The Rochdale Owners Club was formed in June 1981 by a group of owners keen to establish a club exclusively for the Rochdale marque.
How I got involved with the Rochdale Owners Club. By Roger Coupe
My links with some of the Rochdale Car Owners came about early in 1980 when I started my search for an Olympic Ph2. The following year on 7" June 1981 I went to the "Limited Edition Car Gathering" at the Melbourne Loop at Donnington park, Castle Donnington.
It was there that a group of Rochdale Car owners got together and formed a club dedicated to the one make of car. It is my understanding that it was a breakaway group from the Fairthorpe Car Club which catered for quite a large range or early makes of Kit Cars and Classic Cars.
A Rochdale Car Owners committee was formed made up as follows: - Chairman: - Derek Callister. Secretary: - Keith Hamer. Editor: - Ken Whitehead and Treasurer: - Steve Grimshaw. From then on regular meetings took place every month at the Windmill Pub just off the M6 at junction 19, it was there that things started to develop.
In the October of that year the first Rochdale Owners Club magazine was published by Ken Whitehead and the club held its first AGM on 28th March 1982 at The Midlands Motor Museum Bridgnorth Shropshire. It was at this meeting that I took over the job of Treasurer and got involved with club activities that became a significant part of my spare time from then on. (I think the chairmanship also changed at the same meeting) I continued to serve on the committee as treasurer until 2003 when I took over as chairman from Malcolm McKay. After serving on the committee for a total of 27 years I eventually stood down as chairman in 2008. I had enjoyed the involvement over the years, and I would like to think that I made a contribution to getting the club onto a sound financial footing. However, my other interests such as sailing started to take up more of my time.
Over the years the club has held its AGM in April/May each year at a central venue in the midlands due to the widespread location of our members. From the Midlands Motor Museum We moved to The Coventry Car Museum for two years then on to The Midlands Air Museum until 2008 when we moved on again to Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings, we are now back at the Midlands Air Museum though the situation in 2020 and 2021 have been a little difficult.
Right from the start it has been customary for the club to provide light lunchtime refreshments before the start of the meeting, which in the early days at the Midland Motor Museum and then the Coventry Car Museum that job fell to Janet Hamer. When we moved the meeting to the Midland Air Museum then Avoncroft Museum their cafés provided the refreshments.
The Midlands Air Museum venue proved to be very popular for many years and it is nostalgic to think that we are returning once again. I have many photos of our cars on display to the public packed under the wings of the Museums outdoor exhibits. It makes me smile when I look back at the front cover of Club Mag Nos 62 to 64 in 1995 with the sub title "A Wing and a Prayer" showing club members crouched down looking under the rear of my Olympic Ph. 2 trying to work out why I had modified it to look like a Ph1.
Club Car Shows.
Hollybank B-BQ,s. The Club has participated in Classic Car Shows almost from its inauguration, but I think it really started when at one of the Windmill Pub gatherings Keith Hamer came up with the idea of holding a Club BBQ at Hollybank, Thornton-Le-Moors. Cheshire. (This was a smallholding owned by Janet Hamers parents). This took place on 15th May. 1982, It was a great success, so much so that the next year we opened it up to other "Petrol Heads" and we called it "Kit Car Day". The event took place on 14th May 1983. The connection with other enthusiasts was mainly through Derek Callister and his dad who with his brother went on to build the DRK Car. (The name DRK was an abbreviation for Derek, Robert and Keith) The day was such a great success that we repeated it at the same location in 1984. It then became obvious to us that the present location was too small for the way things were developing and we saw an opportunity to go more public and earn money for the club so that we would be able to finance the manufacture of some of the parts that were designed specifically for our beloved Olympics.
