2018 was an incredible year for me, I got to go to some brilliant events, drive some fantastic cars and meet some wonderful people. Narrowing all that has gone on in the past 12 months down to just 5 moments has been tough, but here goes:
5. Superformance UK Visit
Back in April me and a fellow petrolhead, Sam, were invited down to a special location in West Sussex to visit the workshop of Nigel Hulme – former racing driver and owner of Le Mans Coupes Limited who are the sole UK distributor and assembler of Superformance continuation cars.
Superformance is a fabricator of complete “rolling chassis” replica and continuation vehicles produced in South Africa and then sold through over 20 independent dealers around the world and I was there to sample 2 of their very special cars – a “warts and all” continuation model of the iconic Le Mans-winning Mk1 Ford GT40 and an LS-powered Shelby Daytona Coupe replica pushing out over 500bhp.
First up was the Daytona Coupe, a car I’ve lusted over since I was a young boy. A narrow front end, big V8, wide hips and an angry exhaust – a proper muscle car. Just looking at it makes me weak at the knees. The 1960s really were the best years for automotive styling, and the huge rounded arches and that ducktail spoiler still look amazing today. The chop from the V8 shouting through the side exit exhaust was enough to make any internal combustion fan weak at the knees.
When I had finally got over the rush of the Daytona, Nigel’s son, Oliver, took me out in the GT40. I’ve been in many race cars and supercars over the years and also a fair few classics, but never a single car that incorporates all three in one in such a way. The GT40 is as incredible inside as it is outside. The noise from the mid-mounted V8 is almost deafening and the speed is mind-blowing. It’s a truly exhilarating experience.
4. Bicester Heritage Sunday Scramble
Set on an old airbase in Bicester, the Bicester Heritage site is the place of dreams for any automotive enthusiast. Whether it be pre-war, 70s race cars or present day, the site has something for everyone and a few times a year they open their gates for the masses with the Sunday Scramble.
I had heard a lot about the Sunday Scramble from a few photographer friends of mine but had never been available to attend until last January, on the day of my 31st Birthday, and I can say with full confidence that it was everything I expected and so much more. Not only do all the various workshops and vendors open their doors for everyone to have a look at some of the truly remarkable work they are doing and have done in the past, but thousands of people flock there in their pride and joys to park up around the site. Cars ranging from brand new Aston Martin DB11s to restored Jaguar D-Types and everything in between could be seen driving on to the site and car clubs assembled on the surrounding airfield on the crisp January morning.
As much as I love visiting various automotive events throughout the year in big exhibition centres like the Classic Car Show, there’s something about seeing some of the world’s most desired cars just parked up outside on the street that makes it feel more special and surreal. Image waking up in the morning and walking out of your front door and seeing all the Peugeot 308s and BMW 3-series’ parked along the road had been replaced by a Jaguar XJ220, a Ferrari 250 SWB, various Porsches and even some pre-war Bentleys. That’s what walking down the roads on the Heritage site is like. You really have to go and experience it to properly understand it.
Another highlight of the event for me was taking my Jag. I know the XJ Sport isn’t a classic (yet) and my particular example was far from a showroom standard, but it still felt like it belonged there when I parked up between a mint condition Austin Metro and a bright yellow Ferrari 348. There was no badge snobbery here, and no opinions on what a classic car is, just an airfield full of like-minded people enjoying a relaxed Sunday morning with some good coffee and amazing cars.
3. Heveningham Hall Concours d’Elegance
Set within the glorious 5,000-acre Georgian estate, the Heveningham Hall Concours d’Elegance has become one of the most talked about Concours events in the automotive calendar which is hugely impressive given that this year is only its third. Set in the private garden of the Hall on a meticulously maintained tiered lawn sat 54 of the finest cars the world has ever seen. Ranging from present-day exotics like the Aston Martin Vulcan and Pagani Huayra to pre-war masterpieces like the 1937 Bugatti Type 57S and even an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen. Nick Mason’s utterly stunning Ferrari 250 GTO was also on show and he even drove it (flat out, I must add) up the newly introduced “Horsepower Hill” on the Saturday of the event – a 1/4-mile sprint uphill into the estate woodland. The (estimated) £50m Ferrari may not have won the Hillclimb race, but it certainly stole the show. In the end, Max Hunt won in a 2013 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse – no surprises there really…
A lot like the Sunday Scramble, the Heveningham Hall Concours d’Elegance has quickly become one of my favourites in the car calendar not only due to the exceptional quality of the cars on show, but also the wonderfully relaxed environment in which the event is set and also the great people I have stayed with and mingled with during my weekend there. Being able to read a plaque or short bio of a car is one thing, but being able to actually meet the owner and find out about the history and hear stories about the ownership experience of these cars is amazing. You could write whole books on some of the cars, and the people who own them!
