Jaguar Car Club Visit

Jaguar Car Club Visit

We were delighted to spend a day with Jaguar,  touring the manufacturing plant of the F type sports car and visiting the new Classic Centre. Whilst staying near the Balti heaven of Birmingham we started proceedings with an exceedingly good curry dinner. Morning arrived without incident.  The day began with a comprehensive look at the newly built body and assembly plant – admiring the combination of slow time handwork and extraordinarily dextrous robots.  This is one of those rare plants where you see sheet metal arriving and fully built cars leaving – impressive and absorbing. Two beautiful E-Types heralded the Distillers arrival at the vast new Classic Centre, which holds the workshops, heritage vehicles and sales area. This is a huge investment in the brand and the idea, supported personally by the TATA family; the business sense is clear when you hear of the project to make 25 “new” D-Type racing models missing from the original register and 9 of the ultra rare XKSS road car version which were lost in the 1957 fire – at a cool £1 million each – and they sold out in days. There was such an outcry at the ending of the Land Rover Defender that it is now being reborn from donor vehicles. The rumour is that it will be back in production again in modern format before long. Meanwhile there are 400 vehicles in store awaiting exercise or restoration!

A Bright Start to 2018 for the Distillers Car Club

On Thursday Feb 8 members and their guests made up a jolly party of 16 visiting the Design Museum in South Kensington to race through 70 years of passion, glamour and design innovation, with unique behind-the-scenes access to one of the most iconic car brands.

Billed as follows;

Ferrari: Under the Skin Exhibition

‘This show is well worth a spin’ ★★★★ – The Times

‘Intelligently curated and stunningly designed’ – Forbes

…we were not disappointed…

A fantastic range of memorabilia, supporting the family history of Enzo and his business (Scuderia Ferrari founded in 1929) brought the marque into close personal touch.

The clay build of every single car, the leading edge engineering and the “future of Ferrrari discussion” in the context of a rapidly changing motoring world stimulated both awe and thoughtfulness.

The beautiful cars on display ranged from the original 166 MM created for the famous Mille Milia, the open top Berlinetta, the Tessarossa and the F40 to the racing salon where the Grand Prix winning 1952 Ferrari 500 driven by Alberto Ascari, through the Ferrari 250 GT series made famous by Stirling Moss to the more recent F1 car driven by the great Michael Schumacher who restored the racing success of Ferrari’s heritage   were elegantly displayed. Which one to take home!?

The evening could only be finished off with a delicious Italian meal at the highly rated Il Portico – also with a long family history.

Great company and food – not a bad finish either!

Car Club visit to The Cotswolds

It has long been an ambition of mine to have the Car Club come down to our adopted home in the Cotswolds and at last a break-through occurred to enable this and to make the visit particularly special. The area is blessed with a number of rare and famous car collections and after some months of patient networking it finally became possible to visit one of the holy grails, the home of the collection belonging to Nick Mason of Pink Floyd fame, and his family.

We were fortunate that perhaps the most famous Ferrari 250 GTO of all was indeed on display despite the risk of being taken away to some concours or other. There was a choice of Bugattis – one being run for our benefit and others being rebuilt by an on-site engineer dedicated to the purpose, such is the passion for the marque. We were indeed grateful for this once in a lifetime chance to tour and dream in the halls of these unique and beautiful cars. It transpired that the boss is the chairman of the ambassadors of the Navy Heritage Flight at Yeovilton, home of our affiliated 825 Squadron, so a brisk fund raise produced a decent cheque that we donated to the CO Commodore Jock Alexander during the more recent golf match.

Driving the long limbed, rangy roads across the top of the ridges and down in the combes of this area of outstanding natural beauty is part of the pleasure of visiting the Cotswolds. We managed this in some style with an eclectic mix of Alvis, Jensen, Aston Martin, Porsche and even a very rare straight eight Railton of Ecurie Maxwell our King of Gin. Such is the everyday stuff of Distillers mounts.

Our target on the second day was the delightful distillery of Liveryman Dan Szor who proudly showed us round the stone built stillhouse and maturing warehouses. Just days away from becoming whisky we sampled this delicious spirit, warm and fruity, just the way the distiller intended.

About to be launched at Vinexpo the general feeling was that they had a winner on their hands, so we presented a Distillers Quaich to make sure it had a good launch. Already there are plans for a significant expansion – which gives a further excuse for a visit in the future – if one were to be needed!

You cannot make whisky without rain and so we should not have been too disappointed when Sunday dawned wet and windy, and the idea of a walk in Cider with Rosie country suddenly seemed less appealing. But we had enjoyed fine sunny weather until then, great company, a convivial meal at Chateau Kemble, home of the Watlings, and some delightful foodie experiences in nearby Nailsworth and at the top of Rodborough Common, with spectacular views across the five valleys that converge on Stroud.

