Bangers4Ben 2018: He Who Dares Wins
From England to central Europe, The Nags Head made it. Lovely jubbly.
Picture the scene, it’s the back end of summer and there are five days in October pencilled into the office calendar. These marked dates can only mean one thing, we’re signed up for Bangers4Ben.
Collective head scratching engaged, how are we going to stand out on our first B4B event as a company and what machine are we going to take with us? Do we go for power and performance or do we look for something a bit out there and try something that’s not been attempted before?
Naturally, and as we are always up for a challenge at 67 Degrees, we decided on the latter. Conscious of the rules of Bangers4Ben, which dictates that the participating vehicle must be sourced for no more than £750, we duly started the search for our noble steed. After putting out some feelers to our always supportive customers, it was Ideal Commercials that answered our banger call.
Fresh into stock as a part exchange, was a 2004 Vauxhall Vivaro. Despite appearances, this machine seemed to run surprisingly well albeit for the occasional squeak and rattle from the rear brakes, and what’s more, as it was destined to benefit charity, the generous team at Ideal Commercials donated the van to us completely free of charge. The only catch? It had covered near enough 250,000 miles! Perfect Bangers4Ben material.
With the ‘banger’ acquired it was time to work on our theme. Given we had a van, which had some generous real estate to play with, settling on an idea was hard. After a long list of idea’s, some more realistic than others, we finally decided on a pub. Not any old pub, however, the pub from Only Fools and Horses, The Nags Head. With two of Britain's most loved things worked into our theme, Bangers4Ben 2018 preparation was well and truly underway.
Fast forward through some long day’s and late nights and our van, which was now kitted out with a bar, bar stools, snacks, alcohol and even a dart board, was ready. Taking the definition of booze cruise to a whole new level it was time for our day one rendezvous at Brooklands in Surrey. However, before we get stuck in looking back over this years Bangers4Ben, what exactly is the event and how does it all work?
Organised annually by CarDealer Magazine, the sole purpose of the event is to raise as much money as possible for automotive charity Ben. Ben is an automotive benevolent fund designed to support both current and ex-members of the motor trade in times of need. With teams encouraged to source a vehicle for no more than £750 and to then decorate said vehicle to be as eye-catching as possible, the vehicles are then auctioned at the end of the rally with all proceeds directly benefitting the charity.
This year saw the events 10th anniversary and to celebrate in style we would be driving approximately 1600 miles over 4 days through France, Germany, Belgium and the UK. With a sprinkling of tasks and challenges along the way for good measure, the event would culminate at a special black-tie dinner in Northampton to celebrate 10 years of Bangers4Ben.
Day 1: Brooklands to Reims, France:
The destination for the start of this years event was Brooklands in Surrey. Home of the oldest banked motor racing circuit in the world Brooklands is home to some historic planes as well as iconic cars which made this the perfect setting for our state of the art bangers.
You’d think the first leg of a rally like this would be the easy part, especially when you were still on home soil, but this is where you would be wrong. Whilst all the other participants were lining up on the Brooklands banking for the annual Bangers4Ben family photo, our van decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to give up the ghost, rolling up to the entrance where the engine cried enough.
Pushed up a crest by some helpful security guards we coasted down a hill to where the other teams had formed up and it’s here the helpful AA team, who themselves would accompany the rally, gave their verdict. The camshaft sensor had failed and if a replacement couldn’t be sourced the future of The Nags Head in the rally looked in serious jeopardy. A desperate rush with the AA to source the part locally yielded success and before long the new part was being fitted in earnest. However, as per usual when fixing one problem another arises and as a result of the work, we were unable to turn the van off by the key save for stalling it every time. A small price to pay to continue on our banger adventure!
With time no longer on our side, it was a big push to see us arrive in Dover in time for our Ferry to cross the channel into France. It was here that we would meet our fellow banger buddies. Walking up and down the ferry queue it was clear that people had put in a real effort this year.
Whether it was a Volvo with Cow on its roof, a Ford KA converted into Noddy’s car or a 1000bhp Toyota Celica, there really was no shortage of variety. The ferry queue also gave us the first opportunity to open up The Nags Head and this allowed us the time to give out our bags of sweets and Peckham spring water, which had been faithfully designed to be an authentic replica of the original, to each team.
A smooth crossing to France passed by and before we knew it we were all well on the way to our first stop of the trip, Reims where a number of teams would explore the sights and bars of the city until late in the evening.
Day 2: Reims to Stuttgart, Germany:
Day 2 beckoned for us bright and early. Whilst there were a few tired eyes from the night before, the day began at the site of one of the early birth places of Grand Prix racing, Reims. Whilst the glory days of this circuit are long behind it, the legend that this place holds still burns brightly today with its remaining grandstand and pit complex proving to be a mecca for car fans and driving tours alike.
With teams forming up early to catch the sunrise as it broke over the French countryside, the start of the day was a special one and proved the perfect setup for what lay ahead. What was ahead was a long drive to Germany's industrial heartland, Stuttgart and a route that would take teams along de-restricted autobahns and through the famous and beautiful black forest region before the day's stopover.