Back at the Windmill the committee decided that being as at that time there were no Kit Car Shows in the Cheshire area, it would be worth a try and a suitable venue had to be chosen. Being as Gel and I liked visiting country houses we suggested three locations for consideration, these being, Arley Hall, Gawsworth Hall, and Capesthorne Hall. After visiting all three locations the committee decided that location Capesthorne Hall was the preferred option. This was because it had the best road access and on site facilities. Next came our meeting with the estate manager and the owner Sir Walter Bromley Davenport. At the time the only other event that took place at Capesthorne Hall was an annual Horse Trial. So the main concern that Sir Walter had was about the rubbish the "Rif Ralf" would leave on the day. However, after a lot of grovelling we eventually got his agreement. The deal we eventually agreed was a 1/3, 2/3, split of the gate money on the day. (The split was 1/3 for Capesthorne, 2/3 for the Rochdale Owners Club), however, we had to stand all the costs of organizing and running the event. Although as we were leaving Sir Walter took me on one side to wish us every success. He then said: "I won't let you go out of pocket on this first event" so we had obviously grabbed his interest. The first Cheshire Kit Car Show took place on Sunday 20t' May 1984. It was a great success and it developed and grew each year. The estate manager told me that during the first event Sir Walter kept going up to the top tower of the house to make sure that we were keeping the place clean and tidy. As things developed, he became very interested and for a number of years he and Lady Bromley Davenport presented the prizes on the steps in front of the hall entrance. The event became an annual event in the Kit Car world and it grew to included: - An Auto Jumble. A Children s Fun Fair. A Dog Show. A Farm Machinery Show. Trade stands. And much more as the years went by. We even produced small plaques each year to give as a memento to each Kit Car that turned up on the day.
One year after the first Capesthorne Event the estate manager moved on to Arbury Halt at Nuneaton in Warwickshire. He contacted me to enquire if we would be interested in organizing a similar Car Show at Arbury Hall. We agreed a very good deal on the share of the gate money, so we ran an event there for 2 years. (To try to make the event more of a fun day we even arranged helicopter rides). The event however did not take off like Capesthorne so it did not continue.
The Cheshire Kit Car Show however went on from strength to strength and ran up until 2007. There was a time when we even had to get the Police in to help with the road traffic around the area, and a local Air Scout Group to help on site. For me the big disappointment when it finished was that over the 23 years it had become an annual social meeting point for the club. On the Saturday a team of loyal club members would arrive and set up everything ready for the next day. A marquee for tabletop stalls and toilets had already been set up according to our site plan but we had to mark out the rest of the site ready for Show Day. (To this day I still have a load of that marker tape in my shed if anybody can find a use for it). Before the club bought its Gazebo our caravan became the club members meeting point/site office. In the early days on the Saturday evening, we organized a B-B-Q and had a get together in the marquee.
As the years went by, we developed the Saturday social event for the hard working members who gave up their time to support the clubs major annual event. We first developed the Saturday evening off site by booking a room at a local village hall. (The food was again organised and served by Janet Hamer). As the profits from the show improved we developed the Saturday event further as a thank you to our dedicated club members, we booked a local visitor’s centre to provide an evening meal and Club room where we could bring in a speaker.
Over the years we invited some very interesting people to speak at that event, One of which was Adrian Moakes who went on to design the Olympic Sculptures for the Rochdale Council, but that is another story. Also by Les Brown in Rochdale Sports Car Pioneers). However the one person that stands out in my mind over all the other speakers was when Richard Parker came and gave a talk about the early days of Rochdale Motor Panels, then went on to describe how he built his heavily modified phase2. (It should have been recorded on camera).
In 2007 unfortunately the club ran out of members who were able to give up the time required to organise the event which had been a great experience and the profits we made over the years has put the Club on a very sound financial footing so that to this day we have been able to finance the production of those none standard parts that are needed to keep our Dream Cars on the road.
National Classic Car Shows
The Northern Classic Car Show. Belle Vue. Manchester.
This was a first for our new club, to organise a stand at a national car show. It took place in September 1982. I made some boundary marker posts so that a rope could be threaded though the top. (Yet another training school project). It also just happened that I had updated the schools display boards, so the club benefited once more with the cast offs. We very soon got fed up just exhibiting a line-up of cars and started to look for a way to win the contest for the best club stand of the show. At one of our many discussions at the Windmill someone came up with the idea of putting an Olympic body on a pole and it just so happened that I had a surplus Ph1 Body available at the time, so the plan went ahead. My neighbours by then had got used to me pulling stunts with the apprentice school, so they did not take much notice when we set the body up on the pole for the first time in front of the house. As a result of all our playing around, at the next Belle View Show in 1984 we won the first prize for the best club stand. Imagine our surprise when we were informed that the prize for winning best of show was to be given a double sized stand at next year’s show. Again after a lot of daydreaming at the Windmill another mad idea emerged which we felt would surpass the body on a pole stunt. We brought one of the Olympic moulds up to my house and I rigged up a system were by the mould could be raised on its gimbals so that it could be revolved in the same way that it used to be turned in the old days when a body shell was being laid up inside it at Rochdale Motor Panels. Only this time I set it up to revolving slowly under power. (Health and safety would go mad if we tried to do such a thing these days). With the challenge of the extra stand space to fill and to add to the spectacle of the show we contacted the Rochdale Council to see if they could give us some support. They assisted us by providing masses of plants and garden greenery. Then with all the balloons and streamers organised by Derek Calister the result on the day was quite a spectacle.