That now concludes the 2017 programme that has taken us to Prodrive and Aston Martin , Chatham Historic Dockyard and now the Cotswolds. So now is the time to hunker down with a fine malt whisky and work out the plans for 2018 and more fine drives, great company and interesting visits along the way, perhaps across the channel this time – we shall have to see.

Car Club visit to Copper Rivet Distillery

What do Bob, Ann, Matthew, Joyce, Janet, and Sandy have in common?

To find the answer, find a straight flying crow and send it 30.999 miles due east of the City of London to the banks of the river Medway. As it hovers above Upnor Castle it will see on the opposite bank of the River Medway the recently renovated Pump House, today the home of our above mentioned quintet, and the location of the new Copper Rivet Distillery.

Owned by Liveryman Bob Russell, Copper Rivet was the scene of a recent Livery car club visit. It also witnessed the ancient procedural gin inspection, whereby in a profound peroration, the Clerk confirmed that the Worshipful Company’s authority in such affairs now extended to 31 miles from the City of London. Our gowned and robed Master, together with Clerk and Beadle then exercised his rites to inspect and approve the Distillery and its products.

We were then given a personal tour by Bob, whose business USP is that everything to do with his production is locally sourced. The wheat and barley are grown in Kent, his three bespoke stills, Joyce, Janet, and Sandy were built and assembled just up the road, and his labelling of Dockyard Gin and other spirits reflects the local nautical history. Another neat Company connection is that Head Distiller Abhishek Banik had won our Heriot-Watt scholarship ten years ago after completing his dissertation on gin.

This most generous and enjoyable visit started with the warmest of welcomes from Bob, his wife Ann, and Livery son Matthew, with croissants and coffee being served on arrival in the adjacent delicatessen, the visit involved much tasting and libations, and concluded with lunch in The Powder and Magazine restaurant.

A day with a true nautical flavour, as many members also took the opportunity of visiting the submarine, destroyer, lifeboat museum and Ropery in Chatham dockyard itself.

Car Club visit to Banbury

Thanks to the Master’s unique motorsport connections, our Car Club’s first trip this year combined a tour around the Prodrive workshop at Banbury, with a production visit of the Aston Martin factory at Gaydon. All in one day!

We learnt that Prodrive is a very diversified business, which includes the development of electric vans, auto technology, aircraft innovation, as well as providing the wiring loom for Ben Ainslie’s catamaran, “Land Rover” Our main attention however was taken by the Aston Martin Racing cars, built for endurance racing, and the famous WRC and BTC cars in the museum. To see the Richard Burns Blue 555 branded Subaru next to Jenson Buttons BAR F1 car demonstrated the breadth of influence that their current Chairman, David Richards has had on motorsport.

Our tour Guide, Jackie, was a fount of knowledge, living motorsport history over the last fourteen years, and regaling our members with many anecdotal stories.

After a light lunch, we sped up the M40 to the next junction to the prestigeous building that houses the factory. As we entered the reception the full 2017 range of cars was on view, including the latest DB11, and a lifesize clay model of the Aston Martin Vulcan, so realistic that we missed the telltale sign of no door handles! Once inside, we progressed along a parade of unique models tracing the history of Aston Martin from the early Coal Scuttle (1914), through the examples of the DB6, DB7 Zagato, and the DBs from the TV series, the Persuaders, and Aston Martin Lagonda’s. We learnt the story behind the DB10, only built for the James Bond films.

Behind this line up, there was a timeline of key events starting in 1910, when Aston manufactured a saloon car with a running board can you believe, then the story of the David Brown (of tractor fame) era, who rescued the company pre WW2, and the history of chequered ownership since then including the Ford period, who cleverly retained the trademark rights to the grille, and placed it on the Mondeo!! Current ownership is routed in the Middle East,led by David Richards, whose management expertise and innovative flair has provided a period of stable investment leading to a broadening of mainly limited edition models, like the Rapide, the Vanquish and even a four door version. The final piece of the jigsaw seems to be a prototype SUV on the cards for the future.

The factory was a real eye-opener, with only two production lines, 270 people and four robots. The cars combine production technology with hand-made quality and nothing is rushed. The line moves every 50 minutes, and each car takes 50 hours to paint, of which 25 entails hand sanding! In total it takes 200 hours to build a beautiful Aston Martin, and proud owners can visit the factory at any stage to view their own car being built. These cars are true supercars, and the workmanship is a tribute to British engineering. It is no surprise that cars are only made to order, producing a waiting list of nine to 12 months depending on the options. Special models are normally pre-sold even before production commences.

