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Manresa

by

'Spike' Stephenson

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Phil Gregory's inspiration for the Pembleton was the Morgan: and it was a 1922 Morgan, driven exquisitely by Grahame accompanied by the accomplished accordionist Fran, who led David Stevenson's new Triking and the Pembletons belonging to Nigel Davey and David Stephenson, up two of the highest cols in the French Pyrenees

Col de Tourmalet at 2115m and Col d'Aspin at 1490m. A close encounter with a coach on a hairpin bend with a steep drop at one side and a wall of rock at the other caused the only anxious moment as a cyclist stood on the front wheel in order to stop!

An experience difficult to surpass??..however! Nick and Anna's route over and under the Pyrenees from the Commune Gite (where they had organised a jolly, friendly and varied Rally en route to the Manresa meeting), was spectacular.

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On this part of the journey there were 2 Lomax belonging to Nick and Anna Poll and Michael and Barbara Armitage, Kevin and Heather Ashton's Avion, David Stevenson?s Triking and David Stephenson's Pembleton leaving behind, after the lunch stop, a great number of Microcars; the majority of which were being trailered to Spain and who had elected to travel on the main roads.

Mr Ramon, the owner of the Hotel in Manresa where we had chosen to stay, is the proud custodian of a superb collection of cars, which are displayed among large potted palms and exotic plants in the hotel's entrance hall with an atrium and three floors above; breakfast alongside these exotic machines was a bonus - as was the magnificent peacock strolling through the garden.

There were 2 Hispano Suizas, a Model T Ford, a White Rolls, a Porsche and others- all of which were bought and driven by four generations of the Ramon family who own the hotel. One of the Hispano Suizas had taken part in last year's Paris to Barcelona Rally. However we were just as proud of the collection of micro cars in the hotel car park.....

Whilst all the cars were being duly admired - the co pilots enjoyed the luxurious bathrooms and the view of Montserrat from the bedroom window.

This was the 12th Manresa Micro car Rally (held biannually) and the organisation was superb. Our congratulations to the team, especially to Tony and to the Spanish traffic police.

The following morning we registered our cars in a leafy boulevard in the centre of the city, and in return received an itinerary, maps, meal tickets, a goody bag and a national flag, (which came in useful later at the Le Mans Parade of the Pilotes of Classic Automotive)

Then accompanied by a Police escort and also very well marshalled - 107 participants set off in a cloud of 2 stroke fumes. Dozens of Biscuters, Isettas, Messerschmitts, Fiat 500s, a couple of Bonds, Goggo coupé, and Goggomobils etc. took part. The Biscuters were equipped with some amazing designs - from a 200cc Villiers 2 stroke engine (as per the James motorbike of my youth )but with an oil filled oblong cylinder head to cool it - plus a lever starter handle which was pulled from the cabin to spin an eccentric in order to start the engine! Some even had an electric start using the principal of sloping pulleys to run the belt onto the engine flywheel to start - and have it thrown back when running. No cars had developed a ratchet driven starter because of the proximity of the fan. Even then they all had aluminium bodies. With a speed/pollution limit of 60kph they struggled up some hills but were more than 2 up in some cases....and we followed the blue haze of several dozen....no wonder it was good to overtake when safe! Persistant coughs followed.

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We drove through scenic countryside in glorious weather to an excellent Banquet lunch at Mon Sant Benet. After which, the organisers passed on a request from the Police Escorts - would all nationalities please obey Spanish road rules - drive on the RHS and do not cross solid white lines in the centre of the roads. We duly nodded in multi-national agreement and were subsequently overtaken on the brow of a hill by a Goggomobil towing a caravan.

A short stop at the local Volvo Agent's private car museum, mainly micro/small cars and motorcycles, then a police escort back to Manresa in time for the evening promenade of families. A slow parade of the cars around the boulevard ended in a “Test of Driving” i.e. a Slalom around cones placed in the road - no crash barriers, lots of fun! Modesty permits me to mention that one of our group came second, even though he was driving the only long wheel base car.

Then back to the Hotel for a splendid evening. Another feast with copious quantities of wine and just for a change a conjuror! It made sense, there were many different nationalities taking part in the Rally and an Indian rope trick doesn't require translation!

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An early start on the next morning and a police escort took us on another rather more mountainous drive, difficult for some of the microcars; but everyone arrived at Esmorzar by 9.30 a.m. in time for an interesting breakfast of dried sausage and ham, brawns etc and copious carafes of red wine.

Then up and on to visit a Catalan Monastery (soft drinks on this occasion) before returning to the hotel for Lunch. The grand finale of which was the cutting of a celebratory cake with a 4 foot long sword.

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