Club History

Owen Organisation Motoring Club 

Owen Organisation Motoring Club [OOMC] to give it its full original title was started by a group of motoring enthusiasts working for Rubery Owen Ltd. in Darlaston, West Midlands on 16th December 1959. Rubery Owen was for many years a major Black Country manufacturer and supplier to the UK motor industry.

The motor sport link was through its founder and owner Sir Alfred Owen, who was the rescuing benefactor of the BRM F1 race team. BRM eventually won the F1 drivers’ championship with Graham Hill in 1962 and the F1 Constructors title in the same year. Another of its former drivers (in later years) was no less than three-time world champion Jackie Stewart who started his F1 career with the BRM team and won his first GP with them at Monza in 1965. BRM contested 197 Grand Prix’s in all and won 17. A little-known fact is that the team were also 2nd in the constructor’s championship in 1963, 64, 65 & 71.

Sir Alfred also invested substantially in the world land-speed record attempts by Donald Campbell and Rubery Owen helped build the ‘Bluebird’ car at Motor Panels, Coventry. This investment paid off when Donald finally gained the land speed record of 403.1 mph on July 17th 1964, driving over the salt beds ofAustralia’s Lake Eyre.

Until a few years ago many of the Grand Prix awards & trophies won by the team were on display in the Rubery Owen Board Room at the head office in Darlaston. The trophies now reside at The Silverstone experience Museum at Silverstone Race Circuit.

Folkingham airfield, where the original BRM factory was based, is very close to Bourne in Lincs. Hall & Hall (who have been preparing & restoring historic single seater and sports racing cars for over 40 years) took over the original factory site on the airfield and have now moved to custom built premises in Bourne. They support the F1 BRM historic racing tradition with a several of the original BRM F1 cars in their care.

Several Rubery Owen employees picked up on the growing achievements of BRM, which was headline news at the time, and decided to form a company motoring club in December 1959. Many social events, including dances, were organised and very soon many likeminded motorsport employees and friends of the original founders arrived on the scene and OOMC was up and running. The membership soon got into its stride and started marshalling and organising motorsport events. One of the first road rallies to be organised was ‘The Grace Owen Rally’ back in 1960.

In its early days the club was based at the Robin Hood or Neptune public houses which were very close to the factory in Darlaston, later moving to the Rubery Owen sports ground pavilion near Bentley. After a few years the Rubery Owen Social Club closed and Owen Motoring Club, as it was now named, moved to the GKN BRD social club in Red House Lane Aldridge and was based there for many years before it closed just prior to GKN BRD being closed. We then moved to Aldridge Social Club, in the town centre, where we had many happy years. Two more venues were used as our headquarters for short periods before settling down at our current base which is not far from the old Aldridge Social Club. We now reside at the Aldridge Conservative Club, 62 Portland Rd, Walsall WS9 8NS with meetings every Wednesday. We have over 150 members and we are still involved heavily in the club motor sport scene, organising eight quality events every year and most are included in some national or regional championships.

Our flagship annual event is the AGBO Rally (using the initials of Alfred George Beech Owen) which started life as a road-rally back in the 1960’s. It was included in the ‘Motoring News’ Road Rally Championship ten times from 1961 through to 1987. In 1997 it was decided to resurrect the AGBO Rally but now as a single venue stage rally in Weston Park and has proved to be very popular with entrants and spectators alike. This usually takes place around March every year.

Curborough Sprint Course, near Lichfield, is a popular club motorsport venue and our ‘Graham Hill Sprint’ has been held there in June every year since 1964. Our late Chairman, Tony Matthews, was the ‘Clerk of the Course’ from the outset and continuing in that role for 50 consecutive years.

So, as you can see, we are a very active West Midlands Motor Club and like so many other clubs have an increasing classic car section membership. Local shows are usually well attended by OMC classic car owners during the summer months culminating with the Annual NEC Classic Car Show in November which we have been displaying at since 2000.

OMC Celebrate 60 Years

Owen Motoring Club celebrate 60 years.

Rubery Owen has a long standing reputation as one of the Black Country’s foremost giants of industry, with a history stretching back to 1884. John T. Rubery and his two brothers established a very modest factory in Booth Street Darlaston and began to manufacture light steel goods. In less than ten years both the brothers had left the company and John who remained was on the look out for a new partner. This partner emerged as a 24 year old from Denbighshire named Alfred Ernest Owen.

