Surrey Street Rodders' story and history: Part 2

As told exclusively to

Surrey Street Rodders committee member Harold Martin recalls how club founders Dick and Paul Lambert put on the first Wheels Day at South Hill Park, Bracknell in 1975 following a request from the Park's officials, moving it to its now traditional day of Good Friday in 1976 so members could witness Don Garlits race at Santa Pod on Easter Monday.

In 1979, the show moved to Slyfield Green near Guildford and had to contend with issues such as the after effects of the site's normal use as a livestock market, and traffic congestion resulting from Wheels Show's popularity. The show again got too large for the venue and moved to Rushmoor Arena, Aldershot and a couple of one-off venues which produced their own stories. Summer Rod Runs and picnics were organised. In 2017 the club was inducted into the NSRA hall of fame for Wheels Day and the money they have raised and given to charities over the years.

Harold Martin’s memories of Wheels Day.

The first Wheels Day was on Easter Monday at South Hill Park, Bracknell in 1975. Dick and Paul Lambert were contacted by South Hill Park (It might have been an art centre at that time but I’m not sure) They asked if we could help put on a show for them called Wheels Day and the club said yes. Paul and Dick asked around for cars for the show. I asked the Southern Roadsters from Portsmouth and the club managed to get about 50 cars including Pops, Custom Morris 1000s, 105E and 100E Anglias, Cortinas, T Buckets, Beetles and American cars plus some Choppers. We had a good turnout of public and the weather was kind to us as well.

Terry Howell's 1200cc VW powered trike at the first Wheels Day at South Hill Park, Bracknell 1975. Harold Martin pic



Alan Humphrey's Pop at the 1977 Wheels Day South Hill Park

1978 Wheels Day South Hill Park. Pete Hurrell's V6 powered '35 Hillman. Roy Thomas pic

1978 Wheels Day South Hill Park. Bob Wellstead's 1935 Hillman Moulin Rouge. Roy Thomas pic

1978 Wheels Day South Hill Park. Rob Whitwell's Pinto powered Jago 5-window Model B. Roy Thomas pic

In 1976 Don Garlits was coming over for the Easter meet at Santa Pod, the problem was that club members wanted to go and see him race. So South Hill Park was asked if we could move Wheels Day to Good Friday. They said yes and Wheels Day has been on Good Friday ever since. The show had got too big for South Hill Park by 1979 and I think that they had a change of manager, so we had to find another venue. The club had Tony Allen as chairman at that time who lived near Guildford. Slyfield Green was mentioned so enquiries were made and the club was told that we could have the ground where the car auction is as there is a Sunday type market on site on Friday. With the site being a cattle market on a Tuesday it would smell of cow poo and sometimes there would be straw blowing about as well.

Wheelsday at Slyfield Green 1979, Nick Pettitt pics:

1979 saw Wheelsday held at Slyfield for the first time and Nick Butler turned up with Revenge

Dave Remnant's V6 C-Cab with body and chassis from Rays Rods called Bodysnatcher

Martin Kelly turned up with his Desperado Jag T

Tony Hill's Tequila Sunrise T built on a Triumph Vitesse chassis and powered by a 1960 vintage 322 Nailhead Buick

Geoff Caves’ V6 Pop Sit up & Beg

Pete Fowler's Soul Sensation Lotus Twin-cam Pop and Kev Cronin's V6 Pop pick-up, both Bracknell Street Rodders

The John Baldacchino built Hot 'n Bothered

Les Cozens brought along his Discotrucker Anglia van

Tom Reynold's Vanpire Escort van in front of the Pig Pens

Robin Mundy's M.G. powered Minor pick-up started life as a GPO van

The V6 Honda TN7 of Dave Curtis with a drive belt connecting gear box to rear end

John Greenslade's '67 350GT Shelby Cobra painted by Phil Ritchie

Ray Steven's Candy blue Capri called Blue Cascade

Harris bros' 302 powered Mk 2 which was later chopped and owned by Nick Kemp & the 289 powered Mk 1 of Ron Harris

