by Mike Bressington
This is the story of the biggest TVR Wedge car meeting probably of all time, held in a hotel in Ettington near Stratford-upon-Avon on the weekend of the 17th & 18th July 2004.
It all started with a thread posted by Alan Toomey (Rev-erand) on the Wedge Forum on the 6th of February 2004 when Alan posted the following question, I wonder if he knew what was to follow…….
'Guys - I was thinking of a big meeting in the summer with real good top down weather. I don't fancy driving 200 miles in crap weather. How about July (Lé Mans finished etc). I was thinking of something like: We book sevreral rooms in a reasonably priced hotel or take over a few guest houses in a nice town in the Midlands somewhere.
How about that ..????'.
Over the next few weeks the idea was pondered over and debated in some depth, people came up with ideas for venues and possible dates, other people took ownership of getting elements of the meeting organised, the hotel, the BBQ, t-shirts and even the photography at the event. The thread grew and grew gaining more momentum until only a few days were left until the big Wedge weekend itself.
The last few days running up to the event saw the activity on the forum becoming more and more intense, people facing the prospect of a potentially long run in their beloved Wedge worrying if the car would hold up, people forgetting to book BBQ tickets etc. I read threads from people who were still welding bits on their cars on the Friday before the event in order for them to be ready. I was one of the lucky ones all I had to do was check the oil, water, clutch fluid and tyres before setting off.
The night before I anxiously scanned the various weather channels, 'rain and cloudy all day Saturday with a slightly better day forecast for the Sunday' - blast! If only we had the weather as well. The morning of the BBWF ('Big Bad Wedge Fest' as it had become known) I woke up to the sound of pouring rain, I looked out of the window to a dull, overcast rainy day. I peered out to my car which was on the drive - soaked. Good job I rain-x'd the windows I thought. Oh well at least the place we were staying was supposed to have a good bar!.
The big day had arrived...
Elaine and I packed the car up in the drizzle and set off to our first meeting place, Magor services on the M4. We were supposed to meet up with Jeff Morgan and his wife Linda, Simon and his girlfriend Lynne and Nigel Hucker with his girlfriend Judith in their 400SE, 350i and 350i respectively. On the way down the M4 to Magor the rain started to clear and I started to see glimpses of blue sky! We might just be lucky after all.
I rolled into the services and met up with the gang. I was good to see so many wedge cars out at the same time. Usually when we go to a TVRCC event we may see one or two together but here we had four already!. The prospect of over 80+ cars in the same place was starting to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!.
After a quick chat and tyre kick we all started our engines and roared out of the car park onto our next leg of the journey and the meeting at Junction 18 on the M4 to hook up with Duncan Simey and his friends from the South West area.
I pulled up to the meeting point and immediately recognised Duncan and his blue SEAC (you could not miss him really as he had a six foot TVR flag sticking out the top of his car). But what's this?, the lay by was also full of Cerbera, Chimaera and a Nobles! - did somebody not tell them that this was a Wedge meet??. It turned out that the other TVR guys were on a completely different run out and just happened to meet up in exactly the same place and time as our meeting - Phew!.
After some re-fuelling, chatting and some more tyre kicking we set off on the main leg of the trip up to Ettington and the hotel. The trip up was nothing short of brilliant, I have never been in a convoy with so many Wedge cars before. The sense of pride and belonging was immense - not to mention the noise. All along the trip I could see little boy's faces pressed in the window of their parents cars with an expression of sheer bewilderment. You could also see car windows being pulled down to listen to the cars as we roared by.
On the trip up Jeff started to have issues with his 400SE overheating, to be on the safe side Duncan who was leading the convoy made a few stops to let Jeff's car cool down a little. The pace was brisk but safe. The roads up to Ettington were excellent, ideal TVR roof-off country. Some of the scenery and small villages that we passed through were also very pretty. I have not been in this particular 'neck of the woods' so it was refreshing for me not to use the motorway.
