am, with breakfast at 7.00am!
Somehow the early birds managed to drag themselves out of bed to be met with blue skies and the perfect day for a drive out in the 356s. The route took us along little used country roads through the beautiful countryside and picturesque villages to arrive at Lee Maxted-pageʼs for a visit of his impressive showroom set in the grounds of his house. What a way to work from home!
There was an amazing display of all manner of Porsche race cars, from 904s to examples of the more modern 956 and 962, as well as some rally and road cars, too. After gazing admirably at the impressive line-up with coffee in hand, we set off again for the short drive to Hedingham Castle. The castle dates from 1140, of which the keep is all that remains, while the mansion in the castle grounds dates back to 1720. This venue has also hosted the UKʼS biggest biennial gathering of early Porsches for many years.
After driving up the long drive, past the mansion and over a small humped back bridge, we parked the cars on the grass surrounding the keep. Here we were able to enjoy a sumptuous picnic in the castle grounds whilst watching the other 356s arrive. After lunch we were entertained by an impressive display of jousting from four knights on horseback, two ʻgoodʼ knights and two ʻevilʼ knights, who showed off great skills and made a tremendous spectacle, especially when the lances splintered after a direct hit.
After the festivities we then made our way back to the hotel for a little relaxation, which for some meant heading to the bar, before we left by coach to Hatfield House Old Palace in the grounds of the current Hatfield House for dinner. Hatfield House was built in 1611 in the Jacobean style and has been in the same family since its construction. The Old Palace, where we had our dinner, dated from 1497 and was a favourite residence of Queen Elizabeth I – it was here that she was told she was to be Queen of England.
After enjoying champagne in the gardens while watching the setting sun, we went into the impressive hall with its many wall tapestries. In between courses we had a brief history of the building and its surroundings followed by a surprise guest speaker. Six-time Le Mans winner and former Formula One driver Jacky Ickx had joined us as an ambassador for one of the sponsors and gave us an insight into what it is like to be a racing driver.
“WE SET OFF AGAIN FOR THE SHORT DRIVE TO HEDINGHAM…”
After an excellent meal we then left by coach for the hotel where some were able to have a few drinks at the bar before retiring for the night.
Luckily for the Green group, Saturday was a much later start with breakfast at a civilised 9.30 before an 11.00am departure. We were once again blessed with glorious sunshine and travelled on small roads through the wonderful countryside and picturesque villages to Wethersfield MOD base. As the base is still in use everyone had to go through security to gain access to the site.
Once there we were treated to a simple lunch in the canteen after which we were escorted through the base to what looked like their old airfield. There we participated in various driving tasks including a slalom, guessing the weight of your car and reversing as close to a (soft) wall as possible. It was great to bask in the sunshine while watching the various models of 356 perform the tasks with exuberance after I had completed my run.
In addition to the driving tasks, Jacky Ickx was a true gent being on hand all afternoon, signing photos and having his picture taken with anyone who wished to do so. Once everyone had had a turn with the tasks it was time to set off back to the hotel through rolling countryside, with the sun shining all the way.
Saturday evening and it was time for the Gala Dinner. We travelled by coach to Duxford Aviation Museum, an impressive display of aircraft and aviation accessories housed in a giant aircraft hangar. Upon arrival we were able to wander between the various aircraft exhibits, including a Concorde, Vulcan bomber and some classic World War II aircraft, some of which were suspended in mid-air, whilst sipping on glasses of champagne. We were then invited to take our seats for the excellent meal while images and video footage of the event were scanned on the wall above us, including some of myself on one of the drives!
In between courses, Jacky Ickx was once again on hand to give out the various awards, including one for the challenges at the airfield. It was then time for our organisers to give gifts to those who had helped behind the scenes, making the event run so splendidly and hand over to next year ʼs organisers, whose meeting is to be held near Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. Brochures and a short video previewed what looks to be another fabulous meeting.
After the formalities were over there was music and dancing until it was time to take the coach back to the hotel. Upon arrival, some wanted to carry on with the festivities and so headed for the bar (a common occupation, it seems – Ed) where we drank and chatted until the early hours.
Sunday morning arrived, and it was time to say farewell to friends both old and new. After a late breakfast I made the leisurely 200-mile journey home knowing that it had been one of the best Internationals of the many I have attended. CP
“SATURDAY EVENING AND IT WAS TIME FOR THE GALA DINNER…”
Left: Not one, not two but three Gmünd-built Porsches showed up, two of which partook of the driving events Right: Participants threading their way into Hanbury Manor, a Jacobean-style resort hotel set in some 200 acres of Hertfordshire countrysideRight: Guest of honour was legendary Porsche Le Mans driver, Jacky Ickx who, when he wasnʼt driving a 356 on the event, spent much of his time signing autographs Left: Gathered at Duxford, the scene was like one of those photos you see taken out the back of Werk 1 in Zuffenhausen back in the early 1960s…
Right: 550 Spyder was one of several historic cars on display at the event, adding a touch of the exotic to an already spectacular weekend Left: Saturday nightʼs Gala Dinner was a major part of the event, held within the spectacular hangar housing part of the amazing Duxford collection of aircraft
Far left: Dinner at Hatfield House – what a great venue!