By Mike Neale
Mike is a member of SHMAC who knew Robin well and his tribute will also appear in the SHMAC club newsletter.
Robin Allen, 1949-2018.
I first met Robin over 30 years ago, back in the mid-1980s, thanks in fact to the SHMAC, when he was displaying some of his models alongside other club members. I would regularly see him at shows such as Modelex and The Classic Car Show at the NEC. I’ve found one old photo from a bit after then, when a group of SHMAC members and I had a stall at a swapmeet at the old Coventry Transport Museum (long before they built their shiny new one).
We instantly bonded due to our shared interest in the ‘grey porridge’ British and European saloon cars of the fifties and sixties, both as real cars and in model form. He was very interested in my conversions of old Dinky & Corgi toys into more accurate representations of the real vehicles, as this was something that he too liked to do. At that time he was editor of the model page for Classic Cars magazine, and in the December 1990 issue he actually wrote an article about me and my model conversions.
I loved going down to his house and seeing what real cars he had each time, as quite often there would be some new classic car acquisition replacing one that he had decided to sell. I could also spend hours looking at the model collection.
One real car that was always there from fairly early on was of course his beloved 1952 Standard German-market VW Split Window Beetle. He had bought this rare car in 1970, saving it from being cut up into a Baja Bug, and had run it as a daily driver, but in 1976 he reluctantly sold it to fund a house purchase. He asked the new owner to give him first refusal if he ever wished to sell the car. It went up to Scotland and the owner began to dismantle it to start a restoration, but that was as far as he got, and the car stayed in his garage. In 1990, true to his word, he phoned Robin and offered to sell the car back to him, with almost the same mileage on the clock as 14 years earlier. Robin had the car restored and vowed never to sell it again. I’ve included a photo of him next to the car just after that 90s restoration had been finished, before he had got the proper German-style number plates made up.
He would go out of his way to help people too. I remember once when my partner and I had met up with him at Amberley Classic Car Picnic and we needed to get back to London to see a show at the theatre that evening. We had gone down by train that day but when we tried to come back our return train had been cancelled (I should have known not to rely on Southern Rail) and the next one was an hour away, too late to get to the theatre. Robin insisted on driving us all the way up to Gatwick airport to catch a train so that we could make it in time. Actually, at first he had suggested driving us all the way back to London, but I couldn’t let him do that. That was just the sort of person he was.
Another 90s photo shows Robin watering his NSU Prinz, presumably trying to grow it into a Chevrolet Corvair.
Over the years I must have attended dozens of classic car shows and model swapmeets with Robin. One of the most memorable trips was to Techno Classica in Essen, Germany, a show that completely blew me away. Robin was in his element amongst all of the German cars in particular, as he had spent a few years in Germany during his childhood, as his father was posted there with British Forces Germany. On the way back we diverted to take a look at the old army barracks where his dad had been based.
A car show that we both liked and visited many times over the years was the Amberley Classic Car Summer picnic. That is where we are both seen standing next to (someone else’s) Jaguar XK150.
On Drive-It Day this April, I drove down to Romsey in my Morris Minor to meet up with Robin, who was out in his Mercedes-Benz 220S Ponton saloon, which he is pictured next to. I have tried to recreate the scene in model form, alas without a miniature Robin.
Robin had been suffering from cancer for several years and had been through a lot of unpleasant treatment, which had at least for a while seemed to be effective. However more recently it had spread almost everywhere. His descent from that April Drive-It day was sadly quite rapid.
Having had a fall at home, no doubt caused by the strong painkillers that he was on, he was admitted to hospital. For a while it seemed like he was making a bit of a recovery and might make it back home. Sadly this was not to be and he finally passed away on Saturday 23rd June in Portsmouth Queen Alexandra hospital, aged just 69. I was at his side along with his closest family and friends.
The funeral date has yet to be arranged. I do know that he left instructions for the funeral car to be a vintage Rolls Royce – that’s very Robin!
It is the end of an era. I will certainly miss him a lot.