By Keith Harman
Just to prove how worldwide, traditional hot rodding has become, by complete coincidence, iconic beach races were being held on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean on exactly the same weekend last June. While The Race of Gentlemen was taking place on the eastern seaboard of New Jersey, a few thousand miles to the east, the UK’s Vintage Hot Rod Association were staging the fourth running of their Amateur Hot Rod Races at Pendine Sands.
Although it would be easy to draw similarities, the two events couldn’t be more different. T.R.O.G. now draws big sponsors to the event but remains a somewhat informal eighth-mile flag start drag race for traditional cars and vintage bikes, with eliminations and trophies being given out on the Sunday, the whole town getting involved in the all-weekend nostalgia fest.
Pendine however, although also run on a beach, couldn’t be more different; the cars (no bikes), run individually following the examples of early speed trials, with the whole event dependant on the tide times, since the race is held on the hard flat sand left behind when the ocean recedes. Since last year, the VHRA have now purchased their own set of timing equipment, and as organiser Neil Fretwell proudly exclaimed at the drivers briefing, “We are now officially a timing association!” to a big cheer from the assembled participants.
With a membership number now approaching 500 (the race numbers on the cars are also the membership numbers), entry for racing is capped at around 150 for the weekend, and this is unlikely to change in the future as there simply isn’t time to set up the equipment and pits, ensure everyone gets a run or two, and then pack up again before the sea reclaims the beach once again. Most drivers get in just three runs over the two-day event.
All cars are run in classes governed by body style and engine choice, and records are kept for each class, as with any other timing meet. Not too many records were broken this year, though a whole bunch more drivers were inducted into the VHRA 100 MPH Club, including the first two lady drivers. Well done, girls!
We may not have Bonneville over here, but the spectacle, the cars, the racing, the location, and the atmosphere, make Pendine a very special event on the UK calendar, and also a unique one in the wider world of traditional hot rodding. It’s ours and we love it!