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The Steering Wheel Club


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#1 Vitesse2

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Posted 06 September 2001 - 13:34

As another follow-on from the Ruth Ellis/David Blakely threads (FLB's A Strange Story and my David Blakely and the Emperor) here's a quote about the Steering Wheel Club in the early 50s:

As the long, hot summer of ’53 developed, Ruth was herself developing a group of new friends who were lot more interesting than the paunchy businessmen and manufacturers who she normally socialised and occasionally slept with. They were a group of young, noisy, exuberant thoroughbreds, which raced cars for a living. Led by Mike Hawthorne -- a twenty-three-year-old, six feet two inch tall, blonde Adonis type -- this group based themselves at the Steering Wheel Club, located across the road from the Hyde Park Hotel.

Hawthorne drove for the Ferrari racing team and his fellow driving enthusiasts included Sterling Moss, Peter Collins, Roy Salvadori and the Italian up-and-coming ace, Alberto Ascari. They would drift into Carroll’s late in the afternoon along with the groupies and wannabes, to drink and socialise.


Ignoring the spelling mistakes:rolleyes: I'm especially intrigued by the mention of Ascari and Moss. Were they really part of the same social circle as Hawthorn and Collins, and what would Ascari be doing in London anyway?:confused: Further on there's a mention of Hawthorn chasing Blakely around the club after Blakely had shoved ice down his neck - was this typical behaviour at the Steering Wheel?

Graham Hill famously hung around the club with a half of bitter in his hand, picking up gossip and contacts, but reckoned more of his beer evaporated than was actually drunk. Anyone got any more stories about the club or able to throw any light on the above?:)

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#2 MOTORSPORT RESORT

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Posted 27 September 2001 - 20:33

Why do I think MOSS owned it?
I have heard Hill had no cash, spent the whole night with a pint, to try to find a ride, and be part of the "scene" (Bette Hills book)

#3 calissa

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Posted 29 September 2001 - 12:57

no stories, but some photos of Colin Chapman and Jim Clark hanging around in the steering wheel club .......vitesse2, if you like to have them , I'll go and look for them :)

#4 flat-16

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 21:18

A lot of knowledgeable folk have joined TNF in the interim years since this thread was started, so I wonder if anyone can shed some more light on the topic?

My mother tells me that my father was a regular visitor to The Steering Wheel Club (I believe he got to know Hawthorn), but that’s about the only time I’ve ever heard it discussed, aside from the odd mention here - and in Motor Sport.

A search turns up this mention here:

http://forums.atlasf...ring wheel club

(I believe TSWC has come up in other threads, but I’m not having a lot of joy narrowing the search I’m afraid!)

Cheers!

Justin

#5 petefenelon

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 21:54

Originally posted by MOTORSPORT RESORT
Why do I think MOSS owned it?
I have heard Hill had no cash, spent the whole night with a pint, to try to find a ride, and be part of the "scene" (Bette Hills book)


According to his own book it was a half, and he clung on to it so long that most of it evaporated ;) .... now for a man like Graham who liked the odd tipple that must've been true patience ;)

#6 LOTI

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 11:36

The Steering Wheel Club was in Shepherds Market, just off Curzon Street, in Mayfair. I have a feeling that it started somewhere else but by the time I got there, [The Doghouse Club used their upstairs room for Committee meetings] it was the regular hang out for the motor sport regulars. The walls were decorated with suitably mangled and bent steering wheels and lots of photographs and cartoons. John and Hazie Morgan ran the club then. This would have been in the early 70s. Stirling's house is just up at the other end of Curzon Street, now in the shadow of the London Hilton.
There is a Doghouse Book being written as we speak, wether it ever makes it or for that matter gets past the legal department is anyones guess but The Steering Wheel played a significant part in giving the Committee and base and so adding to the foundations of the club.
Would I be right in thinking that a lot of Autosport was written there too? Speedworld International certainly was.
Loti

#7 petefenelon

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 13:08

Originally posted by LOTI
The Steering Wheel Club was in Shepherds Market, just off Curzon Street, in Mayfair.
...
Stirling's house is just up at the other end of Curzon Street, now in the shadow of the London Hilton.

Interesting to note that Sir Stirling settled down just round the corner from it then!

The Young Maestro's house is quite distinctive - the outline of what looks like a Lowline Cooper with a driver in a Herbert Johnson helmet is on one of the upstairs balconies. I stumbled across its location quite by accident on the way back from a rather good little Polish restaurant nearby!