With the trials of the first day-long behind us, our trusty van ran faultlessly and even turned off on the key on occasion. Over dinner the other teams shared their experiences of the day with the Samsons Team, who bravely took on the event in a Robin Reliant, sharing their nailbiting story of making it through some tight and twisty hairpins without rolling over! With the promise of more challenging driving roads and a visit to the fabled Nurburgring ahead, we all took the opportunity to grab some much-needed shut-eye ahead day 3.
Day 3: Stuttgart to Bruges, Belgium:
A day of landmark occasions, spectacular driving roads and a fantastic end destination all lay ahead of us on day 3. Leaving Stuttgart it was to be a day of approximately 400 miles of driving which would see us leave Germany and continue onwards to the picturesque Belgian city of Bruges.
For anyone with the remotest interest in cars, it was hard to not notice that the route would pass by the world-renowned Nurburgring. One of the oldest and most notorious race circuits in the world, it’s been nicknamed the green hell and the widow maker and it’s not hard to see why. 12.9 miles of asphalt snaking its way through the forests of surrounding Nurburg in no less than 73 corners. Naturally, with a landmark such as this on the route, many teams set their sat nav’s to make the most of this opportunity.
The Nurburgring wasn’t the only race circuit on offer that day as we also passed the Hockenheim Ring, venue of the current German Grand Prix, a stop which a number of teams took advantage of, and the famous Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium would also feature on teams hit lists after a visit to the Nurburgring.
With teams having ambitions of getting their bangers out on track at the Nurburgring there were more than just a few disappointed faces as we arrived to discover that thick fog had halted track action with the circuit closed until further notice. With most teams moving on, some teams stayed on in the hope of the circuit reopening. Unfortunately for those that waited around, this wasn’t to be the case, however, their patience was rewarded as TV’s Guy Martin made a surprise appearance in the circuit’s car park. He was even overheard saying how impressive some of the bangers were!
Ploughing on through the German countryside, the fog eventually faded as we made it into Belgium for the last slog to our hotel in Bruges for the night. Arriving in the Belgian city it became apparent that this was a location that fellow banger buddies hadn’t visited before so it seemed only right to head out to see the city first hand and sample a Belgian beer or two.
Day 4: Bruges to Rockingham, UK:
Bruges experienced, beers sampled, it was time for those that went easy on the night before to get behind the wheel and set out on the road to Calais where we’d embark on our ferry to get us back to blighty.
Unlike other years where the Bangers4Ben story would end at this point, this year we were just getting started on what promised to be an exciting day of challenges. Andy Entwistle of CarDealer magazine had informed us to regroup at Northamptonshire’s Rockingham Motor Speedway where ourselves and our trusty bangers would be put through a number of challenges. These were to include a 0-60 time, a track time shootout and a handbrake turn challenge.
Given The Nags Head was clearly built for speed, we didn’t see the need to remove the pork scratchings or beer from our van before setting out on these challenges! Pushing the van to the limit out on the infield circuit at Rockingham was a real experience and one that we’ll remember fondly as its tyres squealed in agony. We’d have loved to have attempted the handbrake turn challenge but fortunately or unfortunately, delete as applicable, our handbrake was broken.
Despite the abuse, our banger was faultless and soaked up Rockingham beautifully. It was also a real pleasure to get a chance to drive the circuit before it closes for good at the end of the year before being redeveloped into housing.
After our brakes had cooled and rediscovered a little bit of life, we departed Rockingham for our final stop of the trip, the Hilton in Northampton. Wrapping up the event was a formal black-tie dinner where the successes of the trip were awarded and each team presented with the highly sought after Bangers4Ben memento.
Post dinner we had the pleasure of opening up The Nags Head in the hotel car park to host the bangers after party until late where guests took advantage of our free beer, snacks and entertainment which included a dart board and Only Fools and Horses face masks to give the pub that final authentic touch. The perfect way to end a fantastic few days.
With everyone still alive and with Bangers4Ben at a close for 2018, all that is left to say is just what a fantastic experience it was. Despite our early mechanical problems, our banger made the distance and if anything, runs better now than before we started.
It was a real pleasure to run alongside like-minded individuals which made the whole trip truly memorable. Couple this to the fact that we are all aiming to raise as much money as possible for such a worthy cause and you have an event unlike any other. It is now time to say goodbye to our banger which goes under the hammer at BCA Blackbushe, and online, on October the 26th and we look forward to seeing what The Nags Head can fetch at auction.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Ideal Commercials for the very generous donation of our van and to Limitless - Graphics & Car Modifications who helped us to transform the exterior of our banger. Finally, we’d like to extend a very special thanks to Ben, CarDealer magazine and everyone who took part in this years Bangers4Ben, all of which helped to make it such a memorable year for us.
Here’s to 2019.
Be sure to take a look at our Bangers4Ben gallery over on our Facebook page and the #B4B18 hashtag on Twitter, of which features all the updates from everyone on the event. In addition, if you are feeling generous, there is still time to donate over at our Just Giving page which can be found here.