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A DAY OF COWLEY CLASSICS

Nuffield Place nearly Henley-on-Thames - https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nuffield-place  is always worth a visit, but on Monday 25th February the front of the property was festooned with an array of very fine motor cars.

There was an MGB Roadster that looked as though it has recently emerged from a showroom circa 1964, one of the very last Riley Elf Series IIIs and a Wolseley 1500, that quietly agreeable small saloon that appealed to all retired Majors. The common denominator between most of these classics is, of course, that they were constructed at the Cowley factory.  

The convoy from the plant to the home of Lord Nuffield marked the commencing of the house’s 2019 season, and it was planned by Tanya Field, the owner of the red Rover 820. The result was an unmissable event for any devotee of British cars. There was a second-generation Mini Cooper, an Oxford Series II that made me think of a Margaret Rutherford-era Miss Marples film and, naturally, Minors aplenty.

As a fan of classics from the 1950s and the 1960s, it was a quite unmissable afternoon. It was also impossible to choose a favourite - so I will merely select two cars I would like to take home.

As 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Austin Maxi, it was, as Tanya points out, only right and proper that one should lead the convoy and MCE 7 G is a rather special machine. Not only is it one of the first 500 cars to leave Cowley, but it also competed in the Daily Mirror London – Mexico World Cup Rally.

Four Maxis – two works and two privateers – set off from Wembley Stadium on 19th April 1970 and while neither of the BLMC entrants survives, the car driven by HRH Prince Michael of Kent now lives at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon - https://www.britishmotormuseum.co.uk/.

Meanwhile, Nuffield Place was host to Car. No. 20, which was originally owned by Tish Ozanne and co-driven with Tina Kerridge-Reynolds and Bronwyn “Bron” Burrell. 

Bron now owns the Maxi, which earned the name “Puff The Magic Wagon” while competing in the rally due to its comparative lack of power. One look inside the cabin makes you realise just how this was so given the weight of special equipment, especially on a car that is smaller than a current Mini Clubman.

“Puff” may have withdrawn from the rally after becoming stuck in a ditch but not before he battled through jungle and mountain roads. His team also made the headlines as only four all-female crews competed in the event and today the Maxi looking primed and ready to cover another 16,000 miles of rally route.

So, what could possibly top a competition Austin Maxi that was prepared by Marshalls of Cambridge and owned by someone who was taught racing driving by none other than Jim Clark? Well, very little but I would still make space for the 1965 Wolseley 6/110 Mk. II owned by Mark Shepley. Not only is the BMC “Big Farina” one of the most handsome cars of its era, in my wholly unbiased view, but there is also the sound of that 3-Litre straight six that once dominated countless black & white B-films and crime shows.

When Mark fired up the mighty Wolseley, it was akin to taking part in an episode of Gideon’s Way as John Gregson heads towards a scrapyard somewhere near Leyton where an ever-scowling Mike Pratt is planning a bank heist. In your own time, Sergeant…

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