The British Car Meeting in Morges is one of the most charming and typical automotive events. It is as well one of the last one in the automotive year, always held on the first sunday of October. I had been numerous times before to this very sympathetic event since 2008, an for this 22nd edition held on 5th October 2013 was going to be no exception. Our member Antoine had joined me a few days ago in order to discover the event. The 2013 edition of the event was of course mainly dedicated to Aston Martin’s centenary, and as a very big passionate of this brand, I could not miss going to Morges. This little town located on the shore of Lake Leman, just a few kilometers from Lausanne is very picturesque with its medieval castle and its harbor. With over 1500 cars coming to the event, all british of course, this is actually Europe’s biggest british car meeting. The cars are parked on the docks, the event is free entrance for both participants and public, and the scenery is extraordinary. You can come for 5 minutes just to have a look or stay all day with some friends, meeting new passionate people, enjoying the superb sights. Text : Mickael B. © Images : Mickael B., Romain D. ©

What I like the most to do at the British Car Meeting is to wake up the earliest possible, because there are very few people around the cars arriving, the sun is rising and it is probably one of the day’s best moment for meeting people, to take pictures, and enjoy the details of the cars which have already arrived. We left my home around 7 o’clock in order not to miss the sun rise, although the weather wasn’t very merciful, with a risk of rain, and some very heavy clouds. No problem for british cars which are used to this… Time to park our car, we arrived around a quarter later in Morges, and headed directly to the docks. We had passed the evening before and I had already seen a few cars, but there are just as much regulars attending the event than newcomers. The first car showcased was this 1933 four-seater Aston Martin Le Mans, equipped with the 1.5 liter single overhead cam developing 70 horsepower, one of 130 built. Alone, with the harbor and the boats behind, it already set the standards for the rest of the day. Knowing that most of the historic Aston Martin’s were going to be moved afterwards inside the castle’s courtyard just a few meters away, I didn’t linger too much and moved on as an MG C-type open two seater, with its owner and his son behind the cockpit passed towards us. This Mille Miglia participant, predecessor of the famous Midget series, lead to the famous TA, TB, TD and TF versions. We continued our way towards the docks as a red series 1 Jaguar E-Type passed by. It was still very dark so we decided to wait a bit for the luminosity to increase some more.

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The main sponsors were arriving at the event including the local Morgan and McLaren, Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce dealers. Morgan had been unloading this Plus 8 for several minutes before simply letting it parked in front of Morges casino. This is actually the top of the 4/4 range model, featuring a 4.7 liter BMW V8 engine with an impressive 367 horsepower output. Not bad for a car which weighs less than 1.1 ton and has a wooden chassis. Available with both a manual and an automated gearbox, with almost the same classy look the original 4/4 featured back in 1936, we are hoping to test this car very soon. Coming all the way from the Heidelberg region in Germany, this beautiful midnight blue first-generation Aston Martin DB9 had done its way to come to the event and featured a very nice associated number plate. With the traces of the remaining night rain still all over the car it was superb. The DB9 was introduced back in 2005 as a successor to the DB7, which Ford had launched to boost the british car manufacturer’s sale, and was originally available in a six cylinder version whereas the DB9 was fitted with a 6 liter V12 developping no less than 450 horsepower. The Morges British Car Meeting is as well a traditionnal meeting point for car clubs, like the Jaguar’s owner club, where two of its members had arrived with their respective E-Type, a V12 and the red one we had seen arriving a few minutes ago.

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Two Sunbeam owners were preparing their day at this 22nd edition of the British Classic Car Meeting, alongside a Triumph Spitfire. The Sunbeam Alpine was launched back in 1953 and had an impressively long 22 year old career. The first Alpines called Mark 1 and Mark 3 do not have the same design in fact than the afterwards series like the two we saw, which were launched back in 1959. In total, over 1500 Mark 1 and 3 were produced in six years, and almost 70’000 of the series 1 to 5. A competition and a fastback version of this iconic british roadster were developed, but never had the success of their roadster equivalent. The Triumph Spitfire had an even longer career, as it stayed available on the market for over 28 years, and had an even more impressive success, with over 300’000 cars sold. The Spitfire 4 as it was called when it was launched in 1962 was equipped of a 63 horsepower 4 cylinder in line 1100 cubic centimeter engine, and weighed only 700 kilograms. The Spitfire Mark 3, just as the one we saw, was introduced in 1967 and was equipped with a bigger, more powerful, 1.3 litre engine 75 horsepower. A few meters away, two Mini surrounded a Morgan 4/4 and a Rover SD1. The SD1 has always surprised me because I never found it particularly good looking although it had been voted car of the year in 1977. Supposedly inspired by the Ferrari Daytona and the Datsun 240Z, it wasn’t known for being especially reliable. Finally we went to have a look at a Bentley R Type parked on the side.

