The Crash Box Club, as it was then known, had only been in existence for about eleven years when someone had the bright idea of putting on a classic car display at Powderham Castle. It was an immediate success.
The very first Historic Vehicle Gathering was held on 6th July 1975 in the Castle forecourt.
(It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that 2017 event cannot therefore be the 44th – more on this below)
The Club were so encouraged by the response from the public and the support of Powderham itself that the second event was held on the 27th June 1976.
Entries included 2 Motorcycles and 76 cars. Six Commercials are also listed. The ‘youngest’ car appears to have been a 1962 Jaguar E-Type belonging to a Mr R Dickens of Exeter. The oldest was a 1903 Panhard Levassor.
So the Gathering began to get a name for itself. So much so that the ever increasing number of entries meant a larger display area had to be organised. The event therefore moved to the field immediately below the main entrance to the Castle. But in only a few years even this proved too small so the field close to the deer park on the left of the lane which now leads from the Powderham Café was used as the display area with the field to the right as the car park.
Several Rally Secretary’s came and went till in 1979 Mike Overfield-Collins began his 14 year stint! Mike’s knowledge of the old car scene, along with David Wickers, Graham Pearce and numerous others firmly established the event in the eyes of the public as a ‘Must see’ gathering. During this period the entries were extended to include Car Clubs and most of the other exhibits which we are familiar with today.
The 1990 and 16th Historic Vehicle Gathering Programme shows a familiar list of names for the Rally Sub-Committee. Mike O/C was still Rally Chairman but one new name had crept into the list under ‘Gate Control’ – Haydn Ryder. Actually I believe Haydn took on that role several years earlier for I know that in 1988 when on a visit to Devon from my home in Sussex, I ‘volunteered’ to help Haydn & Linda at the gate for Powderham. Sadly, one of those very wet 'Summer' Sundays. Little did we both know that about 20 years later we would suffer an even worse wash out at Powderham!
The same programme lists 138 classic cars, 12 commercials, 20 Motorbikes and 7 Car Clubs.
The arrival of Haydn on the scene though prompted the biggest change to the event’s format. All previous shows had been one day affairs – usually starting on the Sunday at about 11.00am and ending about 5.30. Haydn though, after he was appointed Rally Chairman for the 1993, 94 and 95 Gatherings (it had been decided that future Rally Chairman should only hold office for three years) indicated, much to the main committee’s surprise (and concern I expect!) he wished to make the show a TWO day event.
The 1993 event therefore was the last of the one day shows, 1994 was the first two day event and to be even bigger than ever before. More so as the Castle management, mindful of how popular the event had become offered the club the use of the large field facing the Exe Estuary – and where we hold the event to this day. I know that Haydn, when he first saw this huge space did express some concern as to how on earth he was going to fill it!
By the way, the Saturday of the first 2 day show was nominated to be the 20th Gathering and the Sunday the 21st - hence the error in the ‘maths’ but it meant we could add a little more in the way of publicity by declaring the event to be the 21st Historic Vehicle Gathering.
Haydn’s tenure came and went. Followed by Phil Erith, who actually did 4 years as one of his shows was dismally damp, Mike Chalmers took us into the new Century followed by Ann Edwards. All these shows continued the now well sorted theme in respect of the type of exhibits and each section continued to grow in size. The field layout also more or less remained unaltered over these years just with the odd bit of change to accommodate special events or attractions. Wall of Death or a stunt Motorcycle display. And in most cases the surpluses continued so that ever increasing donations could be made to National and Local Charities. This included one of £7,500.00 to the Crediton MS by Ann Edwards.
David Weekes took on the role for a year followed by a return by Haydn Ryder who, along with the Main Club Committee, did another three years.
For 2010 and 2011, Sue Smallwood took up the baton and working with the Club Committee organised the whole event.
For the 2012 Show the entire organisation was taken on by Mike Doherty plus the same group of club volunteers who so successfully put on the show in 2010/11. However we all know what happened in 2012 so Mike and the same team are did it all over again in 2013 with a far better outcome as we enjoyed wonderful weather over the whole week. Some were even complaining about the dust....
For the 2014 the show was been taken on by Richard Gardiner who in the previous three years organised the individual classic motorbikes section and in 2017 a small sub-committee from members of the main committee are over-seeing organisation of the show