HANGAR CRAWL, Latrobe Valley Airfield – Saturday 28th February.

FIRSTLY, before you read this latest chapter in the life of the Sporting Register,? let me apologise for the scrambled article about Jeremy Clarkson’s take on Sports Cars which appeared in our latest edition of Idle Chatter. I am still confused as to how it managed to escape editorial scrutiny in that state! You will therefore find a more readable copy of Clarkson’s insightful article following on at the end of this post on the Hangar Crawl, just below the picture gallery.

HANGAR CRAWL, Latrobe Valley Airfield – Saturday 28th February

Take your regular sports or classic car enthusiast and add an extra couple of degrees of difficulty; throw in the third dimension of up and down, as well as a truck load of cash with a large serving of bravado, and you have yourself an amateur aircraft enthusiast. These are seemingly sensible people who strap themselves into flimsy, petrol-powered flying machines which really don?t seem all that far removed from the Flyer built by young Orville and Wilbur over a century ago.
Thanks to Sporting Register member Ian Honey, who is also a member of the Aero Club based at the Latrobe Valley Airfield, we were invited to one of their regular Open Hangar mornings and given a guided tour through a selection of hangars to view a range of aircraft and hear from their owners and other members of the Aero Club. We learnt about tail draggers and tricycle gear, rudders and ailerons, low wing design verses high wing and even biplanes. There were two strokes and four strokes, horizontally opposed fours and sixes and even a nine-cylinder radial engine. There were planes built for gliding, one for crop dusting or fire fighting, others for speed and even a Pitts Special for aerobatics. Some were sleek and powerful, others more utilitarian and some even historic. But the one that stole the show in my mind, was the ex-Rhodesian Air Force de Havilland Vampire jet. These planes were developed during WWII and introduced to the RAF in 1945. There they remained operational until 1966, but Vampires carried on in other air forces until much later. This particular plane is airworthy and owned by Judy Pay who has a magnificent collection of war planes at her Old Aeroplane Company headquarters at Tyabb. Perhaps one day we might hear it flying over Warragul on the way to the Peninsula. That would make my day!
We had about 30 Sporting Register members take part in this event. Some met at Darnum for the start of the run down to Morwell, others either joined in en route or met us at the airfield having traveled from Traralgon or further east. Our hosts were very cordial and seem to enjoy showing us around. We finished off with BBQ sausages and drinks at the Clubrooms, whilst a couple of our members took up the invitation to experience actual flight in trainer aircraft. It was a very interesting morning and our thanks go to Ian Honey and the Aero Club members who volunteered their time to show us around.

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So, does a sports car have to be fast?
Sport implies speed and excitement, but let’s not forget shall we that a sport is any game which requires specialist clothing. If you can do it in jeans, it’s a pastime.
However, let’s not forget, that you need specialist clothing to play that symphony of tedium and sloth called cricket. So even though it moves with the vim and vigour of a Jane Austen plot, it’s a sport.
Perhaps sport, in the case of cars, derives from ?sporting’. And a sporting car is one which can be used on a track, in some kind of competition. So on that basis, yes, unless you want to be last, a sports car has to be fast.
And yet if we look back through the history of MG, which is like reading Emma in slow motion, we find an endless succession of cars which couldn’t have pulled a greased stick out of a pig’s arse. The TF, for instance, could only do 80mph, whereas its rival, the Triumph TR2, could do over a hundred.
Then we find the MG Midget which waded into the gunfight with a small butter knife under the bonnet. It had a top speed of 86mph and took more than 20 seconds to get from 0 to 60. But was it a sports car? Yes, and so is the Mazda MX-5, which isn’t exactly a streak of lightning either.
Maybe looks have something to do with it. And now the Daimler Dart has just popped into my head, so maybe they don’t.
Then there’s the Triumph TR7. That was a fairly speedy two-seater convertible. But not a sports car. And yet the tin-top GT6 most definitely was. Curiouser and curiouser.
Strangest of all, however, is the Mercedes SL. It comes with a big engine, bundles of power, two seats, two doors and a folding roof. It’s even known at women’s lunch groups from Houston to Harrogate as the Mercedes Sports. But it isn’t a sports car.
Indeed, if I were to make a list of the five least sportiest things in the world, it would go something like this:
5. Me
4. The monkfish
3. A gate-leg table
2. The Mercedes SL
1. Terry Wogan
I think it’s mostly a question of attitude. A sports car does not have to be fast or pretty. It need not have a folding roof and it can have seats in the back. But it does need to be uncompromising in some way, shape or form. It needs to be hard riding and noisier than necessary. It needs to remind its owner every single yard of every single journey that he or she bought the car to be exciting.
“Every single woman from the salons of Wilmslow to the fashion pages of Vogue magazine will kill to buy one”
It needs, therefore, to transmit its interaction with the road with a series of semaphore signals in the driver’s pants. It needs to telegraph every burp of its engine, every squeak of its tyres. A sports car is a state of mind.

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4 Responses to HANGAR CRAWL, Latrobe Valley Airfield – Saturday 28th February.

  1. Geoff says:

    Forgive a once-upon-a-time schoolteacher, but it’s hangar.
    What a great day out! And who’s the Mr Cool in the Lambda…!
    Is the Vampire airworthy, I wonder…? Looks like it is, so does it get airborne often?

  2. Steve says:

    “Hangar” now fixed. Thanks for picking that one up.
    Vampire is airworthy and has been flown from this airfield, but don’t know how often it gets out.

  3. Geoff says:

    Just as they say about exams … “read the question carefully”, I’ve just read Steve’s text here re the airfield visit and lo & behold it’s Judy Pay’s (airworthy) Vampire!
    How it comes to be hangared at Latrobe is interesting, as we recently had a walk-through her hangars at Tyabb, and there’s heaps of floor space to spare in her second hangar. Some years ago I sighted the nose section of the Vampire when it was still undergoing restoration: couldn’t believe that DeHavilland still used timber construction in a jet aeroplane…but then if Morgan hung on for so long to timber body framing and neatsfoot glue why not? Good old British conservatism, eh?

    • Steve says:

      Geoff, we were told that the Vampire has quite a thirst for jet fuel. It was based at Sale at some stage and did a few demonstration flights around the area. When it landed they were shocked to discover it was almost out of fuel. Perhaps the flight from the Latrobe Valley to Tyabb is pushing the range without some in-flight refueling 🙂
      The Vampire you saw being restored at Tyabb may have been a different one. Judy apparently purchased 6 of them from Zimbabwe, and this is the only airworthy one.

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