Robbert Moree visited the Beaulieu Autojumble in the United Kingdom and got face to face with a reality check. Stroll along the endless paths of the worlds most famous autojumble.
I never thought I’d use these words, ‘old-mens-hobby’. Especially since I’ve become a middle aged man myself by now. So when I speak of old men, I really do mean 70 and onwards. Despite the fact their hobby is the same as mine, the classic car hobby. Straight in the face and without any warning I am confronted with this aging majority when I attend this years Beaulieu Autojumble, a world famous parts market in the south of England. And when I say world famous, I don’t mean to paternise, this is a venue where people from al over the world attend. Their slogan being ‘if you can’t find it at Beaulieu, it does not exist’ says it all.
The rows of stalls selling second hand parts are endless, the variety unbelievable. Complete engines, carburetors, shock absorbers, speedometers, rare interior trim, publicity signs, seats, books, leaflets, posters… Stuff that all have one thing in common, they all match with the automotive heritage of cars produced roughly before the 1960’s. The people selling it on the other hand have an equally advanced age to share. I’m talking to one of the salesmen about his trade and when I leave his stall I wish him good sales. He shouts at me that ‘that isn’t what it is all about at all’. I can’t resist returning on my footsteps, this can’t be right, can it? The dear fellow explains that things start to happen weeks before the Autojumble even begins. Telephone calls from colleague part vendors: ‘You are coming to Beaulieu this year, are you?’ ‘Can you please bring me that Riley engine block?’ ‘That’s when you know you’ll be attending once more’, he says, ‘because I do want to see my old friends again’. In the end they’re coming here for the most important thing in the whole world, enjoying their friendships. Seen the average age of the vendors around the place, these are pretty old friendships.
Over fifty years the Autojumble is being held and some of the vendors have come here for that same amount of years. These men are simply enjoying a yearly reunion. Not just men by the way, although they certainly make up for the majority of participants. At many a stall we find a couple running the business. For better or for worse as they say, since these old men don’t stay in fancy hotels, they have a kip in a caravan behind their stall or on a mattress in the back of the van. And when the lady of the house decides to join, well that’s where she is staying as well. That’s what the Autojumble is all about. Here people are who they are, no one needs to keep up appearances. These people are for real. Their stories are for real as is their passion for classic cars, parts and automobilia. An enormous contrast to other events, where much ado is about absolutely nothing. In Beaulieu you won’t find that sort of nonsense, this is where people simple seek to keep their pre-war Austins or their post-war Ford Anglias on the road. And even those usually aren’t about appearance, they are pretty real too.
In the meantime I encounter CineCars colleague Dick Jansen. The Jansen family are regulars here, attending for the fortieth time this year, be it in several compositions. Jansen senior is here at Beaulieu as he has been for the past forty years. They wouldn’t have missed out on a single year, know their left, right and opposite neighbours here at Beaulieu by heart. Beaulieu has become part of the family. A family of aging men and women. But there is hope, amongst the many visitors I spot a younger generation appearing. Another generation with a kind heart for old motorcars. And that’s a thing of joy.