Goodwood Greats: A cover story

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Back in the halcyon days of 2018, I had my first magazine cover story where I’m credited as both writer and photographer, covering the 25th Goodwood Festival Of Speed for The Automobile.

With a (hopefully) glorious new events season imminent, following a catastrophically curtailed 2020 season, I thought now would be the perfect time to revisit the article. Here it is in full, as published in the September 2018 issue of the mag.

I have a slight problem.

The editor has given me just 500 words to recount my Goodwood Festival of Speed experience. 500 words! That’s like trying to summarise War And Peace into a tweet or describing the Mona Lisa’s smile using only interpretive dance. Frankly, impossible. And I’ve already wasted ten per cent on this intro.

Okay, let’s give this a go. For those that have been living under a rock for the last quarter of a century, the Festival is basically Europe’s largest automotive-themed garden party. The Duke of Richmond and Gordon magnanimously allows 750,000 punters to trample across his estate, dribbling uncontrollably at the finest collection of car porn this side of Jay Leno’s lean-to.

It also happens to be the UK’s most eclectic show, with seemingly every motoring predilection catered for. There are no fewer than thirty classes of cars, covering everything from Edwardian monsters to the latest hybrid supercars via formula one, touring cars, NASCAR, rally cars, drift cars, GTs, superbikes, prototypes… the list goes on and on. No-one’s really counting, but there are nearly six hundred cars and bikes crammed into the paddock. Oh, and did I mention that pretty much every last one of them has a crack at the Goodwood hill?

This 1908 Grand Prix Itala – affectionately known as ‘Floretta’ – has been a mainstay of the UK’s ‘old car’ movement for over a century, and was one of the iconic cars around which the Vintage Sports-Car Club was founded in 1934. It has previously been described as ‘a big, buxom, muscular, Italian diva’, and I’m not sure I can add anything to that!

All of this is utterly marvellous of course, but it does make planning your visit something akin to a military exercise. I had the luxury of three days to catch everything, and still found myself flicking through the beautifully-designed programme afterwards, cursing at the things I’d missed. I can’t see how you’d possibly get around everything in a day. If you’ve never been, and this article somehow inspires you to go next year, my advice is simple: invest in a really comfy deck chair and a cool box, find a good spot somewhere on the hill and let everything come to you.

How am I doing? 300 words. Crikey, better get a wriggle on.

A true racing thoroughbred, the Alfa Romeo TZ2 featured a tubular frame and fibreglass body, a power output exceeding 100bhp per litre and gorgeous swooping lines courtesy of Zagato. The car was unveiled at the 1964 Turin Auto Show, but production was limited to just two years and a dozen cars.

And what of my personal highlights? Well, as you’d expect from someone writing for The Automobile, anything pre-war makes me go a little bit giddy so watching the aero-engined behemoths thundering up the hill was awe-inspiring; the Red Arrows drawing a giant heart in the sky – complete with Cupid’s arrow, naturally – gave me a lump in my throat the size of the Isle Of Man; somehow blagging my way onto the lawn for the Porsche celebrations and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Derek Bell and Magnus Walker was a pinch-me moment; watching the rally heroes of my youth beneath the forest canopy while gradually turning chalky-white was dusty heaven; and finally (and way off-topic for this mag) seeing Volkswagen’s incredible I.D. R Pike’s Peak electric hypercar come within a whisker of breaking the 19-year-old hillclimb record, albeit with all the aural drama of a kettle boiling, was sci-fi made real. There were loads more, but I’m nudging dangerously close to my word limit.

Making its first appearance in the UK, ‘The Flying Jaguar’ is a one-off coupé based on a Jaguar XK120 chassis. The aptly-named Madame Bourgeois, Belgium’s primary Jaguar importer, commissioned Stabilimenti Farina to create the car for her stand at the 1952 Brussels Motor Show.

To be honest, if I had another 5000 words, I’d still struggle to do the Festival of Speed justice. Like a petrolhead Glastonbury, no one person’s account could ever be definitive as the sheer scale and diversity means that every experience will be unique.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to start planning for next year’s event…

