Friday dragged big time, it tends to when you are looki but we had opted for an easier (and less expensive option). I had packed the Back To The Future Trilogy DVD in my bag as I left. It was an afterthought really but I was inspired by Pav on MSN on Thursday night. Having uploaded the picture of my t-shirt, he said the memorable line, “shiny bomb-casing full of used pinball machine parts”. I laughed hysterically. He knew all about the Libyans. We started watching the first movie, but it was getting late. We opted to watch until the DeLorean debut in Twin Pine Mall. Hussein made a pot of tea, with the kettle placed directly under the television to steam up the screen. Great location guys! After the DeLorean fails in 1955 (how unreliable is the car over the course of the trilogy?) we switched to watching some of the extras. We watched deleted scenes and out takes. Then it was time for bed. Tomorrow was going to be a very busy day and I knew I needed to recharge those batteries.
We had decided to make an early start. That way we could get some pictures of the cars before we headed to the coast. Rather that getting caught up in the rush at breakfast I set my alarm for just before 7am. I awoke at 5.47am, looking at the green led clock on the television and scaring myself into thinking it was 9.47am. As my eyes finally focused correctly I realised it was too early and fell back to sleep. I got up at 7.10am and got up to get ready. Out came my new t-shirt for it’s first official outing. A little while later, Hussein got up and got ready. He properly felt a little tired from the drive, so was only fair he had the lay in. At breakfast I finally met up with Chris, the club secretary. The last time I had seen him was back in November 2003, at the NEC Classic Car Show, which thanks to the wonderful magic of the internet, is mentioned on my blog back in the archives. I also met up with Andy, whom I had met at the same event, who is friends with Rob and Simon, the two other guys I met over in Belfast, almost exactly five years ago. I didn’t rush breakfast but I was keen to fill up, it was going to be a busy morning. Then we headed out into the secure car park armed with our digital cameras. I was in trigger happy mood. The sight was beautiful. The sun was shining and the reflection almost blinding us from the silver cars. Perhaps the sign on the gate, summed the sight up.
Must have spent a good half hour or so taking photographs from all different angles before heading to the sea front for some lunch. We firstly went with Chris and Andy to Nelson’s ship. A small boat converted into a restaurant. We grabbed a quick drink to calm down before then headed out to get some lunch. There was a limited choice, with a pub and a few takeaway bars. It was quite busy, the DMCs had caused quite a stir but there was a good crowd of tourists that had come out due to the wonderful weather. We headed to the View Restaurant, which I would call more of a cafe. Ordering some food, we took a seat right by the window, over looking the harbour. The air conditioning and fans were on, so it was cool. After lunch, noting the time, we headed down for a walk around the shops. There was not many shops apart from your average cash generator in the form of the arcades, but your usual ice cream parlours and sweet shops. I had to get my family something, it would be rude not to. So opted for the safe bet with some traditional rock. We then headed back to the cars, so I could dump the sticks of rock in the DeLorean. (How cool does that sound?) The cars were causing quite a stir and children in particular were coming away from the playground (with swings and roundabout) to take a look at these unusual cars. Chris was, as ever giving an on-looker the full story behind the car, in twenty minutes and trying to sign the odd person up for membership. To my surprise, Richard passed me the keys to his D, as he was busy helping with a repair job. I went over and opened the gull wing door to put the rock in my bag. It was tempting to just stay but I had a craving for ice cream. Returning the keys to their rightful owner, Hussein and I headed over to the harbour again to get some ice cream. I wanted chocolate but there was none, so I got vanilla instead. It was just what the Doctor (Brown?) ordered. A cool ice cream, to top off a nice light lunch. Hussein went to buy some fudge, before we headed back to the cars in preparation for the drive back to the hotel. There was a model railway right by the car park and the passengers looked on with eager smiles at the cars. A rare local right hand drive car arrived. It was the first time it had been out in eight years, having been completely rebuilt from a despairing state.
