Tuesday 10 December 2019

The Oliver Winterbottom Diaries – November 2019

In the last entry before Christmas, Oliver recounts his visit to this year's NEC Classic Car Show. 

3 November – Interesting day assisting with information for the forthcoming exhibition stand for the Lotus Elite Excel Club at the NEC Classic Car Show. The Lotus Elite will feature its 45th Anniversary this year.

7 November – I drive to my sister who lives near Leicester. As I start from Norfolk, the obvious route is via the A14 which includes a section from Cambridge to Huntingdon. This road is now a massive traffic jam due to a major improvement scheme. The construction work on the 12 mile stretch started in November 2016 and will open in December 2019, a total of 37 months. By contrast, the first section of the M1 which ran for 54 miles with 131 bridges and 92 culverts, opened on time in 1959, having taken 19 months.

8 November – I make my way to the Birmingham International Railway station where I park to visit the National Exhibition Centre. I am met by Richard Woollaston who is managing the Lotus Elite Eclat Excel Club stand for the Classic Car Show. The stand was adorned with Colin Pear's Lotus Elite S1, Pete Poulton with his first Lotus Eclat Sprint, belonging to his grandson, Ian Hissey's white Elite restoration project and Gill Windwood's Lotus Excel. Banners announced that this year is the Elite's 45th Anniversary, it being released to the world on 15 may 1974.

I was interviewed by Practical Classics magazine and by Classic Car Weekly. Photographs were taken of Mike and myself to recreate the one taken in 1973 (above). The 2019 version show below.

A number of people came to ask me to sign copies of my book, and as Richard Woollaston had brought his copy, a number attempted to buy one. Chaters the bookseller had a stand, but quickly sold out! With the Club Lotus, the Historic Club Lotus and the Lotus Drivers Club nearby, the old company was well represented.
A pleasant chat was had with Ben Needham of the East Anglian Lotus Club. Having given them a talk in June 2018, I said I was happy to give them another if requested. I was please to meet Stuart Bagshaw, who had given me a ride after the Hinckley Show in September. Between Mike Kimberley and myself, we had quite a busy day. The presentation of the Lotus Elite family was very gratifying – 48.5 years since I drew out that shape!

I am posing alongside the first Lotus Eclat Sprint built

The Lotus Elite looked very smart

10 November – My sister and I attended the Remembrance Parade at Croft, Leicestershire. The Remembrance service at Croft has grown out of all proportion for a village of around 1800 inhabitants. Croft Hill and its associated quarry – the largest manmade hole in Europe – has had the Queen's wreath laid by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the County for the last 28 years. A poster in the pub notes that an amazing sum of over £37,000 has been raised for the British Legion.

The delightful poppy-decorated hedge below The Heathcote Arms
As 11 o'clock approached, the band played and the participants came down the hill towards the war memorial. Army cadets were joined by Boy Scouts, Guides and even very, very young people.
The names of those killed in the two World Wars in Croft, Huncote and Thurlaston were read out and it was far, far too longer list. Many, many wreaths were laid following the placing of the Queen's wreath on the hill below the Huncote Arms. Prayers and gyms were led by the local church. A truly worthy moment of remembrance and thanksgiving. 

13 November – Classic Car Weekly publishes their interview with me at the Classic Car Show. 

16 November – I set out to buy a copy of the magazine (above) but managed to confuse myself by looking for the wrong title – so I failed. It's my age, probably!

18 November – I am delighted to receive a copy of a photograph taken at the NEC Classic Car Show of Mike Kimberly (left) and myself on the Sunbeam Lotus Owners Club stand. I ran one of these superb cars as a company car in the 1980s. 

21 November – Today, Mike Kimberley and I were to travel to a lunch near London with three other retired Lotus Directors and the company aircraft pilot. Sadly, poor health has forced a last minute postponement until next year. 

I receive the email newsletter On The Grid from Veloce Publishers. It contains this delightful comment – many thanks! "This issue covers some of our exciting new book launches, as well as our beloved author and contributor, Oliver Winterbottom, whose monthly bulletin can always be found on our blog. Ever wondered what a retired world-class car designer gets up to? Find out in this issue of On The Grid!"

22 November – I receive a very nice TVR Wedge calendar for 2020. Titled "A Wedge of Defiance", which is perhaps a little more aggressive than we were when creating the cars! It is beautifully produced, and very much appreciated. 

Tesla Cybertruck
This was also the day that Tesla showed their electric Cybertruck. The styling is a personal matter, although we usually used some curves in body design! The safety of its occupants, pedestrians and other road users is of major concern. The ability of the body to absorb and dissipate impacts appears very low. The body panels are made of 3mm ultra hard stainless steel capable of resisting 9mm bullets. It also has almost no crushable distance forward of the wheels. Further, the sharp edges of the body would probably fail to meet European legislation for exterior protrusions. 

26 November – I receive a message from Richard Woollaston explaining that the latest issue of the magazine Practical Classics was published on 25 November. They interviewed me at the Classic Car Show, but their deadline for a copy was three days before the show. He will check if is is included for me as Wymondham no longer has a big magazine shop.

30 November – This will be my last monthly bulletin published by Veloce Publishing before Christmas. While wishing all my readers Seasonal Greetings I must remind them that the purchase of A Life in Car Design would be a superb gift to themselves or indeed anyone!

You can purchase your own copy of A Life in Car Design here, and make sure to keep checking the Veloce blog for the next instalment of Winterbottom's diary!