A dedicated club of classic car enthusiasts is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. NATALYA SMITH delves into their history.

MEMBERS of the Gwent Classic Car Club (GCCC) have met every month for the past four decades to partake in events together and discuss their shared interests.

Chairman Brian Campbell, 67, has been in the club for nearly 18 years, for 10 of which he has been the chairman.

“I had had various classic cars and was persuaded by a member to join,” said Mr Campbell.

The club has gone from strength to strength since its humble beginnings in 1977. Ken Payne founded GCCC after buying a classic car, a black 1952 Standard Vanguard, five years previously.

Naming his car MAD after the initials on its registration number, Mr Payne soon found other people with a growing interest for preserving older cars.

Mr Payne said: “At the time, there were single make clubs and a classic car club in Bristol, but it was too far to go to meetings, so I thought it would be a good idea if we had a club locally for all makes of classic cars.

“I approached the South Wales Argus with the idea of starting such a club and they were very supportive. They took a great picture of me with MAD and it appeared on the front page of the Argus with a short write-up and my contact details. As they say, the rest is history.”

This is where 79-year-old Doug Danter, an original member of the club and now the editor of its magazine, The Musketeer, found out about GCCC.

He said: “I had heard about it from my next-door-neighbour, having an interest in Austin 7s, and then I read about the club in the Argus write-up.”

Original meetings were held in The Borderers on Malpas Road (now the Harvester), and The Ship in Caerleon. However, the club’s growing popularity meant that soon they had to relocate to The Three Horseshoes on Pillmawr Road in Malpas.

“As our membership grew, the facilities became too small and we’d have to move on and find another pub to meet in,” explained Mr Danter.

Mr Payne left Newport in 1982, but the club continued to flourish. Meeting once or twice a month over the next four decades, the membership has fluctuated, from dwindling into single figures to hosting as many as 50 at one time.

“We have about 32 members currently, ranging from people in their 20s to people in their 80s,” said Mr Campbell.

“The membership has grown to include a mixture of men and women of all ages, from Doug the original member to some young ladies with an interest in the cars. We have a family membership now, so it’s no longer just men with cars bringing along their wives and children.”

He added: “The best thing about the club is that it keeps the classic cars going, having a group of people who can chat about them with lots of expertise – that, and of course, the social side!”

This social aspect has always been at the heart of Gwent Classic Car Club. As it became more established, it was able to put on numerous events over the years, the biggest highlight of the year being the Caldicot Castle Car Rally.

The charity event raised up to £1,000 for St Anne’s Hospice each year.

Other popular events were the Leukaemia Historic Rally, which used to be held in Tredegar House, and the Caldicot Castle barbecues.

“They were held on the nearest Sunday to Halloween in the picnic area on the castle grounds,” said Mr Danter.

Today, the summer events include barbecues, social evenings, and car shows. The Cardiff Bay Car Show, an invitation-only event, allowed the club to showcase the high standard of their cars.

“We do mid-monthly run-outs in the summer, looking for suitable places of interest to meet,” said Mr Campbell, who has organised trips to Chepstow Castle and picnics in Usk as some of their destinations.

The monthly meetings continue throughout the year, although some of the classic cars are put away during the winter.

“Salt on the road and old cars don’t mix,” said Mr Danter, “but we like to keep up the social events throughout the winter like pub meetings and meals in local restaurants, most importantly the annual Christmas dinner!”

Forty years since its founding, GCCC has stood the test of time. A thriving membership exists today, attending meetings on the first Tuesday of every month at the Rising Sun in Rogerstone.

“People come and go, due to various circumstances, but we’ve always had a core group of people meeting every month,” said Mr Danter.

“At the moment, we have approximately 39 classic cars, from as old as 1922 to some from the 1980’s, said Mr Campbell, who owns a 1937 Clement Talbot. Mr Danter prefers a 1963 MGB Roadster, calling it “a real car”.

The 40th anniversary is a testament to the passion and community spirit acting as the driving force behind the Gwent Classic Car Club.

“What’s made the club last for 40 years is a solid base of membership in the area,” said Mr Campbell. He added: “For people who have classic cars, having a club of like-minded people helps to maintain the interest and keep the cars alive.”