The Master presented a Distillers Quaich to our guide Jackie for giving us such a memorable visit .and our thanks go to Nick Carr for organizing the day. Aston Martin surely has a profitable future built on a wonderful heritage and success in endurance racing. Long may it continue.

Chris Searle, Liveryman

Distillers Car Club Visit to WilliamsF1- Wantage Oxon

19 liverymen and guests , including the Masters Elect of the Distillers and the Coachmakers gathered for an excellent 4 course pub lunch in Wantage in anticipation of a select tour of the Williams F1 Factory Tour, their Museum and Trophy Room. They were not disappointed.

The message from Williams which is now a listed technology firm supplying knowhow to many industry sectors was that racing was at the core of what they do.

Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head co founded the company in 1977,and it’s the third most successful team after Ferrari and Maclaren with 16 championships to its credit. The cars of famous racers like Nigel Mansell, Jacques Villeneuve , Alan Jones, and Alain Prost are proudly displayed in the Museum together with innovations like 6 wheel GP cars , quickly outlawed by the FIA . The team has overcome the tragic death of Senna at Imola in 1984 in only his third race for Williams and boasts every race car up to 2012 in the Musuem.

The Trophy Room displays all the race wins, a F1 Race simulator, and helmets, race clothing and equipment all immaculately labelled. The highlight was when the guide,Simon, brought out the steering wheel of Valteri Bottas and explained all the switches and buttons on it, all operated through thick driving gloves!

Today the team struggles against teams with huge development budgets ,four times the annual £100m that Williams spends, and is hoping to finish 4th in the constructors championship. The stunning WO16 car decked in white to show off the famous Martini Racing stripes of its lead sponsor, sat magnificently in the ‘build ‘ area of the factory and we were treated to a glimpse of the heavy investment going into its own car production. Williams is one of the few teams to build its own gearboxes, and has one of the few wind tunnels for testing.

Many thanks to Paul Finch for organizing the logistics and the pub, and to Martini Racing (Bacardi)for permission to have the visit, a great way to round off a successful year for the Club.

– Chris Searle

Nothing “Mini” about this combination?

Thirteen members and partners of the Distillers’ Car Club visited the Mini factory at Abingdon, with the legendary rally driver Paddy Hopkirk. One of the most high-tech car-plants in the country, in one part of the assembly area over 1000 robots are at work, spot-welding and creating this iconic car.

On the way to becoming one of the world’s most famous rally drivers, Belfast born Paddy Hopkirk began with successes in Irish rallies and he soon justifed his position in the works team of BMC in 1963. He drove his first Mini Cooper S in that year’s Monte Carlo Rally and finished 6th. But it was his victory there in 1964, accompanied by Henry Liddon, which made him, and the Mini Cooper, household names. Quite a trip; quite a guy!

The Distillers Car Club Visit to Bentley and the Peak District

Armchair Luxury

2016-07-15-12-47-27Distillers are nothing if not creatures of comfort. Easing back in the luxury of a plush leather armchair, feet out on the deep pile wilton carpet surrounded by beautiful wooden paneling while reaching for the rich smokey amber texture of a Double Black Label over ice are of course common activities for many of us.

Perhaps not normally in the car though, unless it seems, you own a Bentley Flying Spur, but completely normal if you do, and of course James, Johann, or Joao is in the drivers seat wafting you home from an evening at Glyndebourne say and pouring the drinks from the beautifully crafted hidden cabinet.

We can but dream, and dream we did courtesy of Richard Charlesworth his assistant Vicky and the entire team in Crewe who gave us the most entertaining VIP visit and lunch in July for the Distillers Car Club members attending our annual weekend away. I have a feeling that at least one of our group was doing a bit more than dreaming but we will have to see what happens in a future episode and what he arrives in ….

Our beautiful hotel in the Peak District where we repaired for relaxing spas walks and dinner but no pot-holing on this occasion seemed therefore entirely appropriate even if we had slightly less ambitious hardware in the car park. John and Kim Barrett did a great job though in keeping the dream going in their 1965 elegant but masterful Alvis TD and Nick and Louise Carr were equally prominent in their newly restored and muscular Jensen Interceptor.

A delightfully sociable and relaxing weekend in the company of other Distillers; a serious study tour of Bentleys famous works viewing the craft of making their luxurious and by the way very quick motor cars; examining their collection of priceless Le Mans winners; driving in this dramatic and beautiful and rugged landscape. What more could you want? Well perhaps another whisky, James, and then straight home.

Richard Watling
Upper Warden
July 26th 2016