Better late than never… Goodwood MM76

We’ve been promising this for months but the looming Goodwood Revival meet next week reminded me that we had never shared our rather unusual experiences of the 76th Members Meeting.

Taking place back in March, the first major event of the year can obviously be a bit chilly, although we were all lured into a false sense of security with the first ’72’ MM which took place in glorious sunshine back in 2014.

On the Friday before the meeting I was invited to a special talk by the Duke of Richmond, this was exclusively for the founder members of the GRRC and was a fascinating afternoon with the Duke telling great stories about how Motorsport was brought back to Goodwood. It was a beautiful sunny day and the circuit looked magnificent under blue skies with the daffodils gently nodding in the breeze.

However this year the forecast was looking decidedly dodgy for the weekend and as we set off on Saturday morning it was grey and foreboding and very cold. Mario was booked into the Chicane Parking, partly to be on display to his always appreciative public but mainly so we have the most convenient locker, for all those extra layers of clothing and of course the picnic!

This year was going to be even more interesting for us as our friend Adam had his Lola-Chevrolet T142 taking part in the F5000 demonstration. But by mid morning when he was out for his first run, it had started to blizzard and we could hardly see him come down the startline straight from our viewpoint on the top of the pitlane.

The snow eased off after the demo and we were wrapped up exceptionally well, although I looked and felt like a Michelin Man. Taking photos was difficult in thick fur mittens and I couldn’t put my arms down to my side but I wasn’t cold. We spent the rest of the day mooching around the paddocks, watching racing and then in the evening we stayed on for some of the party which had some great entertainment and parades. By the time we came to go home though, poor Mario had a little coating of snow and it was falling lightly all the way back to Haslemere.

The following morning the alarm went at 6am, we were supposed to be at the circuit by 7.30 as Mario had a place in the Members Parade. However I pulled back the curtains to a white landscape. There was no way we were going to be able to move poor Mario and the roads were more or less blocked.

So Mario stayed safely at home. After a couple of hours talking to friends and following FaceBook we managed to get a friend who had James’ ‘truck’ to come and rescue us. Once over the first couple of hills, the snow became much lighter and we were able to get to the circuit just in time for Adam’s demo. the F5000 cars are very powerful and most opted not to go out but Adam was brave or foolish depending how you looked at it and he took to the track with about four4 others and put in a few careful laps for the crowd. The rest of the day went ahead with some good racing, especially the Edwardian Race which was exciting. 

So, considering the conditions we still managed to have a good day and got home without too much trouble although we couldn’t get Mario back to his garage for about three days.

Hopefully the weather will be kinder to us next week, when Mario will be back at Goodwood for his favourite weekend of the year, working as a taxi at the Revival… see you there.

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Weird and wonderful No 6 – Gebruder Verga Coupe

Another in our occasional series of interesting things that have popped up on the internet…  This time this spectacular little space age Coupe produced by a small Carrozzeria or bodyshop in Switzerland in the late 50’s but with a rather interesting story which I have tried to piece together from articles online.

The Gebruder Verga Coupe was a special body on a Volkswagen chassis with a rear-mounted air-cooled engine. There doesn’t seem to be much information or history available but it would appear that at least two cars were built, one more unusual with a bubble-top canopy and a fixed head version with Gull wing doors which may be a copy.

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The Carrozzeria Verga was founded in 1830 by Benjamin Verga as a maker of wagons and carriages crafted from wood and iron. The business stayed in the family and in the next century, later generations became skilled coach builders. In 1956 Enrico Verga produced a prototype car  which appeared at a Concours D’Elegance competition in Campione d’Italia near Lugano. It is thought that this was the beautiful and futuristic glass bubble version and it is this car which features on the website of the family business today – there is no information as to what became of the car, maybe it is hidden away in the workshop!

It featured in a German magazine in the 50’s, who commented, that it had a rather strange opening roof, which lifted up in one piece including the circular door disc and was rather clumsy. In several of the original photos below, the roof seems to have been replaced with a curved windscreen, maybe the roof was removable or perhaps this was a modification or even a different version, although it has the same registration.

Verga-coupe1Verga-coupe3Verga-coupe2Verga-coupe5Verga-coupe6Verga-old-adIt is not known if the second ‘version’ was designed and built by Verga but it has a remarkably similar body shape and styling although it is a fixed head with Gull wing doors. It does have a more intriguing story and is still in existence.

Over the years this car had some rather extensive modifications for not entirely legal reasons. It was used to smuggle auto bits, especially truck ball bearings at a time when customs duties were high. Secret compartments had been installed and the four corners of the body had jacks, which raised it up to reveal the contraband goods. The frame had been reinforced to take the extra weight.

In 1959 the car was seized by the French Police at Arnéguy on the Spainish border. It was confiscated by the state and stored in a warehouse at the La Rochelle Customs School until it was rediscovered quite recently. Eventually it was auctioned by the French Authorities, it was purchased and  has been returned to Switzerland, where I believe it is being restored. Even the journey back wasn’t uneventful as the bonnet blew off on the motorway. Amazingly after an online appeal and the offer of a reward, the bonnet was discovered in a field not far from it’s final destination and returned to the new owner!

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Carrozzeria Verga is still in business today and is run by Simone Verga the Great Grandson of Benjamin.

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Hopefully more information will come to light and the car or cars will be seen again soon.

Classic SUNday at Goodwood Breakfast Club

The sun shone brightly for the 2018 Classic Car Sunday at Goodwood Breakfast Club, the only one we’ve been eligible for this year. Armed with Mario’s pass we set off quite early (for us) and had a lovely drive down. The circuit was packed and we were parked out on the run off area at Madgwick.

There was a good collection of cars in attendance and a good variety. In my opinion it is the best theme and the most tightly controlled, so there isn’t a load of modern stuff you can see in the average supermarket carpark or a bunch of kids fawning over ‘supercars’.

Mario as usual was a star and was immediately surrounded by people, I’m amazed that after nearly twenty years of taking him to Goodwood events that there are still people that have never seen an original Multipla.

We did far too much socialising but did manage to take a few pictures of some of the cars which caught our eye – thinking about this blog they are mainly Fiats and other Italian Classics. Our two favourites of the day were a Fiat Abarth 750 Zagato, the fabulous ‘Double Bubble’ and an early Skoda Octavia, launched in 1959 this was the 8th model since Skoda’s post war nationalisation. While not fast it was well equipped for the time. This one had been brought to the Uk and undergone a restoration, it was rather lovely, only spoilt by the modern number plates.

So with a great display of classics, an impromptu air display and beautiful weather this had been one of the best Breakfast Clubs for a while. It was great to be out in Mario and we took the opportunity for a little run down to the seaside after.