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Hampton's Classics on the Green

Classic cars from 30's to hydrogen powered vehicles
The 7th annual classic car show on Hampton Village Green. Choosing the best car of the show is never going to be easy. AC Cobra, Humber Hawk, Sunbeam or a hydrogen powered police car? Sir Winston would always choose the Humber. Or a Rolls-Royce.
AC Shelby 427 Cobra 1968 steering wheel, roll bar and cockpit.

The Best Cars from the Show

How do you choose your 'best' car or motorbike?

I spent a wonderful day at Hampton’s Classics on the green yesterday, Sunday 3rd July, 2022. A nostalgic, sentimental and at times emotional journey. Feasting my eyes on classic cars from the ’30s to modern classic cars and motorcycles. I also got a possible glimpse of the future with hydrogen powered police cars. I enjoyed some lovely handmade paella, and wandered around the village green in awe. Taken back to the cars of my youth, the cars my family built, my father drove, owned and wanted. Plus what I would ideally like in a vehicle, a sustainable future for my family.

Best of show is always subjective. The fastest? Largest? Best restored? For many of us, the best in show will be a car they have a real attachment to. Perhaps the family car? Or perhaps, their dream car, say an AC 427 Shelby Cobra. Hold tight.

AC Shelby Cobra

1968. 427 Ford V8. 360 BHP.

There is a very good reason that Lewis Hamilton has an AC Cobra. 

They are a driver’s car. 160mph doesn’t tell the whole story. Only 998 Shelby Cobras were produced. Apparently nothing equals the feeling of driving a Shelby Cobra 427. Its 360 BHP engine weighs 2,355 lbs, earning it a top speed of 164mph. A 4-speed manual transmission. AC Cars, were one of the oldest independent car makers founded in Britain.

In 1911 AC Cars moved to Ferry Road, Thames Ditton. Only a few miles away from Hampton Village. The AC Cobra, sold in the United States as the Shelby Cobra and AC Shelby Cobra, is a sports car manufactured by British company AC Cars, with a Ford V8

The AC 427 Cobra was my late father’s dream car. Though he loved chauffeuring in his Rolls-Royce Phantom, or Bentley. He owned a lovely vintage Ferguson tractor which really was his pride of joy. He loved cars and bikes. He’d whisk mum off to the Ace Cafe London on his BSA Bantam. He would have loved the show. There were some beautiful bikes there. I loved the ’58 Ducatti, which looked resplendent in rosso red. Dad said to me once, “you can do anything you like son, but don’t get a bike.” He was a wise man. I drove stupidly fast in my youth. I don’t think I would have survived a bike. iChauffeur co-founder, Andy Senior might have actually driven one of the Sunbeam’s on display. He used to drive cars while he worked at Rootes Group. Including the Sunbeam Tiger, which he said was his favourite of the Rootes’ cars. Though he did describe it “as a bit of a handful”.

This is one of the nicest AC Shelby Cobra’s I’ve ever seen. I think my dad would pick this beauty.

Classics on the Green Video

A video of the Classics on the Green show. Avis, BMW, Mercedes, Humber, Rolls-Royce, Citreon, Ford, Audi, Sunbeam, Lotus Cortina, Ford Escort Mexico, Ginetta, Nova, Rover, Willy’s Jeep, Ducatti, Harley Davidson, etc. Enjoy.

The Rootes Group

The Rootes Group, and my family history

My grandad Frank, and uncle Ron both worked at Rootes Group as panel beaters. They worked on the bodies of Humber, Sunbeam, Singer, Hillman, Talbot, Commer and Karrier
. Panel beating was a dangerous, and noisy task. Lead poisoning was not uncommon, nor was hearing damage apparently. There was lots of lead used on these old bodies. Ron Doble explains, “They were hand assembled, so there was no real strict conforming, so when they came off the body with the doors the doors wouldn’t fit. The body was all weird. So it all had to be jacked out and messed about and then the joints were, were spot-welded, so that had to be covered with lead and I got the job of, amongst other guys, finishing lead so I did that and got lead poisoning.”
Ron’s last day of service for the RAF, coincidently was on the 3 July too, in 1947. Shortly after, Ron started an apprenticeship with Rootes Group.

So, I had a vested interest in all the Rootes cars on display. I used to play guitar with bands in Ginger Baker’s rehearsal studios, Worple Road, Acton. I once saw Sir Bob Geldof and Peter Green there too while we were rehearsing. Worple Road is significant to three generations of Seniors. Being a Rootes Group factory previously. There was a splendid pair of glorious red Sunbeam cars, the Rapier and the convertible Alpine. The owner told me some history of Rootes Group too. I also enjoyed chatting to the owner of the Humber Hawk.

 Sir Winston was a former Humber Hawk owner.

“They were hand assembled, so there was no real strict conforming, so when they came off the body with the doors the doors wouldn’t fit. The body was all weird. So it all had to be jacked out and messed about and then the joints were, were spot-welded, so that had to be covered with lead and I got the job of, amongst other guys, finishing lead so I did that and got lead poisoning.”


