On the 26th March we (me and my girlfriend Caroline) were invited over to Kent by Jean Hammond to the Register of Unusual Microcars Celebration weekend to celebrate 25 years (and 100 copies) of RUM CAR News, this being the magazine produced.
The Register is usually for cars with an engine capacity of 700cc or less and being 747cc, my Reliant Regal Mk VI (Lucie) was just over though it was still welcomed to join the show. I last visited the Hammond Collection in 2007 and at the time that took me about 3 hours to get there zooming down the motorway. This time however, with Lucie on a trailer behind me, it took around 5 hours to get there, this of course being helped by the world’s largest car park in the form of the M25 motorway around London. Arriving at arround 6:15pm on the Saturday, we drove into the driveway and Jean was one of the first folks we met, after saying hello, I was directed to the field at the back where to my surprise three marshals set about helping me get Lucie off the trailer. Their plan was to push Lucie through the field to her display spot and seemed quite surprised when I said I can just start her up and drive her over, the “dirty makeover” from filming does make her look as though she is a bit of a wreck.
Parked up and after a few quick hellos we drove round to the camp field, parked up the Jaguar and trailer, put the tent up, pumped up the air bed and then went back round to see the microcars and join the barbeque with a pint of beer. Once your money was paid, it was an eat all you can barbeque though luckily for them, I had a cracking headache and barely ate a thing.
In a field behind the barbeque some great vehicles had already turned up, some of which I have never seen in the flesh before like the Libelle, an Acoma Mini-Comtesse and a Velorex to name just a few. These along with a Thundersley Invacar (Model 70), Messerschmitts, a Berkley an AC Petite and many more. In a make shift cinema, we also got to see a small film of Jean and Edwin Hammond talking about some of the microcars in the Hammond collection. After taking numerous photographs and talking to owners, the sun was starting to fade away and so we retired to the tent for the night.
Next day, as always with camping, we were awoken at the crack of dawn with the sounds of people milling about. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep though it wasn’t going to happen and so about 7:30am I decided I may as well get up. So after a quick wash followed by cheese and onion crisp and coca-cola for breakfast ( I really must dig my camping cooker out of the shed, if only to make a cup of tea ), we wandered back over to the microcar field and despite the early hour, quite a few new vehicles had now turned up. Amongst the fascinating was now the four smallest microcars in form of the Peel P50, the Peel trident, the Brütsch Mopetta and the Acoma Mini-Comtesse. The cars, all powered by 50cc engines, were all lined up in order of smallest to largest: Peel P50, Peel Trident, Brütsch Mopetta and the Acoma. I was then asked, “As the webmaster of 3-wheelers.com, would you agree to this order?”. It was quite hard to judge really as while size wise the Mopetta appears smaller than the Peel Trident (due to its dome roof) inside the Mopetta actually seemed to have more room than the Peel. This was demonstrated as a chap shoe horned himself into the Mopetta and yet appeared to vanish inside it.
The Acoma Mini-Comtesse although being tiny was also an interesting little 3-wheeler as on the right hand side it had a normal car door to access the vehicle, yet on the left hand side it had a folding lift up door, the latter I guess being handy for parking in extra small spaces.
Another interesting 3-wheeler that I’ve never seen in the flesh was a 1954 Inter Torpedo. With its little 175cc engine it screamed around the field with its fascinating shape and I’m told it was the French answer to the Messerschmitt. It actually seemed much roomier inside than a Messerschmitt and I also believe that the front wheels fold underneath the vehicle to allow it to fit into narrow places for storage.
Throughout the day other microcars (in both flavours, 3 and 4 wheelers) slowly turned up with vehicles like a Bond Mk G Estate, Two Bond Bugs, a squadron of Messerschmitts, a Dingwall Deluxe, a Berkley, a Nobel , an Arola, a Triking, a Pembleton Grasshopper, a Bond 875 that was used as a daily runner and more along with a host of 4-wheelers to. One of the rarer cars was an AC Allweather Mk I from about 1950 - 1953 that was powered by a 250cc BSA engine. In need of restoration none had been since 1974 until this vehicle was found so is believed to be the sole known survivor.
I got to meet a lot of people at the event that I’ve e-mailed many times before but never actually met, people like Stuart Cyphus who runs the Invalid Carriage Register and indeed Nick Devonport who had taken a Bajaj Auto Rickshaw. This we got to experience at first hand as Nick took us for a spin in around the country lanes. I think it had a 175cc engine and I was told a top speed of around 25 mph with passengers on board though it certainly seemed faster zipping along down the road.
Another highlight of the day, apart from a rather tasty sausage and bacon sandwich from the burger van, was that the Hammond Collection, a museum of microcars, was open for all to visit and it was another chance for me to see once more the cars in the museum. A major change this time was that in the far corner a replica garage had been erected, complete with tools and a Heinkel. I wondered why the name “J.N.Pearson Motors” and about an hour later I found out when an opening ceremony was held to open the garage. John Perason was an automobile engineer & electrician who was a good friend of the Hammonds. His daughter, who was also present at the ceremony therefore donated a corner of his garage to the Hammond Collection and thus this was recreated in the museum.
Also on display in the museum was on restored Gordon and from a distance it almost looked like a Reliant Regal Mk I. yet once you get closer, the vehicles are both very different indeed. Someone one emailed to to say that the picture I have of a Reliant Regal Mk I was actually a Gordon. It wasn’t though as the image was a small thumbnail, I can see why they came to that conclusion.
As mentioned whilst Lucie isn’t actually what you could class as a microcar, she was well received with lots of folks asking questions about her and taking photos so I was glad that I left her in her TV make up as I have been tempted to repaint her. Interestingly I met a couple of folks who used to drive a Regal Mk VI saloon when they were younger and they said that even then, a van was pretty rare as they can not actually recall ever seeing one. It seems even by the 1970s, a Regal Mk VI was a pretty rare thing to see then.
By taking Lucie to the show, we were given a little brown envelope that contained a program, an information card to fill out and put in the car window and a superb enameled gold plaque to commemorate the weekend, the latter of which was most unexpected and most gratefully received.
About 3:30pm we decided to head for home and so after at last signing up to join the Register of Unusual Microcars (something I meant to do two years ago), Caroline and I packed away the tent, loaded Lucie up on to the trailer and headed for home. Strangely, as it had been a glorious day, the moment we did, the heavens opened up and visibility at some stages on the motorway was dreadful - so it took about 4.5 - 5 hours to get home as well. That said it was well worth it as we had a great day, so much so that I’m really tempted to buy a microcar now in addition to the Reliant. Perhaps even better if I could get a microcar to fit into the back of the Reliant!
My thanks go to Jean for the invite and to everyone for making us so welcome. I was actually quite surprised about how many people knew about 3-wheelers.com as for the past couple of years I only really been to Reliant events. That said, I know have a taste for more microcar shows.
More details about the Resgister of Unusual Microscars can be found at:
More Photos of the event can be found at:
Elvis Payne. July 2009.