Nick Larkin Car club tenac­ity makes for a great spec­ta­cle, thinks Nick.

An­niver­saries get clas­sics into the lime­light says Nick

Practical Classics (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Hmm, very likely,’ I thought to my­self, as I put the tele­phone back down. ‘They’ll never do that, surely.’

I was far too much of a gen­tle­man (OK then, wimp) to say those words to the club rep I’d been in­ter­ro­gat­ing for the past 10 min­utes but could tell he was think­ing ex­actly the same thing.

In­cred­i­bly, 50 years have elapsed since the first ex­am­ples of a cer­tain big Vaux­hall left Lu­ton for the great out­doors. The FD Reg­is­ter and VX4/90 Driv­ers’ Club ob­vi­ously wanted to cel­e­brate this and, in a seem­ingly mad idea of the type nor­mally con­ceived at 3am after an over­dose of Smiths’s Scampi Fries, some­one sug­gested try­ing to get to get 50 FDS for the 2017 Vaux­hall Bed­ford Opel As­so­ci­a­tion Rally.

I’ve al­ways been a bit of an FD fan, hav­ing pre­vi­ously been the proud pos­ses­sor of a 1968 ex­am­ple. This is the only car I’ve ever been given, and also the only one in which I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced brake fail­ure, these two in­ci­dents oc­cur­ring some time apart and be­ing to­tally un­con­nected. Hon­estly. Plus my car’s gear lever had been re­placed by a piece of cop­per pipe but I found the orig­i­nal in the boot and welded it back in place. Once I even dared to favour an FD over a Cortina MKIII in a road test of ‘Coke bot­tle’-styled cars and didn’t dare go out after dusk for a while, for fear of Blue Oval vengeance.

The FD, in Vic­tor, Ven­tora and sporty VX4/90 form not only saw the de­but of a new over­head-cam en­gine but also won the Don Safety tro­phy for a big ar­ray of fea­tures, none greater than, to quote a pe­riod ad, the ‘splin­ter-proof rear view mir­ror’.

I was happy to help pub­li­cise the fight to find the nifty 50 FDS. If only we could bring back proper black-and-white Bri­tish Movi­etone cin­ema news­reels. ‘Yes, these Vaux­hall fans are full of true Bri­tish pluck, risk­ing fail­ure and hu­mil­i­a­tion to achieve their dream,’ the an­nouncer would say in clipped, posh tones. ‘The na­tion salutes you.’

Spring slipped away, dur­ing which numer­ous phone calls, many of them beg­ging, were made nightly, along with fur­ther ex­changes via this new so­cial me­dia phe­nom­e­non we keep hear­ing about. Cars would be wel­comed what­ever their con­di­tion from any­where. In­clud­ing Switzerland.

Tay­lor Swift singing live

I ar­rived at the VBOA rally fully ex­pect­ing to find a sea of glum FD fans. But hang on, there were smiles and a vast sea of cars. They hadn’t man­aged to get 50 cars at the event, but 58!

‘To be hon­est we didn’t think we would do it,’ ad­mit­ted chair­man of the Vaux­hall FD Reg­is­ter, Chris Par­sons. By 3pm on the Satur­day of the two-day event 49 cars had turned up and it wasn’t un­til around 6pm that an­other FD ar­rived, its oc­cu­pants pre­sum­ably be­ing mys­ti­fied by wild ap­plause, flow­ers be­ing thrown, grown men hurling them­selves onto the bon­net, fire­works and can­non salutes, con­fetti and ticker-tape fall­ing, Tay­lor Swift singing live and na­ture throw­ing in a wild snow­storm and to­tal eclipse to cel­e­brate.

What a line up. There were FDS of all types, specs, colours and con­di­tions. Oh, the ec­stasy of walk­ing among them, maybe naked. Or then again, maybe not. Ad­mit­tedly not all the cars were in one spot and a pro­posal to put them in a ‘50’-shaped for­ma­tion never hap­pened, but they made the magic num­ber. Hearty con­grat­u­la­tions, and here is surely a mes­sage to all clubs that an­niver­saries gal­vanise peo­ple into ac­tion. Use that op­por­tu­nity.

Now they are plan­ning to as­sem­ble 50 Vaux­hall Viva HB GTS for that model’s 50th birth­day next year. I will shut up!

Nick Larkin has ap­peared in many clas­sic car (and a few bus) pub­li­ca­tions since 1989. He joined

Prac­ti­cal Clas­sics in 1996, and re­mains a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor.

A mas­sive ef­fort rooted out more than 50 FD Vaux­halls to cel­e­brate their half-cen­tury.

NICK LARKIN

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