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Old Number 1

Pembleton Jaunt May 2011


Mike Meakin

It was Chris Day's notion. Starting 24th May in the West Country Don Eden and Chris would meander across moors, in to the Welsh Marches to arrive at The Bell Inn, a CAMRA pub in Pensax on Thursday 26th; there is a campsite opposite the Pub.

Having kicked off the notion, Tom Rae, Dave Parr and Duncan Grimmond variously ran with it, the jaunt gaining momentum in a sequence of events. Pembletons from far afield were gathered.

I joined on Friday 27th at Great Malvern, having had a miserable, wet journey from Norfolk the night before, staying overnight with my daughter, setting off next morning at 0600, bound for the Morgan Factory. It seems that the previous evening, a meal at the Bell Inn became PERRY- lously loud and animated, participants being Chris, Don, Dave, Duncan, Tom and Colin.

Nine cars arrived at the Morgan Factory: Chris Day, Don Eden, Tom Rae & Colin, Duncan, Dave, Tony Johnson (& Sophie), Mike Stephens, Bob Velcoman and me. Mike Bulley (his Pembleton temporarily hors de combat) arrived on his 'superscoot' and Colin Wilson in a 'tin top'. All of a sudden, there appeared an urgent need for Morgan personnel to cross the Visitor's Car Park.

We each paid our £10 visitor fee (Morgan attracts 30,000 visitors a year!) and were off! A film and an introductory chat (setting out that we would be in working areas and should keep within designated walkways/not distract or antagonise the workforce, but ask any questions. Photos were allowed). Starting at the top of the yard, we first viewed various older models, examples of the available range over the past 50 or 60 years before moving in to the manufacturing areas.

Without going in to a blow-by-blow account, the traditional practise of one builder seeing an individual car to completion remains. However, various processes are completed in bulk, with many of the ash timbers being spindle-moulded and toe-boards/front bulkheads built up in to a ready-to-use item, for example. In general, what was surprising to us Pembleton builders was the seeming lack of absolute precision in preparation, marking out and assembly. We observed a number of 'drill there or thereabouts' operations, followed by 'adjust the hole with a rat-tail file'. I guess it's similar to house builders - if the job's to be covered with more material, the construction process needs only to be 'good enough'. Not so the trimworks, final assembly and coach finishing - superb finish and attention to detail.

Moving on to the Aero 8, little of the traditional Morgan coach building goes in to that. Door cappings and coach trimming perhaps, but the bodywork involves vacuum-forming heated aluminium sheets. The massively strong aluminium 'chassis' is sub-contracted and is actually glued together. The adhesive ends up glass-hard and apparently stronger than TIG welding - indeed contact areas were considerable and without panel distortion from heat. Each car is bespoke-built, with a £30,000 non-refundable deposit. The original headlamps' cross-eyed squint, the cause of so much comment, has been corrected with the use of BMW's 'Mini' headlamp units, which face full forward. This option has come about on the back of a decision to power the car with a BMW V12 engine. Is it a real Morgan or something completely different?

On to the bit we'd all been waiting for - the new Morgan trike. Our Factory guide, who had already recognised a group of 'informed enthusiasts', was beset by more questions than answers. A separate account of the details of our viewing sets out our 'Pembleton reaction' to the car. I guess that whilst we were all impressed that the Morgan 3 wheeler was to reappear, none of us was 'wowed' and in many aspects, the new car fell short of what we enjoy in our cars. The New Morgan article tells the story!

Morgan Tour over, we set off for The Kettle Sings at Upper Colwall, Malvern, Mike Bulley riding 'guardsman' at the tail. Inevitably, with Friday lunch time traffic, traffic lights and unexpected turns, we got separated and did two complete circuits of the Mount before spying the rest coming the opposite way. The view from the Kettle Sings was spectacular, matched only by their prices. We managed to log jam the car park, not principally because of our cars parked in the way, but more from people who were about to leave to allow others to park, were actively viewing the cars.

Leaving for Pembleton World HQ, Don and I managed to get separated from the rest (again!). I resorted to satnav, hung from my rear view mirror. It was having a contrary day. Another complete circuit of the mount brought the decision that we would simply dial in Bayton and go direct. Through Little Malvern, we were the innocent cause of an RTA. Traffic was heavy and slow. On our left was a new 4 X 4 'Chelsea Tractor', driver smiling broadly and waving out of his window as we passed. Unfortunately, White Van Man approaching was similarly gobsmacked to the point where he forgot to slow down and brake; he piled heavily in to the back of the SUV. We trickled serenely on. The satnav directed 'turn here' - the sign said 'Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles'. Nonplussed, we turned and went up the most extreme of gradients, narrow and cobbled in places, houses nestling on stony ledges. We could see the main road below us - 15 minutes later we emerged on to said main road, at the other end of 'Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles'. I turned the satnav off and we made our way to Phil Gregory's, 'unaided'.

A number of Pembletons had already arrived at Church House, once all were present, there was a total of 13 cars, including Old No 1, the 9 that had visited Morgan, plus Darren Howard, Rob Jenkins and Richard Barton. Phil (and Maggie) were clearly taken with SO many Pembletons in one place, particularly as Phil had not seen several cars 'in the flesh' and was clearly impressed with the variety of ways individuals 'had done that', emphasizing the individuality of each car. As Mike Bulley aptly commented 'One child, so many fathers' . Tea, coffee, cakes and biscuits were dispensed to go with much chat.

