During the 1970’s, an annual Classic Car Rally was held in Cooper’s Field behind Cardiff Castle. The venue was not suitable for large commercial vehicles because of difficult access and weight restrictions. At this time, the South Wales Branch of the Historic Commercial Vehicle Club was quite active and it was decided to try and run its’ own event in a more suitable location. It so happened that Cardiff City Council were celebrating 1900 years of Cardiff during 1976 and it was agreed that one of the events would be an Historic Commercial Vehicle Rally in Museum Avenue, Cardiff.
The event was held on Sunday 27th June 1976 and was a great success. A glance through the programme booklet reveals that no fewer than 31 buses were entered including 10 dating from 1940 or earlier. Making their first appearance following conversion to open-top were Cardiff Guys 424 and 434 operating short tours around the City.
The following year, 1977, was the 75th anniversary of municipal operation of public transport in Cardiff. Over 40 old buses and coaches were entered in addition to a display of more modern vehicles. Cardiff trolleybus 215 made its’ first appearance following restoration and was presented to the National Museum of Wales by City of Cardiff Transport.
The 1978 event was held as part of The South Wales Echo Steam & Transport Weekend. 43 old buses feature in the programme although it is a sad feature of nearly all rallies that quite a few entries fail to arrive. However, late entries usually make up the shortfall.
1979 saw a slight decline in the number of vehicle entries due, in some part, to the lack of an overall sponsor and the fuel crisis that prevented many vehicles attending. At this stage it was feared that the rallies could not continue because of rising costs and lack of funding.
The 1980 Rally was saved by sponsorship for WHS Advertising Ltd but unfortunately a copy of the programme is currently not available. A video of the event shows that a good number of vehicles attended including a selection of buses in advertising liveries. The Pumpkin Group sponsored bus pulling competition was held in conjunction with the rally.
The 1981 rally programme booklet does not contain a list of entries as this formed a separate supplement in an attempt to present a more up to date list of entries. Again sponsored by WHS Advertising.
By 1982 the HCVC had become HCVS but, despite further sponsorship from WHS, the event was beginning to suffer from being too much the same each year.
A big revival took place in 1983 with a big rally to celebrate the 100 years of municipal transport in Britain. Municipal buses and coaches, new and old, came to Cardiff from all over the country. The programme supplement lists some 109 buses and coaches.
The 1984 Rally was back to the smaller format and, although rallies were held in 1985 and 1986 copies of the programme booklets are not available.
The problem of repetition year after year was tackled in 1987 with the event renamed the Cardiff Transport Spectacular and featuring an emergency vehicles display. The South Glamorgan Fire & Rescue Service moved all but one of their appliances from Adam Street and responded to calls from the rally site.
1988 saw the last of the Cardiff Rallies – again no programme booklet is available.
In 1989 the HCVS rally moved to Margam Park for the South Wales Transport Extravaganza to celebrate 75 years of SWT bus and coach services.