HILLMAN CAR CLUB
OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA INC

A weekend with
Rootes Club Nederland, 2003
Story and pictures by Brian Vogt
HILLMAN CAR CLUB
OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA INC


Several days before flying to Germany for my free-ranging holidays, I posted a message on the Hillman Discussion List asking whom I might briefly visit along the way.  There was only one reply from Johan and Ritte Arends in Vries, north east Nederland (close to the German border).  It was agreed that I would find them at home at around 10:30 am on Saturday 6th September, and several other members of the Rootes Club (staying in a camping park about 25 km away) would do likewise, so we could all have a look at everybody's Rootesmobiles.  It seemed to fit perfectly as I made plans to visit some of my friends in the far western and northwestern areas of Germany.

The blessings started early.  I paid a brief visit to friends near Frankfurt, and was invited to stay for the first evening (Tuesday 2nd September).  The next 2 evenings had been planned before I left home Karl, a retired former work colleague and his wife invited me to be their guest for 2 nights (and a day of sightseeing in and around Aachen).  No spare bedroom, so they booked and paid for a hotel room!

By the morning of Friday 5th September I had finished in the region of Aachen, so I commenced the long drive up to the region of Assen in north-east Nederland.  I thought briefly about using the minor roads (always better for sight-seeing, but very slow) that would have taken longer than the daylight hours available.  The Autobahn system in Germany provided a rapid transit, and the Snelweg (fast highway) system in Nederland was almost as good.  By late afternoon I had arrived in the destination town, so I decided to pay a brief visit to Johan and Ritte (in case I might have trouble finding the house on the following day).  In fact I was so early that I decided to have a brief look around the neighbouring farm lands first.  Quite a lot of the farm buildings (including homes) have thatched straw rooves. I found Johan and Ritte packing their 1975 Commer 1500 camper van for the trip down to the camping park and an overnight stay with the gang.  As I hadn't yet found a hotel room, they suggested that I follow them in my Mercedes A140 rental car.  They have 3 small children, so one of them drives the Sunbeam Chamois and the other drives the camper van.

the Arends house
The white and orange vehicle (above, right) is the Commer camper van, but what is that red machine beside the house?
1975 Commer camper van 1963 Commer fire truck
It's a 1963 Commer fire truck.  The water pumping equipment was fitted by a Dutch company named Kronenburg.  Johan said that he has the grille for it.  A short while after I returned to Australia, they told me that he has bought another fire truck as a parts vehicle.
1963 Commer fire truck 1963 Commer fire truck 1963 Commer fire truck

By the end of the afternoon, the whole gang had arrived in the camping park.  I enquired about the common interest within the group.  Jaap described it as being "a clique within a clique."  It's actually a group of friends within the Hillman/Sunbeam Imp faction of Rootes Club Nederland, but their friendly acceptance of me (a Minx/Gazelle fan) demonstrates that "clique" is not the right word for it.
Picture below The Kermit-green Imp in the centre of the picture and the white Stiletto to its right are mentioned later in the story.
camping park
Jaap and Annette's caravan
Jaap and Annette tow this cute little scale model of a caravan behind their Sunbeam Chamois Mark II.  They call it "the fridge" because the inside of the door looks a lot like a refrigerator door.  Murray (right) helps to set up the annex which is a bit bigger than the caravan.
Murray's Chamois Mark III
Murray (born in South Africa, from British parents) used a Bedford camper van to tow his Sunbeam Chamois Mark III on a trailer from the opposite corner of Nederland.  He's been living and working there for about 6 years, and speaks Dutch quite well.

I decided to sleep overnight in my little rental car.  By winding down the backrest, the passenger seat provided a reasonably comfortable bed.  I've done this a few times with a Hillman Gazelle in Australia, so I knew there would be no difficulty.  Johan loaned me a small pillow and a blanket to ensure that I would be warm enough.

Early Saturday morning, light rain started falling intermittently.  It was only a minor nuisance, not enough to spoil our fun.  The whole gang went up to Johan and Ritte's house in Vries.  I left the little A140 rental car in the camping park, and hitched a ride with Johan in the camper van.  Their garage is just big enough to contain four small cars which they partially uncovered for us :

After a drink of tea/coffee and video tape viewing (1965 Alpine and Monte Carlo Rallies), they presented me with a copy of the tape "Imp Film Collection" a collection of 8 Rootes promotional films from the 1960s (produced in 2003 for The Imp Club Ltd.).  We went on a scenic tour of the back roads through the countryside to the south of Assen.  This time I accompanied Johan in the Chamois (my first ever ride in an Imp-type vehicle) while Ritte drove the camper van.  After a while we saw a muffler lying in the middle of the road.  At the same time Murray quickly pulled over to the side of the road due to excess noise emanating from his car.
Imp convoy runaway muffler
About 15 minutes later the muffler was held in position with the aid of an octopus strap, and we were on our way again.  Ritte explained to me that such breakdowns are considered to be the normal way of life in the Imp fraternity.  We stopped in some quiet town (which I think they all are) and had lunch in a restaurant.