Initially the new business expanded into the then booming bicycle trade followed by the appearance of the Motor Car and becoming a pioneer in supply of parts to the industry. This was to remain as core business for most of the company’s existence, they also got heavily into steel works as many new factory premises were being erected. The wheels of the motor industry began to move even faster thus the company grew significantly, as a result in 1905 the name we are familiar with today, Rubery Owen & Co. was formed. In 1910 John Rubery retired from the business and under sole proprietorship of Alfred Ernest Owen the firm went from strength to strength. Alfred died in 1929 but the organisation had been widely recognised as unique in character, a company of many trades including motor frames, wheels, structural steel work, aviation parts and also aircraft.

Now an employer of 1600 workers under Mr A.E Owen the company was recognised as being a pioneer of industry and also industrial welfare. The company probably the first in the UK to provide for its staff, a recreation ground, bowling greens, tennis courts, a works canteen, staff dining rooms, billiards rooms and reading rooms, all new in the Black Country Industrial workplace.

The company was also a founder member of the Industrial Welfare Society.

Alfred’s two sons Alfred and Ernest took over the reins of the company after the death of their father and soon realised a great engineering tradition had to be maintained and further developed. By 1951 the company employed over 12,000 people and the diversity of manufactured goods increased. In December 1959 the Owen Organisation Motoring Club was formed by a group of motoring enthusiasts employed by Rubery Owen in Darlaston. The company now the largest privately owned engineering concern in the UK and due to Sir Alfred Owen`s enthusiasm.

The former O.O.M.C (now Owen Motoring Club Ltd.) have always had a very close affiliation with the BRM organisation, the formation of the factory car club was initially to raise funds to support the newly formed British Motor Racing Association Trust who were building the first British F1 race car.

Sir Alfred was responsible for rescuing the BRM F1 racing team, becoming the main benefactor, it was saved from almost extinction and rose to take the F1 world constructors championship also taking the F1 drivers title with Graham Hill at the wheel. It was Sir Alfred who gave Jackie Stewart his first ever F1 start with the BRM team. Jackie quickly became a great friend of Graham Hill the resident BRM F1 driver at the time, a long lasting relationship which also included the great Jim Clark, until Grahams untimely death in November 1975 when his light aircraft crashed on Arkley Golf Course whilst attempting to land at Elstree Airport at night in thick fog.

Graham Hill donated an ex F1 BRM steering wheel (one of only two in existence) to OMC in 1965. This was mounted and used as the FTD award at the OMC “Graham Hill Sprint” for 51 years. In 2015 the wheel was retired due to its delicate condition and was replaced by a very good replica which was made by “Motalita”. The original wheel was donated by OMC to the Bourne Heritage Trust Museum along with other BRM F1 race winning trophies which were donated to them by Rubery Owen. It was felt the collection would be more visible there than in the then head office boardroom of Rubery Owen, Darlaston.

The OMC / BRM association has long remained in place, Bette Hill and daughter Samantha attended the OMC 25th anniversary dinner. Neville Hay and Nick Mason then owner of the V16 BRM race car, (now owned by Bernie Eccleston) attended the clubs 40th anniversary evening at the National Motor Cycle Museum near Birmingham. Another great honour for our club in 2010 when Sir Jackie Stewart accepted the offer from David Owen OBE, Club President, to attend as our guest of honour for the 50th anniversary celebration night, a glittering occasion with Jackie on top form, also presenting the annual club championship awards with some very entertaining commentary. A special award was presented by Jackie on the night to the then long time chairman of the club, the late Tony Matthews. This was for his continuous 51 year stint as the Clerk of the Course for the OMC “Graham Hill Sprint” this being a British Championship round for many of those years.

Owen Motoring Club as it is now known reached a milestone in December 2019 celebrating its 60th anniversary. A reunion party was held at the clubs HQ, Great Barr Golf Club, when over Eighty members past and present attended. In honour of this anniversary, club member for over 40 years Anton Bird, has timed the publication of his book about the exploits of the clubs rallying events to coincide with this years celebrations. “Owen Motoring Club Rally History” a comprehensive guide through the years from the first motorsport offering from its new members in April 1960. Obviously, a keen membership as the club was only formed in the previous December and a rally produced in no time at all. The book is a comprehensive guide through the twists and turns of the club’s involvement in UK club rallying from its humble beginnings to the present day.

