Tuesday 31 July 2012

The winning World According To Art Deco Girl

As some of you probably remember, Brookise of The World According To Art Deco Girl was the lucky winner of the {deep breath} One Hundred and Fifty Followers Eclectic Ephemera Giveaway that I did last month.  It also happened to be her birthday on the 25th June, two days after she won the giveaway; a happily serendipitous touch if ever there was one.

As soon as Brooksie's name had been drawn by the Random Number Generator I set about packaging up all her prizes securely and getting the address labels printed up (the latter using a suitably old-fashioned - and free!- design from the WorldLabel blog and one of the many excellent vintage fonts from Better Fonts).  Then it was off to the Post Office to send them on their way - across the Atlantic Ocean (and most of the continental U.S.A.) to Brooksie's address in Portland, Oregon.

The prizes at their destination.  Photo courtesy of Brooksie.

Well, I'm delighted to be able to report that yesterday the majority of the prizes arrived safe and sound.  I say "majority" because I had to pack the reproduction newspapers separately, but I feel sure they will turn up in the next day or so.  Funny how two parcels sent to the same address at the same time can become separated, isn't it?

I'm so pleased that you got all your prizes delivered safely, Brooksie, and I'm glad to hear you're so pleased with them.  Congratulations again on being the winner and belated birthday wishes too!

Finally a huge "thank you" once again to all my Followers - all 160 of you now.  You make this blogging lark equal parts enjoyable, worthwhile and affirming and I sincerely hope that I can continue to produce content worthy of your interest and enjoyment.  I also look forward to welcoming more Followers (and new readers) as well as continuing to relish in all your wonderful blogs - and discover new ones - that make up the incredible vintage blogosphere.

Sunday 29 July 2012

A retro-electric bike and a player-piano too

As promised here is the post all about player-pianos and bicycles that I had planned.  Just as I had hoped (and half-expected, as it often seems to happen this way) as soon as I had something to blog about after a relatively dry month a couple more interesting things come along out of which I can fashion a post.

I came across these two fascinating takes on traditional machinery a week or so ago (from the excellent blog Laughing Squid) and thought I'd - what's the word... reblog(?) them to my readers here, so much did they tickle my fancy.  They are not related to each other in any way, so no bicycle-powered player-piano I'm afraid (although I still maintain this would be a good idea and formally lay claim to it) but I decided in that I'd get one good post out of the pair of them rather than two lesser posts.

First up is the player-piano.  Stanley.  I like the sound of him already.  Literally.  Stanley isn't just any old player-piano, though.  Thanks to a "creative agency" (whatever that is) and the wonders of modern technology, Stanley has been retro-fitted with a computer and associated electrickery which allows it to... play any song, requested by anyone, via Twitter (I knew there'd be a use found for Twitter one of these days - lo and behold a piano-player remote control).  Of course to get the full effect one really needs to be at Stanley's location in Seattle but still, it's a clever little bit of retro-technology fun for a Sunday I thought.

The bicycle of the title is a far more serious, practical proposition that deserves to do well.  The Faraday Porteur may at first glance look like a reasonably ordinary bicycle but upon closer inspection it reveals itself to be anything but.  For one thing it is electrically-assisted but, unlike current electric bicycles with their thick heavy battery packs bolted onto the diagonal down tube, the Faraday's state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries are integrated into the standard-sized double top tubes.  This makes it light enough to carry and less ungainly to look at, while still providing up to 15 miles of assisted travel.  It has a few other deft little touches too, like the integrated LED lamps and - on this Porteur model - a handlebar-mounted rack capable of carrying up to 30lbs.

Forgive me if I sound like an advertisement for that is not my intention (although if they want to send me one over for evaluation I won't say no!) but the Faraday appears to me to be possibly the best execution of an electric bike I've seen so far - and by Jove do I like the look of it!  Wonderful vintage touches abound, from the basket-holder at the front through the wooden mudguards to the beautiful leather on the handlebars, top tubes and saddle.


Both of these machines are yet more sterling examples of tried and tested technology updated for the 21st century but where Stanley is no more than an amusing - albeit appealingly clever - oddity the Faraday has true potential, successfully and completely merging the best of past and future.  I hear good things about Kickstarter and in fact I see that the company has already raised more than the $100,000 it needs to begin the first production run.  I wish them every success and would love to see more stylish Faradays not just in America but all over the world.  Good luck, chaps, and well done!

