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The bus, the biker, the Bren Gun Carrier and brave British historic motoring achievements…

The Royal Automobile Club paid tribute to the very best of the United Kingdom’s historic motoring and motorsport world last night (November 24th) at a glittering celebration at its Pall Mall clubhouse to announce the winners of the Club’s 2022 Historic Awards. And, with the wealth of skills, creativity and sheer enthusiasm that abounds, there was a tremendous amount to celebrate.

Diverse and impressive nominations received from across the UK were assessed by specialist panels of expert judges across a range of categories reflecting the breadth of this sector – as did the winners themselves.

The evening culminated with the presentation of the Royal Automobile Club Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given in recognition of an individual who has, in the opinion of the Club, made an outstanding contribution to the British historic motoring movement across many years. This year’s recipient is Simon Taylor. From being appointed editor of Autosport at the tender age of 23 in 1968, through publishing What Car? in 1973, devising Classic & Sports Car in 1982 and becoming Chairman of Haymarket Magazines in 1995, Simon has fuelled motorists’ passions over almost 60 years. 

A ‘petrolhead’ before the term was actually coined, Simon became well-known for his enthusiasm and quick wits among the wider public, after he began commentating on Formula 1 for BBC Radio from 1976 for 20 years, moving over to ITV commentary in 1997. In 2002 he became a full-time writer, his columns and interviews appearing in Classic & Sports Car and Motor Sport, and developed a parallel life as a book author, with acclaimed titles on topics including his beloved HWM, Goodwood, Stirling Moss, and the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb.

‘Preferred Carrier’, Mark Dixon’s beautifully-written and wonderfully enthusiastic feature for Octane on a tracked Bren Gun/Universal Carrier drove away with the award for Outstanding Journalism (presented by the Royal Automobile Club), with the judges commenting that it was: “A brave story for a classic car magazine, as military vehicles aren’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, yet it was afforded generous space and well described in this writer’s usual easy, accessible style. Mark’s ability to convey his enthusiasm for the vehicle was especially appreciated.”

The future of historic motoring and motorsport in the UK is – as it is throughout the world – in the hands of the young, and the strength of nominations for Young Achiever (supported by 1762 RBC Brewin Dolphin and StarterMotor) demonstrated that those hands are very safe indeed. The winner, 29-year-old William Heynes, opened his Jaguar renovation and servicing workshop William Heynes Ltd. in August last year, after scouring the country for affordable equipment.

The judges commented, “Now there’s a new William Heynes – a young man who works just as hard on Jaguars as his namesake grandfather. Only this William has a special skill for carefully cherishing early Jaguar E-types, working very long hours and with immense skill as he seeks to renovate and conserve early examples. He’s now looking after some of the best classic Jaguars you’ll ever see. What he’s done is remarkable.”

The announcement of the award for Personal Endeavour (presented by the Royal Automobile Club) was a bittersweet moment. The recipients are Sarah Jane Adams-Diffey and (posthumously) her husband Simon, for the creation of the Simon Diffey Heritage Motorsport Apprentice Award. There was very little debate in this nomination, the judges unanimously decided them the clear winners in this category: “For Sarah for showing such bravery, courage and still thinking of others in the face of such a tragic sudden loss and for Simon – who shone so brightly, with great humour, and did so much good for so many others every day. They were always a team, and this is truly an award that belongs to the two of them.”

Another key aspect to this sector’s future is, of course innovation. Even in a world of historic motor vehicles there is always the need for progress, and the winner of Innovation (supported by Bosch and the Federation Skills Trust), the TR Register European Breakdown App, is an excellent example of applying present-day technology to work to benefit owners of such vehicles. The judges described it as: “A clever idea, very well executed and the fact that it can be reskinned for use by other clubs makes it a very community-minded innovation.”

The award for Competitive Event (supported by A. Lange & Söhne) was presented to Rally the Globe Generations Rally 2022, with the judges commenting: “The Generations Rally brought smiles to the faces of everyone involved. The requirement that every car must have two occupants from different generations ensured that there were many newcomers having their first taste of competitive motor sport. As an introduction to classic rallying, it was superb.”

The award for Motoring Spectacle (supported by RM Sotheby’s) went to a unique event. The Austin Seven Centenary Celebration was the magnificent achievement of the Austin Seven Clubs’ Association, whose celebration of this iconic model’s 100th birthday included a truly remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime gathering of 1000 Austin Sevens. The judges commented: “As spectacular to look at as it was fascinating, the week-long gathering – a collaboration between the Austin Seven clubs that included road runs, a sprint event at Prescott, a pop-up museum and more – was a worthy tribute to an iconic car.”

Royal Automobile Club Lifetime Achievement Award: Simon Taylor
•   Outstanding Journalism (presented by the Royal Automobile Club): Mark Dixon: ‘Preferred Carrier’, Octane 
•   Young Achiever (supported by 1762 RBC Brewin Dolphin and StarterMotor): William Heynes
•   Personal Endeavour (presented by the Royal Automobile Club): Simon Diffey and Sarah Jane Adams-Diffey
•   Innovation (supported by Bosch and the Federation Skills Trust): The TR Register European Breakdown App 
•   Competitive Event (supported by A. Lange & Söhne): Rally the Globe Generations Rally 2022
•   Motoring Spectacle (supported by RM Sotheby’s): Austin Seven Centenary Celebration
•   Collection (supported by Footman James): Sammy Miller Museum
•   Restoration (supported by Bicester Heritage): 1931 AEC Regent 486 bus (Transport Museum Wythall)

Collections of vehicles, whether in museums owned by the public or privately curated, are an important way of preserving and conserving such vehicles and of educating present and future generations. The judges said that winner of Collection (supported by Footman James), the Sammy Miller Museum, “Demonstrated standards of motorcycle restoration and display of the highest order. The whole museum is the very embodiment of founder Sammy Miller’s personality, limitless enthusiasm and meticulous attention to detail, and his regular presence in the restoration workshop and on the exhibition floor not only lends it a unique atmosphere but also makes it one of the most appealing destinations for motoring enthusiasts.”

The winner of Restoration (supported by Bicester Heritage), the 1931 AEC Regent 486 bus, was a huge restoration in every sense for the Transport Museum Wythall.  The judges were bowled over both by the scale and quality of the project, saying: “The AEC Regent 486 bus was chosen for its survival against the odds, its importance in British transport and social history, the remarkable attention to detail and quality of its restoration, and the amazing dedication of the volunteers who have worked so hard, unpaid, to save and restore this evocative vehicle.”

Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, said: “In just four years, the Historic Awards have become a key date in the Club’s busy Motoring calendar, continuing our rich heritage of rewarding the achievements of pioneers, champions and all forms of excellence. This was no easy task for our panels of expert judges, as the standard of entries was exceptionally high, with the strength of nominations for the Young Achiever award being especially encouraging.

Huge congratulations to all our winners – and in particular to Simon Taylor. With his unique experience, deep insight, and a career that’s mixed motoring traditions with media innovation, the Club is in no doubt that he is fully recognised by his Lifetime Achievement Award.”

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