#8 Sharman

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 16:15

In the late 50s early 60s the barmans names was Frank, I was never a member but it didn't seem to matter. One walked up the stairs and said "Morning" or "Evening" followed by "a pint of bitter please Frank". As to Autosport being written there, I shoudn't wonder as JVB & GG seemed to always be there at whatever time one arrived.

#9 bradbury west

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 16:57

John, Do you recall if the Steering Wheel Club was linked to the Master Robert restaurant/motel on the N Circular, round towards Stonebridge Park/Alperton. ? I believed it was, but probably wrong. I recall lots of motor racing stuff on the walls, all the regular suspects in the framed photos etc

Roger

#10 Sharman

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 22:12

Roger
I never really had occasion to venture that side of the Smoke, I was, for my sins, based in either Catford or Woolwich. I remember the name Master Robert but can't think why.
John

#11 MCS

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 22:25

Originally posted by bradbury west
John, Do you recall if the Steering Wheel Club was linked to the Master Robert restaurant/motel on the N Circular, round towards Stonebridge Park/Alperton. ? I believed it was, but probably wrong. I recall lots of motor racing stuff on the walls, all the regular suspects in the framed photos etc

Roger


Unless I'm very mistaken, the Master Robert is on the Great West Road (A4) near Hounslow.

It was owned (maybe still is) by the Chiswick brewery, Fuller Smith & Turner.

#12 LOTI

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Posted 20 January 2007 - 07:46

Further to enquiries..... Frank, the barman had a brother, Ernie. Between them they ran the club with the help of Peggy Sandberg [sp?] who was manageress. The original club, which was the one mentioned in the article was in Brick Street up the Park Lane end of Curzon Street but the club had to move in the early 60s [because of rebuilding?] and ended up in Shepherd's Market.

The Master Robert must have belonged to one of the gang as it was used for motor sport related festivities but I can't remember who! In fact, I can't remember, seems to be my conversation opener of choice, at the moment.
Loti

#13 Vitesse2

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Posted 20 January 2007 - 10:47

Originally posted by LOTI
Further to enquiries..... Frank, the barman had a brother, Ernie. Between them they ran the club with the help of Peggy Sandberg [sp?] who was manageress. The original club, which was the one mentioned in the article was in Brick Street up the Park Lane end of Curzon Street but the club had to move in the early 60s [because of rebuilding?] and ended up in Shepherd's Market.

Loti

2a Brick Street, to be precise. Telephone HYD 9692. That's from an advert in the 1956 BARC Yearbook, which states that membership was open to "members of any recognized motor club" and that "this small and attractive Social Club is where the leading personalities in motor sport meet".

Thanks for reviving the thread, Justin. I'm still intrigued by the reference to Ascari though.

#14 Vitesse2

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 21:56

The February 2008 issue of "Octane" includes an article about the club with some Michael Cooper pictures and even a Brockbank cartoon showing the outrage of members at the sight of an attractive young lady sitting at the bar reading "Horse & Hound". :lol:

#15 RS2000

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 23:00

Hadn't seen this thread before. The Master Robert was (is?) at the "Ace of Spades" crossroads on the Great West Road. I passed it daily on my route to and from school and in my last years at school I admit to the odd pint there...
Diagonally opposite was the Ace of Spades garage, a Gulf petrol station in the 60s/70s and the nearest to the Heathrow start/finish of the 65 and 66 Gulf London International Rallies (so the likes of the works Saab team could be seen there).
On another corner of the same crossroads was the car accessory shop that was the Saturday morning hang-out for the local rally competitors. The owner of that business paid the entry fee for my first International rally.
I don't think the fourth corner had any motorsport connections...
There were other local motorsport links - the Parnell team were at one time further down Wellington Road, the southern "leg" of the crossroads. I think Mike Hailwood lived in Heston (up the north "leg") at the time. (Maybe Dave Brodie, in "Run Baby Run" days, was locally based too?).

I was last in the Master Robert one new year's eve in the mid 70s and the "Pit and Paddock Bar" still had the signatures and comments on the walls, ceiling etc. of many top drivers, sadly even then a lot no longer with us. It's location on the pre-M4 route into London from Heathrow must have been a factor in it becoming a motorsport watering hole.
I was certainly under the impression, as is posted above, that ownership was in the hands of one of the big breweries. That, sadly, sealed the fate of its unique collection of graffiti, which was obliterated in a later redecoration. Sacriledge.