Thursday 26 July 2012

Typewriters of Britain, unite!

Another week has nearly flown by; what a busy month this has been!  Summer has finally arrived too, although I read that it will be going away again come the weekend.

Anyway, I had intended to do a post today about a player piano and a bicycle.  There's a novel combination, eh?  It sounds like something from a Laurel & Hardy film, doesn't it?  I bet you're wondering now just what it'll all be about, aren't you?  A bicycle-powered player piano, perhaps?  Some chap cycling across America with a player piano in tow, maybe?  Well, you'll just have to wait a little bit longer to find out I'm afraid.

A type-in is essentially people meeting up, usually in a public place - a park, a café, a town square (other suggestions welcome!) - and typing!  Whether it be a letter, a poem, a short story or just some faint random lines mixed with expletives it's just an excuse to socialise with folks who share an interest and give these old typers a new lease of life.  You don't even have to have a [portable] typewriter yourself as there are always collectors and multiple-typewriter owners willing to lend machines for the purpose.

Type-ins (or type-outs, depending on the weather!) have been a great success in the States - as well as the above video see Life In A Typewriter Shop and Writing Ball amongst others - so why shouldn't they be in the UK too?  Don't we have the name of British manufacturer Imperial (maker of my own Model 66) to uphold?  Haven't we got antiques stores, car boot sales, lofts and the like where typewriters may be hiding?  Didn't we invent the blessed thing?!  Surely the time has come for us Brits to take a hand?  The world of the vintage and typewriter enthusiast is ripe for a crossover - I can't be the only retro-minded chap to enjoy the clacking of keys on paper?

What has been suggested is still only in the early planning stages (and may not come off if there is no interest) but the crux of it is simple - a type-in somewhere in the British Isles.  With that in mind and assuming the availability of typewriters and a suitable (central) location the question as it stands is this:

Would you be interested in a UK-based type-in?

Feel free to vote and/or comment below and - depending on how it goes - I'll be back with the results next week.  In the meantime, don't forget to stay tuned for that bike-piano combo!

Saturday 21 July 2012

Philosophy, female flyers, frames, fisticuffs and foulard

The arrival of a long-awaited item and the by-products of some errands run over the past week mean I am finally able to bring you one of my planned posts; a post that, if anything, has ballooned from its original subject to encompass far more (read: possible monster post warning!).

Last Friday I went to my optician, but he said he couldn't see me (BADOOM-TISH!).  No, in actual fact it was time for my biennial eye test and as I half-expected my sight has deteriorated just enough to warrant new lenses.  I rather fancied some new frames too, but alas as the optician made clear with an expansive wave of his arm the place was shelf-upon-shelf of square frames which I don't particularly like as I don't feel they suit the shape of my face.  It was a struggle to find the oval frames I have now, which are in what I think are a pleasant and fairly timeless style, but I do still have a hankering for some really old-fashioned round-framed glasses.  Roope Vintage and Dead Men's Spex are two retailers who specialise in various classic designs and I may yet see what they have to offer.  Anyone had experience of either of these two firms?

After the eye test I did my usual sweep of the charity shops without any luck but did run a great bargain to earth in the local library.  Quite topical to this blog too, as it happens.  If you recall I did a post a month ago about propaganda posters in the Second World War and also took the opportunity to mark the passing of one of the ATA women, Maureen Dunlop de Popp.  Jennie, of It's A Charmed Life, reminded me of the BBC Four documentary about these amazing girls that was broadcast a year or two ago (but sadly is not available on iPlayer - shame on you BBC!  Thank goodness for YouTube) - Spitfire Women.    Well sitting on the sale table in the library was a copy of a book of the same name.  It is not, as far as I know, a tie-in with the TV programme (it being published in 2007) - although it may have influenced the subsequent making of it - but in all other respects covers in great detail the same subject, the women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary.  I'm thoroughly looking forward to getting stuck in to this tome.  It sits very well with my copy of Spitfire Ace, which was the accompanying book to the Channel 4 documentary from 2004.

