Graeme Whiting spent decades looking for his grandfather's car.Image by: Really Good Films
Railton Straight Eight vintage car displayed on a grass commons.
Side view of modified vintage car, decked out with wooden sides and a door.
Blue vintage sports car racing on a track.
10 September 2022

The Distinguished Gentleman’s Drive host reunites with vintage family car

The Distinguished Gentleman's Drive Host
Graeme Whiting
4 minutes read time

Classic car enthusiast Graeme Whiting was 15 years old when he lost his grandfather to suicide. Now a host for The Distinguished Gentleman’s Drive, he shares the story of the family’s vintage Railton car. Originally his grandfather’s, it was long thought to have been lost. Then a chance email led to a remarkable reunion.

I lost my grandad about 38 years ago, when I was 15 or so. He took his own life. My Nan had been in hospital for weeks and he thought she wasn’t coming home. In fact, she lived another 25 or so years.

The family car

My family always talked about the Railton – a Railton Straight Eight – that grandad bought after the war. It had originally been an open sportscars, but the previous owner, a cabinet maker, added a large wooden back, with a canvas roof and wooden front doors, enabling him to carry the furniture he made.

Some years after purchasing the Railton in 1948, my grandad moved his family from London to Norfolk, as their house had been destroyed by bombing. In 1952, my grandad decided to sell the car, driving it to a local auction with my then-15-year-old father. The best bid was only £30 so he drove it home and parked it in the woods.

Left derelict in the woods and climbed by goats

The car sat there for years. Apparently, goats climbing on the roof made holes in the canvas, and I recall playing on that derelict car with my brother. In 1974, my grandad sold it for scrap to some travellers. I believe the chassis broke in two as it was dragged out of the woods.

The chairman of the Railton Owners Club later inspected it in Norfolk, where he deemed the car un-salvageable. However, another club member decided to purchase and rebuild it into a “special” in the style of a vintage Bentley.

About 20 years ago, I tried tracking down the car. I discovered that it had been through a classic car auction in Duxford, but there the trail ran dry.

Chance encounter

It was January 2021 and I was reading the weekly Cars and Classics email newsletter. Among the five featured cars for sale that week was a Railton. Now, keep in mind that seeing a Railton is quite rare. So imagine what I was thinking when I clicked on the ad and immediately recognised the registration: MG4233. It was my grandad’s!

I reported the find to my dad and uncle. Along with their excitement and interest came the question “you’re not going to buy it, are you?”

Back in the family

That’s how I find myself as the current custodian of the car. I spent last year preparing it for racing, obtaining approval from the Vintage Sports-Car Club, and renewing my own race licence. I’ve raced it three times this year and it’s performed well.

The Railton had its first run in The Distinguished Gentleman’s Drive in 2021. My passenger was my cousin, Christine, who fondly remembers the car at our grandad’s – both smiles and tears were present when we headed out together in our grandad's Railton.

The drive is especially important to her because her brother Stephen, my cousin, took his own life 13 years ago. He too was a classic car enthusiast

It’s wonderful to have the car back in the family. It’s helped not just me, but also my father, uncle and aunt cope with a tragic loss by recounting stories and celebrating my grandad’s life.


The Distinguished Gentleman’s Drive brings together lovers of vintage and classic vehicles. Participants dress in their most dapper outfits to raise money for Movember to fund ground-breaking men’s health projects.

The 2022 Distinguished Gentleman’s Drive is on Sunday, September 25th. Support Graeme and the other drivers in the Bury St Edmunds – Suffolk drive here.