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Billing Fun Run 2008 – Should I stay or should I go?

Anyone for fishing?


To stay or not to stay?  That seemed to be a consistently hot topic of conversation at Billing Aquadrome last weekend during the course of the annual Fun Run.  The fact that the weather had been less than kind on the run-up to the event, now in its 36th year at the Northamptonshire venue, meant conditions for showing off hundreds of gleaming hot rods over the course of the weekend weren’t great, with notable amounts of standing water on the main showground in particular.  Couple this with the mud churned up by countless wheels driving over the same bits of ground, plus a spate of petty thefts, and you begin to see why some show-goers were less than enthusiastic about returning next year.

The owner of the ex-Nick Diss Model A seemed to revel in churning up the mud. We noticed the car was also for sale - a last fling perhaps!  


“We’ve seen all of the comments on the web site,” said NSRA Chairman, David Biggadyke, in conversation this week.  “Yes, there was a problem with the weather, and theft has always been an issue at Billing, but I can’t see that improving on a public camp site without special measures being taken by the site’s owners.  If it had been three days of glorious sunshine, I wonder if people would have said anything.  However, we’ve take on board the comments and will be in serious discussion with Billing management in the near future, not just about the drainage of the showground and theft, but other issues, too.”

This is the view of the showground from the beer marquee on Sunday.  The majority of rods were parked up at the far end


So what about the event itself?  Well, as regular attendees will attest, the Billing Fun Run is as much a social event as an opportunity to show off new cars.  As is the norm at Billing, there were several new vehicles making their public debuts, including several cars built by Valley Gas Speed Shop - including 'Participants' Choice' show winner Andy Crockett's '37 Coupe.  In addition, we spotted a lovely, flat-nosed Ford Anglia, owned by Andy Chaddock, which we hadn't seen before and a very straight-looking, bright red Henry J.

This year's NSRA Supernationals giveaway is this great looking gasser-style Chevy Coupe.  You need to pre-enter by June 30 to stand a chance of winning it


There may have been many large soggy patches on the showground, but the place was as busy as ever – as we discovered while trying to find a dry patch of ground on which to erect our tent during Saturday afternoon – no chance!   When we finally did find a suitable spot and got the job done, our friendly neighbour was clear in his advice: “Don’t leave anything in your tents.   Those three over there were raided on Friday night.”  It didn’t sound too promising as we started to unwind for the evening and vacated our temporary shelters in favour of the showground and a well-earned pint!


Evening entertainment was pretty much the usual rodders’ fare, with a combination of music, a marquee, beer and good company.  Fortunately, the weather also held, which meant the small talk went on well past midnight.

Jimmy and Ellie Hibberd upped the interest in Valley Gas Speed Shop with a trade stand and a display of some of their latest customer cars. Jimmy's trusty Willys coupe was one of the star attractions too

Custom front end treatment by VGSS for Gordon Christie's F1 pick-up


We were awoken in the early hours of Sunday morning by the unmistakable – and unwelcome – pitter-patter of rain on canvas, but happily, it had stopped by 9.00am and it was time to emerge from our tents, get the kettle on and cook a slice or two of bacon.  As an aside, isn’t it amazing how much better a bacon sandwich tastes when you eat it outdoors?


Sunday’s show and shine was a pretty haphazard affair, as the hard-working NSRA marshals faced the thankless task of attempting to guide cars onto the few patches of dry showground available.  Predictably enough, this resulted in small clumps of cars scattered around, which gave the place a somewhat empty, uncoordinated look.  In truth, there were plenty of rods present – it’s just that there was no one area both large enough and dry enough for owners to park their cars up together.   

John Smith's Henry J made the NSRA Top 10


And that’s pretty much as it stayed throughout the day.  The trade stands seemed to be doing a brisk trade – in fact, it frequently amazes me to see vendors at hot rod events selling items that have nothing to do with the hobby.  Do they really make a profit when some of the dedicated traders don’t seem to?  I guess the simple answer is that they must, or they wouldn’t be there.


Putting the gripes to one side, this year’s Billing Fun Run was another well organised NSRA event, with the association’s officials having to cope with weather conditions and other issues that were not of their making.  No doubt a sunny weekend would have improved the turnout and there would have been more new cars to look over.  As it was, the show understandably enough seemed to lack its usual “wow” factor.  On the plus side, though, we have the SuperNationals to look forward to, one of the major highlights of which is likely to be the debut of Tony Osborne’s amazing Willys Gasser, about which we’ve heard so much.  We wonder what other newcomers will be there.    

