Pride before the fall… and back.

A couple of weeks ago we were contacted by the Daily Telegraph, who were interested in doing a feature/driving test on Mario as one of the ‘working’ cars at the Goodwood Revival for their preview feature in the Saturday motoring pages. Mario being the ‘shy, retiring car’ that he is jumped at the chance of showing off and so we turned up at Goodwood Motor Circuit on a bright sunny Tuesday to do the shoot.

Andrew English the journalist was charming and recognised Mario’s innovative design and completely understood that lots of visitors to the Revival like the small ‘unsung’ cars as much if not more than some of the expensive race machinery, the fact that Mario blogs and FaceBooks to his fans clinched the deal!

The Motor Circuit was chaos as the Revival build was well underway and there was a track day going on as well, Andrew’s initial plan of Mario being able to finally get on the track after years of being a taxi was unfortunately a no go but the photographer took some pics outside the Earls Court Building.

DSC02241 DSC02253 DSC02258 As always Mario loved being the centre of attention and the beautiful DB5 that Andrew arrived in was relegated to second place.DSC02265 As this was to be a ‘driving test’ we set off in Mario and drove up to the horse racing course where Andrew took to the wheel and drove back and forth getting the feel and experiencing the complete Mario package, while the photographer sat in the back snapping away. We then dropped the photographer at the Trundle and he was going to take shots of us driving past. We pulled into the Petworth Road to turn round and then disaster struck. There was a horrible noise as we tried to pull away. Total embarrassment Mario had broken down, with a journalist on board!

Since we restored Mario twelve years ago we had incurred very few problems and had never been unable to get home under our own steam. Typically James – human, mechanic and magic fixer – was that day delivering a car to Chester and so he was not amused when we called him just as he was negotiating Spaghetti Junction! A bit of phone diagnosis later and we concluded that the drive shaft had failed.

There was nothing else to do but call the RAC. After a slightly interesting phone call – Mario doesn’t quite tick the RAC’s computers boxes, we were told somebody would be along to take a look in a hour. Anyway ten minutes later a knight on a white charger – well, Tony the fantastic RAC man in his orange van arrived. After a quick inspection to confirm our diagnosis, he opened his ‘Magic’ van, which with a few whirls and growls transformed into a tow vehicle. Tony very carefully eased Mario backwards (no drive) onto the wheel cradles, he just sneaked on, they don’t normally deal with such small vehicles. Securely strapped on and with the steering wheel tied down straight, Tony really carefully drove us home. I have to say I was very impressed with the care and attention he took to ensure that we got back safely.DSC02269 DSC02270 Andrew was very nice about the disruption to the day – well he was driving and so technically I suppose we could say he’d broken it! The photographer thought he had enough images so it looked like the article would go ahead, Mario was reassured that his downfall wouldn’t appear in print so everybody went home fairly happy.

James has since been able to inspect the damage and disassemble the drive shaft, while the shaft itself still had some appearance of splines the coupling it fits into was rather ‘bald’. Fifty years of wear had just worn them away and it could have failed at anytime so better that it did a month before the Revival, imagine the embarrassment of breakdown with a VIP onboard. A trip to see Franco at Ricambio in Wallington produced all the parts to do a complete overhaul of both sides which James will hopefully complete this weekend so Mario will soon be back in fine health.DSC02273 DSC02282 DSC02284 It takes a lot get Mario’s ‘humans’ out of bed early at the weekend but an early morning dash to the newsagents was required this morning to purchase the Telegraph and there in all its glory in the Revival preview supplement was a double page spread on Mario. Andrew has written a lovely, amusing piece, explaining the cars virtues and as promised with no mention of his disgrace, so Mario can have his pride back and bask in the glory of being ‘famous’ again.DSC02347 DSC02349 DSC02350


Glorious day at Goodwood

DSC02183Yesterday was the annual open day for the Goodwood Road Racing Club. This year Mario’s Brother ‘Regie’ the Renault 4cv was given an invitation to display. It was lightly raining when we left home but by the time we arrived at Goodwood House the sun was shining and it stayed for the rest of the day. The 48 display cars were parked around the carriage circle and all given a board telling a bit about their history. There is always a wide range of cars belonging to members from all over the country and this year even one couple who came from Holland!