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A beautiful Aston Martin DB4 materialized out of this morning mist, which was obviously owned by an AMOC member. In the classic British Racing Green exterior color livery, this DB4, launched in 1958, was produced at almost 1’000 units and looked stunning. Its owner decided to park it at the nearest available parking spot near Morges harbour, and alongside an Austin-Healey 3000. Looking at both cars, at the scenery, I suddenly realized why I love so much this meeting. There is such a picturesque atmosphere. Suddenly, you get back 40 years earlier, and it isn’t anymore 2013 but 1973. Moreover, with the typical british grey and cloudy weather, with the wet road, it even increased my global impression.

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Afterwards, a Jaguar XK150 Coupé arrived in a rather original white exterior color over burgundy red interior. Although I never really liked the XK series in their coupé configurations, finding their convertible sisters much more attractive, I was pleased to see it. A few spots away from the DB4 and the Austin Healey was another unknown car for most non-car initiates, a Bristol, which is easily recognizable from the front. This Bristol 405 Coupé was launched in 1953 and built at only 43 units, with the big 125 horsepower 2.2 liter straight-six engine. I always thought it had a strange look, which is probably why I never really liked this car. Finally, I went to see a few details on the superb Aston Martin Le Mans, which is such a legendary car for every fan of the british manufacturer. With the rain drops on the pure steel bodywork, it was incredible.

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We went in the direction of the castle where most of the Aston were arriving, and found Jonathan Hartop from Aston Riviera Cars, which had brought a beautiful Aston Martin DB5, in one of its best color combination, Silver Birch grey over red leather interior. He had even brought the matching James Bond number plate BMT 216A, from the Goldfinger movie, and a few croissants for his early morning breakfast. The ambiance was indescribable, with Morges Castle in the background, Jonathan polishing a little this magnificent James Bond car, and the croissants simply lying on the Aston Martin’s bonnet. As there were not so much people in the castle’s courtyard for the moment, it was an ideal playground for a few pictures of the car. The DB5 made almost all Aston Martin’s reputation for the general public, and has become part of the most legendary cars in automotive history, an icon. Considering almost a third of the british manufacturer’s sales are due to James Bond, it would be interesting to see exactly how this particular model still is important for the brand. With its six-cylinder in line engine, it wasn’t the most performant at its time, but surely one of the most beautiful and is surely the most important brand’s legacy Aston Martin has.

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Finally, all the pre-war Aston Martin had arrived for the brand centenary and had been carefully parked a few meters away from the DB5. I was surprised about how few people knew the important history the british brand had before the second world war. Its main target, both from Lionel Martin and afterwards from Cesare Bertelli had been to win races, and especially for the second one, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Sadly though, the cars built in Newport Pagnell were really never able to compete properly against Bentley and its 4.5 litre Blower or Speed Six models. Therefore they remained forgotten mostly for the public, and seing one is a real privilege, either one of the 15/92, 2 litre, an International, an Ulster or a Le Mans model. I have always been a true enthusiast about these pre-war Aston Martin, as a fond passionate of the brand since my most early age. The pre-war cars of the british manufacturer have fascinated me because they are the true essence of the brand, and although they didn’t built Aston’s reputation, they built the brand itself. They are its true original soul, what deeply lies in the brand veins. Racing, gentleman style. Without them, David Brown wouldn’t have bought the Newport Pagnell enterprise, and we wouldn’t have any DB car series, and Aston Martin would have probably died long ago.

