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Star cars, people and events in UK’s £18bn historic car industry recognised in Royal Automobile Club Historic Awards

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Automobile Magazine
Editor | News | United Kingdom

The Royal Automobile Club celebrated the extraordinary expertise, creativity, dedication and enthusiasm that abounds in the UK’s historic motoring and motorsport sector last night (November 23), at a glittering celebration at its Pall Mall clubhouse to announce the winners of its 2023 Historic Awards.

A wealth of impressive nominations was received from across the UK in each of the categories. These were assessed by specialist panels of expert judges, and the resulting winners are a fine reflection of the breadth of what is now an £18 billion industry that generates skilled jobs and innovation.

The evening culminated with the presentation of the Royal Automobile Club Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognises an individual who has, in the opinion of the Club, made a truly outstanding contribution to the British historic motoring movement across many years. This year’s recipient is Doug Hill.

Doug joined the National Motor Museum in 1972, shortly after it was opened at Beaulieu, and, some 50 years later, he is in overall charge of a unique collection of motor vehicles acknowledged as one of the world’s best. He has been instrumental in preserving and rejuvenating everything from a humble Austin Seven to land speed record cars, and his knowledge of technical innovations in the context of motoring history is unparalleled.

His title of Museum Manager & Chief Engineer at Beaulieu relays a uniquely knowledgeable status and his determination to pass on knowledge to new generations and keep vital skills alive has become a true asset to the historic car movement.

Doug has been central to several key Museum acquisitions, including the 1903 Napier, Britain’s first purpose-built racing car and the first wearer of British Racing Green paintwork. He has also been closely involved in projects to put the fire back into unique machines such as Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Sunbeam 350hp ‘Bluebird’ land speed record car that have, for years, been simply static exhibits.

‘Pom’, Karl Ludvigsen’s beautifully-written feature for The Automobile which tells the story of the unique character and contribution of influential journalist Laurence Pomeroy, took the award for Outstanding Journalism (presented by the Royal Automobile Club), with the judges commenting: “Ludvigsen uses his own close understanding of how things work inside car companies to describe the importance of Pomeroy’s work, describing in detail his subject’s contacts with the great car creators of the day, adding much to the reader’s knowledge of them. It is a brilliant piece of work.”

Young Achiever (supported by 1762 RBC Brewin Dolphin and StarterMotor) celebrates the up-and-coming movers and shakers in the historic motoring movement. This year the award was presented to a young man who is working with some of the oldest vehicles still on our roads. In 2022 Tom Parrott made a left-field career change and joined his family firm, NP Veteran Engineering Ltd. He became immersed in repairing, maintaining and conserving veteran cars and, in parallel, the 29-year-old has this year established a brokerage uniting genuine veteran cars with keen new owners. The judges stated: “The cherishing of veteran cars is something close to the heart of the Royal Automobile Club, and Tom’s achievements in a highly specialised field – involving techniques that are part-automotive engineering, part-National Trust – give us confidence that future generations will carry on the great work of the early restorers and specialists.”

Tiggy Atkinson, who has played pivotal roles at Bicester Heritage and HERO-ERA and, more recently, with the REVS-Limiter community, was the recipient of the award for Personal Endeavour (presented by the Royal Automobile Club). The judges felt unanimously that Tiggy was a very worthy winner “for her tireless work, always going beyond the-call-of-duty in order to get positive results at events, or for good causes in our industry. Her continuous contribution to so many different events and causes impressed us. Tiggy goes the extra mile, time after time.”

In a world centered around historic motor vehicles there is nevertheless a need for progress, and the Innovation award (supported by Bosch and the Federation Skills Trust) reflects this. This year’s winner, the HERO-ERA Rally for the Ages, was an innovative concept which introduced young people – some just 11 years old – to the world of historic regularity rallying with an enormously successful event. The judges commented: “Rethinking how a rally can run to embrace and encourage the next generation set this apart. Rally for the Ages opened the world of historic rallying to those who might never have tried it. That it promoted sustainable fuel was the icing on the cake.”

The award for Competitive Event (supported by A. Lange & Söhne) was presented to the Castle Combe Autumn Classic, a convivial, end-of-term rendezvous renowned for its relaxed atmosphere, which this year stepped up several notches on all fronts. The judges’ praise was fulsome: “The 12th Castle Combe Autumn Classic was superb. A packed paddock, great racing, surprise results and record attendance made it very special.”

Motoring Spectacle (supported by RM Sotheby’s) was awarded to an event which was a first-class example of collaboration between motor clubs. MG & Triumph 100 united two ‘arch-rivals’ as they came together to celebrate their centenary at Silverstone. The judges stated: “To win this category takes more than just a great event, it needs to be something new, different or unrepeatable, and the centenary of two of Britain’s most significant sporting marques certainly won’t be happening again. This was truly spectacular, with close dices on the circuit juxtaposed against remarkably completist timelines of each marque, and a superb turnout of rare and significant models. A worthy tribute to a pair of great Britons.”

Collections of vehicles, whether privately curated or in museums, protect historic machines and educate current and future generations. The winner of Collection (supported by Footman James) is the Dunsfold Collection, the largest collection of Land Rovers in the world, which became a permanent museum this year. The judges said: ‘In comparison to its rival finalists, which are giants of the museum world, the Dunsfold Collection occupies limited premises which allow only a fraction of its 140-strong collection to be on display at any one time. However, the museum which opened this year is curated to make the best possible use of that limited space, and is a fascinating and hugely informative place for Land Rover devotees, with the rotation of exhibits meaning that visitors can return again and again and see something different each time.’

The winner of Restoration (supported by Bicester Heritage), the 1937 Bugatti Type 57S by Corsica, is said to have been the world’s last remaining ‘lost’ pre-war 57S and had been out of the public eye for decades. Its previous owner was a former JCB employee, so it’s particularly fitting that the new owner is Lord Bamford, chairman of JCB, who commissioned a full restoration to the highest standard by Clark & Carter Restorations and Ivan Dutton Ltd. He was rewarded with a category win at Pebble Beach, Best of Show at the 2023 Salon Privé, and now the Club’s Restoration award. The judges commented: “In another tough and eclectic field of entries, the Bugatti outshone the rest through the impeccable quality of its restoration, its heart-warming history and its understated style. When Lord Bamford purchased the car, he commissioned a sympathetic restoration, preserving as much originality as possible – and the result is perfection.”

Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, said: “We at the Club have been advocating and championing motoring achievements for more than 125 years. Our Historic Awards are only in their fifth year, but have quickly established themselves with a vitality and relevance that make us very proud They recognise exceptional people, events, endeavours and innovations in Britain’s historic car sector; a growth industry that adds £18 billion to the UK economy and accounts for some 113,000 worthwhile jobs rich in skills, enterprise and knowledge.

“The people and projects we celebrate tonight contribute hugely to craft, business and leisure in and around veteran, vintage, classic and ‘young-timer’ vehicles. The entries each year continue to surprise and amaze us, and I give hearty thanks to our independent judges who perform their roles with such skill and wisdom. I must also thank our partners and category finalists and give huge congratulations to all our winners. In particular I want to congratulate Doug Hill, whose invaluable contribution, expertise, knowledge and skill is recognised internationally within the historic motoring movement, and who we have this evening rightfully celebrated with the Lifetime Achievement Award.”

For further information please visit www.royalautomobileclubhistoricawards.co.uk.

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