The price for this almost as-new (a few of the photograph pages have come away), hardback book that had only been withdrawn twice?  Fifty pence.  I've said it before and will again - happy though I am to have it, it's a crying shame that this type of book is so under-appreciated and sold off so quickly.  The story of these lady pilots needs to be more widely known and I only hope that the library has another copy or something to warrant the giving away of this book.

Yesterday I returned to have my new lenses fitted and did the rounds again (in my now-feeling-ridiculously-large spare pair of old glasses) while I waited.  This time I had much better luck.  Starting off in the library again I was drawn, for some reason, to a Penguin copy of Plato's The Republic.  I've never been one for Ancient Greek philosophy before now, but something compelled me to pick it up and the translation of the dialogue (by noted scholar Desmond Lee) seemed to make it accessible and it passed my test of holding me for the first few pages, so for another 50p it seemed like a no-brainer.

In one of the charity shops I found a CD - The Best of Al Jolson.  Now I already have one Al Jolson CD - Singin' Fool - with a whopping 30 tracks so I was a bit apprehensive at first about getting another disc (you know how it can be - one compilation has songs XYZ, another has ABC, then a third has ABYZ, until you have to be pretty discerning about what's worth getting and what isn't in order to avoid duplication).  But going from memory I decided that of the 25 songs on this second album, fifteen of them weren't on Singin' Fool so another 50p left my wallet.  As it happens when I got it home and listened to it I was delighted to find that the ten songs I already had were all alternative versions and noticeably different.  (This is the one of the great things with early 20th century bands/performers - they frequently cut several versions or "takes", some of which are almost indeterminable and others almost radically different).

Flushed with success I moved on to the next shop, where I was sorely tempted by a sage green two-piece suit.  As ever though, I was undone by the trousers, if you'll pardon the pun ;-) .  The 40S jacket was fine, fitted quite well.  The trousers, which I had to have measured as the suit had no labels (possibly tailored), were a 36" waist and a 29" inside leg.  This, then, typifies my struggle for vintage menswear - my short upper body has no trouble being catered for but my freakishly long legs mean the accompanying trousers are invariably too short.  Men were obviously more evenly proportioned in the past!

I consoled myself with two very fine ties ("Not more ties!", I can hear the cry go up from a certain familial quarter).  Do you know what the official term is for someone who collects ties?  A grabatologist!  How could I resist these beauties - a M&S Collezione that looks like it's never been worn and a Tie Rack modern-does-Seventies-does-Fifties-does-Twenties (almost, I think!) that still has the original price tag in place.  A price tag of £14.99, which confirms its bargain status as I picked up it and its M&S companion (arguably even better than the Tie Rack one, being woven silk rather than simply printed) for £1 apiece!

When I finally returned home what should be on my doormat but the book I ordered almost two weeks ago and which was going to form the basis of this post before all these other goodies came along.  I suppose I'll have to do a separate, more detailed post now as this one has gone on long enough.

In summary, though, as a dyed-in-the-wool Sherlockian I have always been fascinated with Conan Doyle's use of the term "baritsu" to describe the fighting technique Holmes uses to overcome Professor Moriarty.  In the last part of the 20th century, however, it became apparent that Conan Doyle was referring to Bartitsu - an amazing form of 19th century martial art that has remained forgotten for the last one hundred years.  Thanks to a few enthusiasts forming the Bartitsu Society about 10 years ago, and the recent interest generated by the latest more action-oriented Sherlock Holmes films (both Downey Jr. and Guy Ritchie being ardent martial artists, they were keen to include Bartitsu-like moves) Bartitsu is enjoying a quiet renaissance.

Several detailed books have been written on the subject (The Bartitsu Compendium Pts. I & II in particular), but this little - albeit beautifully part-cloth bound - tome provides a simple beginner's guide to the practice using its famous Sherlock Holmes connection (and the current vintage vogue) to give a slightly more mass-market appeal.  It loses nothing by it, though, and has been described by one of the Bartitsu Society's top alumni as "a decent... very nicely-produced series of excerpts".  It also contains some tips from the contemporaneous book "Self Defence from a Bicycle" and is currently available from The Book People for only £1 (plus £1.95 postage) instead of £6.99.

