This month ‘Members Spotlight’ features Simone Grant; Daughter of Eba Grant, founding Member of the Doghouse Owners’ Club.
Each summer our family piled into which ever car Dad had on test and set off to stay in small fishing village in Liguria either flying the car from Lydd to Le Touquet or the ferry to Calais, then Switzerland, over the Simplon Pass to Italy stopping at small bars and hotels where Dad, founding editor of Autosport, seemed to know everyone. He competed in the Lyon Charbonniers, Alpine, Monte Carlo, The East African, Tulip, Acropolis and RAC rallies and the Mille Miglia.
Leaving us to have fun in the sun, he set off to report on the European GPs, popping back to have a bit of a holiday himself then off to Austria or Germany. Monza was usually the last so we all went as it was on the way home. When I was four I got lost in Milan for six hours finally turning up at the American Consulate. My brothers had a great time whizzing around Milan in a police car with horns blaring.
Our parents had a very open and hospitable house and I grew up with a stream of friends and pals of our parents and my brothers. My brothers and their friends raced sports cars, Clubmans or rallied. Parties with drivers, actors and musicians chatting with other friends and neighbours lasted into the early hours. Dad often had fabulous and exciting cars to test drive.He had a beautiful Maserati on loan. From Hampstead he phoned his father in Glasgow at 9am to say that we would see him later. We arrived at Grandpa’s in time for lunch.
As a teenager I enjoyed being above the pits at Le Mans and in the paddock at Monza and meeting interesting people at great parties. I saw the filming of Grand Prix at Monza with Francois Hardy in a striped mini dress.The previous day Frances Dymock and I had worn very short skirts in town and caused a commotion, a guy fell off his Vespa and a nun cursed us.
Everyone seemed to be steeped in Castrol GTX, most weekends were spent at Snetterton, Oulton Park and the other English circuits. My mother was chums with many wives and girlfriends of drivers, it was a travelling circus and they would support and encourage each other.
Facilities at British circuits were non existent mostly being on windy airfields with a hole in the ground as a loo. After the race the chaps would be ensconced in the BRDC tent while women with children would be stuck in steamy cars.
Betty Brabham, Bette Hill, Hazel Chapman and my mum Eba Grant decided to start a Club and through a lot of networking, pleading, borrowing and just plain generosity The Women’s Motor Racing Associates Club aka The Doghouse Owners Club was was born on February 7th 1962. Russel Brockbank, designed the emblem which Dad adapted with a top hat, bow tie for the ball programmes.
During the 60s accidents and death loomed over Motor Racing and at a time when drivers’s incomes were tenuous the Doghouse stepped up raising large amounts to help out and crucially provide support and compassionate care to devastated families.
Our house was crammed with Doghouse stuff and the run up to the Balls, Lunches, Children’s parties, Fetes, Film Shows, Dress Sales was bonkers. Masses of Tombola prizes would arrive as would a posey of pretty people to sing raucous songs round our piano for cabaret rehearsals. The layouts for the Ball programmes were made on the dining room table. Envelopes were stuffed with letters to everyone in Motor Racing. On GP weekends, sandwiches, soup and cakes magically appeared to be served in the Doghouse caravans at Goodwood and Silverstone and Oulton Park,a shed at Brands, the old time keepers booth at Silverstone followed by the swanky suite with a balcony on the start line.
I worked at the Racing Car Show and took over from Pam Boyd keeping scrapbooks for Graham, Stirling and Jackie so kept up to speed with F1. I enjoyed photographing the 77, 79, 83, 87 Doghouse cabarets and designing the programme covers for the 81, 83, 85, 87, 89, 91, 93 and 1997 Balls. I photographed both Loti’s amazing pantomimes and designed various letterheads, tea towels and gifts for the Doghouse and typed the minutes for the Committee meetings. Over the years I’ve enjoyed being in the Doghouse. Eba was very good at involving her family in Doghouse doings.
The Club has succeeded in its aim and many strong friendships have developed. I hope you have enjoyed my wander down memory lane, I am very happy to have been around such a great bunch of women who have a lot of fun, laughter and tears. May it continue to grow and support the burgeoning group of female drivers, commentators, journalists, engineers and other strong women in Motor Sport.
Simone spends her spare time with her family as well as walking her dog and will always give 100% commitment to her clients in a professional and confidential manner.