One funny thing that sticks in my mind about the trip up was the look on the face of the policeman sitting inside his Ford Fiesta at the side of the road as we rumbled by in convoy doing exactly 29.9 miles an hour!
Some time passed and we started to draw near to the venue. Suddenly several wedge cars roared by coming in the other direction flashing their lights and the occupants waving enthusiastically to greet us. I must admit by now I was getting really excited, after a brief diversion (we got lost!) we eventually found the hotel, turned into the car park and the sight that greeted us was immense - The main hotel car park was literally full of Wedges!!!!
As your eyes quickly flicked around the car park you saw glimpses of all sorts of exotic machinery, over there lies an entire section of the car park packed with 400SE's, over here was the famous factory SEAC racer, over there a whole line of SEAC's all in a neat row, look to the left 350i's, right 280i's - WOW.
Our convoy parked up and we were warmly greeted by Neil and Karen Hyde, two of the people who helped organise the event, 'You must be Mike, welcome' Neil said. I remember saying something along the lines of 'I just cannot believe it, it has actually happened, this is MAD'. It was one thing talking about the meeting and seeing the event grow on a computer forum page, but to see it in the flesh was just awsome
After talking to Neil for some time Elaine and I started to unpack the stuff out of the car. We were then met by Ian Sayer (Wedg1e), and several other regular Wedge forum and TVRwedgepages contributors.
It was kind of funny, you have a mental image of what the person looks like by the tone of the e-mail conversations that you have had with them over the years, but in the flesh they turn out to be totally different. One thing was for sure though you find out that these people are just as enthusiastic about the cars as you are.
I personally thought it was one of the major highlights of the event, meeting up with and putting faces to the names of the people who you have communicated with over the years.
One after another people came up to and greeted us as friends, I have never been at such an event where the people have been so friendly. Over the years we have shared each other's trials and tribulations with their cars and have helped each other out, but this is the first time that we have all been able to meet up and talk properly.
After talking to loads of people I decided that I had better start taking some pictures of the cars so I went for a wander, I did not get more than ten yards when I met up with another group of people that I knew from the Wedge Forum.
I had to admit there was also some pretty magnificent machinery in the car park, I saw several examples of the model that can only described as immaculate. After a bit of a wonder I saw Jeff Statham's yellow SEAC racer - WOW what a car, then Karl Cordwell's SEAC engine bay!
It was good to see Karl again, he was also doing a brisk trade in his excellent range of wedge related 'shiney bits'. It was just a good job I left my cheque book in the house as I would have wound up spending the Christmas money on my wedge (again).
During the day I also saw Mark Adams & Steve Heath wandering around offering technical advice and sharing TVR stories. Chris Schirle was also on hand to talk about his vast experience of SEAC's and TVR's.
After touring the two car parks snapping away with my camera it was time for the SEAC photo shoot to take place.
I strolled over to the third car park in the hotel to see what was going on. Michael (Streaky) Bacon was putting together a recreation of the now famous shot in the August 1994 TVRCC Sprint centre pages of all the SEAC cars arranged in a fan shape in a hotel car park. After some considerable arranging and re-arranging of the cars the shot was set up and was duly taken. After the pics were taken each of the SEAC Wedges left the car park in a blaze of glory…….
Another interesting point of the day was that also booked into the hotel was a wedding party. Feeling sorry for the couple as the wedding car that was going to be used in the photo shoot was an MGF, Neil offered to help them out and promptly gathered the Wedge owners with white cars to lend a hand....
I looked over to see if I could find Elaine, only to find a note on the car that she and the other wives and girlfriends of the guys whom we drove up with had all retired to the hotel bar!. Good idea I thought. After all the excitement it was good to relax over a coke and ice in the bar before the blast out that was scheduled for 3pm.
