Yesterday we celebrated a very special milestone with Alan Thomson. Alan turned 100 on the 16th June so our Managing Director Roger, and our Marketing Director Kate took an Aston Martin DB11 over to spend a bit of time with him. Alan loves Aston Martin, particularly the DB11 so this was a very fitting birthday surprise for him.
This was a very special and unique occasion given Alan’s very long and rich history within the world of motorsport, and we were honoured to be a part of it. Please read the following words written by Alan’s family to get a true understanding of the inspirational people he has been so lucky to call his friends.
‘Alan became interested in motor sport at an early age.
From the age of 14, he was a regular at Brooklands at weekends and, as rumour has it, frequently on weekdays during term times!
His large collection of photographs of cars and drivers began here and went on through the 1930s. He must have become quite familiar around the pits. He was always delighted that despite their normal position in society, women were quite well represented.
Alan has taken the magazine Motor Sport since 1935 to the present time. He has had photos printed in the magazine and enjoyed correspondence with the journalist Dennis Jenkinson.
Alan studied technical drawing and hoped to become an automotive designer, but the second world war intervened. He often said "I could have been the next Alec Issigonis!"
His first vehicle at age 16 was a Rudge Rapid motorcycle, which he eventually sold to buy an engagement ring for Audrey. They were married in 1947 and remained happily married until Audrey passed away in 2020.
When he was called up, both he and the Rudge went to London to join the Middlesex Yeomanry.
He was later issued with a B.S.A. and set off for Lincolnshire to complete his Dispatch Rider training.
With his regiment he rode up to northern Greece, but they were immediately pushed back south by the Germans and he was evacuated to Crete where sadly he had to part company with the B.S.A.
Alan drove a variety of vehicles during the war. In fact, these were the only wartime memories he really shared with anyone.
He was transferred to Egypt and remained as a dispatch rider driving a car for the first time in an emergency. It was a Humber Super Snipe.
He was transferred to 9th Armoured Division Signals where he maintained Sherman and Crusader tanks at El Alamein, driving a 15 cwt Bedford truck.
Then on to Italy where he drove a white scout car. He said "It was lightly armoured, but didn't have a roof"!!
Towards the end of the war he found himself in the Guards. He drove 16 and 22ton A.C.Vs (armoured command vehicles) and was on Luneburg Heath on 4th May 1945 when peace was signed. His favourite memory of that time was having his photo taken sitting on the banking at Nurburgring race track where 10 years before Alan's hero Tazio Nuvolari won the German Grand Prix.The grid was loaded with Auto Unions and Mercedes'. Nuvolari was in the much lower powered Tipo B and much to Hitler's fury the Italian won.
On his return to England Alan was ‘steered’ by his father into working in a bank. But he maintained close links with the world of motorsport. Alan knew Charlie and John Cooper and spent a lot of time with them in their workshop in the very early days. It was there he first met Jack Brabham in 1959 when he arrived to drive for the Cooper Car Company. Bruce McLaren followed and was given space in the Cooper workshop to work on his ideas for a car. Denny Hulme also arrived in UK. Because of Alan’s interest in motor sport, in car photography and not least because of his warmth of personality he got to know them well, in particular Bruce and Denny as well as Jack’s manager Phil Kerr. When Alan was working at the Kingston Branch of the Westminster Bank, Jack came in one day saying "You know about taking pictures, will you get me a camera please?" He later became Jack’s bank manager as well as managing other drivers’ accounts.
On one occasion Alan was present when John Cooper was testing a mini with an engine in the front and one at the back! It was on the A3 then known as the Kingston bypass. The Cooper Grand Prix cars were at the leading edge of the rear mounted engines.
Alan made a huge number of friends and acquaintances in the motor sport world and carried on taking lots of wonderful photos of the people and their cars.
With Audrey he attended a variety of events, Hill climbs at Shelsley Walsh and Prescott. His best friend who was a precision engineer built and raced his own 'special' for the hillclimbs. The Thomson family went to the Goodwood racetrack many times for both racing and historical events. He was delighted to see the Golden Arrow, in which Henry Segrave broke the Land Speed Record at Daytona in 1929.
He also maintained an interest in 2 wheel racing. He attended trials (in which he had competed as a young man) Scrambles and speedway at Plough Lane Wimbledon. Barry Briggs the captain was another New Zealander!
A highlight of Alan's banking career was working at the temporary branch that used to be set up at the motor show. SO many interesting things to see and people to meet. For the same reason he enjoyed his time at Heathrow Airport.
The death of Bruce Mclaren was a very great personal loss. Alan had spent a lot of time at Goodwood with the Cooper team and had spent time with Bruce both at home and at the circuit. The car that Bruce was testing went on to have great success in the Can Am Series.
Alan remained in contact with Phil Kerr and with Denny Hulme until Hulme’s death in 1992. Alan has always had an affinity with down under and even more so when his younger daughter moved to Adelaide. Denny turned up on her doorstep one day, much to her husband’s amazement! On Alan’s frequent visits to South Australia he was quickly invited to be a volunteer guide (“and we won't need to worry about the training”). This was not only because of his wealth of knowledge, but his enthusiasm and his pleasure in passing on that knowledge. Alan has always been as much at home talking to Prince Bira of Siam in the pits at Brooklands as he is talking to the fellow directing the cars in the car park!.
Since 2017 when Alan and Audrey moved to Hethersett Hall Care Home in Norfolk to be nearer their elder daughter, his interest in cars has remained undimmed. Twice he has been to the annual Aston Martin event at Snetterton where he was delighted by the DB11 and loved being amongst the sights and smells that have always meant so much to him.’
I think you’ll all join us in wishing Alan a very happy 100th birthday!