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Motor Mouth articles 2013

Classic vehicles in the perfect setting

Sitting pretty outside Athelhampton House, the majestic 1940 Leyland fire engine that once saw wartime service in Devon.

Sitting pretty outside Athelhampton House, the majestic 1940 Leyland fire engine that once saw wartime service in Devon.

THE timeless, aristocratic beauty of a great English manor house and the enduring fascination of motor vehicles from bygone days created a perfect combination for Dorset Vintage and Classic Auctions’ autumn sale.

The house and grounds of Athelhampton House, just outside Puddletown, provided the backdrop as scores of buyers, sellers and spectators filled a marquee to watch an extraordinary array of historic motoring lots go under the auctioneer’s hammer.

The quarterly DVCA sales have had a few different venues since Stalbridge-based Brian Chant launched the venture in 2006, but the move to Athelhampton, with its Tudor heritage and stunning landscaped gardens, has proved inspired.

Brian told me: “The sale was a great success. It makes such a difference to the entire team to be able to hold an auction sale at such a lovely venue.”

The firm’s Athelhampton debut was marked by an exceptionally varied and fascinating number of entries – cars, commercial vehicles, motorcycles and some weird and wonderful items of automobilia.

Classic vehicle collectors and enthusiasts pored over the assembled lots on the very grass where the great architect Inigo Jones and later Dorset’s own Thomas Hardy once spent time.

Eye-catching cars included spectacular old examples of Jaguar, Alvis, De Tomaso, Cadillac, Rolls-Royce and Riley, as well as plenty of more humble offerings, such as Austin Sevens, in various states of ‘undress’, Morris Minors, original Minis and a 1960s Ford Anglia. Most found new homes.

Trucks and vans seldom make my pulse race in quite the same way as a vintage car but there were a few fascinating models on display at Athelhampton.

Arguably the most self-important was a big 1940 Leyland fire engine that was parked in pride of place outside the front of the great house itself. It was originally registered to the Brixham Fire Service in Devon and is thought to have seen heroic Second World War service during the bombardment of nearby Plymouth.

The fire engine was powered by a gutsy six-cylinder engine and had ample oomph to transport six firemen and their gear to an emergency. Its pump was capable of delivering 500 gallons of water per minute and all its working parts remain in good usable condition.

The great machine had been part of private collection and was bought for a below-estimate £8,690 by father-and-son vintage transport and traction engine enthusiasts from the Hook area of Hampshire. It’s thought they intend using it for rallies.

Another fire engine entered in the auction – a 1966 Land Rover Firefly – had a guide price of £8,000 to £10,000 but disappointingly failed to find a buyer. It was a pity because it had very low mileage and was in superb condition.



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