The planned fire-up of a nitro burning fuel altered created much interest.  Sadly,however, the motor refused to start


Finally, and to end on a slightly sour note, while leaving the showground on Sunday afternoon, we learned that another rodder had been a victim of crime, having had his watch stolen from his tent on Sunday morning – in broad daylight!  In light of this, and the other problems, we pondered the question, is it time to say goodbye to Billing once and for all?  We asked several well-known UK rodders for their views:


Mike Taylor

I didn’t like the layout this year, as normally we get a large area for the West Country boys, but that was not the case and we were packed in pretty tightly.  The weather was an issue and so was theft, but the NSRA did their best under the circumstances.  However, I’m easy on whether we go or stay.


Steve Young

The weather makes or breaks a rod run and you make the most of it.  The NSRA put on a good show.  I’ve always liked Billing, but security is an issue as you can’t stop the general public from coming in.  It wouldn’t bother me if the event was held at a different place.


Dave Sturgess

I’ve been going to Billing for about 20 years now.  I’ve nothing against the place so long as it’s dry. It’s a bit much, though, to have a show field that seems to act like a sponge when the wet weather comes.  What would be ideal is if a large area of tarmac, or similar, was laid down on the showground.  The appeal of Billing has changed for me over the years.  Before, I would come here with my family and make use of the fair and all the other facilities, but as you get older, those aspects become less relevant.  Billing is a tried and tested venue that must be a lot simpler to operate and plug into than if the NSRA went somewhere else, where they would probably be starting from scratch.


Lee Garwood

I’m divided on the issue.  I remember going to Billing when I was a kid and have always liked it for its convenience and location.  However, I was disgusted by the condition of the showground this year, as that’s the main focus of the event.  If Billing is to continue being used for car shows, then something needs to be done to make it an all-weather showground with a hard-wearing surface and proper drainage.  You would think this would be a priority for the owners, bearing in mind how much revenue car-based events must pull in.

This Ford Tudor resto rod created much interest, but we couldn't find the owner to find out more about it

Billing Top 10

Dave Holmes             ’55 Ford F100

Les Howlett                Model A Roadster

Carl Jackson              ’56 Chevy

Pat Miles                    ’40 Ford pick-up

Richard Parker          ’39 Ford Coupe

Stewart Revill            ’58 Chevy Fleetside

Paul Stephens            ’54 Chevy 210

John Smith                  ’51 Henry J

Louis Turner               ’34 Coupe

Dee Young                  Model A Roadster pick-up   

Participants’ Choice - Andy Crockett ’37 Coupe

We think this is Carl Jackson's '56 Chevy, and if it is then it was very much a worthy Top 10 winner

Fancy a lovely old '39 Ford Delux Coupe?  This one was for sale at £17,950 and sported a brand new 350 Chevy and matching auto box.  The spec was impressive.  Tel Des on: 0121 742 1636

Les Howlett's Model A on recontoured '32 rails has been transformed with the addition of cream spoke wheels and a new hood.

This red roadster was new to us - the owner opting for a more modern rather than traditional 'look'  

This heavily chopped Model A is a recent import by Arran Haywood.  Interior (below) boasts aviation-inspired seats

Phil Perry has sold his lovely '37 Ford sedan - one of the nicest driving rods in the country by all accounts 

......naked and dirty by the looks of it!

Chopped and tubbed '54 Chevy of Paul Stephens

Old dashboards for sale   

The bug display included this spectacular example 

They don't come much better than the shape of this slammed Chevy on modern alloys.  It needed work but was a great project - if you have the space.
Call Nick on 07793 670534  


I seem to remember this car was featured in Hot Car in the early Eighties.  I guess it's a useful reminder of how far we've come!  

Outstanding fuel altered tot rod by Pete Ayres features a hand-formed aluminium body.  An incredible amount of work has gone into this project

One of our show favourites was this flat-nosed Anglia by Andy Chaddock which runs an injected Ford V6 and hydraulics.

1969 Z/28 was up for sale and recently advertised on ebay.  It was a no-sale on the web for £13,000

Stuart Seymour has created this convincing marriage of 1930s American Ford front panel work with a 1955 English Ford Popular body

Another newcomer from VGSS was this chopped five-window belonging to Dave Batson

Arran Hayward's other ride is this seriously nice Fleetside sporting exquisite pinstriping by Melissa Gee

Story: Andy Kirk  & Graham Jones
Photos: Andy Kirk

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