by Rose Atalante Veenenbos
Let’s finally start with the reports of some great visits my dad and I made in the UK. The main purpose of our trip was the Prescott hillclimb, and visiting our friends of the Bugatti Trust, but fortunately we had scheduled a number of other visits as well. However, before I report about all this, I like to briefly mention the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Best of Show winner. I was delighted to see a Lancia Astura Pininfarina cabriolet winning Best of Show this year, although I am a bit sad that neither a Delahaye or Chapron coachwork won the award, since it was the year of the Delahayes and Charpon bodied master pieces. The Lancia features that typical Pebble winner’s look, i.e. black all over with chrome wheels and chrome elements, just like last year’s winner and more than one of the years before.
Back to the UK… After a long drive, first to Calais and then via the Euro Tunnel train to Dover and then heading for Cheltenham, we had a very nice treat. I was surprised how easy it is to drive UK style, which was for me the first time, and it was a nice trip since I love to drive in every way possible. Late in the afternoon we arrived at one of the most legendary workshops out there. Of course I am speaking about Keith Bowley’s Ashton Keynes Vintage Restorations and South Cerney Engineering (see akvr-restorations.com and southcerneyengineering.com), an amazing place! Keith is a wizard mechanic and restorer, but also a personality with great inspiration and a true role model. He has so much knowledge and was so kind to take the time to show us every corner of his premises and his impressive storage facilities. My dad and I were deeply impressed, because there was so much to see! The entire workshop environment is old school, just as it should be. This is where important restoration work has been done for many many years, and it still goes on, with nowadays a team of many younger people… Keith is clearly making sure that the company is not aging. This last fact is a very important, also because we want to see more young people getting involved in this great world of petrol heads. That’s already a nice intro for my FIVA investigation… I will soon write more about this.
Walking in-between the machines, and there were quite a few, Keith was showing us around all over his place. They have the ability to do almost all of the restoration work themselves, including paint jobs, of course virtually any mechanical job, wooden framing and art work, etc. It was wonderful to see a Bugatti Brescia body being restored while preserving as much as possible of its original body. You can simply make a new frame, but it is much more of an art to retain as much as possible of the original woodwork and that is what they aim for at AKVR. Every corner of this workshop was interesting down to the smallest details, such as the cabinet with all the small parts. Keith is known for his great work on the most incredible and important automobiles and this is a good way to describe his workshop. Bowley’s Motor Spirit oil tins are telling already a lot about how much they care at AKVR and SCE for their four wheeled friends.
To be continued!