Words by & copyright to Oliver Hammond (Founder, Vel Satis Owners Club)
Photographs by Isabel Carter, Robert ‘Rosic’ Korczak, Luke McCorry & Oliver Hammond
After a month or so of planning and organisation, the day finally came for our Vel Satis Owners Club’s joint meeting with the Avantime Owners Club in Staffordshire. And as luck would have it, the sun was shining, which was nicely in contrast to the forecasted weather!
The location for the meet was the Wolseley Arms pub in Wolseley Bridge, just north west of Rugeley – a small Staffordshire town in spitting distance of the M6. The pub is situated right next to the bridge over the picturesque River Trent. Sadly any hopes of a quick lunchtime dip were quashed by the ‘Caution Deep Water’ sign next to the life ring in the car park!
The first Vel Satis to arrive was David’s (forum name: DMH52 Vel Satis) 3.0 Initiale nicknamed ‘Jean-Marc’ after the Frenchman he bought the car from – a glorious-looking Vel Satis in grey, with very stylish blue leather, along with the wooden steering wheel upgrade which caused quite a stir! David’s wife Adrienne has forbidden him to ever sell the Vel Satis as she’s never sat in a car anywhere near as comfortable!
A short while later, the Vel Satis Owners Club’s founder Oliver arrived with his wife Izzy in his Hessian Beige on beige leather 3.0 Initiale nicknamed ‘Hubert’, which, according to Vel Satis fanatic Luke McCorry, smelt the newest out of all the cars present!
Due to a minor diversion to the garden centre across the road from the Wolseley Arms, Oliver wasn’t on hand to welcome the arrival of Illiad Blue Avantime owner Colin from Darlington. His Avantime has a black interior and sports the nifty private plate ‘AA02 ART’. Hats off to Colin for giving his Avantime a real good going over with cleaning products when he arrived, putting the rest of us to shame!
Next to arrive was Jem from Stockport, a gem of a chap (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun!) who owns a silver 3.0 Initiale Vel Satis and runs a camera business in Manchester. He and David share the exclusivity of being the only two Vel Satis owners present to have the wooden steering wheel option. Jem’s car sports a private plate which spells out his surname and none of us minded his car’s unfortunate scratches one bit – the important thing was to welcome another Vel Satis owner at the club’s first meet.
Hot on the heels of Jem, two cars arrived at the same time – Mike Widlof the founder of the Avantime Owners Club in his Java Green 3.0, followed by his wife Cath in their recently-purchased silver 3.5 Vel Satis Initiale LPG Dual Fuel! It was an absolute pleasure to have Mike, Cath and their 2 children join us.
In no time, another Vel Satis turned up, piloted by Robert (forum name: Rosic) from Poland who lives and works in Cumbria. Robert’s a top guy and we’re really pleased he could make it. He has done a terrific job retro-fitting an Initiale’s cream leather interior into his storm blue 2.2 Privilege, as well as fitting the rear blinds, a hands-free phone system, oh, and a fantastic model Vel Satis mascot on his dashboard!
Avantime number 3 soon arrived, driven by Brad (forum name: Verytallbrad – we thought you’d be knocking on for 7ft!), a smashing bloke from Worcestershire with a lot of car-related stories to tell! Brad is a car collector and has so many I couldn’t possibly begin to try and recite them all, but in terms of Renaults, his collection included 2 Vel Satises (1 more on the way soon!) and 2 Avantimes. I say ‘included’ because none of the aforementioned Renaults are currently running, but not wanting to miss our meet, Brad went up to North Yorkshire on the 10th to collect an Illiad Blue Avantime specially, bless him. It’s a brilliant, low-mileage 3.0 example with full cream leather interior and a dual-exhaust system fitted which sounds fabulous. Some of Brad’s other cars regularly feature in TV shows, such as Rover models in Doctor Who and Eastenders and various other cars in shows such as Ashes to Ashes and even Crimewatch reconstructions!
The final members to arrive were (justifiably because he only lives round the proverbial corner) Geoff, otherwise known as Mr Mosky on the Avantime forum, who owns a stunning 2.0 Steel Grey Avantime, and Luke McCorry (forum name: R9UKE) who lives and breathes Renaults and who sold his Hessian Beige 3.0 Initiale to his aunt Pam, who came along with him. Pam’s a lovely lady who really does like her Vel Satis a lot and says that many friends and neighbours say they prefer it to their Mercs or similar cars!
After a good deal of enthusiastic and passionate chin-wagging and time spent poking around each others’ Vel Satises and Avantimes in the car park, most attendees headed inside for lunch, whilst Oliver briefly helped Mike jump-start his Avantime as it was bizarrely refusing to oblige. Good job Oliver had jam-packed the boot of his Vel Satis with all kinds of portable tools and other bits and bobs, included among which was a battery power pack!
The 15 of us thereafter enjoyed a nice lunch inside the Wolseley Arms, chatting away relentlessly til we felt we really should shift ourselves and go for a scenic drive! The staff at the Wolseley Arms were friendly and accommodating and everyone seemed to enjoy the food. Their halloumi salad is definitely worth a try if you’re into that kind of thing and the pub itself is very homely and inviting with lots of little nooks and crannies to settle into.
After tapping into some local area knowledge courtesy of ‘Mr Mosky’ Geoff, the remaining cars set off on a drive in convoy. For both the people in the convoy and any onlookers, it must have proved quite a sight to see 5 Vel Satises and 2 Avantimes in a row, proceeding through Staffordshire countryside! Well, all except for the lady driving the A4 Cabriolet who became rather irate and obviously didn’t appreciate the moving art form she was sat behind. We drove up to Blithfield reservoir, by which point the sky had unfortunately turned a little grey and some spots of rain appeared – but not enough to dampen the spirits of the keen Vel Satis and Avantime snappers!
And would you believe it, a light blue Vel Satis decided to tag along with us for a short distance, completely out of the blue! Or was it? The driver strangely didn’t stop to find out what was going on, but disappeared out of sight for a few minutes and then drove back past us for a second-take! We all signalled to the driver to join us, but he just grinned, waved and kept on driving…
The route then took us clockwise up towards Uttoexter, north-eastwards to Marchington, across to Draycott-in-the-Clay, back down towards Newborough then westwards back to Blithfield reservoir. This time the sun kept shining, enough so that some of us bought ice creams from chatty Keith the ice cream man, after we’d parked our six remaining cars in a nice row in sight of the reservoir. We stopped there for a good while, Mike from the Avantime OC and Oliver from the Vel Satis OC in deep discussion over an ice cream, the Vel Satis Ladies chatting away on the grass bank, Luke closely inspecting all the cars with Will, and Robert busy setting up his tripod.
After plenty more photos, we headed back to the Wolseley Arms where some said their goodbyes while others stayed to have a drink at the tables outside. Luke, Oliver, Robert and Izzy went on a little drive past Shugborough Hall towards Stafford to investigate a mystery noise on one of the Vel Satises and encountered some splendidly idyllic hamlets along the way. Then back at the pub we all said what really were the final farewells of the day and headed home, Oliver and Robert driving in convoy up the M6 as far as the M56.
So an enjoyable day was had by all, and we would once again like to say a very sincere and big ‘thank you!’ to all who came along!
Until the next meet…
Written by & Copyright to Oliver Hammond, 2011, All Rights Reserved
For more photos, visit the June 2011 Staffordshire Meet gallery in the Photo Album section, and for more information contact in the first instance.