I first became a reader of Safer Motoring (now VW Motoring) in the early ‘70’s
when the magazine did a number of features on historic beetles and their owners.
They also published an ancient Beetles register, which first appeared in the
August 1974 issue and later, in 1976, did a feature on the meeting held that
year at Stanford Hall. This prompted me to go to that event the following year.
In 1977 the meeting occurred on the 26th June and was a far smaller and less
formal affair than to day. I seem to remember that the cars were lined up behind
the trees on the left hand side of the driveway, overlooking the field that is
now used as a car park.
It was at this event that I first met Rod Sleigh and became aware of what was
later to become the Historic VW Club that we know today. Many of the cars that
were at that show are, for various reasons, not around today, so I shall take
this opportunity to recall a few of them.
Please forgive the quality of the pictures, as the prints were made recently
from slides, which are now over 25 years old and have, like the person who took
them, faded somewhat with age.
The first photograph is of what was probably the oldest roadworthy Beetle in the
UK at the time.
Looking at this picture, the name “Beetle” seems very
appropriate for this lovely old car.
Note the front number plate with the curved corners, the tiny bumper and overiders and, being a standard model, the
complete lack of chrome.
This fascinating old girl, with registration number LAL 23, was finished in
dark blue and owned by Derek Smith who lived in Wolverhampton. With chassis
number 1-064229, it was made in April 1947 and had been rescued by Derek from
Dorset. The car had been completely restored and had featured, along with the
rest of Derek’s collection, in the October 1974 copy of Safer Motoring. His
“fleet” included the black 1951 deluxe, SLH 16, he had brought to Stanford Hall
Some years later Derek sold his collection and this car went back to Germany
where presumably it still lives today. The car was still listed as such on a
register of pre-1950 Beetles published a few years ago by the German Split
The next oldest car was a black, June 1949 deluxe, with chassis number 1-108100,
and belonged then to Rod Sleigh. This car had been rescued from a patch of grass
behind the premises of a local VW agent and purchased for the sum of £10. Rod
had restored the Beetle and it was his involvement in this car that prompted him
to think about forming a club for the owners of such vehicles.
TJJ 62 June 1949 Deluxe Once owned by Rod Sleigh -
one of the founders of the Historic VW Club
Note the rear lights and “Pope’s Nose” had been chromium plated!
Some time later the car was sold to a new owner, Tony Shelley, who restored her
to Concours condition and won Class 1 at VW Action one year at Stoneleigh in the
early 1980’s. After a further change of ownership TJJ 62 was eventually exported
Not all the cars at the meeting were splits, as there were a few ovals that had
also been given a share of TLC by their devoted owners.
The picture below is of a 1956 oval, 946 DUC, which belonged to a Dave Pragnell
from Waltham Abbey in North London. The car had been sprayed a pale metallic
blue and looked very attractive.
Dave lived on a caravan site and when I visited him later that year there were
old Beetles dotted about all over the place. There was even one up on ramps
right outside his living room window.
946 DUC 1956 Oval once owned by Dave Pragnell - Sprayed Metallic
Pride of place in his collection was a 1953 oval dash split, which was being
restored in a lock-up close by. Little could be seen of the car, as the garage
was also being use as a store for some of Dave’s very extensive collection of
spare parts. Dave’s ambition was to restore the split and then drive it across
the USA from coast to coast.
Some time later Dave disappeared from the VW scene but a few years later I met
him again at Stanford Hall. Sadly 946 DUC had long since succumbed to the tin
worm and had been scrapped. In those days ovals were still relatively plentiful
(remember the youngest cars were little over 20 years old at that time) and
there was not the interest in restoring them regardless of cost. Dave still had
the 1953 split but the “journey” was on hold for a little while longer.