Of Boats & Things....
I got into the car thing in my late teens, just when I learned to drive. In those (far off now!) days, I belonged to a loose gang of lads, all of whom were maniac drivers and most, I’m happy to say, who I am still friends with to this day. Car-wise, one of them was Russell Brookes, who went on to place second (to Tony Clark) in the British Rally Championship no less than three times. Another was a young man (we all were then!) called Roger Platt, who had the most astounding car control I have ever personally witnessed. He SHOULD have been a Champion, in the same league as the then F1 World Champion, Jim Clark, but he did not come from the same wealthy background, nor did he have the cash available to break into the then current "scene". He tried a few rallies but the equipment or crashes put him out and, like so many others with the talent but no money, he was forced to go earn a living like most of us.
At that time, old cars were just that; a few nutters bought turn of the Twentieth Century put-puts and put-putted from London to Brighton every freezing November. The Lloyds and Scottish Championship for Historic Sports and Racing Cars sprung up a few years later, where other sundry wealthy rich nutters raced Maserati 250Fs, Ferrari Squalos in the single seater races. A lone Shelby Daytona Coupe and Maserati 151 plus sundry Lister and D Type Jaguars and Ferrari Monzas and Testa Rossas took part in the Sports car races. Of course, no one paid more than seven hundred and fifty quid for any one of them, so they were, if somewhat precious, at least disposable, if crashed. Just go and buy another one, there’s loads of undiscovered ones around, moldering in barns and garages where they’d been laid up after their day in the International spotlight was over.
I’ve been reminded vividly of that time just recently as I’ve discovered Vintage Hydroplane racing. All wood boats, ’60’s vintage, with a big old V8 up front. There are about eight or nine races around America each year with a small, but enthusiastic following. After all, the water is the last place you can go fast on without losing your license! (I suppose the air holds the same qualification, but it just takes so much more money!).
I’m off to buy one of these beasts next week I missed buying "Miss Isle" years ago in England and have regretted it. One of those "should have bought that" jobs, that was.
I’ve also just bought a 1952 18 foot long Chris Craft runabout. All mahogany, had a 350 Chevy in it. I’ve stripped it out, removed all the mechanicals and, with the help of friends, it is now residing in an upside-down position in my garden, awaiting me to take the bottom off and renew that, before turning it back and restoring the rest of the boat. I’m going to restore it back to original condition. I can work in wood, so it should go o.k. Su is highly enthusiastic too, as she loves being out on the water, whether in a boat, or skiing behind it. And wooden boats just look so gorgeous!
The real point to the above though, is to point out that the world of wooden boats, particularly old race boats, appears to be comparable to that of vintage/historic car racing in the early seventies.
When I tell people of what we’re doing, I get the same sort of "wow" factor that I used to get back in the late sixties/early seventies, when I told people I’d bought an old XK120 or Ferrari 250 GT. Also, the fact that this is a small band of people encourages me further that this may well be the sort of activity I’ve been seeking since retiring from vintage car racing.
I think I’m on to something here. Although I still love the vintage racecar scene, I’ve a feeling its all been done. The current craze and consequent staggering rise in the price of Muscle cars (particularly those sold at Barrett Jackson!) has left me feeling somewhat incredulous at the seeming gullibility of car-crazed attendees with apparently money to burn and little knowledge of what to spend it on.