Le Mans 24 Hours, Indy 500, Monaco Grand Prix, Bonneville Salt Flats, Pendine Sands. Some of those names roll off the tongue with ease and are synonymous with great deeds in motor racing. But Pendine Sands in South Wales?
Well, yes!. In the 1920s it was the place to set land speed records most notably the great Donald Campbell in Blue Bird took advantage of the seven miles of firm flat and straight sands to record 172mph in 1927.
After those early years land speed records were moved to Bonneville in Utah, USA but Pendine was still used for testing. Then there was a lull and cars and speed records were banned from the beach and it was only seven years ago that the Vintage Hot Rod Association managed to get clearance to hold their annual event for hot rod cars built pre1949. To make use of all that space the cars have a chequered flag start and then a half mile run up into a final timed area.
Competitors come from all over the globe, the cars and engines are mainly American Ford, but within that some are trucks, some sedans and some seem to be just boxes on wheels. A few Pontiac, Lincoln and Chevrolet are also in the mix along with the wonderfully named Hilborn Streamliner and Willys Whippet.
Both of these have such a great history in motoring. The Whippet, from 1931, was made by Willys Overland who made the original US Army Jeep and the Hilborn Streamliner was such a great looking vehicle built for speed. After perfecting his design Stu Hilborn actually started a company to sell his fuel injection system to hot rodders of the 1950s and 1960s.
Of course the meeting is not just about those that are racing. Many come to show off their cars and for a chance to drive on the famous sands. The whole village of Pendine comes alive with the sound of V8s, some flathead and some cylinder head. Such is the interest in motoring history in this place, that cafe’s take on racing memorabilia themes and the local council are even building a motor museum.
Pendine is worth a visit at anytime but is very special when this Vintage Hot Rod Association event is on. It is also worth taking one of the most underrated drives in the country. Starting from Laugharne, home of Dylan Thomas, and well worth spending a few hours, drive to Pendine exit via the steep hill with stunning views and take the coast road to Amroth. From here pick up the signs to Wisemans Bridge and then to the great harbour village and fantastic beach of Saundersfoot.
Words & Photography by Simon Jay Price of Vintage Hotrod Association, Pendine Sands 15th & 16th June 2019