John Sergeant's high riding Daimler Hemi powered Mk2 Zephyr panel

Smoke City Wheelers member Roger Warren's '59 Victor Estate

Martin Bonner was there with his high riding 396 '55 Chevy

We started to have some trade stands like T-shirts (Rambler Trading), The Rod Shop and North Hants Tyres. As the years went on, we managed to fill the site as well as the trading estate with all sorts of vehicles and caused traffic problems for that part of Guildford. People would stand outside the gate taking Super 8 film and photos of the cars coming out of the show. Some years we would get grief from the congestion we would cause. One year a club member coming along the A3 saw a sign for the show laying on the ground, so he picked it up and stood it up again. Later in the day we had a rather angry Police inspector with the sign in his hand saying that he had taken it down in the morning because you cannot put signs on the A3 for your show. He was not a happy chappy. We heard later that he got promoted so the local Police didn't have to put up with him anymore.

One year the Police set up a radar trap to catch any speeding Rodders leaving the show. Another year there was a young lad selling balloons. My boys pestered me for one, so dad gives in. £3.00 later we had three balloons, which was a lot of money for me in those days. Within a minute one burst, wife says Go and ask for your money back. I thought not much chance of that but we would go and see what he says. On telling the lad that the balloon had burst and what was he going to do about it, he said, That’s your hard luck mate. That is not good customer relations. I didn't think he would have given me my money back but the answer he gave me was wrong. I asked if he had permission to sell the balloons there. Yes, he said. Who gave the permission? the chairman. So I got Steve Butler (the chairman at that time) and asked him and he said No. We walked back to the seller and I asked again, Did you say he said you could sell balloons here?, he then said, No, and I told him to get out. Then he said, I’ll tell my dad. You can tell who you like but you are not selling balloons here. If he had said he could not give my money back I would have settled for that but to say that it was my hard luck was the wrong answer. The funny thing is I went to the market in Maidstone on that Sunday and he was there selling balloons.

Wheels Days in the 1980s - Nick Pettitt pics:

1981... Ian Symons came along from Camberley with his 283 Chevy powered '32 roadster

1981... Andy Robinson was there with his high riding Mk 2 Zephyr

1982... Jeff Beck brought two coupes, Jeff drove one and Tony Thacker drove the other

1982... Simon Banfield brought along Pinball Wizard

1982... Phil Moules' blown V6 powered Standard

1983... The Hot Rod & Custom project Pop turned up

1983... Milton Homan cruised in with his low riding '58 Chevy

1983... Mark Forrester brought along his 389 Chrysler slingshot Gearjammer and that's Steve Dunn's Tokyo Toy Toyota behind

1983... Simon Pickford was there with his Hiboy

1984... Kevin See arrives in his V6 powered '55 Vauxhall Cresta

1984... That's Phil Englefield's 5-window '32 and Ian Norman's Rover V8 Pop

1984... Mark Forrester's Kawasaki powered rail, Steve Johnson's Cosworth powered Motor Mouse, John Hunt's Daimler powered Golddigger and Martin Jarman's Cosworth powered Stripstar

1985... Chris Smith tuned up with his all steel Porsche red Chevy powered 1930 Model A

1985... Mid Sussex Rodders Paul Everest with his V6 Pop and Nick Pettitt with his straight six Volvo powered Model Y

1985... John Spuffard's newly painted Showdown Vega Funny Car and matching trailer

1985... Andrew Pask had his injected Rover V8 Dragster there

1985... Andy Wright was showing off the blown Rover V8 in his chopped Riley

1986... Paul Lambert was selling magazines and model kits and had his Model Y there

1986... Ted Eismark turned up with his bright yellow chopped Pilot

1986... Pete Lambourne brought along his 23inch narrowed Renault 4 bodied altered with 350 Chevy power

1987... Pete Fowler was there with Dirty 30

1987... The Geof Harris built Rover V8 powered Morris 8

1987... Steve Mills and Simon Bishop brought along their Consul Capris from Southsea

1987... Big Mark better known as Billy turned up with his nicely chopped Austin 'sled

1988... Merv Barnett brought along his latest Hot Rod from Bristol

1988... The Low Flyers were out in force

1988... Andy House was there with his MGB powered Model Y

1988... Bruce Gill was there with his matt black 4inch chopped Mercury Kustom

1989... Paul Wright's Pop which went on to race in Outlaw Anglia

1989... Surrey Street Rodders Paul Wright and Viv Bowyer brought this nostalgia '32 roadster