Selected highlights

What can I possibly say about the wondrous 28-litre Fiat S76 that hasn’t been said before? ‘The Beast of Turin’ has become a genuine motoring icon – making the unassuming Duncan Pittaway a rock star in the process.
Tucked unceremoniously and discretely away in the paddock area, Porsche 356 ‘No.1’ made a rare trip over from the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart to join in the marque’s 70th anniversary celebrations. Dating from 1948, this mid-engined, Beetle-derived roadster was the first car to carry the Porsche name.
Making light work of the Goodwood hill, the Cottin-Desgouttes Grand Prix, a veteran of more challenging climbs after winning the gruelling 13.4-mile Mont Ventoux in 1911. The car is also a former Pebble Beach class winner and even had a bit part in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
This year’s Central Feature by artist and designer Gerry Judah stood 52 metres tall and celebrated 70 years of Porsche, with cars (yes, they are actual cars!) spanning the marque’s history from the 356 to the 919 Hybrid.
The elegant lines of this Jaguar are a one-off styling exercise by coachbuilders Michelotti, who purchased the remains of a D-Type involved in a fatal accident at Le Mans in 1958. Michelotti’s interpretation debuted at the 1963 Geneva Motor Show, where it was awarded first place for excellence.
It was hard not to notice this strikingly-liveried Maserati Tipo 420/M/58, with it’s grinning cartoon cowboy on the bonnet. It was commissioned in 1958 by Gino Zanetti to promote his Eldorado ice cream brand, and was the first single-seat racer to carry non-motoring branding, inadvertently changing motorsport forever and paving the way for the sponsorship deals that are now the norm.
The Avions Voisin LSR is a curious beast; powered by two engines operating in-line, it also does away with a gearbox to save weight, relying on an oversized clutch and the massive torque produced to get it moving despite the high final drive gearing. Despite its unconventional nature, it evidently worked – the car took 18 speed records in 1927.
One of the most intriguing parts of the ‘Cartier Style et Luxe’ concours d’elegance was the Bright Sparks class, which showcased pioneering electric vehicles from the turn of the last century. This 1902 Columbia XXXI, produced by the Electric Vehicle Company of New York, boasted a range of 40 miles and a top speed of 13mph when new.
The Auto Union C-type was a racing car developed in the mid-1930s by Ferdinand Porsche as part of a government-sponsored racing program. Powered by a mid-mounted 6-litre V16 engine, the car had notoriously difficult handling but tremendous acceleration, with a driver able to induce wheelspin at 150mph. After the Second World War, the original cars were lost in the Soviet Union, so Audi commissioned this faithful replica in 1998.
The paddock was the place to get up close and personal with the cars, as with this display of post-war Grand Prix cars where a pair of BRMs are flanked by a selection of Maranello’s finest.
One of the most famous of all the silver Mercedes, ‘658’ was driven by Juan Manuel Fangio in the 1955 Mille Miglia. He finished second to team-mate Stirling Moss, despite the car running on seven cylinders for much of the race.
Baker Electrics was one of the USA’s largest producers of electric vehicles in the early 20th century, with a car in the very first White House fleet. This 1912 model represents one of the company’s later cars before the name was retired in 1916.
Duncan Pittaway brought along his latest toy, a wonderfully raucous 550 bhp Cheetah-Chevrolet that was, until the day before the Festival, a pile of bits on his garage floor. The car’s first run out was up the Goodwood hill.
A fine example of pure American design from the pre-Jet Age years, this Harley Earl-penned 1953 Cadillac Eldorado convertible was an exclusive trim option package for the Series 62. It was also the company’s most expensive model at $7,750 – the price of two regular Cadillacs.
Born from a desire to sell batteries, electricity pioneer Thomas Edison enlisted the help of Henry Ford and Arrol Johnson to build three cars from a workshop in London, of which this 1912 Edison Electric is one. A shameless self-publicist, Edison had one drive from Scotland to London on just a few charges, setting a record that remained unbeaten for many years.
To compete in the 1938 Liège-Rome Liège endurance race, Auto Union constructed three Wanderer W25 Streamliner Specials, featuring a slippery aluminium body and Ferdinand Porsche-designed 1950cc straight-six engine. The cars raced just twice before the outbreak of World War Two when, like so many cars of that era, they disappeared. This modern recreation was displayed by Audi Tradition.
A genuine ‘barn find’, this unique alloy-bodied fastback by Michelotti was re-bodied from a wrecked Jaguar XK140 using early-1960s off-the-shelf Italian components. It was recently purchased at a Bonhams auction in Monaco by Jaguar Land Rover, who intend to restore the car to its former glory.
If all the cars at this year’s Festival of Speed were to become Top Trumps cards, the Mercedes-Benz T80 would beat them all. Powered by a 44-litre 3500bhp V12 usually employed in a Messerschmidt Bf109 fighter plane, it was theoretically capable of reaching 470mph, although the outbreak of World War Two scuppered the Land Speed Record attempt and it subsequently became a museum exhibit.
After winning the 1902 Gordon Bennett Cup, a motorcar race for national teams, Napier painted their cars green in honour of the host country of the 1903 race, Ireland. The colour stuck and subsequently became what we now know as British Racing Green. This particular car, an 11-litre Napier 100hp, was entered into the 1904 race, but crashed during qualification.
The Cartier Style et Luxe also celebrated 110 years of Ford’s game-changing Model T. Class winner was this stunning Shell-liveried 1919 Model TT fuel tanker, all original and fresh from a recent restoration.
The Mercedes-Benz W125 is a true monster of the track; generating 637bhp from its 5.6-litre supercharged engine, it decimated all-comers in 1937, finishing first, second, third and fourth in the European Championship, before a change in legislation limiting cars to 3000cc forced its retirement. It would be decades before racing cars reached similar power outputs.