#16 sterling49

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 13:48

Originally posted by RS2000
Hadn't seen this thread before. The Master Robert was (is?) at the "Ace of Spades" crossroads on...........................


I used to stay here regularly when on business, I never even knew of its reputation :

#17 Michael Henderson

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 02:52

As I recall, the "official" name of the Steering Wheel - universally known at the time as "The Wheel" - was The United Motor Sports Club. With my girl friend and later wife, Norma, we were regulars at The Wheel from about 1955 to 1968, when we left for Oz.

As LOTI has said, Frank and Ernie were brothers. Frank ran the bar, and Ernie the restaurant part, a minuscule section of the original Wheel a few stairs up from the bar. Both had a marvellous memory for their clientele. I spent three years away with the RAF and on return Frank said, “where’ve you been then?”

Most of the prominent Brit drivers were regulars (some were even members). A super-regular was Cliff Davis, who supported the bar at the right-hand end near the door. Norma and I celebrated there the night before we finally got married, and Cliff tossed her hat up into the light fittings. She had to climb on to the bar for it.

The bar closed during the afternoons under the contemporary licensing regime, and the custom was then to go on after lunch to other kinds of “club”. For a while (and possibly for ever) I held the world record for the most people to ride – with the lid necessarily open - in a three-wheel Messerschmitt from Mayfair to Soho, egged on by John Bolster and the several others who clambered on to it.

It was that kind of club, sometimes, the Wheel. In my faded recollection it was never the same in the “new” and much posher place it moved to.

#18 Gary C

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 03:24

'The Master Robert must have belonged to one of the gang as it was used for motor sport related festivities'
I drove past the Master Robert just before Christmas. And guess what? It's been flattened!!

#19 flat-16

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 13:11

After being tipped about the article in this thread, I went and bought a copy of ‘Octane’ for the first time.

It was good to see some photos of TSWC. If truth be told though, aside from the small-but-excellent selection of photos, the article doesn’t contain anywhere near the information that this thread does…

Not that I want to appear ungrateful, but I also feel that the article focussed somewhat on the more 'tabloid-friendly' aspects to the club… Notably, the large photo of the members participating in the destruction of the original building and the several references to the ‘Grand Prix’ on the way home…

If one considers that the club was open over a 25-year period, and the sheer volume of luminary figures from the racing world who were patrons, surely, there must be more than this to be told?

Although I’d still purchase the magazine for the article either way, I can’t honestly say that I feel anymore educated about the club and the events that occurred there, to be honest. Maybe those with photos and stories to share would prefer it remained that way?

Thanks for the tip, Vitesse!


Justin

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#20 Pils1989

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 00:28

I have an ashtray from that club but no idea if Andre was a member or not.

#21 Coxy the Bear

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 14:16

Wow, My father used to frequent TSWC in the early 70's, he was a salesman at BMW Park Lane at the time. My mum used to recall sitting next to Moss one evening there. Would love to here more about the place. Surely there must be a bookful of anecdotes!

#22 Chris6874

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 18:30

Hello Coxy the Bear

Was interested to read your thread as I was a member of the Steering Wheel Club from 1969 to when it was taken over after John Morgan died.

I too was a salesman at BMW Park Lane, so must have known your father - what was his name? I was at Park Lane until 1972 when I was promoted to Head Office in Chiswick.

As I was living a short distance away at the top of Curzon Street, I spent a lot of time at the Wheel, even at weekends, which was always very quiet then as most of the older members went away to their country houses.

Because of this, a friend and fellow salesman at Park Lane (David Upsher) and I asked John Morgan if we could do a low key disco on Saturday nights at the club; the Wheel would get all the bar (and food) revenue, and David and I would get a small entry charge at the door. This weekly event was called the "Spare Wheel Club" and was extremely popular. As I had a mobile disco setup, I did the music, while David collected the money and was in charge of everything else! The atmosphere on Saturday nights was completely different to a weekday as the crowd were young and only came on that one night, as they were not members. John Morgan loved it!

It was a sad day when John Morgan died - he was a real gentleman and great fun - Hazel was lovely too, although she didn't come as often to the club. Things were not the same after; the club was taken over by David Capstick and the motoring connection was gone, with all the lovely historic motoring history sold off. I still have some drawings I bought.

Great days, and great memories!





#23 Mal9444

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 20:10

After being tipped about the article in this thread, I went and bought a copy of ‘Octane’ for the first time... I can’t honestly say that I feel anymore educated...

Justin


Same with any article in Octane, is it not?

