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Reliant Owners Club.

49th National Rally  25thMay- 28th May 2006 (Shrewsbury, UK)

Rain, rain, rain, thatís one word that will sum up this years National Rally. The heavens opened up on the Saturday night and with the exception of a 10 minute break around 8am Sunday morning, the rain fell continously.

This year Geoff (my brother) had put a new engine into his 1990 Reliant Robin LX (New Blue) and wanted to test it out but as he was the DJ for the weekend, also had to take his ďbusĒ full of equipment. So, I said that if he likes he can tow Ole Blue (My 1972 Reliant Regal Supervan III) to the Rally and Iíll drive his. So first thing Saturday we got everything ready and as my girlfriend (Caroline) was working Saturday morning, we waited for her to finish work and then had some lunch before we started off. This year the rally was at Shrewsbury and so that added an extra 40 miles on to the trip for us making the journey 62 miles.  My girlfriend and I jumped into New Blue and the first thing that struck me was how cramped it was. I am so used to Ole Blue where the seats have been pretty much fixed where the back seats are.  Once I got used to the ferocious clutch and the roar from the modified Micron exhaust, I soon got used to the Robin and whilst we were limited to 60mph (As Geoff was towing Ole Blue) the journey there soon passed and was rather enjoyable, though as soon as I opened the door and got out, it took a few seconds to bend my legs and arms back into position again.

After saying hello to a few folks, we pitched our tents with Pete and Dee one side and Keith and his son on the other side.  The last few rallies I have always shared tents with Geoff but I took my own this year.  Having not used it for around 15 - 16 years, it caused great amusement to others as they watched me take rather a long time building the thing and trying to work out how it actually went. Once I erected it, it was actually different to how I remembered.

Tents up and cars unpacked we then sought sanctuary at the burger van with a 1/4 pounded beef beefburger and a tray of chips.  Then it was into the main hall where Geoff set up his disco. One of the sad things was that my usual partner in crime (Malcolm - SS1boy) wasnít staying and had only popped in to visit for a few hours. Last year we tried desprately to request songs to clear the dance floor but could not manage it.   As the night grew older, the first signs if rain began to fall ... and it had no intentions of stopping.

Sunday morning I woke up bright and early to the sound of rain tapping against my tent, with an occasional roar that I soon realised was Keith snoring in the tent next door. For the next few hours I drifted in and out of sleep but the sound of rain falling against the tent remained constant. Around 8am, the rain seem to stop for about 10 minutes and we got up, the heavens then opened up again and this time that was it.  The rain was to be left switched on all day.

With an umbrella in one hand and a camera in the other, I thought Iíd walk around and take a few photos of various cars and I am glad I did because early on, people were starting to pack up and go home. Grabbing a full breakfast from the burger van and washing it down with a hot cup of tea was just pure heaven, we then moved New Blue and Ole Blue ready for the vehicle line up and Pete also brought his car across to. Within a short time other folks brought their cars across but as I looked around even more tents had suddeny vanished and I saw a chap with a red Bond Bug, started to pack things up.

The rain was relentless and the field was now starting to get waterlogged. Having a hall meant that a lot of activities could be held in there but it was touch and go about the usual manouverability competition that usually takes place. 

Click on the title to see that group of pictures.






Then Pete had a great idea, why donít we go to the pub for a Sunday dinner.  Fantastic idea, so my and my girlfriend, Pete and Dee, Geoff, JJ along with Kerry and Marion all set off to the Albion pub. The place was so warm and so inviting compared with a drafty tent and food from a burger van. Between us we had Lamb, Beef and Turkey with all the trimmimgs and a pudding. Better still both main course and the pudding was only £5 - almost the same price as a burger and chips off the van.  We looked out of the pub window and despite the rain, figured we should be heading back.

Back on camp it seemed that a few more folks had now vanished, as there were bare patches where cars and tents were everywhere. Pretty much everything was still indoors but they had got a manoeuvrability competition of sorts just off the road so I had a go. It involved driving your car up to a cane as close as you can (I stopped 5Ē away), then reversing onto another cane (I hit it), then reversing between two canes (I had 3Ē one side and 9Ē) the other and finally getting your back wheel close to the kerb. Being a van, Ole Blue isnít the best thing to drive as there are so many blind spots, you canít see a thing, especially with the few windows I had being all steamed up.  So, I didnít do too well at that.  In years gone by, I would have tried it in different cars, but most folks were just staying inside. We never even had a Telford team enter as we have won the cup for that over the last couple of years.

Geoff entered New Blue into the Car of the Day Rescued class and I thought Iíd enter mine into the Older Reliants class. I won 1st prize in the rescued class last year and for me a car can only be rescued once - so it seems strange to me that folks enter it year after year with the same car. When the results came in, Ole Blue came second and New Blue came second also. Ironically in the rescued class, Bond Bugs that have both been on the road for a number of years came first and third.  Thatís a shame as to me rescued class should be for cars that the year before were in danger of being scrapped. Years ago at the National a battered old Reliant could win the rescued class but against vehicles that are not used regularly, they donít really have a chance now which is a pity. Once the price giving and raffles etc had been drawn, I then charged back out into the rain and loaded up Ole Blue with a rather soggy tent and all its contents. Ole Blue was missing slightly (as were most Reliants in the rain) and so heading back on a 62 mile trip I was thinking, ďI hope she makes itĒ. My girlfriend no doubt was thinking the same thing.  I need not have worried though, once on the motorway she soon got into her stride and happily sang away at 50mph.

Mind you, on the M54 there was one long incline and being fully laden with two people on board she did slow down to 40mph but then she was soon back onto 50mph and in some parts the needle even bounced across to say hello to the 60mph marker.  On the M54 I saw a brown Reliant Scimitar behind me, he flashed his lights to say hello, and then roared passed and soon vanished in the distance.  ďThatĒ, I thought, is the advantage of having a Scimitar and not a Regal. As I also had my Satellite Navigation hooked up I did notice that when the Regal speedo is reading 50mph, the Sat Nav says I am doing 46 / 47mph. When,in a mad moment, it bounced over to 60mph, the Sat Nav only reported 52mph.   It seems after 50mph, the Regal speedometer isnít accurate at all but then I usually never ever do more than 50mph. Reaching home with a huge sigh of relief, I quickly unpack Ole Blue before taking her back to a nice warm garage and hanging out the tent. Then it was back home for a nice cup of tea and a cheese sandwich.  So whilst it was great to see so many Reliant faces again, it was such a shame that the rain had taken command of the day - and by the time we left, the field was starting to resemble a swamp.  Lets hope for the 50th National Rally next year, the weather is a bit sunnier.

Elvis Payne.

May 2007