During the afternoon we went shopping in a supermarket where we all bought food and drinks for an evening barbecue meal.  Late in the afternoon we went to the home of some club members they have several dust-covered Imp-type cars in and around the sheds.  It was here that I first met Hans and his family (Marion and 3 children).  Besides the modern car, they have a Hillman Minx Series IIIA convertible (imported from the USA).  The Minx has several small modifications including a Series VI gearbox (synchromesh on 1st gear, reverse gear selection is to the right).
Hans and the Minx convertible
Hans and his Minx series IIIA convertible.
two Sunbeam Chamois Mark II
Two Sunbeam Chamois Mark II
left: owned by Jaap and Annette
right: owned by Johan and Ritte Arends.

"Kermit" is a green Sumbeam Imp Mark III owned by a 19 year old man named Wouter.  It went into one of the sheds for work on its generator.  Wouter's parents (Henk & Tineke) have this Sunbeam Stiletto

Sunbeam Stiletto
At the end of the barbecue activities etc., Wouter gave me a ride in Kermit back to the camping park, where we quietly partied into late Saturday evening.  Jaap mentioned that the local round of the World Superbike Championship would be held on Sunday at the Dutch TT racing circuit (which we had driven past).  I would like to have gone, but not alone most of the fun is in being with friends.  It seems that 2 or 3 of the men had already discussed the matter with their wives who remained firm that this was to be a car club weekend only.  That was slightly disappointing for me, but it was excellent that these families have their priorities right.  Anyway, I had travelling to do on Sunday afternoon.

Below:  Jaap and a couple of the ladies wore wooden shoes which are called Klompen.  These are warm and comfortable to wear.  In the colder months, they said a bit of straw is also packed in there.  The truth might have been stretched beyond its elastic limit when Jaap started talking about setting the straw on fire for extra warmth.  His pleasant sense of humour ensures that the group always remains focused on having fun.

quiet party quiet party
Above:  Jaap and Henk.
Below (continuing around the circle):  Wouter, Murray, Ritte, Hans, Marion, Annette, Tineke.
quiet party quiet party

When Sunday morning broke, a census of Rootes vehicles in the camp showed 5 Imp-type Sunbeams, 1 Commer camper van and 1 Hillman Minx convertible.  Hans took several of us for a ride in the Minx, and he allowed me to drive it a short distance.  It was the first time I had ever driven a Rootes convertible car, and also my first time driving a left hand drive Rootes vehicle.
Picture below Hans and Johan.
Hans and Johan

I must thank the whole group for making me very welcome in their presence.  Special thanks go to Johan for having the initiative to invite me in the first place.  It all lasted less than 2 days, but it was a privilege and honour that I will never forget.

Time moved on, and so did I.  My next appointment was for early Monday on the German island of Norderney (in the North Sea), where one of the residents whom I know had agreed to spend the morning showing me around the place.  I had to catch the 06:35 am ferry from Norddeich for this one. Two special blessings later, I arrived in one of my ancestral hometowns in the Pfalz region (about 560 km south), and found 2 different lines of long-lost relatives still there 108 years after my great grandfather Karl Engel last saw the place.  Amazingly, one family took me into their home for an entire week (and guided scenic tours of the district), and the other family held a barbecue dinner in my honour!  That terminated my tentative plans to explore southern Germany, but who can complain?  The Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen will wait until my next tour, as will the Vogtsbauernhof Museum, the Porsche Museum and Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart.
Back to those friends near Frankfurt they also let me spend my final 2 evenings with them.  ("If you need some food or a place to sleep, you can come to us").

Everybody's generosity completely overwhelmed me.  Can a holiday possibly be any better than this?
More to the point, can I possibly withhold generosity from anybody after a series of demonstrations like that?
It caused me to reflect more on the most amazing display of generosity in history (about 1975 years ago).  E-mail me if you want a clearer explanation of that one.


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