The Goodwood Festival Of Speed is a broad church: perhaps the most non-secular of automotive events there is. Anything and everything from the history of the motor car, from the newest to the oldest. The event has been ticket-only for quite a while now and is always at capacity, and although the effect can be almost claustrophobic at times, it does mean that you get gloriously unexpected grand reveals of cars in this sculpture gallery of metal machine art. So many times over the weekend I had “Oh wow!” moments as another beauty was revealed when the crowd parted at just the right moment.
Sometimes it would be a case of “Is that what I think it is?”, as with the C111 in the opening picture. Other times it was more “What the hell is this – and can I take it home with me?”.
The Festival Of Speed has taken a leaf out of the book of the Revival, held down the hill at the Goodwood race track, and organised Forward Parking Areas to get all of us in the mood from the moment you step through the gate. For FOS the theme was naturally the supercar; a celebration of five decades of excess, where having the right car earned you the right to park inside the perimeter fence.
This provided a stunning introduction to what lay within as far as the street element of the Festival Of Speed was concerned. Modern fare such as Ferraris, McLarens and Porsches dominated, but in between sat plenty of rare exotics, gently roasting under the hot sun and slowly being covered in the dust that floated down from the Forest Rally Stage at the top of the hill.
I’ll move on to the anniversary honours in the next story (specifically the 911, McLaren and Martini), but the whole Festival is effectively one enormous celebration. The Blackrock Driver’s Club walkway featured a line-up of Lamborghini’s finest output…
… but the wildest cars were just round the corner in the Cartier Style Et Luxe display, which this year outdid itself.
Where else could a Veyron be one of the tamest and least impressive machines?
The lawn contained eight categories of cars to be judged by an illustrious panel that included McLaren F1 designer Gordon Murray, Apple’s styling guru Jonathan Ive and design icon Sir Terrence Conran – and also Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon!
The Age Of Elegance covered cars from the birth of the automobile to the early 1930s, from which era Streamliner Sophistication took up the baton. I’m currently obsessed with cars of this period, when exuberance and art deco style collided to create some of the most beautiful cars ever made.
The 1936 Bugatti Type 57 S Atlantic is a case in point: its extravagant lines, fared-in rear wheels and drop-dead curves are stunning, yet it has an almost quasi-military industrial styling to it with the riveted, raised fin running over the body. It’s one of only four Atlantics built, with the S standing for surbaissé: lowered.
Standing nose to nose with the Atlantic was this futuristic hovercar – from 1938. The unique Phantom Corsair was designed by, of all people, Rust Heinz of the ’57 Varieties’ family and was built on a Cord 810 chassis. Four people sat across the front bench seat, with room for two more in the tapering tail.
It was front-wheel drive, featured electrically-operated doors, an automatic gearbox and fully independent suspension. I still find it difficult to believe that these cars are real, as opposed to exaggerated sketches in fantasy comic books. You can only dream of what would have come after these sophisticated machines had not the matter of a world war intervened; automotive extravagance on this scale would virtually disappear for a good 20 years.
I have to admit that the Style Et Luxe area has often provided only a short distraction from the paddocks and hill in previous years, but this time I could barely tear myself away.
Coupe De Grace covered grand tourers of the 1950s, like the Alfa Romeo 2000 Sportiva above and this custom Ferrari 250 GT Speciale, commissioned from Pininfarina by film director Roberto Rossellini for his famous actress wife Ingrid Bergman.
How about the Fiat Turbina prototype from 1954, which picked up on wartime propulsion developments and experimented with applying them to the road.
160mph was the positive; high fuel consumption and overheating the negatives that led to the project being canned. But imagine driving this! It was a vision of the jetset future that was promised to everyone.
Sixties Sensations was just that: a collection of sublime sportscars that included legends like the E-Type, Aston Martin DB4 GT Jet, Facel Vega II, Maserati Mistral and Ferrari’s mid-engine supercar, the Le Mans-winning 250LM.
There was also the gorgeous lowline Bizzarrini Strada 5300 from 1966. Standing just 43″ high, and with a width that just accentuates the svelte styling, this street-legal racer is one of my favourite cars of all time.
The whole display continued to deliver knock-out blows as I wandered about, rather overwhelmed by everything. A day could easily be lost taking in the angles of the 45 cars I’d already passed – and then I stumbled across the concept cars. This was obviously called Show Stoppers for a reason… The crowds were thickest around these seven models that all broke the mould.
The Peugeot Proxima was released in 1986: a gloriously impractical concept with a 600hp twin-turbocharged V6, no doors and oh so very red cockpit to balance the technology it dripped with.
A sliding cockpit roof, carbon bodywork, photovoltaic panels to power the electrics and that squat future-car stance made it quirky, but quite something.