Quite a productive week for me, all told, at the end of which I have a new pair of glasses, some excellent reading material and a soundtrack to go with it, further gentlemanly accoutrements and the means to fight off the local ruffians.  Huzzah!

Thursday 19 July 2012

Riders of the lost Art

I must begin by apologising for what is turning into one of the quietest months of blogging I've experienced in a long time.  It's been partly due to work and other calls upon my time but mainly because there has been little vintage news to blog about!  Perhaps everyone is bracing themselves for looking forward to a certain event starting at the end of the month...  As it is I've almost forgotten how to do this blogging lark, so I'm sorry if this post isn't up to snuff(!). 

I've had the idea for this post buzzing around my head for some time now, having come across several motorbikes I really like the look of (and think you would too) - both real and imaginary.  Time to get them off my mind and into this blog!

Dad's last classic 'bike, a 1960 AJS.  Sold in 1997, sadly.

Motorcycles aren't really my area of expertise (I prefer my vehicles to have at least 3 wheels under them!); they come more within the purview of my father, who's been riding the things since the 1960s.  Being mechanical objects I have a passing interest in them but with these modern 'bikes I couldn't tell a Honda from a Hayabusa.  I much prefer motorbikes from the first half of the 20th century (naturally!), particularly the classic-styled British makes of which there were so many - Ariel, BSA, Matchless, Royal Enfield, Rudge and Vincent to name but a few.  Not to mention "the Rolls-Royce of motorcycles" - the Brough Superior (T. E. Lawrence's motorbike of choice and the type on which he met his death). 


It is still possible to find some vintage-style motorcycles among the mass of plastic-clad, sport-position superbikes if you look hard enough.  These examples in particular take my fancy:

Triumph Thruxton


Triumph is a justly famous name in British motoring history, dating back to 1902, and today Triumph Motorcyles Limited is the largest remaining UK motorbike manufacturer (although its present incarnation only really dates back to 1983 when the original Triumph company went into receivership and the rights to the name were bought by British entrepreneur John Bloor).  Their range of 'bikes is impressive but are generally sporting and look to the future (Tiger, Speed, Street, Daytona, Sprint and Trophy), the immediate past (Bonneville and Scrambler) or across the Pond to the cruiser style of America (America, Rocket III, Speedmaster and Thunderbird).  Only one model really stands out to me and that is - the Thruxton.  Unashamedly retro its style harks back to the café racers of the 1960s - just the sort of 'bike my dad would have coveted, I should think.   One of the classic designs from the end of an era.

Royal Enfield

A classic British motorcycle manufacturer as mentioned previously, Royal Enfield lives on - in India.  Originally an offshoot of the British Royal Enfield company, who set up an Indian operation in Madras during the 1950s (originally to supply the Indian police), Royal Enfield (India) has been in business ever since outlasting even its parent company (which closed its doors in 1971).  Now thanks to various investments Royal Enfields are once again available to buy in Britain.  Some models have hardly altered in style since their British heyday, and my picks would be the Bullet Classic Chrome (also available in Battle Green and Desert Sand for the Army re-enactors amongst you!) or the Bullet Electra Deluxe

Royal Enfield Bullet Classic Chrome

Royal Enfield Battle Green Bullet Classic (also in Desert Sand Beige)
Royal Enfield Electra DL

Indian Chief Classic

From one sort of Indian motorcycle to another now.  While Harley-Davidson is arguably the most well-known of the American cruisers, their modern offerings have always seemed a trifle too "butch" (for want of a better word) for my taste and it can't be denied that the 'bikes tend to conjure up images of Hell's Angels and the like.  (Born to be Mild, that's me!).


No, for me it has to be that other great American motorcycle manufacturer - Indian.  The equal of Harley-Davidson for the first half of the 20th century, Indian's fortunes declined and the original company went bankrupt in 1953.  Numerous abortive attempts to resurrect the brand were made between then and 2006, when a new Indian Motorcycle Company was formed (oddly enough with the help of a London-based private equity firm but since 2011 under American ownership).  Early days, then, but judging by the look of their current 3-bike range I think they should do well.  I certainly hope so!  The Indian Chief Classic is definitely my favourite.  I can't resist wheel spats (but draw the line at the tasselled saddle and bags of the Vintage and Dark Horse models)!


