From land speed record-breakers to cars driven by Formula 1 legends, the Chateau Impney Hill Climb course has welcomed cars with incredible history. Even the cars in the Concours d’Elegance, like the ‘Bentley Blower’, have fascinating stories to tell. However, the history of Margaret Parkes’ Austin 7 Chummy has been lost to time.
Margaret bought the 1929 Chummy, known as Clive, at an estate auction six years ago, having been searching for the perfect Austin 7. Sadly, the car’s history is completely unknown – all known documents were destroyed during the liquidation of the estate that the Chummy was acquired from.
Ever since, Margaret has been on a mission to create lots of new memories with the car, including its first competitive motorsport outings: “My little Clive is absolutely fabulous, and I love him to bits. He’s only a little 750cc engine, and he’s only got a maximum speed of 45mph, but by jove, is he happy when he’s running.”
Built between 1922 and 1939, the Austin 7 was one of the most popular cars produced for the British market. Previously, the Austin Motor Company was known for building large, powerful cars, but in 1920, Sir Herbert Austin commenced design on a smaller family car that would be more affordable. The idea was rejected by the board, but Sir Austin refused to give up on it, and funded the project himself.
After several prototypes were completed at the Longbridge factory, the car was released to the public in July 1922, and almost 2,500 were produced in the first year. The car soon became a huge hit, displacing the previous cyclecars that had dominated the market as affordable cars, and a variety of different models were made available, including the two-door open tourers affectionately known as the Chummy. Around 300,000 Austin 7s were produced between 1922 and 1939, but only 10,000 or so are still in existence today.
“I’d wanted a Chummy for a long time,” said Margaret. “I’m not a mechanic – I can change a wheel, and sort out the oil and all that, but engineering-wise, you either need to know your stuff or buy what they call ‘a good one’. So Clive came at just the right time.”
This is the first time that Margaret’s Chummy will have ever competed, having been used as a road car for the entirety of its life. As part of her quest to give the car a fantastic new history, Margaret has been enjoying runs out with the ‘Chummy Ladies’, a group of Austin 7 Chummy enthusiasts who travel the length and breadth of the country in search of afternoon teas, historic houses and a good stretch of road.
An average Chummy Ladies tour will add over 400 miles to the odometer over all kinds of terrain, so Margaret is confident that the Chummy will be able to handle the challenging Chateau Impney course. “Oh, he’ll be top notch!” said Margaret. “My mechanic says I can run him from John O’ Groats to Land’s End and back again. But hopefully, my mechanic will come along to the Hill Climb just in case we need to make any adjustments.”
Margaret is no stranger to the Chateau Impney Hill Climb. If you spent any time in the paddock at 2015’s event, you would have heard Margaret making important announcements over the tannoy, calling cars into position and making sure that everything ran on time. However, behind that calm exterior was a burning desire to get off the sidelines and onto the hill.
Thanks to her experience as a paddock marshal, she knows the Chateau Impney course inside-out, and is determined to make sure that the Chummy has a spectacular debut at the Hill Climb.
Margaret will be joined on the hill by her husband, who will be marshalling over the weekend. The two have been marshalling together at various VSCC meets over the past few years and have shared a love of motorsport since they first met. “I’ll have to be very sensible and very careful as I pass him by at the Hill Climb. But he said that they’ll probably go off to lunch when I start, and by the time they’ve come back, I’ll have just reached the top of the hill, which is most unkind!”
“If the Fiat S76 is the ‘Beast of Turin’, then Clive is the ‘Lamb of Longbridge’ – but it’ll be good fun all the same, and I’ll make sure that Clive will be hot-footing it up the hill as fast as he can!”
We wish Margaret the very best of luck, and we look forward to helping her write a new chapter in the Chummy’s story.