Lancia’s wedge-shaped Stabilo was from just eight years before the Peugeot, but although being based on a Stratos, somehow lacked the shock and awe of the other cars on display. The colour perhaps didn’t help, and neither did the porthole openings in the side window!
Concepts are often deliberately outlandish and difficult, but the 1970 Mercedes-Benz C111 was anything but. C111s were used as technology test mules, with this model powered by a mid-mounted four-rotor Wankel engine good for 180mph. There’s nothing about this car that is anything but utterly perfect.
Unlike the OSI Silver Fox! Part Lightning twin-boom fighter, part catamaran, part Europa, it was designed to compete at Le Mans in 1967. The engine was mounted in the left hull, balancing the driver in the right side, with a series of profiled wings in between. Outlandish and difficult, I’d say!
Vauxhall are one of the UK’s oldest car companies, and the SRV (Styling Research Vehicle) was from the same year as Mercedes’ C111 but showed off a far more extreme concept.
It was only ever a rolling chassis, but was still rather cool. It looked like a Dome prototype from Le Mans, which was itself space age, but was designed to seat four people – there are actually separate doors for the rear compartment, hidden flush with the rear bodywork.
You know it was ‘from the future’ through the liberal use of Helvetica Neue Extended for controls with labels like Relative Incidence and Max Neg O/L. And those buttons! It’s Space 1999 made real.
Regular street machines were shown off on either side of the hillclimb startline, with the Moving Motor Show on one side and then the enormous displays of the manufacturers on the other. There really were some incredible structures: mini cities in some cases.
UK debuts were rampant, with the carbon-tubbed 4C taking pride of place in the Alfa Romeo building.
Jaguar are pushing the new F-Type hard, and the top floor of their structure was dedicated to the heart and art of their new flagship model.
A specially commissioned minimalist sculpture by students from the Royal College Of Art was also shown off…
… whilst down below the crowds flocked around the real thing.
It’s a tough choice as to whether it’s more enjoyable to see these cars up close or to experience them in action. The great thing about Goodwood is not having to choose, as you can have your cake and eat it.
The assembly area at the bottom of the hill is as popular a place to watch the action as by the hill itself, and it’s the same story with the holding pen at the top of the hill. With batches of themed cars being sent up every 45 minutes, there was always a good chance to enjoy the collection of cars awaiting clearance to return back down the hill.
I caught the supercar categories at the top – Only The Fast Need Apply, The Future’s Now and Dynamic Debutants – which provided a mind-blowing car park to take in. Jaguar’s Project 7 looked super aggressive in the flesh…
… with its bulked-up bodykit, uprated engine, track-focused interior and matching helmet that celebrated Jaguar’s seven Le Mans wins and featured several design cues that harked back to the Big Cats of yesteryear.
Lower and faster than any other F, the roof has been completely removed and a D-Type inspired aerodynamic fairing and rollhoop added. I can’t wait to see a coupé…
Although any coupé lust I had was satisfied by Jag’s C-X75, which looked absolutely stunning – more than a match for the artisan hypercar output.
This patriotically-liveried Huayra represented Pagani’s hypercar…
… with its over the top interior styling providing a marked contrast to the more sober cockpits of so many other cars in this category. Bling overload!
And for stripped back, there are few that tick that box more than Aston Martin’s CC100, which was driven by Aston’s Director Of Design, Marek Reichman (as was the Jaguar by its creator).
Morgan retain a special position for most people, building cutting-edge, high power super cars at the same time as continuing with a basic wooden substructure and design that’s over 60 years old. The perfect match of old and new put through a blender of English eccentricity. Though I am glad that they’ve gone to a less cross-eyed headlight layout…
Alfa’s carbon-tubbed 4C was roaring up the hill with the rest of the Dynamic Debutant participants. I still haven’t got used to the insectoid, multifaceted headlight clusters though!
It wasn’t all about the mainstream: GTA’s updated Spano and Spyker’s Aileron were joined by newcomers Arash, Sin, Vencer and Tauro – and Mexico’s rival to the BAC Mono, the Vühl 05, also came out to play.
Though despite a parking lot worth tens of millions, one of the cars that made people smile the most was the Twizy RenaultSport F1. It uses a KERS system from F1, and equipped with slicks and an extreme aero pack is as fast as the quickest Renault road car! Go-kart meets lawnmower meets F1.
Volkswagen’s XL1 was another runner in The Future’s Now; I love the way that it seems to pick up on those space age concepts of the ’50s. I asked a passenger who had just had a ride up the hill what it was like. His response was simply this: “The torque!”
Though it wasn’t all about big boys’ toys: in the large market area were plenty of diversions.
So many supercars, so little time. For me it was time to get dusty and head up the hill to the Forest Rally Stage, and a date with a Skoda Fabia rallycar…