Never heard of them?  Neither had I until I did this post.  Dutch firm Orphiro looks to be a very interesting company; one to keep an eye on.  Their prototype electric motorcycle embodies an ethos I have spoken warmly about in the past - the merging of vintage design with modern practices.  With this remarkably well-fashioned cruiser-style 'bike Ophiro makes electric motorcycling look incredibly attractive.  Hopefully the technology will prove to be a match for the design, but for now - I like it a lot!


So from the current motorcycles that would sit in my dream garage I'll now turn to some of the beautiful and unusual designs that existed during my favourite decades.

1929 Majestic

Image by Paul d’Orléans, courtesy of Bike

Without a doubt one of the most beautiful examples of the Art Deco æsthetic ever applied to a motorcycle the 1929 Majestic could only ever have come from the country that first brought us that wonderful design movement - France.  Incredibly advanced for its time, with a riding position more akin to modern sports 'bikes, the Majestic is one of the earliest examples of motorcycle streamlining.

1934 BMW R7

BMW have been making motorcycles for longer than it has been making cars, starting production of two-wheelers in 1923 (five years before their first car).  Today BMW Motorrad is a hugely successful arm of the Bavarian company and during the 1930s BMW motorbikes were the equal of many of the British makes.  The 1934 R7 was a prototype intended to show the future mechanical and design direction BMW's 'bikes were going to take.  Foreshadowing the "all-in-one" body design that was to become the norm in future decades and with many highly-advanced features the R7 made liberal use of the Art Deco style, a style that was perfectly suited to this fast, modern motorcycle.


Only the one prototype was ever produced, however, due to the prohibitive costs which Depression-hit BMW could not afford.  This brutally gorgeous one-off was cannibalised of its parts for production BMWs with the remaining 70% packed away in a crate.  It was not until 2005 that it was uncovered, in shockingly bad condition (rust had taken hold of much of it exacerbated by the battery which had split open and left corroded acid all over the place).


Fortunately BMW knew the historical value of the R7 and with help of BMW Archives, who still held the original drawings and blueprints, their specialists were able to painstakingly rebuild and restore the R7.  The result, which took 3 years of hard work, you can see here.

1936 Henderson


A one-off custom build that looks like it would be at home in a pulp story, this amazing motorcycle started life as a standard 1930 Henderson (another American motorbike maker, from 1912-31) before it was mind-blowingly altered by an O. Ray Courtney in 1936.  It has been restored by Frank Westfall out of Syracuse, New York.  Who if you ask me is a very lucky man to have such a lovely - and completely, if somewhat unwieldily useable - machine.  If the Majestic was the beginning of Art Deco streamlining on motorbikes, the Henderson is surely the last word.


Finally, having waxed lyrical on a subject mechanical again (funny how these sort of posts end up more like essays!),  I leave you with a few examples of motorcycles from the imagination.  Steampunk and Dieselpunk designs that exist on paper, or as static displays, and which may well not even function as a motorbike were they to be produced but which nevertheless amaze and astound in equal measure.


Russian artist Mikhail Smolyanov has designed a whole glut of Steampunk and retrofuturistic motorbikes.  To do them all justice would be impossible (and at least double the length of this post - "oh no!", I hear you cry) so I shall direct you to The Retronaut who covered them last year and suggest you have a look at Mikhail's blog if you like what you see.


In a similar vein to Mikhail Smolyanov's Black Widow design, Harley-Davidsons have been customised in the Steampunk æsthetic, like the one above.

All in all, I think I'm going to need a bigger garage!

Friday 13 July 2012

Musical Interlude: Glenn Miller & His Orchestra - A String Of Pearls (1942)

Partly because I haven't done one of these in a while and partly because I don't want another seven days to slip by between posts, I thought it about time for another one of my desert island discs.

