1959 Balchowsky Buick Special

Chateau Impney Hill Climb - England
July 9-10, 2016

We were invited to bring the Shelby Cobra and the Old Yeller II to the Chateau Impney Hill Climb. There are only 200 race-cars invited and we were honored in having two cars accepted and entered in the racing event. Historically, there were many Hill Climb Racing Events in England.

We arrived into Emsworth, England on a Sunday afternoon so we had 3 quiet days with beautiful breezy weather. Our first stop was at “Mother Kelly’s Fish and Chips” and Chad gave me the regular ‘Pea Fritter’ on a bun at no charge! They had an incredible amount of rain so everywhere was a gorgeous and brilliant green. We had time for tea and scones with clotted cream and heritage preserves local to the area. On the flight we had a problem with a double printed seat assignment and were told to wait but a stroke of luck happened our way, as we were escorted to Business Class from our Economy seats!

Sean and Mike of England did a lot of work for us to get the cars ready for the respected Hill Climb event last weekend... we had clutch problems with the cars, but they got it working for the Hill Climb. We had to airfreight the newly re-built race 401 Nailhead completed by John Beck of Chico California. The new motor had so much brute torque that we could have pulled out tree stumps with the Buick motor. Special metal vertical timing struts were placed at the front of both cars.

The Chateau Impney is located a short distance from Stratford upon Avon of Shakespeare history. It was all so humbling as the Chateau Impney Hill Climb Media Team “promoted” our two cars we raced and introduced our cars with good PR introducing our cars as the “Hollywood Stars” as the Shelby Cobra was in the movie “Love Bug” and the OYII was in “Viva Las Vegas” with Elvis Presley. The Media Director scheduled 9 interviews for me including two BBC TV spots (one live and we waited following completion of the Andy Murray tennis match at Wimbledon, an interview at the car at 8:00 PM) and two Radio spots (one live BBC Radio interview via telephone and following the bantering of the new “Top Gear” program being ‘rubbish’) and one UK magazine interview. The announcer Andrew Easton did an opening segment for BBC while sitting in the Old Yeller II. The Media Department also downloaded the Hero 4 camera clips from Old Yeller II for future PR and then they sent a Professional Film Company to install a professional live feed camera in the Cobra with remote control as our car was selected to mount the camera so when I went on the Hill Climb Course... the fans had a “Big Screen” viewing from the inside of my cockpit of the Cobra so I had to be very careful not to clip the big hay bales in front of the trees!!!

Since we had two cars racing, after finishing our first run up the hill I had to jump from the Old Yeller II and then to virtually run to the Cobra that was already positioned in the Batch/Grid lineup for the next runs. The Organizers positioned our cars in a very special spot near the entrance of the Chateau and not with the usual line up of cars adjacent to each other and with “batch” cars so somewhat embarrassing. Robert Manson of Carmel came with his 1952 Streets Manning Special. Several Elvis fans came to see the “movie car” after seeing the segment on BBC!

Elaine was busy handing out American Lollies, card, and pins and the fans loved her. We take a hardbound sketchbook filled with drawings and we invite fans of all ages to sign the book for us. Two of the filming crews came specifically to film and discuss our “Sketchbook” if you can imagine (on Chateau site). We invited the legendary Motorsports artist/painter and friend Barry Rowe of England to join us, as we had extra rooms booked. Barry has done 17 of the last 18 Pebble Beach Tour posters and he surprised us with gift of a priceless original painting of the Old Yeller II racing in front of the beautiful Chateau Impney. The Hill Climb course up the hill and in front of the Chateau was very tricky with some short straight segments along with very tight “hairpin” corners.

One session On one run up the hill I was ready for the red light to turn green at the start line when a Marshal hurriedly cut across waving a large red flag stopping everything. The Marshall then escorted the 4 large white geese that started to walk across course at the start area right in front of me !!! The races with two cars were some of the most demanding requiring incredible focus with quick fast bursts of speed. There was a Grand Ball Black Tie event and how grand in the main Ballroom at the Chateau Impney. For the Grand Ball Elaine wore her fully beaded Chinese high collar Cham Sung dress and it is always a knock out look.

We traveled back to the small town of Littlehampton where we stayed and it was near Emsworth the town was across from a beautiful beach area. There were small wood beach huts lined up for rent in ever very bright color you could imagine. Elaine and I had a quiet day of walking around in the chilly air coming off the ocean. We were having dinner at the “Gravy Boat” and the song ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow” was playing and later we saw a rainbow walking the beach. It was another most incredible and memorable event for us and England was grand. It was one event to remember and the very special hospitality extended to us was priceless.

Video: Old Yeller 2 Buick Special at Chateau Impney Hill Climb 2016

View a slideshow of our Chateau Impney Hill Climb.

Ernie and Elaine