The author states it has been an absolute joy to have been able to bring together in one volume as many aspects as possible to one of the clubs core activities, including as many statistics as it has been possible to actually find, a labour of love that has taken five years research, a year to write and finally into print in May 2019. From its formation the Club have always been based around the Walsall area, its experienced members organising and running events throughout the calendar in all facets of club motorsport. These include Production Car Trials, Auto Solo`s, Auto Tests, a Sprint at Curborough and a very successful two day Stage Rally at Weston Park in March each year. Many of the events organised are included in National championships.

Book written by Anton Bird for the 60th anniversary celebrations of Owen Motoring Club

Above: Book written by Anton Bird for the 60th anniversary celebrations of Owen Motoring Club. A history of all (as far as information is available for) rallies which the club has organised since April 1960. Available by post (£12 incl. First Class postage) email, antonbird@talktaklk.net

The old Rubery Owen & Co. HQ in Booth Street, Darlaston

Above: The old Rubery Owen & Co. HQ in Booth Street, Darlaston, still standing today thanks to David Owen OBE and Accord Housing Association. Now named “The Rubery Owen Innovation Centre” saved by a payment of £1 which enabled a substantial grant to be obtained to convert the interior for new small business use. The RO company board room still exists in this building, this is where numerous BRM F1 winning race trophies were displayed for many years, a very impressive part of F1 history, all are now on show at the Bourne Heritage Trust Museum. Personally I am honoured that I was allowed to view these at close quarters a number of times before their donation to Bourne.

Sir Jackie Stewart at Owen Motoring Club`s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2010
Sir Jackie Stewart at Owen Motoring Club`s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2010, presenting the late Tony Matthews, long standing chairman with his special award, and later cutting the 50th anniversary cake.

OMC were very honoured when Sir Jackie Stewart accepted the offer from David Owen OBE, Club President, to attend as our guest of honour for the 50th anniversary celebration night held in 2010, a glittering occasion with Jackie on top form, also presenting the annual club championship awards with some very entertaining commentary. A special award was presented by Jackie on the night to the then long time chairman of the club, the late Tony Matthews. This was for his continuous 51 year stint as the Clerk of the Course for the OMC “Graham Hill Sprint” this being a British Championship round for many of those years.

OMC have a spectacular set of annual club championship trophies (see below) amassed from the early years to date. Many were presented to the club by Rubery Owen & BRM employees including, Graham Hill, Tony Rudd, Rivers Fletcher, Grace Owen, John Owen, David Owen OBE, Chris Shorrocks and Peter Spear RO company Director of Research. These are utilised for the many of the clubs motorsport championships that are hotly contested by its members every year. In 1988 our once only English World Rally Champion Richard Burns joined OMC to take part in one of our stage rallies at the start of his glittering career. The club thrives today with over 200 members, not all active of course, still presenting events for all facets of club motorsport which has always been and will remain its core focus.

OMC also have a rapidly growing and very active classic car section, attending many shows every year including the prestigious NEC classic three day show in November. A very successful classic car tour christened “The Tony Matthews Classic Car Tour” named after our long serving former club chairman has also been in its calendar for many years, ably organised by club members. Event marshalling with the club can be very rewarding usually meaning you can get closer to the action. Many types of motorsport event are covered and not just in the UK, rallies in Belgium have also been on the agenda.

A marshalling highlight for our members was in 1999 when “The Coys Festival” held at Silverstone asked our club to assist with the many BRM F1 cars which were the celebrity feature that year for their 50th anniversary, a number of the former BRM team drivers of the day were present to race them. Including Froilan Gonzalez, who flew in from Argentina to drive the V16 BRM which in the early 1950`s he raced in Formula Libre.

For 2020 our club is in good shape and safe hands to take it into the future, we have a healthy membership and will always try to offer quality events for the Midlands club motorsport scene.

Anton Bird, OMC Club Chairman.

Below: OMC still have a very strong connection with RO & BRM, club members assisting the assembled BRM fleet at Silverstone in 1999 for the BRM 50th Anniversary celebrations.