The Oily Rag Run 2013

The Automobile magazine head North

“North Yorkshire,” declared our Publisher.

“We’ll hold this year’s Oily Rag Run in North Yorkshire.”

There was method in his madness, however. In a show of extreme generosity, brothers Daniel and Toby Ward had offered to open their private collection of important early cars to us, and provide a slap-up lunch, too. Knowing just a few of the treasures stored within their ample barns, the thought of a 600-mile round trip suddenly didn’t seem quite so strenuous.

After a week of on-off fettling The Automobile’s Ford V8 Woodie, at the last minute we elected to take our 1937 Lincoln-Zephyr instead, banking on its two-speed rear axle and cavernous interior to provide a relaxed cruising car for the journey along the painfully dull but mercifully direct A1. Three-up, filled with luggage and drinking petrol at an alarming rate, the V-12 more than proved its worth and we arrived in the charming spa town of Harrogate in good spirits.

The following morning we emerged from the Old Swan Hotel to watch the first cars arrive. Soon enough the whole car park was overrun by the decrepit, dilapidated and downright disreputable motor cars of the Oily Rag fraternity. With the full complement gathered, we embarked on the first leg of the journey and headed towards the Wards’ collection. Nick Bell took the rôle of lead car in his delightfully scruffy Alvis 12/50 Sportsman’s saloon, followed by George Stanton’s 1924 Humber 8hp which went on to win the coveted prize for Most Feral Car.

he Ward brothers’ collection did not disappoint. Their intelligent selection of truly interesting cars, encompassing everything from a 1892 Peugeot to a 1934 Rolls-Royce 20/25 and housed in a purpose-built two-storey barn decorated with period automobilia, is truly a sight to behold. In addition to the cars, the Wards have a passion for early tractors and steam-powered traction engines, housed in another huge purpose-built shed. These collections proved almost as popular as the cars, and both Daniel and Toby took great pleasure in steaming up some of the engines, the reassuring chug-chug of these mechanical elephants providing a gentle, nostalgic soundtrack to the excellent barbecue tended by the brothers, who proved themselves to be perfect hosts and true enthusiasts.

After lunch, we reluctantly dragged ourselves away from this quite remarkable collection for the second leg of our journey, an amble through country lanes towards the charming town of Richmond, where our tatty convoy descended on St Nicholas, the historic home of Keith and Jilly Schellenberg, who had graciously agreed to be our hosts for the afternoon. The formal gardens were open to visit and provided a welcome distraction for those of us who had somewhat overdosed on motor cars earlier in the day, though Keith’s trio of Vintage Bentleys was on show in a quiet corner of the maze-like property for those willing to seek them out.

Fully refreshed by Jilly Schellenberg’s tea and cake, the participants began to disperse. After seeing off the last, evidently well satisfied entrants, we piled into the Lincoln and headed south. Settling back into the grey cloth seats, with the throaty V-12 humming away, we reflected on yet another successful Run. The generosity of our hosts and the enthusiasm of the entrants had once again proved just how popular the Oily Rag ethos has become in recent years. As we rolled into Surrey a little after midnight, shattered and starving, we couldn’t help but admit it: North Yorkshire had been the perfect destination.

(This article originally appeared in the December, 2013 issue of The Automobile. More photos from the run can be seen on their website)

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