The Phoenix Inn sits beside the A30 in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, halfway between Basingstoke & Camberley. It’s a traditional coaching inn & has been a regular resting place for travellers on the London Road since the 1670s. With the rising popularity of motoring in the early 1900s though, it found a whole new clientele.
In the 1930s the landlord Tim Carson, a Vauxhall enthusiast, & a group of friends, founded the Vintage Sports Car Club. Nearly 80 years later, the club still meet there. They’re regularly joined by the Lancia club, the Fraser Nash club, the Morgan club, the Lagonda club, the Jaguar club, the MG club, the Fiat club, the Lotus 7 club, the NG owners club, the TR30C owners, the Vintage Minor Register & the Model T Register. Pretty illustrious company.
So it’s no surprise that the annual New Year’s Day vehicle meet attracts some of the rarest & most beautiful cars in the country. It’s wonderful to witness so many of the legendary marques of the British motoring industry being driven & enjoyed as they were meant to be. Most of these vehicles would normally only be seen as lovingly tended museum pieces. Indeed, one of the most striking visitors of the day was an enormous 1915 Thornycroft lorry, liberated from its regular home in Basingstoke’s Milestones Museum & driven with great gusto through the A30 holiday traffic. The Thornycroft factory was once a major employer in Basingstoke. Another Hampshire built machine, a Gordon Keeble coupe was tucked away behind the pub –one of only 100 ever built. 95 of them are still on the road.
With an Aston Martin restoration business a stone’s throw from the pub & historic Brooklands race track less than 30 miles away, the whole spectrum of motoring was represented from stylish 60s prestige cars to American classics; hotrods to bare bones 30s hill climb specials; rally cars to race reps; Bugattis to bubble cars. But it was the vintage tourers that took centre stage, towering over their more modern counterparts. Running boards, aero screens, truck sized steering wheels & a bewildering array of knobs & switches & dials. Flying jackets & goggles were the order of the day among their hardy drivers, to keep the frosty January chill at bay.
This is a fantastic meeting. A rare chance to see such classics, not in static displays, safe from the touch of the public behind rope barriers, but being driven in the real world, dicing with modern day traffic & up close enough to run your fingers over the polished paintwork, smell the hot oil & hear the bellow of fishtail exhausts. A great way to blow away the post Christmas fuzziness & start the New Year with a hearty roar.
In a world of small minded, ever creeping conformity, with every new car looking just like every other, it lifts the spirits to find the “oldies” refusing to retire quietly. They may be dinosaurs from a more glorious age, but they’re certainly not extinct.
The New Year’s Day classic meet begins at 10am each January 1st & runs until mid afternoon. Pub parking is limited so expect to park wherever you can along the main road. An outdoor hog roast with tea & coffee is available, as well as restaurant meals. There’s a petrol station next door to the pub.
The Phoenix Inn is at
London Road, Phoenix Green, Hartley Wintney, Hants, RG27 8RT.