"The Phoenix" New Year's Day classic meet

1st January 2010

Fisherman’s Friends.
Why is it that every vintage open topped tourer seems to have a packet of those famously throat burning, menthol & eucalyptus lozenges tucked away in the cockpit somewhere?
I guess when you’re bowling down the open road in the middle of a British winter, with nothing between you & the chilly morning air but a flying jacket & a stout hat, you need all the warmth you can get.
The annual New Year’s Day classic car meet at the Phoenix pub, Hartley Wintney, Hampshire has been one of the highlights of the motoring season for me for several decades now. Not bad considering it takes place on the first day of the year! A brilliant way to start the new calendar & blast away the clinging remnants of the old.
The Vintage Sports Car Club has been meeting at the Phoenix since the 1930s -& still do. Wandering around the carpark, it’s easy to imagine many of these huge motors -& several of the venerable gentlemen piloting them, have been rumbling into the pub’s forcourt every year since then. I’m convinced that being passionate about a hobby keeps the mind & body young –when most of their contemporaries have settled down to the twilight world of old peoples’ homes, meals on wheels & bus passes, these guys are still out there, wrestling their huge Lagondas, Bentleys, Alvises, & Nashes around the highways & byways of this little isle. More power to their throttles I say.
Although the VSCC still meet at the pub, along with a host of other well known car clubs, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly organised about the meet, but then I suppose the best organised events always appear that way to uninformed show goers like me. There’s probably months of planning behind it all.
Cars of every make imaginable begin arriving mid morning & very soon the carparks behind & in front of the pub are overflowing, with beautiful machinery literally spilling out onto the road outside, parking up on curbs, verges & even the central reservation of the nearby dual carriageway. Thousands & thousands & thousands of pounds worth of our motoring heritage over the last hundred years grabbing any space they can find, with even more just cruising back & forth along the busy A30 outside the Phoenix. Any one of these cars could easily take pride of place in a motoring museum, yet here they are, filtering in & out of the post Christmas holiday traffic, towering over the modern hatchbacks & family saloons. Delightfully non PC & definitely not environmentally friendly, they don’t crawl along, apologising for daring to still exist –they bellow & roar & rumble & defy anybody to tell them not to. These are the men & their machines that made our tiny little island great & conquered the world.
It always makes me smile to see the bewildered faces of passing motorists, on their way to yet another DIY store or New Years sale, suddenly finding themselves surrounded by model T Fords, Aston Martin DB6s, E type Jags, Austin Healeys, Rolls Royces & dozens more. Like accidentally straying into the motoring land that time forgot. There’s a very minimal & benign Police presence, with the odd patrol car cruising through, making sure the traffic keeps flowing, but I suspect their occupants enjoy the spectacle as much as everyone else. Suprisingly, with all the coming & going, ancient brakes & lack of modern power steering, I’ve never seen an accident here. Somehow everyone manages to manouvre their steeds through the assembled automobiles & appreciative onlookers without scraping a fender or squashing an unwary toe.
As the bright sunshine & crisp air of Sunday morning rolls into early afternoon, the ranks begin to thin. Enormous engines are cranked into life, gauntlets & hats are pulled on & with another “Fisherman’s Friend” lozenge lodged firmly in cheek, they take to the road once more, disappearing over the brow of the carriageway until they’re just a distant rumble.
I can’t wait for them all to come back again next year.

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.