1989... This 5-inch chopped Minor was up for sale and bought by Darren Sworn for £700

1989... Al Maiden's chopped and couped Devon

1989... As always, the cars spilled out into the surrounding roads

Soon we got too big for Slyfield Green, so we moved to Rushmoor Arena Aldershot for the first time. I think that was the time we had the show in what is called Pegasus Village. It is where the Stock Car track is now. It was a good place; we parked the show cars on a concrete base so no muddy feet. One time the show cars would come in the gate and get their plaques as they came up a ramp to where the cars were on show. One guy in a Pop stopped his engine to get his plaque. When he started it up again it was in gear and off it went running into a trade stand. Luckily, he stopped it in time and there was not a lot of damage to the stall or Pop. We found a different way to do it next time.

After some years we moved to Brooklands, and we had a runway to set the show up on. We had the trade village positioned where the public came into the show gate which we thought was a good idea. At the end of the day the traders were moaning that people just walked by and didn't stop to buy anything. After some years Mercedes-Benz bought the site where we had the show, so we had to find somewhere else. Back to Rushmoor we went.

Being outside, the show is weather dependent, but one Wheels Day the weather was crap and we thought no one would come but the cars kept coming and the show field filled up. At another show we had four seasons in one day, it rained, it snowed, the wind blew, and the sun came out in the afternoon in time for us to pack up. One year it rained and there was a broken drainpipe which came from the top of the hill and exited behind us flooding and turning the lower part of the show field into a bog.

Paul Lambert and some mates went to the US, and he bought a 4 door Willys. It was perfect, it was blue and had been a show car. Everything that could be chromed or polished was. When he came to Wheels Day in it another 4 door Willys turned up that was exactly the same colour but had different wheels. There are not that many 4 door Willys in this country and for two to turn up the same colour at one show was unbelievable. Paul later sold it to a guy in Sweden because if he took it to a show, it would take him three days to get it clean again.

At the 35th Wheels Day we had a ‘35 Ford Coupe on the dash plaque, dark green with a black background. A lady came up to the club stand and said she had a car just like that in her garage at home and she wanted to sell it. Her husband had restored it and died before he could drive it. It sounded unlikely but you never know. She left a phone number and Grahame said he would give her a ring and see what it is. So off he went to have a look and he was surprised because she was right. It was a green 1935 Ford 5 Window Coupe with a flathead in it. It ran, and all seemed to work okay. A price was agreed and a week later he went to pick it up and drove it home. The coupe has had some time related problems, like you do, but he and Carol have been to a couple of Euro Nationals with it and to lots of shows in the UK.

Carol Smith’s ‘35 Coupe

Carol Smith’s ‘35 Coupe

When the 40th Wheels Day came along the club wanted to celebrate so we approached Dunsfold Aerodrome for the show. We went to their Wings and Wheels show in August to see how they ran it. It was very different from Wheels Day, you had to be on site before 9.00am and not allowed to move your car until the show was over unless you were escorted with somebody walking in front and at the back. We had meetings with them, told them what we wanted and they told us what they wanted. The day of the show came around and we had two gates for the cars to come in but they all came through the one gate which congested all the roads in the area causing a queue back to Godalming. The site management told us to stop taking money and let everybody in for free to get rid of the congestion. With this being the Top Gear track, I think that’s why so many turned up. After that we moved back to Rushmoor.

We had some artwork done to celebrate the 40th anniversary and gave it out to all the members at that time.

The show is getting harder to put on every year with the organisers getting older, the price of everything getting higher and no younger members to take on the work that the older members do. I will be 75 by the time the 50th Wheels Day comes around.

The show is called Wheels Day which means if it has wheels it can come in, like Classic Cars, Hot Rods, Beetles, Beach Buggys, Dragsters, Tractor Pullers, Army Vehicles, Classic Motorbikes, Choppers and anything a bit different but not too modern.

The club has given 1000s of pounds to charities including Guide Dogs for the Blind. What we like to do is give money to small charities where the money makes a difference. The local radio station, Eagle, does a Christmas Wish which we have always supported. The last wish was a sad story of a family who’d had a real tough time that year. Then Eagle Radio got taken over like a lot of the local radio stations by a national radio station. It was a pity because we helped a local family who was having a hard time and we would say that the money came from Wheels Day. We the Surrey Street Rodders would like to thank all the helpers at Wheels Day for their help. If it was not for them there would be no Wheels Day.