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We headed towards the Parc de l’Indépendance just behind the Castle, and found yet another often unknown british automotive manufacturer : TVR. This brightly green Sagaris is a regular from the British car meeting, and is as well one of the last cars produced by the small enterprise, which doesn’t exist anymore. Founded in 1947 by Trevor Wilkinson, he invented in 1953 a glass-reinforced plastic bodywork on tubular chassis that has been used in the cars of the british brand. The Sagaris was launched back in 2005, and had a 4 liter straight six engine which develops 380 horsepower. The car, thanks to its very light bodywork, weighs only a little over the ton, 1070 kilograms, and has its power driven to the rear wheels with a proper five speed manual gearbox. Performances are astonishing, with a 0-100 km/h established in 3.7 seconds, and a top speed just under 300 km/h. But of course the performance figures are just as impressive as the design of the car is shocking. You just have to look at it with its tortured bonnet, its lateral back exhausts to understand that this car is like no other. It has such a presence that I don’t recall much car which could still the interest it generates when you see one parked along on the streets.

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We went back to the harbor and found a beautiful Marcos GT, another often forgotten car of british automotive’s history. The 1800 GT as it was called when it was launched back in 1964, used a 1.8 liter Volvo four stroke engine with a plywood chassis, which was later replaced by a proper steel chassis. Over the year, the car was proposed with different engines, coming from Triumph or Ford. The British Car Meeting wouldn’t be a british meeting with one of the most iconic car coming from Great-Britain, the original Mini Cooper. Born in 1956 in the head of Alec Issigonis as an Austin project, the Mini is still one of the smallest cars ever produced, where four people and their luggage could fit. Thanks to its light weight, it was later modified by the now legendary John Cooper for racing where its small dimensions, and its go-kart behaviour made the happiness of numerous drivers. McLaren had brought through their local Geneva dealership one of their MP4-12C, in a very soft configuration with grey exterior over black interior, which matched an Aston Martin DB6 parked alongside. The MP4-12C is surely a very efficient car on a track but I have always thought that compared to the Ferrari 458 Italia, it was missing something.

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The Speedy Garage had brought as well their lot of cars, including one of the very rare Morgan Aeromax Coupé, one of only 100 units ever produced. Originally, this car had to be an unique model for Eric Sturdza, famous swiss car collector, one of the most important Aston Martin Racing sponsors, and as well the ex-owner of our Aston Martin V12 Vantage. When Morgan decided to showcase the resulting car back in 2005, success was so important, the brand asked Mr. Sturdza the permission to produce a limited series of this car, which he accepted. In less than 48 hours from Morgan’s official announce, the small british manufacturer had already received no less than 170 cash orders from enthusiasts and customers, but the brand decided to stick to the original 100 units limited series. So it is quite a rare sight, and amazingly looking one too. Facing the Morgan was a bunch of Land Rover Defender, the brand’s original and oldest model. It is just as iconic, if not even more than the G Wagon for Mercedes-Benz. The real Land Rover was designed as an utilitarian, four-wheel drive, rustic car with a Rover engine for farmers, but its off-road abilities were so incredible that explorers and highlanders everywhere in the world adopted it very quickly. As it was built as a rough and tough machine, it was able to endure almost every treatment and could resist very well to natural elements. And as a proper explorer, the owner of this Defender had put a very nice sticker : “One life. Live it”, just as a reminder…

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At the British Car Meeting in Morges, most cars are parked but you have to remind that people just come and go as they want, so you have to be really aware that about any car could arrive at about any moment. That was what happened with this amazing white Aston Martin DB4, the second of the day, arrived and parked a few meters away. It was followed by a yellow Triumph TR3, and an MGB roadster, but I have to admit that the DB4 completely captured my attention. I had never seen a white DB4 before, and I don’t recall actually seeing any David Brown period Aston Martin in this color. At first it felt a bit strange, because I really didn’t know what to think of this really original configuration. Looking at the details, its exterior color was nearer from the cream white, than a snow white, but I have to say it was truely an amazing sight.

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One of the most significant british sports car arrived next, a Lotus Exige. With Colin Chapman’s motto : “Light is right” at its peak, the Exige is the ultimate modern evolution of the brand founder’s philosophy. This late second generation model, was an S model, equipped with the 240 horsepower four cylinder Toyota engine, which could offer stunning performances, thanks to a total weight under the ton. But the Lotus performances aren’t amazing only on a straight-line, as on a track the Exige S could easily lap better times than many more powerful cars. The pinnacle Exige version for purists was the ultimate 260 horsepower Cup version, which was almost a track car and has remained as it since, because of the introduction of the Toyota Camry-issued V6 engine in the third generation model. Although being more powerful, Lotus owners have complained about the loss of reactivity that the six cylinder engine has induced, and the additional weight it has brought to the car, in addition to all the comfort elements which have been added in order to soften the car and civilize it.

