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22.9.16

Veteran Vespa Club 3-Gear Day


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It had been a while since I'd gone on a Veteran Vespa Club rally Swanage in 2014 being the last..

Planned as a single day event, the 3-Gear Day was to be held on Sunday 21st August at the home of the Southern Counties Historic Vehicles Preservation Trust in Copthorne, Surrey. This was primarily for owners of 3-geared vespas, as these old machines rarely get an outing at rallies. However, riders of later 4-geared models were also welcome but would not be admissible for the concours competition.

For those travelling from further afield the VVC had hired the venue from the Friday afternoon, allowing folk to explore the local, leafy Surrey/Sussex surrounds before Sunday's rally. Most of those attending came with their vespas in tow on trailers and camper vans but I was pleased to see one hardy member had ridden from Aberystwyth on Wales' west coast on his PX, arriving early Saturday evening, having left early doors that morning. Another member & friend had ridden his 3-geared vintage vespa from his home near Harlow in Essex; certainly no mean feat on a 1950s vespa and was lashed with wind and rain for his efforts coming over Tower Bridge as he traversed London north to south. Not that I'm castigating those who didn't ride; many members are getting on a bit to be fair as are their scooters, for others shortage of time is a factor. Having said that, the ride there and back can often be more eventful than the event itself and is always pleasing to see participants turning up having ridden there. That satisfaction of riding; being regaled and regaling others with the journey and challenges surmounted is always good value - or should I say laughing at others' misfortune and the sense of relief it didn't happen to you on your ride there!

I was working on Saturday and set off from Hatch End in Middlesex (northwest fringe of London) around 6.30pm. The skies were pretty grey, predictably so you could say but we were blessed with a consistently sunny and warm August here in the UK, the best in fact for a few years. Naturally I had opted not to don my waterproof trousers and by the time I reached Northolt and stopped/taken cover for fuel had been deservedly soaked! I figured I would soon dry out as I joined the A40 London bound. I cut through the city via Shepherds Bush and Earls Court before crossing the Thames over Battersea Bridge, continuing on through Clapham and Tooting before exiting through Sutton. Riding in London on an old vespa is always challenging; anticipating errant car manoeuvres and oblivious pedestrians with no brakes to speak of, but is also one of life's pleasures and is a great way to see this incredibly diverse city. Carrying on through Reigate in Surrey I arrived in Horley (a couple of miles from Copthorne) at dusk, around 9pm. These last two miles took me 45 minutes to complete, as I became disorientated in the blackness. Shunning SatNav, I like to opt for my A5 map book or printed A4 sheets printed from Streetmap in this case. Frequently stopping under street lights, petrol station forecourts to check said maps did admittedly get a tad tiresome but why make life easier for yourself?!

Arriving at the venue just before ten, I pitched my 2-man tent with the help of the torch on my phone - Hooray for modern technology! There were two pubs within 5 minutes walk and where other VVC members would most likely be. I of course chose to walk to the pub that everyone had ignored in favour of the other drinking establishment! Not that it mattered, I was pretty tired by then and not at my most conversational. I settled down on their comfy sofa with a paper, couple of pints of Guinness and crisps as they had stopped serving food by then - of course.


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I returned to my tent around midnight followed by a somewhat disturbed and fitful night's sleep, as I soon realised the field we were camping in was under the approach path to Gatwick airport! As I'd barely slept and was awake anyway I got up around 5.30am with coffee on my mind. I investigated the lightening field and photographed some of the vespas that had camped out with their owners and others that had been stashed in the VVC's marquee tent overnight. After an hour or so and when it was just about acceptable to fire up the scooter's engine, I headed out to a petrol garage for a much needed coffee fix and Danish.


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Upon returning to the site around eight, it was looking more lively with people up and about and the organisers laying out the course for the day's later planned gymkhana. I spent some time catching up with various members I'd not seen in a while, as well as taking photos with my film camera. Noteworthy vespas were a lovely cream Douglas 'Continental' (Piaggio equivalent VL3T) and Douglas 'Clubman' (Piaggio equivalent VB1T), as well as a few mostly original Douglas Rod Models and G model, plus Allstate and Hoffmann 3-gear vespa examples.


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Later on, most attending left for the lunchtime rideout to Horsted Keynes station, part of the Bluebell Steam Railway this was reached mainly via country lanes and small villages. Once there, we stopped for an hour and helped ourselves to the included packed lunch, collected from the old station's period platform cafe, before getting a close-up look at the passenger steam train that had pulled in.


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While there, I also took the opportunity to shoot a very nice original Rod Model away from the assembled scooters, belonging to the guy mentioned earlier from Essex, he also owns the American Vespa Allstate that was present.


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When the hour was up, we gently wound our way back in convoy to the event site for the 1950s style gymkhana, concours judging and awards, which finished the day off and provided a few more photo opportunities.


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Things were wrapped up around 4pm. Having already packed away my tent, I loaded up, bade my farewells and set off, arriving home in West Hertfordshire around 8pm, stopping off once and being on the receiving end of another thorough wetting fifteen minutes from the end of my return ride - ah well !

These old-school events may not be high on octane and to everyone's tastes but I still like them. They are great for seeing up close and personal some beautiful old, rare vespas in relaxed, scenic surroundings. It can all get a bit samey at times but then so do a lot of regular events. You have to admire the club's passion for keeping these old gems on the roads and their love of vespa oldtimers.

Thanks to the 3-Gear Day organisers and the Veteran Vespa Club ; )


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Rally report and all photos © Paul Hart (vespamore photography)

Full set of my 35mm film photos - here










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