Ron Doble | Rootes Group

BMW 2002 Cabriolet

My family favourite

Another car which caught my attention was a BMW 2002 cabriolet. I remember our family BMW 1602 fondly. There were a beautiful old Bentley, a green goddess of a Jaguar. Rovers, Granadas, Capris and even a 2CV, have all been in our historic family car pool.

Americana

Classic American Cars

It seems appropriate to mention some lovely Americana today. Today being, the 4th of July, y’all! A beautiful Ford Thunderbird in particular caught my eye, another of dad’s favourites. Plus the ’66 Mustang. For Terry, who I fondly call, the ‘Mayor of Hampton’, the Cadillac would be his pick. Terry has exquisite taste. Would be great if we could club together to buy a Caddie for him, just to lure him back. We do miss him.

1960 Cadillac Fleetwood luxury limousine

Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Police Car

Hydrogen Powered Cars

I was thrilled to see this fuel-cell powered car at the show. I first saw a working hydrogen car, a BMW 7 series in 2007, when iChauffeur took part in the Brighton to London Eco Rally. The rally founder chauffeured us in our Lexus hybrid. The first luxury hybrid chauffeur car in London. Today, we have hybrid Mercedes S-Class, and all-electric Mercedes EQV, 6 passenger MPV vehicles. Our future is electric.

I spoke to a helpful and friendly officer about the cars. She told me the Metropolitan Police have 21 hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai cars. By 2019, they had already clocked up over 260,000 emission-free miles. However there are only 2 locations that they can be filled up: The National Physics Laboratory in nearby Teddington, and Gatwick Airport.

Fuel cell sign on Toyota Mirai hydrogen police car

Where can you fill up a hydrogen car?

The infrastructure problem

At the moment the officer told me, the NPL facility is not available to them at the moment. Which means they have to fill up at Gatwick, which is not ideal. She said they are very quiet, and they have good performance, and a 300 mile range. Ten of these cars have been partly funded by the European Commission as part of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking research programme. Seth Finkelstein, the Met’s fleet services air quality lead, explains: “Alongside our existing fleet of hybrid and electric cars, we want to explore whether hydrogen power could also become part of our future.”

Hydrogen powered Met Police car

National Physics Laboratory

Alan Turing, Code Breaker, lived here

I was thrilled that the NPL are involved in the project. My brother Will and I used to be in the 1st Osterley Scouts in Osterley, on the border of Spring Grove, Isleworth. The leader at the time was Ted Deeley. He was a remarkable man, and sorely missed. He used to work at the NPL. Alan Turing, the inventor of the computer, and codebreaker lived in Hampton. ‘Prof’, as he was known, though never a professor. Alan worked at NPL for a couple of years after the war.

Blue plaque in Hampton on white wall. Alan Turing 1912-1954 Code Breaker lived here from 1945-1947

“Alongside our existing fleet of hybrid and electric cars, we want to explore whether hydrogen power could also become part of our future.”

Seth Finkelstein | Metropolitan Police fleet services air quality lead

Hydrogen Police Cars

Toyota Hydrogen Fuel Cell Police Car

The problem, like electric is infrastructure. In 1897, the first luxury electric taxis were available to hire in London. After a couple of years the cabs rolled to a halt. Poor reliability, lack of range, plus the heavy weight made them very unreliable.

With the only emissions being water, hydrogen seemed like it was poised to replace petroleum vehicles. The biggest issue, though was the infrastructure. I didn’t see any electric cars apart from the Scalextric cars, on the cool track. iChauffeur didn’t have any cars on display. The private hire industry is suffering from approximately half of the drivers that we did in London pre-Covid. We were fortunate to retain many more than that, but sadly some of our great chauffeurs did decide to retire at this point. The classic car show is held on the first Saturday of July. This year coinciding with The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park, The F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone as well as Wimbledon.

Humber Hawk

The Great British Humber

For Sir Winston: A Humber or Rolls-Royce

Sir Winston Churchill said that the Humber Pullman was “the only car I can stretch out in”. In London during the war, Churchill grew fond of his bullet-proof Humber Pullmans. These government cars were chauffeur-driven skilfully by the Royal Army Service Corps. Churchill’s affection for the horse drawn carriage was still strong, writes Richard M. Langworth, Senior Fellow at the Hillsdale College Churchill Project. When ready to leave on a trip, he would ask not whether the chauffeur was behind the wheel but, “Is the coachman on his box?”

Sir Winston was not a motorist but enjoyed good transportion. Comfort and reliability were paramount. Churchill’s Humber Pullman Mark IV is now on display at the Louwman Museum.

Churchill was a loyal Rootes customer. He bought a Hillman Minx (1948), a Hillman Husky (1958). For his 80th birthday, the Rootes Group presented him with a 1956 Humber Hawk Mark VIA estate, “a token of our appreciation of his services not only to the country, but to all of us.”

Humber, “the only car I can stretch out in”

Sir Winston Churchill | About the Humber Pullman which was being discontinued.

Classics on the Green Gallery

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