We got back to the hotel around 3.30pm and went to our rooms to chill out. I caught the wrap up of the England game. Chris had already text me the score and I was missing a great game, but the real football doesn’t start until next weekend. The product fair was on from 4pm, but started a bit later. We came out around 4.30pm from our room to have a drink and take a look but there was not much on. We headed back to the room and then I mentioned to Hussein that we should go down to the river as it was such a fine evening. He agreed, I grabbed my small camera and we headed down the road. We had to consult the photographic map in our room, because it was a secluded route to the beach but worth the five minute walk. We took a quite stroll down the beach. It was relatively quite, which was great for photos, but a shame not more people were making the most of the weather. It was a sandy but flat beach, with plenty of sand. I thought my shoes would be filled with the silicon as we walked around. Hussein was keen to get back to the hotel but I was trying to take in the moment and take some fantastic photographs of the scenery. A few people had their power kites up and they made a great back drop for my pictures. In the distance a horse was galloping across the wet surface and could be heard for miles around. We headed back, walking through some grassy defenses, to discover several rows of what appeared to be abandoned beach houses. I had to take some more pictures, to my friend’s disappointment, he headed back and I was left to rush and catch up. This was an ideal way to unwind before dinner and get some exercise.
The evening gala meal is usual quite a formal affair. Or so it was five years ago in Belfast. I remember because I put on a new suit at the time for the lavish sit down meal. The country hotel was a more relax environment in comparison to the Europa in Belfast. Chris had said about an hour earlier that the dress code was quite casual. This did not stop him from being suited and booted, though he had to set an example as club secretary. We left our room just before 7.30pm, thinking we would be one of the last to take our seats. In fact, we were early and got good seats to the left of the main table. Behind which was a big lit copy of a DeLorean poster, quite impressive alone. There was more though, to the right was a mannequin of the great man himself. Smart, as always, John Z. DeLorean. The food was great and filled me up. There was still space for the best cheesecake in the world ever too. After we had eaten, began the talks from our two guest speakers. Chris introduced first Barrie Wills. He had been the Finance Director and one of the first people recruited (personally by John) and then subsequently the last to go. He gave us an entertaining inside into life at the top at the DeLorean Motor Company, while the dream was still alive. Then came Stuart Craven, who was more closely involved with production in Belfast. Early into the project he was called up the Director’s office and given a special task and flown out to Germany. There he would find a factory to gold plate the panels for three cars. Then under a tight schedule of one week, get them ready, shipped back to Belfast for assembly before being delivered to their customers in New York and Dallas, Texas. This was an impossible mission but somehow Stuart got the job done. There was a photograph of him given away at the end of the evening, in the raffle. Holding the remaining gold plated DMC badge (which goes on the front of the car on the grill). The talks ended at around 11.40pm and we headed back to our room. I was not that tired and was up for staying a bit longer and drinking. Instead, yet again we opted to watch the remainder of Back To The Future which we had started the previous evening. It is such a class act, and you could never tire from watching it. Almost everything in the script is perfect and you could not find a single whole, even if you tried extremely hard. It is just sheer family entertainment. By the time I took the DVD out of the player, it was gone midnight. They were screening the England match, ‘as live’ on Sky Sports and although I had seen most of the goals on the rolling news channels over the course of the afternoon I wanted to see if I really had missed a big open game. Hussein is not a football fan and fell sleep, asking if I could put on the subtitles? (Subtitles please, I just hit the mute button.) It was around 0.47am, when I finally drifted off to sleep, sacrificing the final home international before the World Cup. Tomorrow would be a great day and hopefully the ideal way to end the weekend.
Sunday was the main, ‘Lotus’ part of the weekend, which meant for an early start. Yet another glorious day with more blue sky and wall to wall sunshine. I was up early and after breakfast, we packed the car and I paid for the hotel room. It was around 9am now and I had asked Richard if I could ride with him to the factory. “Sure, no problem dude!” was the warm reply. Hussein was on his own in the Fabia and the dark blue sore on the convoy. Richard had a PDA with Tom Tom software loaded and entered in the postcode for the Hethel factory. Satellite navigation to date has been a great gadget. Getting me to Germany and the north coast of Norfolk. Yet, after driving for over an hour, we taken a different route from a group of DeLorean’s that had picked up speed on the dual carriage way and overtaken us. Down a short country lane, we were told to turn left, as we did so, we found two cyclists out for a stroll, and the road closed with an iron gate and padlock. Laughing I jumped out of the car and took a picture. What a site. A DeLorean that had literally run out of road. Within seconds, as if we were playing the part in some holiday movie, two other stainless steel wonders pulled around from the opposite direction and ushered us to follow them. We did, Hussein right behind in his Fabia. However, the other DeLorean’s were gone into the distance, but we drove around to the entrance of the Lotus factory. We were here, but Hussein was ruining the photo opportunity with his modern turbo diesel. We parked up on the left hand side and I took some quick photographs before we drove in, in an DeLorean only convoy. The cars of the remainder of the party, came in slowly behind. Pulling up in the car park, right by the test track, we kept the gull wing doors open and pulled into a diagonal formation, for a fantastic photograph. From the club house a small group of Lotus employees looked on in marvel at the sight. It is not everyday that 25 DeLorean’s come to visit your place of work.