Frankly I had a bit of a job just selecting one Glenn Miller song (I very nearly went with my original plan for this post - Fletcher Henderson or 'Red' Nichols numbers - but as you'll see I've in fact selected four, plus my main choice, Miller tunes for this post so I'll save them for another time) as he and his band had so many hits between 1938 and Glenn's untimely death in 1944.  I could easily have picked one of his most famous arrangements - In The Mood or Moonlight Serenade for example - but as much as I like them all I've settled upon the 1942 classic A String Of Pearls.  To me it is one of the most complete examples of the Miller "sound" and an almost seamless composition.  In fact I rather like his more obscure recordings (like Sun Valley JumpSlow Freight, Sunrise Serenade or Boulder Buff, for instance, which I'm generously going to throw in to this post for you).

While it could be said that Glenn MIller's music has become so synonymous with the Second World War that it borders on cliché (what documentary doesn't feature a snippet of one of his songs to get the viewer into a wartime mood?!) I think it is a testament to the uniqueness and quality of his musicianship that it can still be fresh in the minds of people today (and not forgetting that actually Miller had nearly 4 years of [American] peacetime success before he formed The Army Air Force Band).

The sound of Glenn Miller & His Orchestra was, in fact,one of the first aspects of vintage that this blogger was exposed to, over 15 years ago (God that makes me feel old!).  The exact first when and where is lost to the mists of time - perhaps it was one of those war documentaries, perhaps it was helping out my nan at the local WRVS luncheon club where it was played constantly; I forget (I do vaguely remember picking up an original LP of the The Glenn Miller Story in a charity shop, since when my collection of Miller records has grown inordinately).  But along with Laurel & Hardy it set me on a path and that has led to this point and which continues to stretch into tantalisingly into the distance.  For that reason alone this music will always have a special place in my heart.

Monday 9 July 2012

All aboard the Coronation Scot - with Tintin and company!

Gosh, has it been really been a whole seven days?  How very remiss of me, but there has honestly been little of note to blog about - except the Chap Olympiad, of course, which I was unable to attend this year but which you can read all about on RetroChick's and Penny Dreadful's blogs (and probably by now a few others - there were hordes of 'em there, by the look of things!).  Next year, I promise you, just you wait!

I've got a couple of posts in Draft that are still waiting to be finished, but for the moment I thought I'd do a little filler about a couple of recent purchases that are of interest.

No, I haven't bought the Coronation Scot (I wish!), or even a ticket to see that famous locomotive (or even been lucky enough to get a ticket for any other famous train, unlike some others I could mention {shakes fists in mock outrage}).  I haven't engaged the services of Mr Tintin either (Tintin?  Mr Tintin?  Mr T. Tin? - what say you?).  What I have obtained, though, are probably the next best things.

Ever since I bought my Monopoly Nostalgia Edition a few years ago (have I mentioned that before?) - in fact earlier than that, from when I first started playing the British Towns card game that has been in the family for years - I've had a hankering for some old-fashioned board games and this has gone some way towards satisfying that craving.  It's the Coronation Scot Railway Game!

Coronation Scot Railway Game, £3 (from £6) + postage, at Past Times

When I first set my eyes on this little game on the Past Times website a year or so back I knew it would only be a matter of time before an example would find a home in Partington-Plans Towers and a happy set of circumstances conspired to allow just that two weekends ago. 

The first circumstance is quite obvious - it's currently half price!  That alone nearly convinced me to take the plunge were it not for the fact that Past Times' postage & packing fee of £3.50 would have negated the saving.  But what was this in my Inbox?!  A special one-day-only offer code for free p&P - AND an extra 20% off everything in the shop?!  Apparently a special thank-you for being a previous customer (although I've bought a few things in person at my local branch several times I can't for the life of me remember ever buying anything online before, but I wasn't about to complain!) - what luck!  So with a whopping 70% off and no postage to pay this wonderful piece of fun came to me for the bargainous sum of £2.55.

A bargain indeed, with four real wooden pieces, dice and shaker plus a proper fold-out board such as one might find on games costing 3 times as much.  Very often a cheap-and-cheerful board game has to make do with nothing more than a piece of reinforced cardboard for a playing surface and plastic markers, but not this one.  Perhaps they really don't make 'em like they used to - top marks to the manufacturers, Ecotronic, for sticking to such a faithful reproduction.  Now that I can look at it closely first hand, I can honestly say that if I'd paid the full price and postage I still would have been happy.