We repaired to The Bell Inn near Abberley, where tents were pitched opposite (Tom had motored down in his Motorhome, towing the Pembleton), made secure before Supper at the Pub. A communal table was commandeered and a concerted effort to sample the guest beers on offer (with certain rogues continuing the Perry bashing). A great surprise was the appearance of Old No 1, complete with Phil and Maggie 'for a quick beer'. A rare privilege for a Pembleton gathering! Freshly cooked meals were individually ordered and another evening of banter and jollity enjoyed. Don lead us across the road to the campsite, using his pocket glow worm - no Pembleton should be without one.

Early morning horse, pheasant and cockerel caused premature awakening. Use of the 'male facility' (shielded by a lattice fence panel, a hole dug in the corner in to which Elsans were emptied.... a Caravan Club site) was limited. We made our way quickly (Dave Parr knew the way!) to the medieval Fleece Inn at Bretforton, where Nicki had arranged a splendid full English breakfast - complete with fresh asparagus, a new breakfast component for most of us. The 'male facility' there was significantly more comprehensive!

The Prescott photographs were taken by

Graham Abbott
Artist and Photographer

The rest of the day was to be a Cotswold Tour, put together by Dave Parr on a base of a Crossley event. The first objective was Broadway Tower the second highest point in the Cotswolds and a spectacular viewpoint, approached along the A44 via Fish Hill - a long and acutely bending, adrenalin climb in the outside lane, which the Pembletons tackled 'with speed and attitude'. Wind and rain began, so we made our way down some magnificent small roads and Cotswold villages to Bourton-on-the-Water, where parking in the front of the Motor Museum had been arranged. A HUGE number of people gathered to view the cars, like wasps around a jampot. Having secured the cars, we escaped for ad hoc lunch before spending a fascinating couple of hours in the Motor Museum, extended now to a number of 'rooms' with an eclectic collection of everything - all very nostalgic. Duncan was like a small boy in a sweet shop - SO many things to enjoy.

We made our way from there to Prescott. I was aware of having to 'fight' my car to keep up with the others (including 3 wheelers) on the switchback, corner-left-in-to-corner-right roads, suffering from rear end 'quiver' and side-hopping, curable only by applying more 'beans'. Colin had already commented on my rear mudguards being super-animated and the back of my car jumping about like Zebedee. Rear damping was awry! My rear right indicator stopped working. Examination later showed the bullet connector (and bullets) had been shaken free and disappeared. Nevertheless, we arrived at Prescott and our designated 'pitch' in The Orchard. Tom's motor home (complete with awning) was sited centre, back with Duncan's Pembleton banner hung across the front - most professional. Cars were secured, tents erected before we hot-footed it over to the Clubhouse for the evening Vie en Bleu supper. A live singer and Jazz combo provided music (very Jango Reinhardt/Stefan Grapelli), a tasty 3 course meal was consumed, washed down with Lidl's best Cabernet Sauvignon - robustly priced at £17 a bottle! A good evening was had by all.

Another early start (for me anyway- you can't turn the light off in a tent!), a shower in the Disabled facility - the only one with HOT water - and a substantial full English breakfast in the Clubhouse - now ready for the day. White Pembleton coveralls donned, it was strike the tent and wait for Darren to return (home for a shower and return with sprog for the day) and deal with the paying Public. Dave, Duncan and I 'walked the Hill' before proceedings started. It was most interesting to note camber changes, blind corners, double apex bends. The paddock was crammed with all manner of interesting machinery (did I mention Can Can dancers?) and real photo opportunity for anyone seeking 'styling cues' for their own car builds.

The pitch next door was empty and we were allowed to spill in to that, displaying 8 cars (Chris, Don, Tom, Duncan, Darren, Mike Stephens and me). Dan (from Northampton) and Chris James (Brooklands builder) appeared for the day. Interest in the cars was considerable, with many people asking 'why have I never heard of these?' and equally, many asserting that 'I remember these cars when I was a lad...', refusing to believe that none existed before ten years ago. After lunch we were to assemble behind the Renault Group cars for the orderly Parade up the Hill. Chris James rode with me in Bolide.

We had resolved to make the most of our run up the Hill - a slow trickle in first gear was not very Pembleton, so there was a deal of hanging back, then responding to Marshalls' pleas to 'get a move on', before the next Marshalls' post would signal 'Whoa, slow down'. My DVD camera widget failed to record, but fortunately Chris had a hand held camera and has footage, which I will try and have broadcast. All too soon, the 'Parade Run' was over. What was really surprising was the number of spectators who made a beeline for our pitch back in the Orchard to say how much they had particularly enjoyed the Pembletons on the Hill!

Excitement over, the 90 mile drive back to my daughter's proved another bonus and a fitting end to a most eventful weekend. Particular thanks must go to Chris Day, Dave and Nicki Parr, Tom and Duncan for their input in to the arrangements, but also to everyone else for being there.

The Pembletons' appearance would seem to have been well received. Duncan has learned that if there is enough interest, a specific Pembleton Class could be created for La Vie en Bleu 2012, where cars would be able to complete the usual practise runs and then timed runs on the Hill. A number of us are interested in this option, in particular, a pre-event Tuition Day on 4th May 2012 to ensure full awareness of the most correct and safe way to negotiate the Hill. Anyone else interested should contact Duncan without delay.

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