Miles per gallon

‘Trouble with taking this car out,’ declared a large man with a strong West Yorkshire accent, ‘is that it’s an hour on the road and two hours to clean.’

I have never before participated in a classic car rally. However, sometime in the mid 1970s my father bought a brand new maroon MGB GT V8, which he drove for most of his adult life. It ended up languishing in the garage for a while until last year my mum finally bit the bullet and had its engine restored to reliable working order, then promptly joined the MG Owners’ Club. Last week we attended our first event.

This particular rally was called the Jorvik Run. It was mainly for MGs, but the confirmation email informed us that other classic cars were welcome, and that some people even bring their ‘road cars’ (the implication being presumably that all these petrol-guzzling old bangers are elegant but completely unroadworthy).

The way it all works is that you turn up at Castle Howard at about 9am, pick up a map and a rally plate, then spend the next hundred or so miles buzzing round picturesque East Yorkshire, where everything has proper place names like Skipsea and Wetwang. There are tortuous narrow little lanes to negotiate, sweeping vistas and picnic spots aplenty.

The rally ended in the afternoon back at Castle Howard, where of course there was the predictable spectacle of ranks of fine old machines lined up in a field to be admired by all. The keenest beans had their bonnets up, and interested punters nosed through the windows and in the recesses of the engine mumbling automotive jargon. Geekery of the highest order, and completely brilliant.

The car next to ours (the one that apparently caused the fellow no end of cleaning issues) was a beauty. An MGC in a gleaming pearl silver colour, with spotless cream leather upholstery and chromed fittings. It had lovely wire wheels, and the owner and his wife sat perched on the back bumper, describing with relish the trials and tribulations of its refurbishment.

Skulking on the grass in the shade, my mother and I spotted a very serious looking lady eyeing up our own vehicle. ‘Only one original V8’, she called to her husband in a tremulous voice.

We looked guiltily at the rust speckling the bottoms of the sills. ‘Looks good from a distance,’ whispered my mum, ‘but it doesn’t bear close inspection.’

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