Bowling along leafy Hampshire country lanes in warm July summer sun who would have thought we would ever have had the privilege of doing so in an open-top car. But this was no ordinary car – this was a vintage 1905 V70 Stanley Steam car; one of only four existing in the world.
This wonderful opportunity arose when I had literally been racking my brain for a 70th birthday gift for my lovely husband of eleven months and I wanted something different and unique (if possible). Attending a summer fete some weeks previously a charity auction of eight lots donated by very generous local benefactors was being held; one of these private lots was a trip around the Meon Valley for four people driven by the owner in his wonderful car. And I was determined this lot was to be the birthday present I had been looking for. Having set my absolute limit I was delighted when the hammer went down to me!
Having prayed the day would not rain, because understandably the car would not be taken out if it did, our lovely owner of the vehicle, Gary, met us with a huge grin and glasses of Prosecco; he loves to take the car out and show it off, having owned it for 12 years. Absolutely immaculate, with gleaming brass, it was in pristine condition and he is so obviously proud of his ownership and quite rightly so. With deerstalker , flat caps and cravats donned my husband’s brother and his wife joined us for this exciting outing and we had been briefed to wear sunglasses, to keep flies and the wind out of our eyes, bring warm clothes in case it did get chilly and the ladies to wear headscarves; but who wants to wear one when you have the warm wind blowing through your hair and taking you back to your younger days?
Cranked up and trundling along in this surprisingly quiet motor wherever we went people stopped and waved and we waved back and felt like royalty and cars tooted and we honked the glorious sounding hooter back. Low oil pressure on two occasions meant a couple of pit-stops, with a bundle of huge, shiny spanners being brought out in service but that all added to the fun. The motor was so unexpectedly quiet, the comfort sitting on the leather seats totally unimagined. Running on only four mpg we finally returned to “base”, Gary’s home, and dismounted from our magnificent steed.
This heavenly beast was an incredible experience, created over one hundred years ago when machinery was built to last but is now extremely rare and extremely valuable so it was simply pure kindness that we were allowed to share a very special and unique journey.