Nick Larkin Car club tenacity makes for a great spectacle, thinks Nick.
Anniversaries get classics into the limelight says Nick
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 Plus my car’s gear lever had been replaced by a piece of copper pipe but I found the original in the boot and welded it back in place.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.