G Mex. Centre. Manchester.
A year or two after our best of show event the Bell Vue exhibition centre venue closed, and the Northern Classic Car Show moved to the G Mex. Centre. We continued to take a stand there, but after a few years it started to become too commercialised for our liking, so we dropped out and concentrated on developing our stand at the NEC.
NEC Classic Car Shows. Birmingham.
The first time we took a Club Stand at this event was 5/6/7th May 1984. We had a good line up of cars and there was a great club type atmosphere like Bell Vue. We had three cars there on that day. Dan Monahan’s Olympic Ph. 1. Steve Grimshaws GT and my Olympic. (I call in to see Steve each year when I am up in Galloway in my camper van. He still reminisces about his time in the club and regrets parting with his GT).
The following year we replicated the Bell Vue 1984 stunt with the Olympic rotating on a pole. As the photos show we used a Ph1 Olympic body to display the "Egg Shape" of our unique monocoque cars. The club continued to organise impressive displays at the NEC until 2009. In the early days the organizers recognized the value of having club displays to attract the public and grave each group £100 for expenses and free power. (Those were the days) During that time, I exhibited my Rochdale cars in different stages of their restoration. The one year that stands out to me was 1998 when to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the launch of Rochdale Motor Panels we put on display an example of each model that was produced by the company. Some examples were very basic, but they were all there. For the Mk 6 the only example we could get to the show was a front and a rear body shell. (After some years when I was renovating my Mk6 and needed body sections to make good the one on my car I remembered that show and tracked the owner down. Thank goodness he had not scrapped them, so they came home with me).
The NEC had a clubby feel about it in the early days, but as the years went by it too became more and more commercialised. Then after 25 years for some reason our application for a stand was refused. (I did hear it said that it was because for two years the club had intermingled its display with the Fairthorpe club so that it looked like just one very big stand). That is only hearsay, but we will never know. Since then however the Fairthorpe club have welcomed us to display some of our cars on their stand each year. So, you could say that we still continued to have a presence at the NEC.
Bristol Classic Car Show. Shepton Mallet
This event became part of the club’s annual calendar in January 2005 thanks to the efforts of our Editor Alan Farrer and Olympic Registrar Derek Bentley. The venue is The Royal Bath & West Agricultural Showground. Shepton Mallet. Somerset. I think that due to the size and location of this event it has continued to have a clubby feel about it to this day. Over the years it has given me a lot of pleasure to display my Riviera and Mk6 at this friendly show. At the 2006 Show I was even persuaded to give a talk and demonstrate how to make a Paperweight replica of one of our cars.
Manchester Classic Car Show. Events City
Our Club Secretary Les Brown got us all involved in this one. The first one took place in the Spring of 2012 but moved on to September in 2013. Since then, it has been a September fixture. As usual Les instilled his enthusiasm into us all and each year it has been a great success. As things stand at the moment it is a very friendly and relaxed clubby type event. "Long may that continue" The thing that gave me a lot of satisfaction was that the old marker posts and display boards came back into service. (Even though I am told that some club members said they should be scraped). It just so happened that my Mk6 got best of show at the September 2013 event, but to my mind the most interesting exhibit at that show was the Rochdale Mk2 exhibited by Keith Hamer. For the 2014 show I took my ST as a "Project in Progress". It did not win anything, but it did create a lot of interest mainly because not many people had heard of a Rochdale ST let alone seen one. The plan for one part of the 2015 show is to have my GT on display in its untouched Condition as "A Barn Find", positioned next to Les Browns very smart example. The sign saying "Before & After" Another great thing about this event is its location so near to Rochdale we have had people come on the stand from the town who have never heard of Rochdale Motor Panels and others who come up with interesting background information.
Copyright © Roger Coupe
Copyright © Rochdale Owners Club