But to stick with the thread: Moss's house is in Shepherd Street, not Curzon Street - and that little Polish/ Mexican (what a bvizarre combination) is still there and still excellent. No pictures of cars on the walls though - they're all of Garbo. Apparently she ate there regualrly when in London and was a friend of the original owner.

I dined there only last week (the restaurant - l'Autre - not Moss's house).


#24 Catalina Park

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 08:29

My wife and I had dinner in Shepherd Street when we stayed in Curzon Street in our recent holiday. I never know of a motor racing connection in the area at the time.

#25 Sharman

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 09:29

I used to share a flat in Half Moon Street, just around the corner from the Wheel. On Shepherd Street was an eating house called Tiddy Dol's which only had a table licence. We used to buy wine from the pub in Shepherds Market. Dave, the barman there, used to weigh up whatever was accompanying us and had the choice of wine down to a fine art. The most satisfactory pronouncement so far as we were concerned was "Two bottles of good stuff and a couple of bottles of ground-bait". Always on a winner with that one.

#26 1MINI4ME2

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Posted 25 October 2011 - 19:31

I was born in England but immigrated to Canada with my parents when I was very young on the QE1.
I returned to England (Surbiton, Surrey) from 1970 to 1971. I met a lady in the Samuel Peyps Pub on Clarges Street by the name of Betty. She owned "The Little House Club" beside the Steering Wheel Club after she introduced me to John Morgan who on her reccommendation accepted me as a member of the SWC. I was a member of the Steering Wheel Club at 47 Curzon Street, Londow W1 from 1971 to 1983. I, as an airline employee in Canada, often flew over to England just for a day or two to have dinner at the SWC and was always warmly welcomed by Mr. Morgan. David Capstick took over when John Morgan retired and he closed the club in about 1983 for renovations. The club never reopened....very sad!!

Anyway, I still have fond memories of my times there and have kept some memorabilia from those great days and to share those items with you, I have put together this website: www.thesteeringwheelclub.cachelan.com

I also met a fellow in 1971 in the SWC by the name of Keith Grant who had Group 6 McLaren. I was supposed to test this car at Brands Hatch is the summer of 1971 but British Rail "derailed" that dream with a 20 minute late train hence me missing my ride to the track. It is too bad we did not have cell phones in those day as my life could have turned out VERY different!!

#27 David McKinney

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Posted 25 October 2011 - 19:52

he closed the club in about 1983 for renovations. The club never reopened....very sad!!

Must have been slightly later - I visited the Club in 1985


#28 Coxy the Bear

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Posted 23 September 2013 - 12:09

Hello Coxy the Bear

Was interested to read your thread as I was a member of the Steering Wheel Club from 1969 to when it was taken over after John Morgan died.

I too was a salesman at BMW Park Lane, so must have known your father - what was his name? I was at Park Lane until 1972 when I was promoted to Head Office in Chiswick.

As I was living a short distance away at the top of Curzon Street, I spent a lot of time at the Wheel, even at weekends, which was always very quiet then as most of the older members went away to their country houses.

Because of this, a friend and fellow salesman at Park Lane (David Upsher) and I asked John Morgan if we could do a low key disco on Saturday nights at the club; the Wheel would get all the bar (and food) revenue, and David and I would get a small entry charge at the door. This weekly event was called the "Spare Wheel Club" and was extremely popular. As I had a mobile disco setup, I did the music, while David collected the money and was in charge of everything else! The atmosphere on Saturday nights was completely different to a weekday as the crowd were young and only came on that one night, as they were not members. John Morgan loved it!

It was a sad day when John Morgan died - he was a real gentleman and great fun - Hazel was lovely too, although she didn't come as often to the club. Things were not the same after; the club was taken over by David Capstick and the motoring connection was gone, with all the lovely historic motoring history sold off. I still have some drawings I bought.

Great days, and great memories!

Sorry for the incredibly late reply Chris! Dad actually found this post online and indeed, you will know him. Richard Cox. I sort of followed in his footsteps, albeit in aftersales for 15 years with BMW in the UK and Dubai.



#29 CoxySenior

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Posted 23 September 2013 - 12:32

As Cox Junior Mentioned above I was at Park Lane from late 1972 till 1975. Some names that come to mind are, Chris Bradbury, David Upsher, Tony Willis, Tristram Breaks, Roger Edwards (RIP), Martin Coles, John Tenner, Alan Kiddell, Jenna Rainey to name but a few.

 

Great times spent at "the Wheel" I suppose nothing is forever.