Wheels Day


Good Friday. A British Spring Bank Holiday. It’s virtually guaranteed to rain isn’t it. And there’ll be traffic queues. Lots & lots of cars in the rain.
Well, this year was no exception, but the cars were hotrods -all manner of customised vehicles, queuing to get into Rushmoor Arena for the 32nd annual “Wheels Day”, organised by the Surrey Street Rodders. And the rain? Well, yeah, it poured down all morning, then an hour before we arrived it stopped. The sun came out & it was a glorious afternoon. I even took my jacket off & considered buying an ice cream.
Phil & Marc, both fellow Basingstoke Posties & members of the local “Happy Daze” VW club, were there when the gates opened at 10am, but by 1.00 they’d had enough of the inclement holiday weather & left. A little while later Rainbow & I pulled into the carpark just as the sun made a belated but welcome appearance from behind the rain clouds. Perfect timing.
When I first attended Wheels Day it was held on the Slyfield Green industrial estate in Guildford. From there it graduated to Brooklands race circuit, near Weybridge, then on to Rushmoor where it’s been since 2004. I haven’t been here before but it’s a nice setting. Aldershot is a Military town near Farnborough, Hants. Besides being the home of the Victorian army prison known as the Glass House which gave it’s name to all such forces jails, it was also famous for it’s Military tattoos -huge events that showcased all that was best of our fighting heritage. The arena was built in 1922 in the form of a sunken amphitheatre surrounded by trees in the area of heathland evocatively known as Scroggs Bottom & was home to the annual Military revue until the outbreak of war in 1939, when it became a vehicle depot. The last tattoo attracted over half a million spectators during it’s 4 day run. Maybe there weren’t quite that many there this year, but more than 2000 people turned out to see the assembled motors.
We trundled over from Basingstoke in Rainbow’s little Vauxhall, past the shiny new Farnborough Airport with it’s futuristic swoopy terminal buildings looking for all the World like a Thunderbirds film set. It used to be a purely Military base & hosted the bi-annual Farnborough airshow. On a roundabout outside it stands a sleek, silvery full size replica of a Gloster E28/39, a monument to Sir Frank Whittle, inventor of the first jet fighter plane. A few miles further on, past the army sports grounds, we turn off the A323 into the arena.
As we wander over the brow of the hill the showground’s laid out in a huge circular grassy hollow below us. The newly emerged sun glints off a sea of polished paintwork & chrome & that gorgeous rumble of ridiculously, wonderfully, oversized gas-guzzling motors fills the air. Rods, rats, classics, cars, bikes, trucks, dragsters -even custom bicycles are there. The Cadillac Kings are belting out some fabulous rock ’n’ roll from the back of a curtain sided lorry trailer. We stop to listen & I end up buying a couple of their CDs. I love these shows. Always a great atmosphere. Loads to look at, auto jumble stalls to peruse, new parts trade stands, owners clubs, Custom Car & Dice magazine stands, food vans -and lots & lots of cars. An amazing variety of machinery. Where do all these machines hide for the rest of the year? Gorgeous traditional 50s hotrods; huge classic Yanks; a military Hummer armoured truck; a bright red American school bus decked out as a retro diner, complete with jukebox; two General Lee replicas; loads of Beetles including a matt pink fenderless one sporting an innovative interior with the seat upholstery removed & the springs powder coated white; the Chrysler PT Cruiser owners’ club with one of their number running a panel van conversion, the body chopped & sectioned by 6 inches & fitted with Chicano-style dancing hydraulic suspension. There’s a couple of trikes. The Chops & Bobbers.com crowd have got a stand with some beautiful examples of the 60s “Bobber” genre that looks like being the next big trend in bike building. There’s a model car exhibition - a thriving subculture among the car fraternity with it’s own fads & trends & star builders. The children’s’ paint a hot rod competition with photo-copied outline drawings of various rods for them to colour in is a nice idea. Janie_Postie rings me from somewhere on the other side of the arena, but it’s so busy we never meet up.
I stroll through the ranks of mechanical delights, hotdog in one hand, camera in the other, thinking “I’d love to drive that one home -no, that one -or maybe that one”. I’d be proud to own any one of them. I’m already collecting parts together for my own ratrod project so hopefully next year we’ll be back & parked here ourselves. Maybe we’ll see you there?