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10th June 2008

Coventry Centenary Celebration
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Many of Britain’s most famous motorcycling marques were created in Coventry. This summer, a special event was organised to celebrate 100 years of automotive engineering in the area...

On May 11th 2008 over 150 classic and vintage vehicles converged on the Motor Industry Heritage Centre at Gaydon to celebrate Coventry’s Centenary, commemorating 100 years of automotive engineering in Coventry. The weather was outstanding and encouraged many rare and unusual machines to take to the tarmac – so much so that the organisers ran out of entry forms…

Similarly, several hundred visitors attended the event to inspect the exhibits which included a broad cross-section of vehicles created in Coventry, including Jaguar, Triumph, Alvis and Rootes Group cars, Triumph, Montgomery, Rudge and Francis-Barnett motorcycles and many more. There were also club displays from local organisations, most notably the Triumph, Rudge and Francis-Barnett owners’ clubs.

Never turn your back on a 1910 Rex 770... 1910 Rex 770 owned by Howard German

The day was organised by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers Automobile division, to celebrate the inaugural meeting of the AD of the Incorporated Institution of Automobile Engineers which was held on the 8th December 1908 at the Daimler Motor Company in Coventry. The centenary event aimed to have locally-built vehicles to represent every decade since automotive manufacturing began in Coventry.

1997 traffic cone... 1902 Centaur

The oldest entry was from 1901 while the oldest bike on display was a 1902 Centaur; the newest vehicle was a 2008 Jaguar XF. Visitors could also inspect three Le Mans racing cars, including two winners and a works Jaguar D-type, plus examples of some of the latest vehicle technologies being developed for the future with displays by MIRA, Ricardo and Prodrive.

A series of awards were given to the most outstanding or interesting vehicles of the day. The car awards went to a 1928 Hillman 14 Safety Saloon, a 1971 Jaguar E-type V12 and (the overall winner) a 1968 Triumph TR5.

All Rudges are special, surely? John Fisher's 1939 Rudge Special

In the motorcycle category, the Best Pre-59 machine was judged to be a 1910 Rex 770 owned by Howard German. Robert Payne took the Best Post-58 award for his 1983 Triumph TSX.

The RealClassic award for the Best Bike went to John Fisher with his 1939 Rudge Special, and one of the photos shows John receiving his prize pack from John Wood, the head of MIRA (the Motor Industry Research Association, based nearby).

John Fisher receives his prize from John Wood
Rudge stuff on eBay

Howard German was very modest about his Rex, and said he couldn't believe his class win against such shiny opposition. Meanwhile, three of the four motorcycle judges voted for Robert Payne's factory-perfect TSX. It might have been four out of four if Robert hadn't been judging himself and therefore didn't vote for his own bike!

A proper Triumph twin? Robert Payne's 1983 Triumph TSX

The Centenary event proved to be a unique opportunity to see a cross-section of Coventry’s automotive engineering history. Hopefully it will have inspired some of the younger visitors and introduced the next generation to the potential of a career within the automotive industry.


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