DSC02199We had a chance to met and talk to the other entrants over a coffee, the goodwood news website and forum were there filming and interviewed our friend Mike about his De Dion Bouton, the oldest car there and the one which we have been on the London to Brighton on. The chosen cars ‘humans’ were all invited to have lunch in the house which was superb in a lovely setting, especially the dessert, a plate of tiny really fruity jellies, and macaroons sandwiched with fabulous gooey chocolate.

Lord March himself was there to look at the cars on display and we had a opportunity for a nice chat about our cars and working at the Revival, we even let him in on the ‘big surprise’ being planned for the Revival but you will have to wait for that!

This is always a fun family day out with entertainment for the children and people picnicing in front of the house, lots of people arrive in their classic and sports cars but unfortunately we didn’t make it to the car park to see what wonders were on display.

DSC02184People voted for their ‘car of the day’ which was won by a bright orange Lamborghini Miura, the owners were presented with champagne and laurels from the GRRC team, who also revealed that there is a new event being planned for 2014 and to keep the last weekend in March free – lets hope it’s not snowy like this year!

After the presentations we left for a lovely sunny drive home, stopping off to give Mario a wash ready for his important outing tomorrow, this involves the press but we can’t tell you more at the moment… watch this space.

DSC02188DSC02201 DSC02206 I loved the VW ambulance, we had lunch with the owners who had acquired it after the previous camper they owned and restored was destroyed by fire on the way home from Le Mans.

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Summer continues… on the Thames, at Silverstone and Goodwood

This summer has been good, the sun has shone and there have been plenty of things to go to…

A couple of weeks ago we were invited to go to Henley to the Thames Traditional Boat Rally. This event is a huge display of traditionally built craft with the very finest examples of  boatbuilding skills on display. There are around 200 craft on the water from slipper stern launches like the one we were on, gentlemen’s day launches, steam launches, river steamers, sailing craft, vintage speedboats, skiffs, rowing boats, punts, unpowered and electric canoes, right through to vintage sea-going cruisers and many of the famous Dunkirk Little Ships.

The boats take it in turn to parade in classes along the rowing course. There are also pre-50’s cars on display and vintage bicycles. We had a lovely lunch on the boat and then went for a trip down through Henley and then up to Temple Island. It was a stunning day, hot and sunny with loads of beautiful boats with lots of gleaming teak and brass.

DSC01750 DSC01761 DSC01771 DSC01789 DSC01798 DSC01807 DSC01843 DSC01862 DSC01869 DSC01931 DSC01951 DSC01964 The following weekend we went to the Classic Festival at SIlverstone, again without Mario. This annual event is huge but personally I find it a bit low on atmosphere, Silverstone is so spread out and you have to get a bus between the national and international pits. For my personal choice the displays have far too many modern cars and although the actual racing is always good and very competitive it is difficult on a modern GP circuit to get a good vantage point. The cars racing included historic formula one and Group C endurance However we had gone to see a friend race his Lola in the Peter Gethin Trophy for F2 vs F5000, which meant that for one race as ‘Team members’ we could watch from the International Pit Wall. This gave us a great view and as you are so close to the cars as they come down the straight you get a real impression of the speed they are doing.DSC02001 DSC02016 DSC02018 DSC02046 DSC02060 DSC02089 This weekend Mario finally got an outing! It was Thoughbred Sunday at Goodwood Breakfast Club for pre 66 vehicles to get into the spirit of the Revival. We had a pass and so after a horribly early start on a Sunday got in easily and were parked in one of the paddocks. There were a lot of cars there and again it was a lovely sunny morning.

As soon as we stepped out of the car the normal crowd assembled around Mario, loads of people took cards so hopefully even more people will be reading this and liking him on Facebook

I felt rather guilty as I was rather busy on Saturday so Mario didn’t get the promised pre-event pamper. He looked rather grubby to me but his fans didn’t seem to notice! There are a few jobs and some tidying up we need to do before the Revival in September. We are getting excited about it already and there is a surprise afoot so watch this space…

After some sustenance (a bacon buttie) we had a good wander around, a good collection of cars including lots of Aston Martins celebrating their centenary. The theme did seem rather confusing though with quite a smattering of modern sports cars but what the hell everyone was having a good time and as always there were lots of friends to catch up with.
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Hot hot hot…

…the weather and the cars at the 20th anniversary Goodwood Festival of Speed.DSC00723

We had several days at the wonderful Goodwood Festival of Speed. Unfortunately there isn’t much point leaving ‘Mario’ parked in a dusty field so he stays at home. Starting on the Thursday which is the ‘Moving Motorshow’ day, this is much quieter and a good opportunity to have a look around without so many people, most of the displays seemed to be in position but it was only modern manufacturers using the hill for test drives.