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The DeLorean DMC-12 is one of the most iconic movie cars, which became famous after the Return to the Future movie series. Probably just as legendary now as the original Aston Martin DB5 from James Bond’s Goldfinger, the DeLorean has left its mark in the 1980’s people spirit. With its gullwing doors, its square look, and bare stainless steel bodywork, it is still even today a great car to stumble across. Under-motorized at its time, it didn’t have the commercial success it could have had when sold new, and therefore it remains a rare sight with barely over 8000 cars remaining today. No less than three DMC-12 were parked along the docks in Morges, with the impression of getting back to 1985. Something’s for sure, this car will remain out a time ! Another very important British car club here in Switzerland was nicely represented at this 2013 edition of the British Classic Car Meeting, from Morgan Motor Company. No less than five Morgan 4/4 were lined up in one of Morges back alleys, and I was rather disappointed not to see much more three-wheelers than I expected. The 4/4 is one of the most legendary models of the brand, one of the oldest cars to still be sold, as it was launched in 1936, and one of the most iconic british roadster ever built. With its wooden chassis, spoke wheels, leather strap on the bonnet and typical 1950s look, it surely stands out from most of the actual sports cars built. The Morgan had been proposed with various engines throughout its entire lifetime but the introduction of BMW’s 4.4 liter V8 recently to create the Plus 8 has really revealed all the potential beneath this car.

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Time to get back to the docks, looking for the other car clubs here, like the MG club, which had brought a few of their T-Series, and some other typically british roadsters like the MGA. Although being extremely popular, with over 50’000 T-series model produced and 100’000 MGA units, these small but joy bringer roadsters are becoming very desirable collectible cars. Austin-Healey are as well accustomed of Morges with various 100s, 3000s and even sometimes a few of the froggy Sprites. This dark blue 3000 over red leather interior catched my attention, in front of another typical British Racing Green livery. A few meters away a magnificent canary yellow Triumph TR3 was parked, and really surprised me with its stunning color, which would be more expected on an Italian car.

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Of course, this year was dedicated to Aston Martin’s centenary and I had therefore to concentrate on my favorite brand’s car, with a beautiful light brown DB6, which had just arrived. Although being less desirable than the DB5 amongst purists, the DB6’s value is actually climbing higher than the DB5, which has been unexpected. The DB6, on top of being more powerful than the DB5 was deemed to be more reliable too, but its design was often considered less pure, due to the split chrome front bumpers, the additional fixed aeration underneath the engine and the rear duck tail with its fixed rear panel and lights. All the pre-war Aston Martin were now all lined up in front of the castle and it was truely a fantastic opportunity to see all the five different cars reunited together for such an occasion.

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In the courtyard near the castle and in front of the harbor was parked a beautiful yellow Lotus Elan 1600 Sprint, one of the greatest cars built by the brand. Born in 1962 with a steel chassis, weighing less than 700 kilograms thanks to its fiberglass body, it had spectacular steering at its time compared to its competitors. It was as well a good commercial success with over 14000 cars sold, and offered some proper performances thanks to a Ford Twin Cam 1.6 liter four cylinder engine prepared with up to 115 horsepower combined with a four speed gearbox. Continuing our walk, we found a bunch of Mini parked together. These nineties era Mini, although often considered less interesting by the brand’s purists because they are heavier still have the original Mini soul, and for sure its fun driving performances. One of these little beauties had even a matching rear caravan. Quite a nice accessory if the standard Mini boot isn’t big enough for you… Or if you plan to make your future Cooper a “bimotore” with one engine on each axle.

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Although modern Range Rovers are hardly tolerated at the British Car Show, as are modern Minis (post 2003), because they are too common, old Land Rover Defenders are always welcomed. First generations Defender are slowly becoming collector cars just as much as the first Toyota Land Cruiser. They are the witness of an era where discovery could still be achieved by automobiles, where humanity needed tough and polyvalent cars to survive the hard conditions of nature. Afterwards, a meteorite grey Aston Martin DB9 arrived, with its roaring V12, and a beautiful light beige leather interior. The DB9, succeeding to the DB7 in 2005 was a big evolution with a brand new design, brand new chassis, and at its time better performances than the brand’s own flagship, the Vanquish. Through its long and prosper carrier the DB9 has been restyled numerous times, but never lost its amazing charisma. It was followed a few seconds after by another Aston Martin, although this DB6 had still been built in the old Newport Pagnell factory whereas the DB9 was built in Gaydon. Getting a closer look, the exterior color was as well not the usual British Racing Green, but a lighter green that I had never encountered before.

