From perestroika to glass-not

Cars from the pre-80s are bound to have a tale to tell but one in particular raced by Burgess Hill’s Dave King certainly stood out from the crowd.

Friday, 9th August 2013, 1:00 pm
dave king in gorbachev's daimler

There is nothing of the mundane about King’s Daimler that he took up to Ipswich on Saturday for the Classic Spedeworth meeting.

Every now and then, especially at these meetings, a pearl of a story is unveiled and Saturday was no different.

King, head of the King family racing dynasty, arrived with a 1969 Daimler DS 420 limousine on his tow truck. To discover such a classic car amongst the small ads was impressive in itself but this was a really special car indeed.

In 1984, Mikhail Gorbachev, destined to become the Soviet leader the following year, shocked the world as he dared to leave Moscow and spend 10 days the other side of the Iron Curtain.

Such a thing had never been done before but unbeknown to the West, Gorbachev was about to change popular thinking for good with his programme of Glasnost and Perestroika.

As part of his plan to improve the Soviet state, his reorientation of the Kremlin’s strategic aims contributed to the end of the Cold War…and King’s car played a role in this momentous period of history.

On December 15 1984, just three months before he became General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Gorbachev landed at Heathrow Airport for the two-day leg of his travels in London.

As he stepped off the plane and descended the steps onto British soil, he was met by the usual Whitehall dignitaries and a waiting 1969 Daimler.

The car was used to transport the future Nobel Peace winner around the streets of the capital, taking in a visit to the British Library.

It was there that he saw the seat used by Karl Marx when he was writing Das Kapital and that inspired the relatively young Gorbachev, still only 54 when he became leader, to alter the path of the nuclear arms race that had developed at an alarming rate and an immense cost.

The following day when he travelled up to the Prime Minister’s country residence, Chequers, to meet Margaret Thatcher, he did so again in Dave’s Daimler.

If only cars could talk, who knows what conversations and discussions were held in the back of that limousine. It would be fascinating to catch just some of the power talk.

Safe to say, however, that the talking stopped on Saturday night as King performed with his usual flair around the oval.

Who could have known that an evening watching the National Bangers at the raceway could be so educational and at least give a taste of some historic events even if the detail will probably have to be left to the imagination?