Long-time readers of Classic & Sports Car will already be au fait with the colourful collection of classics owned by magazine contributor Julian Balme – and next month you’ll be able to see them all for real.
That’s because Balme is set to be the featured collector at the prestigious London Concours, held in the capital on 5-6 June.
Balme’s enviable fleet, showcased regularly in the magazine’s Our Classics pages, includes such delights as ‘Wooly Bully’ – his 1954 Lincoln Cosmopolitan pictured above – plus a ’32 Ford ‘hot rod’, a Triumph TR4 racer and several other classics.
And if you’re excited by the prospect of seeing them in person, you’re not the only one.
“I’m chuffed to bits,” Balme told us. “Getting recognition on a group of cars that aren’t your usual everyday fare but aren’t high dollar exotica either is kind of neat.”
“The London Concours organisers should be applauded for thinking outside the box where my garage is concerned – it’s not your usual concours fodder,” he continued.
“None are particularly valuable or indeed shiny, but they all have a good back story and have provided me with plenty of memorable adventures. None are ‘the ex-so-and-so’ or ‘the event-winning such-and-such’. But together the cars and I have created our own unique history – a claim few concours exhibitors can match.”
These are also well-driven, hard-raced classics rather than concours queens.
“I don’t have a modern car, so any driving I have to do is in something at least 49 years old,” Balme adds.
The plan is to have a nine-strong display – and, unsurprisingly, American fare will feature heavily.
The earliest is Balme’s 1932 Ford Model B Roadster ‘hot rod’ that he’s owned since 2014, last featured in the August 2018 issue and more recently burbling along to C&SC’s gathering to remember much-missed colleague David Evans (C&SC June 2019).
He also hopes to bring a pair of Lincolns, with the aforementioned ‘Wooly Bully’ set to be on show alongside – fingers crossed – his 1940 Continental Cabriolet.
Three more Fords will grace The Honourable Artillery Company’s well-manicured lawns – and we’re sure Kandee Twist, his ’57 Ford Ranch Wagon ‘Gasser’, will be on its best, non-tyre-smoking behaviour.
This will be joined by Balme’s two 1964 Fords: Frank the Falcon, the race car he’s owned for 30 years, and the Galaxie 500 that’s been his since 1988.
Why the focus on Americana?
“Although my head had been turned by Jack Sears in the Willment Ford Galaxie as a kid, once old enough to drive, I started out as a British sports car kind of chap dead set on owning an Aston Martin,” he confides.
“I got a book called Le Mans ’59 and the coolest looking bloke in it by far was Carroll Shelby. My head was turned again. There was always something about the US scene that appeared so much more glamorous to me. My first American car was actually (whisper it) a 1965 Chevrolet El Camino. I destroyed it on the A2 10 days before I was to make my motor-racing debut…”
But C&SC readers will know from the Our Classics pages that it’s not all US metal chez Balme, and that diversity will be reflected in the London Concours display.
“I always thought it would be cool to just have Ford-engined cars, but mum’s Spitfire and my late wife’s Mini put pay to that,” he explains. “Because of those I didn’t feel too bad about going halves on the TR4.”
With this in mind, flying the flag for homegrown talent from Balme’s collection at the London Concours will be his once-yellow TR4 racer, last seen losing a wheel in action in our September 2018 issue, as well as his Morris Mini and Lotus Elan +2.
“I’ve nurtured relationships with all these vehicles,” he says. “They were acquired with a use in mind and over nearly 30 years the Falcon and Wooly have more than delivered in smiles per mile.”
And he’s hopeful they’ll prove popular next month: “They are always well received on the road with thumbs-ups all-round. I’m amazed that young kids who should know better still grab their mums’ clothing and point – long may they carry on!”