This truly wonderful spectacle returns again in 2019 on the 22nd and 23rd of June within the Heveningham Hall Country Fair and if the last few years are anything to go by, it will not be an event to miss. I will be there again for the third year in a row and I cannot wait to see what the entry list for 2019 is going to be…
2. Goodwood Motor Circuit Media Drive Day
It’s not every day you receive a phone call asking if you want to spend the day driving a variety of luxury and supercars, and it definitely isn’t every day you receive the same call but also asking if you’d like to do this on the historic Goodwood Motor Circuit… Well, back in April I got such a call.
My alarm went off at the ungodly time of 4:30 am and after a quick shower and coffee, I was headed down to Chichester with absolutely no idea what was in store. My original invitation actually came from the lovely people over at Rolls Royce, so I knew there would be at least some of those around, but I literally had no idea what else, or who else would be in attendance so the whole drive down was spent wondering what I would get to sample when I had finished my 160 mile trip down through the South Downs.
In typical me fashion, I was early which was great as it gave me a good hour to snoop about the circuit and all I can say is “Wow” – imagine being asked to list all the cars you’d buy right now if you won the lottery, and that would give you a rough idea of what was available. McLarens, Porsches, Aston Martins, Bentleys, Ferraris and Lamborghinis to name a few were all gassed up and ready to be driven.
The set up for the day was simple, you had a couple of choices including driving a select few cars on the iconic circuit itself with the help of a trained and qualified instructor and there were also some cars to take out on a pre-planned route of the expansive Goodwood Estate. Given that this was a strict invitation-only event, access to all the cars was pretty much guaranteed. Highlights from the track part of the day for me was a first drive in the all-new Aston Martin Vantage, hammering a Rolls Royce Ghost around the circuit at full chat and finally getting to push the McLaren 570s to its limit. Off-track highlights included understanding the Bentley Bentayga a bit more, being chauffeured about in the back of the opulent and decadent Rolls Royce Phantom VIII and experiencing the exhilarating and ground-breaking McLaren 720s.
1. Goodwood Festival of Speed – Land Rover 70th Anniversary Parade
Hands down, this was not only a highlight for 2018 but a highlight for my time writing about cars. Not only was this my first visit to FoS as an accredited member of the press, but I was also a guest of Land Rover UK and one of the drivers for their 70th Anniversary Parade lap up the infamous Goodwood Hillclimb.
As a long-term Land Rover fan and a previous owner, it was a great privilege to be handed the keys to the first Discovery 3 (badged LR3, as this was for the US market) to ever roll off the production line back in 2004. This model was the petrol V8 in black with full tan leather and left-hand-drive and it only had a handful of miles on as it has been on display at the British Motoring Museum for many years. It was like being in a brand new car and soon the memories of my beloved Disco 3 came flooding back (except this one didn’t break down…)
Trying to organise a parade of 70 Land Rovers at any time is no easy task, so for the team and Land Rover UK to get this to coincide with all the other action going on at the Festival of Speed was nothing short of a miracle and from what I could gather, it all went off without a hitch, and even though there was a lot of waiting around at the start and it seemed to take a while to get to the top of the track, there was still plenty of time left in the day to explore and see everything else the Festival of Speed has to offer.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed has always been one of my must-do events of the calendar and I’ve had many a good trip down to Chichester to enjoy the sites and sounds and smells of the event, but I’m really not sure how 2019 can top this! I will be going again this year, but I’m not sure in what capacity just yet! Hopefully, I’ll be able to either take something up the Hillclimb again, and this time not at 5mph, or at least take something nice down with me to write about after! Fingers crossed…
Obviously, there were many more highlights to 2018, these are just the top 5 individual events that made it a great year for me, however, there were also so many others including spending more time than I ever thought I would with brands like Rolls Royce, Bentley, and Aston Martin and also meeting so many great people throughout the year at various events and test drives. 2019 has some big boots to fill!