We needed some petrol after the long run up and Jeff was still worried about his overheating issue and did not want to go far. We decided that we would have a 'mini' run out shortly after the main scheduled run had taken place, after all we did not want to add insult to injury and completely traumatise the locals by adding even more TVR's in one big group!.
We planned a route on the map and off we went at a brisk pace. The countryside in this part of the country is nothing short of magnificent, the roof was off, the sun was shining and for the second time today I was in a convoy of Wedge cars blasting along in the countryside. It just does not get any better than this.
On returning to the hotel we decided to actually book in and get our stuff organised for the BBQ, this done it was time to hit the bar in earnest. In the evening we hooked up with and talked to a great many of our friends and I must admit that it was a great relief to find that Elaine also was thoroughly enjoying herself. I did worry slightly that she might be a little 'left out' which can and has happened in the past at other TVR meets but believe me, we could not have wished for better company.
The BBQ was also very good the Hotel staff really did put on a good spread, we spent the rest of the evening talking and sharing stories with our new friends over many pints of beer.
One low spot however happened later on in the evening when some idiot managed to totally wreck a car he was driving by crashing it into one that was parked up. It turned out that this person was totally unrelated to our BBWF meeting and thankfully he was not driving a Wedge as that would have put a major downer on the event.
After going out to make sure that nobody was hurt we returned to the bar. Taff-O and his friend Richard joined our group and we shared stories and drank beer until the very small hours of the morning. And so ended our first day at the BBWF.
The morning after....
After a hearty breakfast the next morning and some more interesting conversations with some other Wedge owners it was time to check-out of the hotel. The rest of the morning consisted of saying our good-bye's and taking some more pics of the remaining cars before setting off on the long trip back home.
Jeff had planned the journey to be a little more 'scenic' as we were worried that we might hit the traffic that would be coming out of the Royal Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford so with a final few goodbye's we set off on our journey home. Again, the scenery and some of the A-roads were brilliant the weather was a little more cloudy than expected but this did not stop us from taking the roofs off. I did end up having a face full of sun on the Saturday and I did get quite sunburnt (as always) much to the amusement of Elaine so I was actually quite glad that the sun was intermittent!.
We stopped along the way for some lunch in a quaint pub before continuing our journey home. It was sad to see our friends peel off one by one for their individual routes but we pressed on.
One extra high spot of the day was the Maesglas tunnels in South Wales on the M4, Jeff Morgan roared through, Simon roared through and I followed in second gear - the noise can only be described as bonkers! The evil grin did not disappear from my face until about 11am that night!!.
After the tunnels the rain did start to set in a little and looking across the horizon, you could see that it would be getting worse very quickly. We decided to put the roofs on - this is normally against my religion you understand but it did look like it would be getting really bad. Roofs on, we continued along our journey until it was my turn to peel off and take the slip road onto the A470. It was with great sadness when I had to wave goodbye to my fellow Wedgers as they sped off to continue their journey home further along the M4.
I understand that everybody got home safely and Jeff managed to get his 400SE back in one piece and without further overheating issues. Elaine and I carried on with what remained of our solo journey home, tired but happy in the knowledge that WE WERE THERE!.
For my money the event was a brilliant success I personally met up with many, many interesting and friendly people, we had some excellent driving roads to blast along, some good food in some very pleasant surroundings and the chance of looking at some very tasty machinery to boot.
In my opinion, it had been one of the best ever TVR experiences that I have had and I am sure that many other people would agree with me on that. If you did not manage to make it then you missed a really good one and it is a genuine shame, if you chose to not support the event for whatever reason then shame on you!.
I would like to thank everybody concerned with organising the event especially Alan Toomey, Neil & Karen Hyde etc. I think that the staff at the hotel should also have a mention (sorry about the car park!), I am sure that I have missed loads of people to thank but you know who you are.
Lastly, I would also like to thank Dave Edmonston of Pistonheads for making the Wedge Forum possible in the first place and to the many members of the forum for turning up and making the day so memorable for us all - Roll on BBWF 2005.