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Horses for Courses: Americana in England

2013 Brooklands Mustang The first purpose-built race track in the world, Brooklands is not only the site of the birth place of motorsport in Britain, but also where aviation first took off in the UK. The track closed in 1939, with the start of the Second World War, and never reopened. 2013BrooklandsTVR_jb_0158 Today it is the site of the Brooklands Museum - flanked on one side by Mercedes Benz World and on the other by the ultra-exclusive St. George's Hill estate. The Museum not only caters to vintage motorsport enthusiasts, but also has a collection of  aircraft dotted around... including the Concorde. 2013BrooklandsTVR_jb_0185 And if vintage autos and aeroplanes aren't enough, Brooklands is also home to the London Bus Museum, so there is plenty to see and do here. 2013 Brooklands Mustang Brooklands' many attributes makes it a popular location for car clubs to have meetings, with plenty of space for proud owners to display their treasures to the likes of myself. 2013 Brooklands Mustang And that is why I found myself over in Weybridge on a Sunday morning admiring the cars of those who had answered the siren call of "Mustangs and other Americana". 2013 Brooklands Mustang There has always been a fascination with American cars in the UK, but why should this be so? 2013 Brooklands Mustang Our roads are narrow and horribly congested, particularly in the South East corner of the country. The price of petrol is over three times that of the USA, mainly due to rapacious levels of tax, which makes filling the tank of these beasts almost the matter of getting a bank loan. So why would anyone consider getting anything other than the cheapest, most functional solution - why would anyone want a large, American gas guzzler? 2013 Brooklands Mustang Part of the answer would apply not only to American classic cars in Britian, but also to any purchase of any car beyond the simplest, most economical model. Cars have, for some, become an extension of their personalities - some feel defined by a car's external statement of who they are or what they would like others to perceive they are. 2013 Brooklands Mustang As to why American autos in preference to those from Germany, Italy or Japan? The roots of this affinity with American cars dates back to the end of World War II, when many US Servicemen and women continued to be stationed in Britain. With the advent of the Cold War, bases were maintained as America continued its role as the 'Arsenal of Democracy'. With American personnel came American cars - you could image how these increasingly exuberant vehicles seemed in comparison to our own asthmatic, dull and drab transport. 2013 Brooklands Mustang Reinforcing this message were the Hollywood movies and Rock and Roll music that overwhelmed us culturally. The land across the Atlantic appeared to be paradise on earth to a nation which had only recently suspended wartime rationing (Yes, meat was still under government control until 1954... over nine years after hostilities had ceased). It was a commonly held belief that we had "won the war but lost the peace." Whatever the validity of that notion is, it was evident that there were better possibilities - some that yearned for them saw America as the solution. 2013 Brooklands Mustang I remember a cousin of mine marrying a tall, good looking fellow from New Mexico. Tex was stationed at a local airbase, I recall just how gobsmacked we were with the cars that he would show up in. They were reminiscent of things we imagined might be found in Area 51. 2013 Brooklands Mustang Having said that, the mid-60's saw the prosperity levels rise in Europe as the effects of the War receded. Our domestic car industry responded to the increased levels of expectation, giving rise to such cars as the Ford Zephyr (which took obvious styling cues from their American cousins). I thought this Zephyr was an odd addition to the collection of cars at Brooklands, but this is a broad church. It is strange to think that while the Mustang was being released in the States, the Zephyr was state of the art in the UK...we've come a long way since then! 2013 Brooklands Mustang In the end, Europe saw economic successes during the later part of the 20th Century that gave people the freedom to choose... and some preferred the crop of cars that came from North America. Brooklands "Mustangs and other Americana" displayed that preference well. -John Brooks
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