A Brief History of the BVAC

The Borders Vintage Automobile Club started life in 1972 with just a handful of members.

The Club came into being following an adventurous journey north by members of the North East Restoration Club based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1972. Of the thirty cars that gathered in the Newcastle Civic Centre to head north on the 20th May, the majority were vintage models and their intrepid drivers were joined by fifteen Scottish enthusiasts, mainly from the Borders area, as they crossed the Border. The route took them via Stannington and Wooler to Kelso where they received a Civic Welcome and Presentation Ceremony led by the Provost of Kelso and after the Ceremony the cars were displayed at the Tait Hall, Kelso. 

The following day, Sunday 21st May, a Concours d’Elegance was held in the grounds of Mellerstain House, Gordon near Kelso. During the journey back to Newcastle that evening, a similar Civic Reception greeted the participants in Jedburgh led by the Provost with music provided by the Jedburgh Pipe Band. This was a most splendid occasion and it clearly inspired the Scots in the area to form a group with the view to organising similar events in the future. And so, the Borders Vintage Automobile Club was born! The small group of founder members of the BVAC could not hope to emulate such a magnificent spectacle with Civic Receptions here and there, but they did succeed in inviting several old car enthusiasts both in the North of England and the South of Scotland to a gathering at the home of Lord Binning at Mellerstain the following year.   His Lordship became the Club’s President and he held that honorary post until 2009 during which time he inherited the title of the Earl of Haddington upon the death of his father.

The first two gatherings of veteran and vintage cars at Mellerstain were contained within a hastily-erected, fenced compound and for just a small entry fee, the visiting public was invited into the enclosure to view the cars.   From the enormous interest shown by the public, it became very clear that all the right ingredients were to hand for a full-scale gathering of historic vehicles. It would however be necessary to man the main gates to the estate in order to collect an admission fee, allow car parking in an adjacent tenant farmer’s field, dispense with the fenced compound and allow the public to roam at will throughout the grounds.

An agreement was reached between the Mellerstain Estates and the fledgling Borders Vintage Automobile Club and from then on the annual Historic Motoring Extravaganza simply expanded to such proportions that suitable areas in which to place the various vehicle classes, trade stands and other attractions became a problem.   Although some of the annual events were more successful than others, mainly due to the weather, all went well up until 2001. It was in that year that disaster struck in the form of the widespread Foot and Mouth epidemic and by Government decree, all events that would attract a large gathering of people into the countryside, had to be cancelled.  Apart from the financial loss, around twenty new members join our Club at this annual event and its cancellation, together with abysmal weather the following year, struck the Club an almost devastating blow. However, the Club survived and has grown in strength and has always been able to fully man a Committee of around ten members to administer the Club’s annual programme of monthly events, handle its business and its finances and generally to be an organisation that is very well respected in the Borders Region.

From modest beginnings when around thirty-five cars gathered in the estate grounds, the annual show expanded to such proportions that the event simply outgrew the beautiful landscaped grounds of Mellerstain House.   In 2005 the decision was taken to move our annual event to Thirlestane Castle, Lauder, whose spacious parklands are particularly suited to our type of event. Today, the Club’s President is Capt. The Hon. Gerald Maitland-Carew of Thirlestane Castle.

Today, with more than 200 members, many thousands of visitors enjoy seeing the splendid collection of vintage and classic vehicles which make the journey to Lauder each year. As we look forward to this year’s event, the newly named BVAC Classic at Thirlestane promises to be bigger and better than ever! This annual event has itself become a classic, now attracting more than 1200 entrants from across the length and breadth of the country.  A true Festival of Motoring.