Oh for the joys of being young in this modern age. I wish, when I was in my early teens, I had the opportunity to experience what a select group of young attendees experienced at Bicester Heritage on Sunday 14th April.
Twenty young persons, together with their family and friends were given a day to remember which they will probably recount for the rest of their lives. A day of anticipation, excitement, involvement, hands on experience and most of all the opportunity to drive an Alvis around a dedicated race track. What more could an enthusiastic car mad youngster dream of!!
A broad range of pre and post war Alvis cars started arriving at Bicester Heritage from 11.am onwards. We even had a TA21 drop head coupe on a trailer being collected and on its way to Scotland for restoration. The Alvis cars were on parade in front of one of the large hangars on this First World War Airfield. They were joined by a 1949 vintage bus from the Oxford Bus Museum which later gave rides up and down the perimeter road.
After signing in: participants, supporters, family and friends were welcomed by the undersigned who explained what the day was all about and directed the four groups of youngsters as to where the activities were taking place.
The test/race track was made available for the driving experience. Each youngster was given two laps as a passenger and then given the opportunity to have a go at driving. This was well supported, but in some cases very nervously. The youngster I took around the circuit was very competent and even adopted the racing line. The only comment made was that the car was heavy in the steering department. A common comment made by any individual driving an older car without power steering. At this point a thank you is in order for those of you who allowed the youngsters to have a go in your cars.
A route map was produced with tulip type navigation instructions. The youngsters were given this booklet and told to instruct the Alvis driver to navigate around the local public roads. An exercise I am led to believe was implemented with faultless precision.
The Heritage Skills Academy opened their doors to the workshops and the apprentices with their Team Leader demonstrated jacking up a car and removing and replacing its wheels. The youngsters were then given the opportunity to have a go at doing the same. Those that I watched doing this showed masterful comprehension and ability. This turned out to be one of the popular events of the day.
However there was one more event that was the icing on the cake and that was the ride in the Alvis tank. We gathered in groups of 14 and were taken to the far side of the airfield in an army lorry. On the perimeter road was an Alvis armoured personnel carrier based on the design of the Alvis scorpion tank. A full 9 tons of armour plating sitting on tank tracks with engine thumping away on tick over. We donned crash helmets for safety and loaded into the back of the tank. Two lucky individuals got to poke their heads through the turrets. And off we went with jerks and bolts as the tank violently changes gear as it progresses to a good 45 mph across rough ground. The dust trail was phenomenal. The noise was ear splitting. The manoeuvrability was awesome. The smiles on faces told the whole story of that never to be forgotten tank ride experience.
A Fordson lorry converted into a mobile canteen provided hot drinks and snacks.
The weather held out but as is always the case on an airfield it was extremely windy, but none of this spoilt the comradeship, enthusiasm and support given to the enjoyment experienced by the young participants.
Mention and thanks has to be made for the support Bicester Heritage, Hagerty Insurance, The Heritage Skills Academy and their staff gave towards the event. And not forgetting the Apprentices who helped escort the youngsters around Bicester Heritage.
Here are a few extracts of comments made about the event from those that attended:-
My James enjoyed the day especially the Apprentice Section as well as the driving.
Thanks to you and your fellow Alvis enthusiasts for the day with my son and his friend. They thoroughly enjoyed the day and all the experience which it brought.
I enjoyed the day and thanks for all the hard work.
Many thanks and congratulations for an excellent event.
Congratulations. What a day. The children from 11 to 17 + really had a ball. The Alvis tank ride was the icing on the cake. The Heritage workshop was excellent. The children jacking up a Standard 8 and taking the wheels off. Really hands on. A talking point for sometime. A super day. Should be repeated.
I would like to thank you and everyone else I had the pleasure of meeting at the event today for making me so welcome. I did not expect to exercise the car on the track. I was pleased to give rides to Ben (apprentice) and Fiona who had been so enthusiastic about the car.
And the best comment and appreciation of all, in my opinion, is the following which succinctly sums up the event:
What a fantastic day. Josh and Leo absolutely loved it, they got to ride in an Alvis tank, navigate, learned to remove a wheel from a classic car, with a short science lesson on braking friction. And at 12yrs old they got to drive an Alvis Classic Car. Just how many 12yr olds can make that claim. They are absolutely buzzing.