...a local club for local enthusiasts, since 1946

An early gathering at the Phoenix, c.1940s

At the bottom of this page you will discover even more about our Club, including links to a more detailed history of our events and a special archive gallery showcasing rarely seen and unique images from the Clubs past.

The Beginning...

The privations of WW2 with only the stimulus of nostalgic articles in the leading motoring magazines, particularly Motor Sport, to keep the flame alive, left enthusiasts with a hunger to
go motoring again. With the war over and the restoration of a limited petrol allowance, initially for 2- and 3-wheelers only (which explains the collection of Morgans in early photos) it was possible to contemplate competition motoring once more.

A pool of enthusiasts existed at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough (RAE) made up of young graduates seconded there to sustain the war effort. Nearby in Fleet, lived Bill Boddy who had kept Motor Sport alive throughout the war and a vet, Holland (Holly) Birkett, whose occupation took him all over the local area. A pre-war chairman of 750 Motor Club, his pedigree as an enthusiast was already established. So there were the makings of the Hampshire element. They, however, were a close knit group with no immediate motivation to form a club.

The Berkshire side came from the farming community and the light engineering firms and garages that kept them mobile and operational. Chief among these, from the Hants & Berks Motor Club angle, were Harry Hopkinson with a garage in Eversley (still there today) and his friend Jim Petty who ran a small engineering and painting works in Cove.

It was these two who floated the idea of a motor club to fill a void, the pre-war Reading based club showing no signs of revival, and Jim undertook to canvass some of his RAE customers for support. Harry’s ‘local’, the New Inn (now the Tally Ho), a hundred yards or so from his garage, was a natural choice for what is now regarded as the inaugural meeting on 10th January 1946, the first General Meeting taking place a couple of weeks later.

The initial reception was encouraging and, after a year of consolidation which saw membership grow to 150, the running of a several competitive events and a shake up of the committee, the new club achieved stability. Holly Birkett was Chairman, Charles Bulmer (RAE and later Editor of Motor) was Secretary, Bert Fountain (GWR communications manager) was Treasurer and Joe Lowrey, ex-RAE and now Technical Editor of The Motor, the man of ideas. It was he, together with Jack Ballett, a pre-war motorcycle trials enthusiast, who had devised the Club’s first event on 9th March 1946, the ‘mud-plugging’ Blackwater Trial.

Other events followed: a treasure hunt, gymkhana, sprint and, towards the end of the year, an innovation, a navigational event requiring the use of Ordnance Survey maps, until then largely the province of the military. If no moth-balled pre-war transport was available it was often provided by home-built specials based on Austin 7 or, later, Ford 10 parts.

So, at the end of the first 12 months of the club’s activities and existence, the Hants & Berks Motor Club had a stable committee, a membership of over 150, had mastered the RAC Competition Regulations as well as issuing club meeting minutes, bulletins and reports.

Chapman Prototype c.1940s
Great Auclum hill climb c.1954
Taking the bends at Great Auclum c.1954
Route planning 1950s style
The Mobil Economy Run c.1965

Renowned Events...

It’s true to say that the Hants & Berks Motor Club has always been at the forefront of new events, including The Eight Clubs consortium for running races at Silverstone, Night Navigation Trials, the Pairs Point-to-Point team treasure hunt, 2CV Cross rough road racing for Citroën’s utility cars, and many others.
Some events have been short-lived and some still flourish today. With far too many to comment on we’ll look at two of the most successful events that the club organised:

When ambitions turned to speed events Harry Hopkinson’s wide circle of contacts was invaluable, first enabling the use of the drive of West Court, Eversley as a sprint course and, when that was lost at the end of 1946, a unique private drive at Great Auclum, Burghfield Common. This was owned by Neil Gardiner, a Director of Huntley and Palmer and pre-war Brooklands competitor, sympathetic to the cause.

