The Rally That Never Happened – Or how not to appear on TVS



“What else”, asked the man from TVS, “happens at a car rally, apart from rows of cars?”

“Well”, said I, “there are stalls selling auto jumble, and usually Club stalls with Club goods for sale, and maybe bric-a-brac.”

“Do you know anyone who could set that up for us – we’ve already got the cars?”


Shame about the cars, but at least the Club could get some free publicity, I thought.  Two weeks later, on a dark dismal November morning, I was at Allington Castle near Maidstone at seven in the morning, with a Morris Traveller full of A7OC goods, thinking, “I must be mad!”


We were to help with the filming of an episode of Perfect Scoundrels, starring Peter Bowles.  Mac Bonar was there, setting up two auto jumble stalls with the help of his son and a friend, while the set designer hung around trying to explain to Mac what he wanted – and Mac told him what he was going to get.  I humbly did as I was told by Mac.  He had brought along Baden Powell’s original Scout Leader’s tent for the Club goods stall.  This was erected by an ingenious method of using Austin Seven half-shafts as supplementary tent poles – for patent apply Mac Bonar.  Tony Leslie had arrived by this time, and was busy setting up Holmesdale Sevens to complete the scene.


There was suddenly an air of tension on the set.  Someone whispered reverently, “The Director’s arrived”.  All eyes turned towards a corner of the field where a small group of people had just appeared, trailing in the wake of a stereotype poser in leather jacket and dark glasses.  Trying not to laugh, we all turned around and got on with arranging the auto jumble.


The director did not stay very long, he had things to do elsewhere.  After he had left we were told we could go and get something to eat.  The catering van was set up in a car park a little way back up the road.  Up till then it had seemed there were very few people involved in this filming, but the car park was swarming with all sorts.  Goodness only knows what all their jobs were.  Anyway, we had a good old “heart attack” breakfast with all the trimmings, and then went back to the set to wait for filming to start.


By the end of the day we knew that set pretty well.  Allington Castle stood in the background, the early morning mist gradually dispersing.  A semi-circle of vintage cars stood on the front lawn, one little Opal in the midst of the Bentleys and Rolls-Royces giving some credence to the presence of the A7OC.  We completed the circle with our stalls, a row of cottages behind us and the damp under out feet.


About ten o’clock, a great tramping of feet on the road heralded the arrival of the extras, and then the camera crew, sound, light and the poser in the dark glasses again.  From then until nearly four o’clock we stood and watched the filming, first along the approach road, then around the Bentley which was at the centre of the “scam”.  The same actions over and over again, filmed from half a dozen different viewpoints.  Now I know what the videotape editor does!  A heavy shower brought a dozen or so extras to shelter in the tent behind me, and one or two of them borrowed Club umbrellas to stride around with.  This was just as well, as it turned out to be the only publicity the Club got out of the whole day.


Having stood in the freezing field for nine hours with the damp rising up through the soles of our shoes, waiting for our moment of glory, we got to four o’clock and everyone was suddenly dismissed.  “What about us?” we cried.  “We’re not doing that show after all, you can go”.


That’s gratitude for you.  Someone hurriedly, and rather sheepishly, thanked us for our trouble and left us to pack up.  First there, last to leave, and not a second of celluloid exposure to show for it.  Oh well, that’s Show Business.  But don’t forget to watch out for that Club umbrella when Perfect Scoundrels returns to the box.  As then say in the entertainment world, “Don’t blink, or you’ll miss it!”


Toni Simpkins 1991