» Issue 32: Spring 2003

Bo's centenary celebrations

Dan Lehmann (Elec 2001) reports on the highlights of a memorable year

Missed it? Then you missed out! Over 350 people were present for the day or evening dinner on Saturday 22 June, despite forecasts of torrential rain. In reality, however, the weather was dry all weekend, and the sun occasionally appeared.

The day started off bright and early at 8.00am, when Bo' was driven from the nearby campsite to the Heritage Motor Centre situated in Gaydon. It was then out with the Brasso, to make sure that he would look spectacular for his birthday weekend. It was soon 10.00am and the gates to the Centre opened, with first of many visitors arriving for the celebrations.

Past and present Bo' drivers

A surviving relation

A fine collection of historic cars, ranging from a Bentley and AC Ace to an authentic Willys Jeep and MG Midget, were exhibited in the South Arena for visitors to see as they arrived. The star of the weekend was proudly parked in front of the spectacular motor centre building, with his only surviving relation: a 1904 James & Browne.

Visitors were treated to a huge range of activities and exhibitions throughout the day. Whether it was the 4x4 experience circuit, the. fire pumping demonstration by the RCS' 1916 fire engine Jez, a trip around the museum's roads on the RSM's 1926 Morris truck Clem, or the Bo' exhibition in the museum, everyone seemed to be fully occupied and it did not seem very long before the day was drawing to a close.

A quick photo-shoot outside the museum gathered together over 35 previous Bo' drivers, ranging from Joe Pidgeon (the very first driver of the current Bo' in 1934) to Tom Williams, this year's driver.

Champagne reception

At 6.00pm the changing rooms swung into action, and over one hundred guests headed to the Centre's Rooftop Restaurant for the champagne reception. Professor Rod Smith, President of the City & Guilds Motor Club and Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, welcomed everybody and recounted memories of his London to Brighton trip in Bo' in 1999.

After enjoying the views across the Warwickshire and Oxfordshire countryside from the balcony, everybody sat down to a superb three-course meal and plenty of wine, after grace said by David Lamb, this year's C&G Motor Club Captain.

After coffee, it was time for Tom Williams to take the floor. He spoke about the year so far, and thanked Steven Laing and the Heritage Motor Centre team for their help with the event. Details about the forthcoming London to Paris trip followed, and he ended by announcing that he would be handing the job of Bo' driver over to Dan Lehmann for the following year.

The speeches were then opened to the floor and a number of previous Bo' drivers recalled amusing stories from their time in the job. These included the occasion when Bo' was stolen by Southampton University, and the time when the Bo' driver was arrested in Hyde Park, but then let off by a sympathetic judge!

Team Bo' would like to thank all who came and -in particular -Richard Gundersen for his encouragement and help, and Richard Proctor who bought his 1904 James & Browne all the way from Devon.

Gaydon to Paris

On Sunday 23 June, hot on the heels of the celebrations at Gaydon, Bo' departed on his first ever trip abroad -to Paris. It was a challenging journey over four times as long as any other in memory, but Team Bo' managed to rise to the occasion.

Supported by a Land Rover towing a trailer full of tools and spares, and a car with additional team members, Bo' headed to Imperial's Wye campus in Kent, for first night hospitality.

In France the next day, the team's preparations and expertise were tested when the engine needed re-building after one of the crank case bearings came loose. Tom Williams remarked: "It required roadside machining which was very entertaining for the French, who thought we were mad!"

Following further adventures, a triumphant team arrived at the Ecole Poly technique, Paris, on Friday 28 June, to hand the President a letter from Rector, Sir Richard Sykes.

A fine crack in a fuel pipe caused concern the next day, but did not prevent the team from reaching their final goal -the Eiffel Tower. The journey saw the driving team boldly imitating the style of Parisian drivers, wildly gesticulating as Bo', with horn beeping, dived into gaps!

A diary covering each day of the journey to and from Paris, plus maps and photographs, can be viewed via Bo's centenary celebrations web pages:

Bo' in Paris

Brighton Run

Bo's 68th successful London to Brighton Run took place on Sunday 3 November.

Sir Noel Davies (Mech 1956), Chairman of Ricardo plc and former 'Bo' driver, joined students on the journey to Brighton. There, with current driver Dan Lehmann, Sir Noel presented a message of goodwill from the Lord Mayor of London -on behalf of the businesses and citizens of the City of London -to Councillor David Watkins, the Mayor of Brighton and Hove. In return, they received a message for the City of London.

It was a trouble-free journey and Sir Noel remarked: "I'm delighted to see how well Bo' has been maintained over the last 50 years."

Sir Noel's company, Ricardo, sponsored the City & Guilds College Union float in the Lord Mayor's Show, which took place the following Saturday. Fittingly, as the end of a strenuous but memorable year approached, Bo's 'lap of honour' in the City of London allowed him to relax, riding on the float, but still very much the centre of attention.

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