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Little Classics News: 24 June 2015

Huge Success for Flywheel Festival of Historic Motoring

Bristol Blenheim and period crew

The inaugural Flywheel festival of historic motoring, aviation and military vehicles got off to a flying start at Bicester Heritage over the weekend (20 - 21 June), when thousands enjoyed the sights and sounds of some of Britain’s most iconic classic vehicles and aircraft, set against the backdrop of Britain’s best preserved WW2 bomber airfield.

Even some rain didn’t stop the fun on the Saturday, when air displays including a period ‘dogfight’ from the Great War Display Team and precision 1930s-style formation flying by the all-Tiger Moth ‘Tiger Nine’ display team wowed the crowds. Meanwhile a wet track on the specially devised demonstration loop offered the sight of over 60 individually selected vintage and classic racing cars being slid around the course in opposite-lock power slides.

Sunday allowed a moment of history to be savoured with the return to Bicester of the sole flying Bristol Blenheim bomber. The aircraft entered RAF service at the airfield in 1938 and Bicester subsequently became the centre of operational training for the type. Flywheel marked the first return of a Blenheim to its former base since 1945 and on its arrival the aircraft was greeted by a number of former aircrew and ground crew who had flown and worked on the aircraft at Bicester more than 70 years ago.

16.1 litre 1905 Fiat at Flywheel

The flying display by the Blenheim was complemented by an equally spectacular Spitfire PR XI of Peter Teichman, commemorating the unarmed high-speed Spitfires which flew from nearby RAF Benson, and a Spitfire of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flown by the BBMF Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Duncan Mason.

Among the pre-war crowd pleasers on the demonstration track was the 1905 Fiat land speed record car (above). Featuring a 16.1 litre aircraft engine and chain drive to its rear wheels, it was spectacularly driven by owner Mike Vardy. Other crowd pleasers included Bentley, Riley and Aston Martin Le Mans racers, a flame-throwing Bentley-Packard special (below) with an engine of no less than 41-litres capacity, along with Alfa Romeo, Bugatti and ERA racing cars.

Packard Bentley at Flywheel

One of the favourites among the 1950s racing cars was the Jaguar C-Type which, driven by Stirling Moss in the 1952 Reims Grand Prix for sports cars, scored a landmark first-ever victory by a car using disc brakes, helping make them the universal technology today.

In addition to the priceless machines on the test track, road cars from the Edwardian era to the early 1960s were on show in period-themed areas, while military vehicle enthusiasts and re-enactor groups took full advantage of Bicester’s background of hangars, air-raid shelters and wartime buildings, which remain barely altered since the end of WW2.

The vehicles included WW2 Sherman and Grant tanks, armoured cars, jeeps, half-tracks and trucks, parked around a genuine D-Day veteran Douglas C-47 transport plane and a diminutive Piper L-4 ‘Grasshopper’ U.S. Army spotter aircraft, while wartime songs and jazz music echoed from the nearby entertainment marquee.


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