Did you drive your Facel today?

This is a loaded question, principally because the reader may not have a Facel, and secondly because I did drive my Facel 11 today! Driving the car is no big deal on New Years Day, but it’s part of a tradition of New Year/Hogmany involving something called First Footing which means being the first person across the threshold of a house in the new year to bring luck to the household.

In automotive and classic car terms, this has meant taking your cherished machine out on New Years Day, usually to a pub, to a meeting of like minded classic car enthusiasts. These meetings have sprung up around England and in my area, in southern England, there are two meetings, one at Elsted near Midhurst, and the other at a place called Ball’s Cross, north of Petworth. Bigger meetings are held at Hartley Wintney and Brooklands, also within an hour of where I live.

But Elsted is close enough and I have been there several times in the past. Of course, it doesn’t help if the weather is foul but today started off nice enough, although rain was forecast later in the day. The festivities of the night before can also delay start time, but in spite of a late night, we were out of the garage by midday for the five mile drive to Elsted. Even so, we saw our first classic – a Lotus Elan – heading away from the direction of the venue at the end of our lane, and before we reached the pub, a Jaguar was pulling out of the turning so we were clearly late.

The parking area for the meeting is on a small trading estate beside the Elsted Inn, and those with premises there don’t seem to mind the classic car brigade who turn up. Although the parking wasn’t ideal, there was a small amount of space left with about 40 cars already in situ. The Facel 11 burbled in, the quarter lights keeping the screen clear as they usually do. We’d scarcely stopped before a man in a high-viz jacket exclaimed “you’ve made my day, surely a Facel in my I-Spy book is worth more than 15 points, surely at least 25!”

Once we’d parked, we needed to have a good look at the other cars, because even as we began our tour, a Gordon Keeble left before we could look at it. Other cars included a couple of Lotus Elans, two Alvises, a brace of Willys in excellent condition, a friend’s Railton Fairmile (the car, not the boat), another friend’s tiny Austin Seven complete with toy Dalmatian dog strapped to the running board (emphasising the size of the car), a pair of Invicta low chassis including the famous ex-Raymond Mays model, a couple of Alfa Romeos, an E-type, a utilitarian-looking TR2, a Frog-eyed Sprite, a lovely pre-war Rolls, and a very small WW1 Renault pick-up.

Having examined what we could, we popped into the pub for a pint with one or two cars still arriving. A friend attempted to explain the physics of a sleeve valve engine, we looked at the racing pics on the wall, and a 1928 Alvis owner told us about his amphibious lawnmower – a lawnmower which actually drives his boat!

Among the late arrivals was a sweet little Swallow which we’ve seen before – you have to be very good friends with your fellow passenger. No sign of the Ware family sadly; they have brought four cars pre-1927 in the past, including an incredible fire-breathing Austin which makes a completely mockery of anything suggestive of an MoT.  How do you check the seat belts of a car that doesn’t have seats?

By the time we emerged, there was almost no one left and the Facel was a lonely sight on its own at the end of the parking area. It had started to drizzle which had sent many folk home, and so we set off, passing the little Renault on the way. It’s great having wipers whose speed can be varied depending on how hard the rain is falling, just by turning the button, but if it’s really not raining very much at all then it’s a pain having to keep turning the wipers on and off. There’s no such thing as intermittent. It’s either on or off.  Such are the penalties of a 1962 car. Three large puddles of fuel or oil on our newly tarmacced drive were slightly alarming and will have to be investigated, but I’ll have a look at that later.

At least I had driven the Facel on the first day of the year and it had been fun. I was, however, reminded of all the tasks that have to be undertaken in the next month or so…



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