Coachlines - February 2023

23.02.23 The Clerk

Lining up for the Banquet 2023

As we get closer to the date of this year’s Banquet in the Guildhall on 6th June 2023, preparations are developing apace.

Almost 50% of the available places have now been sold and I strongly recommend that you book your places now to avoid disappointment. Tickets are only available through the website booking system this year and you can book now by following this link.

As some of you have already picked up, the only manufacturers listed in the Banquet advert to date are those that took overall wins at Le Mans, and the only drivers that have been invited to attend the Banquet as Company guests are those who drove cars to overall wins.

To try and represent all the various class winning successes of British manufacturers and individual drivers in the planned event would not be achievable. However, to be included in the March, April and May editions of Coachlines, the Master would like you to submit stories of those lesser known British heroes of Le Mans. Whether it be driver, mechanic, manufacturer or private team entrant, send in your story; and if it has a direct connection to the Coachmakers’ Company, even better.

Bentley Motors, Jaguar and Aston Martin took overall wins at Le Sarthe; marques such as Lotus, Morgan and Jowett took class wins, and there are numerous British drivers who took class wins for foreign manufacturers and entrants too. There are also numerous tales of heroic effort that didn’t quite make it over the line for a win.

For example: The Assistant Clerk has a 1960 MGA Coupe in the garage; a pretty little car that is a pain to get in and out of, but she loves it. In 1955, three of the early Roadster versions were driven to Le Mans, raced and then driven all the way back to Blighty. Two of the cars finished the race placing 12th and 17th overall but the third car crashed and failed to finish. Not what might be described as a resounding success but better than many, and MG milked it for all it was worth, going on to sell more than 120,000 MGAs around the world.

Returning to the big guns, Bentley took overall wins in 1924, 1927 to 1930, and again in 2003. I am sure that many of you will have read Racing in the Dark by Peter Grimsdale; if not, I strongly recommend that you get hold of a copy.

I would not profess to be a literary expert but to me it is a book that tells the story of Bentley at Le Mans in the early years that almost puts you in the workshop as the cars were prepared, at the trackside as they raced around the clock and in the cockpit during moments of great drama.

It is indeed a riveting read, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve not met the author, I am not on a retainer to help him sell more copies and he is not a Coachmaker (yet) but he did turn to a Coachmaker for advice while researching his book. And so Racing in the Dark is dedicated to Liveryman Vivian Bush, himself a Bentley owner and enthusiast.

If you, or a family member, have been involved in the Le Mans 24 hours race and have a tale to tell, or if you wish to tell the story of a favourite marque’s endeavours, please let me know and share it with your fellow Coachmakers.

As I mentioned at the top of this piece, tickets for the Banquet are selling well so do not be left behind in the pit lane, get yourself on the starting grid and book your tickets today.

And just for fun, if you didn’t attend the Coachmakers’ Banquet last year and are not sure why it is now regarded as one of the best events of its kind to be held in the City of London, take a look at the Souvenir Booklet from 2022.