This years central sculpture was celebrating 50 years of the Porsche 911, taller than ever the minimalist structure soared into the air over the house displaying three 911’s at the top.

Our favourite areas as usual were the Cathedral Paddock and the Cartier ‘Style et Luxe Lawn’ where some absolutely beautiful cars were on display. The fifty years of McLaren feature was also well designed and layed out using quotes and footage of the companies history and the late Bruce McLarens own experiences, the new road cars looked impressive.DSC00771DSC01201DSC01202

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DSC00553DSC00562 DSC01043 DSC01044The Bonham’s auction on Friday attracted a great deal of attention, especially when the 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R Formula 1 Single-Seater became the most valuable motor car ever sold at auction. The car that took five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio to the second of his Formula 1 world titles achieved a record-breaking figure of £19,601,500 (US$29,650,095, €22,701,864). Although a very famous car with lots of history and the only one not owned by Mercedes it didn’t really look that impressive, it would be difficult to know what to do with it as if it was restored to be raced it would lose all the knocks and scrapes which are it’s history and value.DSC00599 DSC00616

The F1 teams were in attendance as usual with a good smattering of regular and test drivers, the F1 paddock is always so busy and nowhere near as open as in the early days of the FoS when you could chat (and cuddle!) current drivers of the time such as Eddie Irving, these days the drivers have their own minders and are whisked away from the crowds, still it’s closer than you’ll get to them anywhere else. On Thursday I took my Dad for his 80th birthday, he has been a lifelong McLaren fan and the team very kindly let him into their area to take some pictures with the cars, this is what makes Goodwood special.DSC00632 DSC00654 DSC00657 DSC00697

The cricket pitch had been transformed to a strip of desert with some of the greatest land speed cars, the great scene setting was helped by the blazing sun.DSC01425On Friday afternoon we made it up to the top of the hill to the rally stage, although rather dusty it was brilliant to see old and new rally cars being driven in anger.DSC00897 DSC00898 DSC00926 DSC00944

We had a day at home on Saturday but popped down in the evening to see the Ball Fireworks. Always spectacular, they fill the sky and following an amazing show with acrobats, water fountains, motorbikes and this year a McLaren car to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the event. DSC01099 DSC01130 DSC01140 DSC01145 DSC01155 DSC01183

There are loads of stalls, food and major car manufacturers there but I have to praise Ford for a fantastic stand. A ‘scaffold’ tower displaying their new cars with a roof complete with deckchairs for viewing and complimentary photographs and most welcome in the heat, an endless supply of orange lollies, we managed to be at the top for both the Red Arrows Display on Friday and the Eurofighter Typhoon on Sunday as well as watching the twenty years parade go up the hill.DSC00711DSC00822 DSC00832 DSC00858 DSC00863 DSC00876DSC01475DSC01480DSC01363DSC01367 DSC01368 DSC01370 DSC01385 DSC01400 DSC01401 DSC01406 - Version 2In all it was a relaxed and social weekend, meeting up with lots of friends while being surrounded by some of the world’s most extraordinary vehicles. The weekend finished with the prize giving when Lord March was joined on stage by some of motorsports greats – Sir Stirling Moss, Jochen Mass, Derek Bell, Jackie Ickx, Damon Hill, John Surtees, Emerson Fittipaldi, Kevin Schwantz, Emanuele Pirro, Dougie Lampkin and Peter Fonda. Afterwards we were treated to a set played by the Eagles lead guitarist Don Felder who had performed at the ball the previous night, a great end to a fabulous weekend – sipping champagne in the evening sunshine listening to Hotel California! DSC01513 DSC01523 DSC01540 DSC01547 DSC01570