The quarter-mile drive had a downhill start followed by a twisting climb, with a steep banking at the lowest point, ideal for a challenging hill climb course and set to become part of the National Championship from 1959 to 1973. In that time it saw many famous names including Ken Wharton, Stirling Moss, Renato Martini, Roy Salvadori, Eric Brandon, Roy Lane, Colin Chapman and Tony Marsh taking part alongside local competitors.

However, what may be considered the most ambitious events that the club organised were the economy runs, tests of driving skill balancing speed with fuel economy over a substantial distance.

It was actually down to sheer good luck that the Hants & Berks Motor Club got involved. In the early 1950s Joe Lowrey, having competed in economy runs organised by a rival motor club, was seeking sponsorship for H&BMC to run a similar event. At the same time the Vacuum Oil Company, who were responsible for the Mobilgas economy runs in America, were looking for a way to publicise Mobilgas petrol newly introduced to the UK market. Joe provided them with the perfect opportunity when he asked for help in sponsoring a UK based economy run.

This partnership led to the first Mobilgas sponsored Hants & Berks Motor Club Economy Run taking place on the 18th/19th June 1955. The route was a 600-mile round trip from Reading into Wales then down to Bournemouth before finishing back in Reading. The route length subsequently increased to 1000 miles

When Mobil dropped out in 1973 various sponsors were found enabling the club to continue running economy runs until 1988, but with aging equipment, rising costs and the eventual disappearance of sponsorship the committee reluctantly agreed to close the book on a great period in the Club’s calendar.

The start of first Pairs c.1954
2CV Cross at Blackbushe c.1977
Preparation work at an Eight Clubs round c.1998
The Club office at the 1981 RAC Rally

Club Expansion...

In the early 1990s the Club realised it was becoming increasingly difficult to attract a reasonable entry for its more traditional motor sport events. With membership static and little chance of surviving under current conditions the club needed a quick answer.

Our solution was to put the Club’s long and extensive experience to work by organising local events aimed at the classic car owner, it seemed a natural step forward with many of our own members in possession of classic cars and, with a lack of events regionally, many owners outside the Club were also finding it difficult to use their cars other than for the usual static shows.

The concept was simple: using an easy road book entrants had to follow a pre-set route across the English countryside using mainly minor roads, finishing at a place of interest for all to enjoy.
The first Hants & Berks classic car event was the Early Bird Classic Car Tour held in May 1995. This was soon followed by an annual classic car show in Woodley near Reading, the Autumn Classic Car Tour and the Garden Tour in the summer.

This complete change of direction proved a great success resulting in a much needed life-line and boost to the Club’s resources and membership subscriptions for the future.
Although the Club took the leap into classic car events, the Hants & Berks Motor Club still continues its proud motor sport heritage by helping to support local and national stage rallies, organising navigational rallies and holding motor sport natters and film shows.

Summary...

No one in those early days could have foreseen how the creation of such a small motor sport club by a group of post-war motoring enthusiasts could have risen to what it has become today, a club with an important and fascinating history, a club at the forefront of new events, a club with great skill for organisation and a club that could successfully adapt to the ever changing environment of motor sport.

The start of the Early Bird c.1996
Marshalling a classic car run c.1999

If you wish to learn more then the following may be of interest

As part of our 60th anniversary celebrations back in 2006, the Hants & Berks Motor Club decided to document its long and rich history in the form of a special commemorative book
Aided by rarely seen photographs from the Club’s archives, this special publication brought together members past and present who told the story of the Clubs first 60 years, its events, social gatherings and origins through their own experiences.

Although originally available only to order, we have now decided to publish our Jubilee book as a PDF download, to view just simply click on the link buttons shown on the right hand side, due to the document memory size it has been split into two parts.
Depending on your computer speed download time of PDF files may vary.

Club Jubilee Book PART 1
Club Jubilee Book PART 2

Club Archive Gallery

In 2016 the Hants & Berks Motor Club reached its 70th anniversary, in order to help celebrate this rather significant milestone we kindly asked our members to rummage through their photographic archives so we could establish a permanent home for previously unseen images from past Club events.

Just click on the link button below to open the required gallery. Some pages may take a while to fully load due to the volume of images present.

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