As you can probably tell I'm very pleased with this modest piece of railway fun and am now looking forward to trying this out in a game with someone (any takers?).  In the longer term I've already got my eye on its sister title Touring England but for the time being - all aboard the Coronation Scot!

Turning to Tintin, my post three years ago(!) detailing the then just-completed motion capture film that would become The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (and the one a year later showing the first images) is still even now one of the most popular on this blog and I have been a bad blogger for not having followed it up - particularly as I went and saw it at the cinema and as Messrs Jackson and Spielberg must surely be well into the second film by now!  The least I owe you all is some sort of review and I will see about doing just that, as I have just today bought the DVD.  The special 2 Disc Edition - I always try and buy the 2-disc edition of a film, even though I don't always watch anything on the second disc I just like to get my money's worth and at least I know I have the extras if I ever do want to watch them! - "Exclusive to Sainsbury's", apparently, and "Available for a Limited Time".  We may scoff, but a quick look on Amazon and elsewhere proves the truth in this statement - no sign of a 2-disc special edition anywhere.  The same price as the standard single-disc version sitting right next to it on the same shelf, too, so how could I not?  I must admit Sainsbury's have been doing very well recently to match, or even better, the prices of online retailers - so top marks to them (those who know me well would say that I'd give top marks to Sainsbury's on most things, but we're not here to discuss my grocery preferences!).

Already I'm imagining a Tintin adventure on the Coronation Scot, so I shall away now to watch the film and [eventually] strong-arm a family member into playing the Railway Game.  Hopefully news will pick up in the week ahead, but I will return at some point with the promised review at any rate.


Monday 2 July 2012

Goodwood Festival of Speed: Vintage Bentley sells for £5 million

Goodwood Festival of Speed: Vintage Bentley sells for £5 million

At the beginning of March I blogged about an upcoming automobile auction at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in which an historic 1929 Bentley 4½-litre "Blower" built and raced by my personal hero Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin was expected to become the most expensive Bentley ever sold.  Well I can report that not only did it succeed, at £5,000,000, in smashing the previous record of £2,800,000 paid for the 1929 Speed Six Bentley "Old Number 2", but it also becomes the most expensive British car sold at auction.  I hope whoever bought it values it for more than just the money he paid for it and that it can be kept in Britain and shown for generations to come.

All images courtesy of Supercars.net

Bonhams have produced a wonderful video of the Bentley, found at the top of this post, that perfectly captures the majesty of this magnificent race car and the heroism of the man who created and drove it to record speeds.  It is all the more welcome since so little footage exists of 'Tim' Birkin himself.  His autobiography Full Throttle is, as I have said before and will say again, well worth hunting down.

The sale of this significant racer at the world-renowned Goodwood Festival of Speed marks a high point in the British motor racing schedule - with the Grand Prix at Silverstone pending and of course the Revival back at Goodwood in September.  The latter I hope one day to be able to attend - the ultimate Mecca for a vintage motoring enthusiast!

I'm given to wonder what 'Tim' Birkin would have made of today's motor racing scene.  He was vociferously scathing about Brooklands, a fact which he devotes a large portion of his autobiography to, but only due to unswerving patriotism.  (The chapters he devotes to England's racing woes of the time is a masterclass in apologetic criticism).  We look at [what's left of] Brooklands today relishing and marvelling at what went on there 80+ years ago but as Birkin makes clear by the early 1930s it was no longer suitable for the cars that were raced on it.  Birkin deplored the lack of a more modern track (so I think he would be pleased with the proliferation of race circuits today - a legacy of the Second World War, many of them evolving from disused airfields) and, as the Thirties progressed, a British car with which to race - Bentley having withdrawn from all forms of motorsport upon their acquisition by Rolls-Royce in 1931.  His own career reached a nadir in 1931 when he was forced to drive an Alfa Romeo in order to win at Le Mans, an achievement made all the more bitter when he received a congratulatory telegram from Mussolini claiming it "a win for Italy".

I think 'Tim' would have been happy, if a little bemused, to see his beloved "Brooklands Battleship" still running and still creating such a thrill today, at such an incredible price.  It is truly a piece of British history and if it helps to keep the marque Bentley, and 'Tim' Birkin's fantastic achievements, in the public's consciousness (or at least this member of the public's consciousness!) then it is worth every penny.


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