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Rolls-Royce. A legend amongst the luxury cars. More than that a reference. The motorcar of crowned heads, of celebrities, which presence is indisputable. Built with the purpose that “At one hundred kilometers per hour, one should only hear the tick of the clock”, they have been the reference in terms of luxury and comfort almost since their apparition. At what better symbol representing Rolls-Royce than the Spirit of Ecstasy, an emblem first introduced in 1911 by Charles Sykes to embellish the radiator caps of the brand, it has been featured on almost every car from the Derby, Crewe and Goodwood factories since then. Another typical curiosity from the British Car Meeting Morges arrived shortly afterwards. Although Switzerland never had a proper automotive industry, it always had some renown small bodyshops, or tuners, like Traber, who did the bodywork on this Alvis 21. We waited for its owner to park it in order to admire a few details of these rather unique works.

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On the same side than the Alvis we found two other typical english roadsters, although having very different philosophies. The Austin Healey on the left was designed to be a comfortable, yet sporty, grand-tourer convertible to enjoy on some typical Riviera roads. The Caterham on the right though was designed to be a striped out continuation version of Colin Chapman’s vision “Light is right” by simply continuing to build almost identically his Lotus Seven. Time to get to the Astons, with a very nice line-up, including a first generation DBS, a first generation 1977 V8 Vantage, and a few more modern cars from Gaydon, such as DB9, V8 Vantage S, and so on. I find it amazing how although coming from very different eras, they all have various similar elements : the front grille, the same proportions almost, the same sort of charisma, the same blend of elegance…

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While looking at all the Aston Martin parked along, we found a very interesting car, which story is very unique and completely original. From the front, it looks like a standard DB4, has absolutely no singular elements, with even a superb matching James Bond number plate, although James Bond never had a DB4. Things though were very different from the back, where it the standard rear has been replaced by a single panel with two circular lights, looking to be inspired from a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso, just as the exterior color. Luckily for us, a few minutes afterwards, the owner came back and we could ask him why this DB4 had such an original and strange rear. It seems then, that from what he told us, this Aston Martin had an accident with its first owner, and finished rear-ended by another car. The owner then decided to bring it to his local bodyshop, instead of his local Aston Martin dealership, and that the people working at this bodyshop changed the rear for the one visible today. Although we have been doing extensive researches to find out the bodyshop who did this, we have not yet found enough sufficient informations.

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On the opposite side, cars were still continuing to arrive, like this superb light grey Jaguar E Type. With its incomparably sexy look, the E Type has always been one of the most beautiful automotive convertibles ever. Moreover, it had very impressive performances and could outrun a Ferrari from its era, while still being cheaper to buy ! As a normal consequence, the Jaguar was therefore a huge commercial success, and has been produced at over 70’000 units, but it hasn’t stopped their price from rising… Finally we went back to the castle and found a gorgeous full black Aston Martin DB2 Drophead Coupé. In this very dark configuration, it was the most beautiful I had ever seen, especially with the few chrome elements such as the door handles, the wheel hub and the side mirrors. With the rain drops on the beautiful bodywork, I stopped and took a few shots of some of the details, like the Aston Martin emblem, inspired from the eagle.

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Time to look at the very last cars before leaving this 2013 edition of the British Classic Car Meeting. Coming all the way from Luxembourg, with an associated James Bond number plate, a meteorite grey Aston Martin DBS was waiting for its owner to arrive. People come from almost absolutely everywhere, just for this event, making it truly exceptional, with both a great diversity of people and an important variety of cars. And of course there is the sight. The docks of Morges offer probably the best surroundings for such an important automotive event, giving it an impression of Concours d’Elegance. With the autumn colors of October, it can only improve the simple presence of all these great cars, such as this Aston Martin V12 Vantage which passed only seconds before we left the event. A few other elements of this event’s success is that its is entirely free for both entrants or public, does not require any registration, and offers the possibility to the car entrants to stay just as much as they want. Last car but not least to catch our attention, this stunning Lagonda.

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Thank you for reading !