Back in the early days the club would put on a summer rod run. The first one was at Chessington Zoo. We called it the Zoo Doo. We would camp on site and have music, a bar and show and shine on the Sunday in the car park. One memory for me was one of the club members, Gary Davis built a model T with a Rover in it. I asked could I have a drive in it around the field where we camped, Yes here are the keys. I hopped in and drove around the field and came back to where he was. I could smell some dog poo and couldn’t make out where it was coming from. I moved about and it followed me around wherever I went. I put my hand on top of my hair and found it on the top of my head. If your hot rod has no fenders, be aware, it could happen to you!

We moved the rod run to a place called The Lithuanian Club at Headley Park, near Bordon, Hants and changed the name to the Great Ape Escape. It was a big hotel; it had a woodland campsite and it was at the top of two grassy plateaus with steps through the middle that went to a swimming pool and a lake. One time when it was hot, we unfolded a roll of plastic sheet which went from the top to the bottom of the slope. We made the sheet wet and put washing up liquid down so we could slide down it. Great fun.

Then we moved it to Popham Airfield near Basingstoke so we could have more room for the rod run. One memory from the shows we had there was the Charles Church family sending a message to us asking us to not make too much noise because it was the anniversary of him dying in his Spitfire plane crash.

Great Ape Escape at Headley Park 1987. Nick Pettitt pics:

Sunday's Show & Shine

Ray Austin had his fenderless Model Y roadster there

Dave Palmer's 5-window '32

Steve Pearce's blown V6 Capri Egg Flip

Low Flyer Clive Griesel's roadster, fitted with a 283 Chevy and Powerglide

Mark Hodgson had his chopped Volvo 122 Kustom there

Grahame Smith was there with the 'End to End Cruise' still on the back window and an ape on board

Bob Staunton's Rodshop A Delivery with 4-71 blown Rover V8 and Candy graphics

Billy Thomas was there with his Daimler Hemi powered Morris 10/4 as was Terry McArther with his V6 Pop

John Sargeant's high-riding Zodiac Panel was back out with new paint

Kev Cronin's hammered '34 Singer

Brian Fletcher had his chopped 4-71 blown Rover V8 Pop up for sale at £3750

Dave Haskell was there with his 327 Chevy powered steel '34

John Cross joined the all Ford line-up with his Briggs bodied Model A

Mike Payne started the Hot Rod Picnic hosted by the Surrey Street Rodders in August at the Cricketers Inn in Kingsley nr. Bordon, Hants. I can't remember the year, it was late ‘90s early ‘00s. This was a park up, chill out and play silly games at the pub type event. Then it changed to more of a drive through the countryside ending up at a pub for something to eat and drink. Now it is more of a mystery tour through narrow country lanes, perhaps a ford or a hair pin bend and ending up at a Hot Rod shop or a private museum or somewhere of interest.

In 2017 the club was inducted into the NSRA hall of fame for Wheels Day and the money we have raised and given to charities over the years. The club members who went to the Supernats at Old Warden that year were presented with the plaque. So that all the members could celebrate this we commissioned some artwork to be given to all club members.

Hall of Fame presentation at the Supernats. From left to right Grahame Smith, behind him is Martin Bavage, Keiron Smith, Bob Lauderdale, Adriad Sidwell, behind him is Paul Bullbeck, Mark Elphick, Chairman Jason Nicklen, Gary Davis, Harold Martin and John Cooper

The club is a lot smaller now from its heyday of the 70s of about 150 members to now where we have about 20 members, of whom 10 are active all the time. We have a member in New Zealand, Nick, who has his say sometimes on the club email. Adrian in Cornwall and Bob in Wales (the Opus twins) who we meet up with at Wheels Day, the Pod, the Supernats and the Christmas meal. Then we have some honorary members who have helped the club a lot over the past almost 50 years now. I don't know what the future holds for the club with most of us in our late 50s to early 70s, only time will tell...

Wheels Day Videos. (click on link)

Gallery: click on any thumbnail for a large image.

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