Growing up, I suppose my love of cars was nurtured by the fact that my dad always had something interesting in the garage (Well, that and years of Mondello visits!) He was into classic cars for the same reason I now am- he remembered the cars when they were new. Dad had a succession of MGs, a Mk1 Cortina GT, a 3500V8 Rover P6 and now his ’78 Merc SL.
Despite the fact that I no longer race, I still am in possession of two race Imps and a Turbocharged Integrale powered Ritmo. It probably makes no sense to keep them and lately I often think I should move them on and buy myself a classic car I might get some use from. Anyway, as ever, I digress. Dad still goes to a lot of classic car shows and runs and once they don’t clash with a race meeting, I generally jump onboard too. I recently landed a gig to perform MC and interview Paddy Hopkirk and Alec Poole at the Dalkey Vintage Festival and so took the oppurtunity to bring dad and the Merc along too. What a truly wonderful event!
Being in Dalkey of course, the inimitable Michael Chester was there in his similar red Merc SL, but he wasn’t the only other Mondello regular there, not by a long shot! As I wandered around, FF1600 pilot Neville Smyth arrived in a beautiful Mini Cooper S- one of a number of them owned by himself and former Mini 850 Champion racer Dick Smyth. Former tin top racer “Mad” Mike Armstrong and son Graham had their Mustang and distinctive BMW Z1 on display while Mike’s brother Larry Armstrong had his 911 with him, and showed me pictures of his incredible BMW 3.0 CSL which is currently undergoing restoration. Others I met while wandering around included Noel Roddy, Alan Auerbach, Noel McIntyre, Colm Doherty and Tommy Burke, John Cardoo, Liam and Roberta Ruth and many many more…
While chatting to Steve Griffin and Peter Lynch, they spotted someone Steve said I had to meet. The man in question was Billy Bradshaw, who raced extensively and successfully in the 50s and 60s. Billy was the Sexton Trophy winner in 1955 driving a Jaguar XK120 and later moved onto a Lotus 23 and then a Cooper Bristol. The cars were looked after by Steve’s uncle Dave Griffin and Steve recalls driving some of them, long before he was old enough to take to the roads. Maurice Mitten, who was also with us, remembers sitting into the Lotus beside Steve as they headed out the old Naas road, with the speedo well into three figures….. Billy has promised me he will come to Mondello Park for the Leinster Trophy in September to watch Steve racing the Modsport Midget in the HRCA race!
As you can probably tell, I was starting to enjoy myself and when I took to the stage the day got even better. I chatted to Rosemary Smith about her incredible career on both stage and track, the obstacles she encountered and then about her current business, where she teaches school children the basics of motoring, both in class and on private ground, long before they officially hit the road.
Paddy Hopkirk, predictably, was in top form and chatted about the Mini, how it was revolutionary at the time and even in 1071cc trim, was a remarkably effective rally machine. He explained how started the Monte Carlo rally from Minsk in ’64 and decided to do some black market trading as they travelled. He bought some top class caviar in Russia with the intention of selling it for big money when he got to the finish but as he puts it- “When it turned out we won, we had a bit of a party and we opened the caviar and ate it!” There are many many more stories and I have no doubt I have only heard a small portion of them but suffice it to say that he is an absolute legend- for a variety of reasons!
Alec Poole chatted about this family business, Booth-Poole, about the car assembly business in Ireland when it was impossible to import a fully built car and they all arrived in CKD (complete knocked down) form. He also spoke about his hugely successful race exploits- did you know he was the British Touring Car Champion in 1969 in an Arden Mini Cooper S? He explained that the trick in qualifying was to perhaps not get out of the way of the bigger class Escorts and when they slowed slightly, to tuck in behind them for the all important tow! We also spoke briefly about a fearsome machine Alec raced known as the Complan Turbo Mini. That car grew from 1300cc to 1430cc during development
and ended up with huge arches and a Clubman style front and as Alec explained, there were teething problems but when it went, it really went! This car was reputed to have in excess of 180bhp- from an A series turbo- in 1971 and it was apparently sold to the Carribean, as was his next project, a 4.5 litre P6 Rover. Alec also runs tour Brittania and hopes to bring part of the event to the Sallygap stage and Mondello again in 2016- an event we will be keeping a close eye on!
There were some beautiful classics on display too, from vintage Bentleys, Michael Schumacher’s first Ferrari “company car”, a host of Minis to some MGs and Triumphs. Myles O’Reilly brought along the AXA owned VW Camper van, fresh from filming the wild Atlantic Way programme with John Creedon and it attracted lots of attention too! All in all a wonderful day out and the organisers raised a lot of money for the wonderful Down Syndrome Centre too. Camillo Borza from Bonito’s and his team now only have one issue. When the words spreads about this fantastic event, they surely won’t have room for all the cars that turn up next year! Thanks to Brian Wallace and Camillo for a wonderful event- roll on Dalkey Vintage Festival 2016!
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