I blame eBay. If I hadn’t seen that little blue Fiat 124 Spider for sale back in 2008 I would have been blissfully unaware of the world of classic motoring. But I did see it…
And not long afterwards I was the bewildered owner of a very red (and very rusty) 1968 Fiat 124 Spider of my very own. Bought from a very nice gentleman in Somerset in south-west England, who was selling the car as his son, the prior owner, had tragically passed away. This had been more than a little red Italian car to him. It had been a passion.
And it’s that passion that finds my 13 year old daughter and I awake at 5.30am on an unusually sunny UK morning in August – bleary eyed, dressed and chewing on half a pain au chocolat each, mumbling at each other, and both of us wondering why we are up so early and why exactly we are doing this…
But it’s really very simple. We are headed to the Goodwood Motor Circuit in East Sussex. For those unfamiliar with Goodwood the simplest way to describe it is “Disneyland for Petrolheads”. To get a sense of the history of this famous circuit, take a look here www.goodwood.com/estate/motor-circuit/history/
Now famous worldwide for the fabulous Festival of Speed and the Goodwood Revival events (the latter seeing everyone turn up in period 1930s – 70s clothes), Goodwood has become a huge success and has had a big part to play in the boom in the world of classic cars. The last 10 years has seen participation in such events grow exponentially and values of most classic cars climb – and in some very special cases, soar to eye-watering levels…
Try £35million for a Ferrari 250 GTO. That might buy you a painting by Basquiat, but you can’t take a painting on an Italian driving holiday or, if you are mad enough (or Nick Mason, Pink Floyd’s drummer) hoon it around Goodwood’s fast, sweeping circuit, battling it out with other well-heeled loonies (such as Rowan Atkinson) in their priceless Aston Martins, Shelby Cobras or Lightweight E-type Jaguars. I know which I’d rather have.
So, my daughter and I wipe the sleep from our eyes and climb aboard my 1966 911 SWB (a two year restoration now sees it back to its former glory) and head off to one of Goodwood’s smaller, informal events, the Classic Car Breakfast Club. In theory this is just a gathering of classic car owners at a lovely old motor circuit in West Sussex. Park up, have a bacon sandwich and a coffee, chat to a few fellow car bores, admire the other cars and drive home via the leafy A and B roads of West Sussex. Sounds nice enough, the kind of event that happens around the world and commonly referred to now as “cars and coffee”. You may even see Jerry Seinfeld at one if you happen to be in LA (check out his YouTube videos “Comedians in Cars getting Coffee”).
But this is Goodwood. Goodwood does things in a way only Goodwood can.
Detail. It’s all in the detail. Thousands of little details adding up to an unrivalled and unmatchable atmosphere. Goodwood is curated just as any of the world’s finest museums. Everything has been thought about. Nothing is accidental. And everything is immaculate. It’s very difficult to put into words. But you won’t get this experience anywhere else in the world. The sense of anticipation as you see the road signs for the first time, the feeling as you turn onto that famous circuit in your own car.
For a few moments (and at much slower speeds) you imagine yourself there alongside Stirling Moss and Graham Hill (all the greats raced here). You take Woodcote imagining Jim Clark up ahead, his Lotus 33 barking as he changes down before the chicane. And then you are on the start/finish straight which stretches out so invitingly ahead, the temptation to floor it and blast off around the circuit is almost unbearable. But instead you give an imaginary wink to John Surtees who whistles past on his MV Augusta and the ever-patient marshalls help you park up carefully on the famous old grid. You’ve arrived. Welcome to Goodwood.
Parking carefully at these events is quite important. Whilst I obviously don’t want to damage my recently restored car by hitting the barrier, I also really very much do not want to damage the Maserati 3500GT to the right nor the very nice BMW to the left. No, I would not want to start the day by exchanging insurance details with the very nice owners of either of those glorious (and valuable) motor cars. But all is well. I park up without incident and breathe a sigh of relief. We clamber out of the 911 (quietly pinging and ticking as it cools down after its 90 mile run), lock up and head straight for the bacon sandwich van. And coffee. I need a coffee!!!
I will let the photos tell the rest of the story. There is something for everyone. Love old British open top sports cars? American muscle? Italian flair? The weird and wonderful. It’s all here. And it’s the best of the best. All set against the backdrop of the Goodwood Motor Circuit and airfield.
On a sunny summer’s morning in England there is nowhere else I would rather be. Bacon sandwich in hand, chatting with my daughter, checking out some glorious machinery in the sunshine. Life is good. For a few hours this is all there is. No news (fake or otherwise), no emails, no calls. We’ve stepped back in time. Only Goodwood can do this. And it was free to enter.
So thank you Lord March and team. Goodwood. Nowhere does it better.
P.S. a word here for my daughter. 13 years old and prepared to take a 180 mile round trip in a 51 year old car to get breakfast. Respect. And much love and thanks from a very happy Dad. Precious time together. And it wasn’t even my birthday or Father’s Day. xxxxxx
– by guest writer, Jon Stevenson. (Classic Car Restorer + Enthusiast, and other hidden talents)