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A Piece of Bonneville Comes to Goodwood

1970s Camaro was an undoubted crowd pleaser with wild smokey burnouts 

As you can’t fail to have noticed, many parts of the UK have had more rain this month than at any time since records began.  It's just what you need when you’ve invited priceless cars, their owners, sponsors and celebrities to the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed, which took place last weekend.

The prospect of driving 75 miles down to Goodwood for the pleasure of huddling in a marquee for several hours with other rain-soaked spectators somehow didn’t hold great appeal.  A look at the BBC on-line weather forecast added the prospect of further misery with the whole of the South East seemingly swathed in rain.  However, a look at the actual weather map rather than the predicted weather for the previous hour, bore no resemblance to the BBC forecast, and showed virtually no rain in the south and much clearer skies than predicted.

Armed with one hour out-of-date weather knowledge, we set off for Goodwood on Friday - traditionally a quieter day, with the prospect of a lot less traffic. However, a journey that would normally take about one hour and thirty minutes ended up with an extra hour on top – so much for an easy passage to the event.  On arrival at Goodwood the weather looked promising and I’m pleased to say it remained dry throughout most of the day.


Early MG streamliner reveals they've been racing on the salt for a long time


Once there, top of the agenda was a visit to the Bonneville display laid out on the cricket pitch, a section of which had been transformed to resemble the salt flats with a base of fine white stones. Someone had obviously been watching the film The World’s Fastest Indian as there was almost a recreation of that movie set, with a wooden marquee, plus SCTA banner and lots of other little details.  Someone had put a lot of time into this display, and it certainly paid off.  To cap it all, two of the cars featured in the movie were also on display.  All that seemed missing were Burt Munro and his bike.  Apparently, attempts were made to get the bike on show, which didn’t work out, and Bert sadly passed away some years ago.


Two of the stars from "The World's Fastest Indian" movie


Putting in a reappeartance at Goodwood was the so Cal belly tank, constructed around a P38 aircraft fuel tank, and watched over at the event by owner and car collector Bruce Meyer. The theme for Goodwood this year was ‘Spark of Genius – Breaking Records, Pushing Boundaries’ and the Bonneville display had more than its fair share of record breakers. The most prominent projectile on display was Gary Gabelich’s Blue Flame rocket car – a scary looking three wheeler that went 630.478mph in 1970 and held the World Land Speed record for 13 years.  Think about it - this is the same wheel configuration as a Reliant Robin and we all know how inherently unstable they are!

The So Cal Belly Tank restored some years ago for owner Bruce Meyer (below) 


Alongside was Mickey Thompson’s 1960 Challenger 1 – a stunning 400mph-plus, quad-engined streamliner, and Al Teague’s, compact streamliner - Spirit of 76, for many years the world’s fastest piston-powered vehicle with a terminal speed of 409mph.

In addition, there was a clutch of famous speed record MGs, the contemporary JCB DieselMax which broke records in 2006 and hopes to do so again later this year, and Ron Main’s 2.0 litre GM Ecofire motored streamliner was also present.  This 800 hp machine set a new blown streamliner record at Bonneville in 2004 at 309 mph – no mean feat for a four-banger!   


Mickey Thompson's Challenger 1 dwarfed by the Blue Flame rocket car


Close to the Bonneville display was the Krazy Horse custom cycle operation with plenty of neat chops on show, plus the outstanding Model A built for owner Paul Beamish by Adrian Smith.  The NSRA had a club stand too, with Mark Grant’s lovely yellow ’32 roadster cum coupe on show.


Away from the cricket pitch were some, but not many other attractions for American automotive enthusiasts.  However, next to Goodwood House was a bone stock ’32, 3 window coupe (for some reason billed as a 1938 model) which was on loan from the John Mould collection.  This was flanked by Brian Lucas’ ‘32 hot rod roadster in a mini tribute to the Deuce.


Genuine 1932 Ford 3-window coupe - a prize possession from the John Mould collection


The fins and chrome era of  US cars from the 60s was well catered for with static displays of Lincoln, Ford, Pontiac and GM models in this same area, while on track, the thunderous roar and characteristic bark of a blown Hemi meant just one thing, Bob Riggle was back on the hill in the Hemi Under Glass Barracuda.


Bob Riggle shows off his sparks of genius

The view of the track through a TV sized hole in the bulkhead

Blown Hemi on headers made this the undoubted king of decibels  


The great thing about Goodwood is that no matter what your automotive tastes, there’s something for everyone and although the American influence both on and off track seemed a little weak compared with previous years, you couldn’t fail to enjoy yourself. The added bonus was a largely dry, warm day (except for a very brief shower) and good company.


The custom trailer built to carry the Krazy Horse bike


Finally, you may be aware that this year’s California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield will honour the US Drag teams from the 1960s with the likes of Tommy Ivo and Don Garlits.  Wouldn’t it be great to see the drivers and cars that participated in the UK Drag Fests at this event next year?

Story: Andy Kirk
Photos: Andy Kirk, John Colley & Jeff Bloxham


Dodge Charger Nascar stock car put in an appearance

This lovely Packard was part of a small group of American classics from the fins and chrome era


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