Time for the factory tour. We split into four groups, and I was in the last group, group four. We were called in a group at a time to sign a non-disclosure form of some kind and the drivers for the track to show their paperwork. After a drink and taking some photographs from the balcony, we were introduced to our guides. We had Trevor Bailey, who was very knowledgeable but at first a tad nervous, occasionally stuttering. However, he picked up confidence as he took us around the factory. Cameras were banned, but we did get more photographic opportunity than is normal applicable on a standard tour. On those, you are not even allowed to take a camera phone on to the site. I am not the biggest fan of Lotus. They are nice cars, but nothing overly exotic like some foreign imports. My favourite of course is the Espirit, but that is mainly due to the James Bond movie. I also like the Elan but do not like the look of some their more contemporary models. The Europa S does look good although still not floating my boat in comparison to the models from the 1980s and early 1990s. What surprised me the most was the lack of action ‘production’ at the site. The vehicles are just glorified kit cars, with all the parts pre-build else where in the world. So just a paint shop and a few guys to glue it all together. Sure, I exaggerate the difficult of the tasks, but it does if you a feel for what actually goes on here. We were shown everything from the final tests cars undertake (water and rolling road) to the original parts being shipping in from France. The production line itself is quite unique with two lanes and each car moving up the change every fifteen minutes. We returned to the club house for a quick light lunch followed by a briefing. We were purely going on parade on the track and it was not time for any heroics we were told. This was after all an anniversary and the DeLorean prototypes were tested on this very track, twenty five years ago. Richard was in the first group of drivers and we were given a generous six laps and a top speed down the straight of seventy miles an hour. (Just eighteen shown of the magic number!)
We returned from the track, just has it started to rain. The weather couldn’t hold off forever, but at least we had had more than our fair share of sunshine over the weekend. We then headed back into the club house, while the remaining cars had their turn. So with three runs in total. I took some more photographs from the balcony, but it was still raining quite steadily so I opted to come inside and talk to Andy for a while. Then Chris came upstairs and asked me how I had found the weekend. It had been brilliant and much better than an average weekend back at home. Colin Spooner, an ex-Lotus employee gave out the certificates at the final presentation. Mine was given out first, and I have a photograph with him, which I should get soon. In my pack was a photograph of the early prototype which I got Colin to sign. He gave a final talk about the car and turned it around on all the failure and controversy to the positives that came from the DeLorean project. Many new companies were formed which are still going strong today. With that it was time to go home, after thanking Chris and Richard. The drive home was busy, with many people coming back home after the half term holiday. We hit some heavy traffic on the M25, but the Tom Tom stayed true. I got home at 7.30pm and received a text from Hussein a little later, “home in time for Top Gear,” talk about perfect timing. Some weekends cost thousands of pounds, others are just completely priceless.
A quick photograph summary. Hussein took less than 42 pictures of the weekend, whereas I took nearly 300. I had taken 32 before we got to the hotel. This is the beauty of digital photography, you can take as many pictures as you like and not have to take such care with them. Then when you get home, there is the fantastic task of organising and picking the best photographs to upload to your FlickRset. Hussein of course, had purchased a pro account and uploaded his set by 10pm on Sunday evening. Where as I had not even uploaded the images from my camera. Look around and there are other people jumping on the DeLorean bandwagon. Sky One screen the classic movie tomorrow night at 8pm and then again on Sky Two on Wednesday night.