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Best of British? Nah, Best of the World.

By Shaun Lay (CarAdvice’s UK Correspondent)

So what have the British given us? By us I mean the good people of Australia. Being an ex member of the British Empire meant we automatically got ourselves a Head of State (that we don’t really recognise, save for the public holiday), the English language, sports to be good at (eg cricket, rugby and netball) and amongst other things, a spot in the Commonwealth Games. Other than these things, there’s nothing glaringly obvious.

What the British are particularly renowned for is bringing back treasures from far flung parts of their vast empire. You only need to have a quick wonder through the massively impressive British Museum to see the amount of collecting that went on in the glory days of the Empire. Some notable mentions include the Rosetta Stone, Elgin Marbles and mummy of Cleopatra. If you head over to the Natural History Museum you’ll see another testament to the British love of collecting things.

Depending on what you’re collecting, it’s generally a rich man’s hobby. This means that a lot of the world’s treasures have been locked away and that the public have to rely on museums and galleries for a glimpse of history. Just think how many private art and motor collections must be out there. A case in point is the collection of beautiful machinery in Jay Leno’s garage. Sure these cars, trucks and planes are well looked after but who ever gets to see them? Or hear the engine rumble/purr/whine/scream? Or even smell that sweet smell of incomplete combustion.

I’m glad to say that there is a place for all the cars in private collections around the world to come out and play. Over the years, the Earl of March has created arguably the biggest event on the global automotive calendar. The Goodwood Festival of Speed provides a means for the public to get up close and personal with some of the finest pieces of machinery ever to burn petrol (or electricity but that gets a bit confusing).

It provides a means for the generally reclusive world of historic cars to get out and be driven in anger. The Festival of Speed gives anyone willing to stump up the cash, to get up close to these magnificent cars. This is better than any motorshow. Here you can see, touch, hear and smell the cars. It’s positively intoxicating.

At Goodwood this year they celebrated 50 years of racing at Bathurst with some fine racing motors. Aussie V8 muscle was ably represented by Brock’s 1982 VH Commodore, Moffatt and Ickx’s 1973 XC Falcon and Perkins/Ingall 1995 VR Commodore. These cars got some serious attention from the Brits, there’s nothing like the roar of a big racing V8 to draw the crowds.

I’ve got a little story here for you about the VH Commodore that made me quite proud to be called an Australian. By the way, I’m a Ford man but being Aussie comes first.

Goodwood runs for three days, Friday through to Sunday. On the Friday, Peter Champion, the pilot of Brock’s VH managed to inadvertently find some hay bails with the front of the car. I had a quick chat to Peter and he blamed a few things for his bender.

  1. He was a little over excited with being at Goodwood,
  2. The VH isn’t really an ideal hillclimb car (the brakes don’t work unless they’re up to temp and you just don’t get that in 1.16 miles) and
  3. He missed second gear coming into a corner (he had to use the gears to slow down due to non functioning brakes).

So how does this make me proud to be an Aussie? The bender with the hay bails took out a fair chunk of the bumper and snapped the steering rod. If this had happened in Oz, you’d just head to the wreckers and you’d be sorted. Unfortunately, VH Commodores are hard to find in southeast England so Peter headed off to the nearest workshop and managed to beat the VH back into reasonable shape.

As for the snapped steering rod, Peter went a little bush mechanic and welded it back together himself. Although he wasn’t too confident with his welding job, he still gave it full beans up the hill for the rest of the Festival. That folks, is how you go racing.

So in answer to my original question, the Brits have given us the ultimate motoring festival. I truly believe if you’re going to plan a trip to the UK you schedule it so you’re in southeast England for early July and pop into Goodwood for the weekend. Goodwood is so much more than a motorshow, hillclimb or historic race day. It’s a celebration of motoring and motorsports. It’s a collection of the best the automotive world has to offer and most importantly it’s all here for everyone to see.

Catch you next year.




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