One of my highlights of the Windsor Castle Concourse of Elegance was Nick Benwell’s fabulous Frazer Nash Shelsley twin supercharged chain drive sportscar (see my blog entry below). It was therefore great to see the car featured in March’s copy of Classic and Sports Car. The car was built for shareholder and sales director A F Fane who raced it with great success in the UK and abroad before the war. It was the last of the chain drive Frazer Nash sports cars and the ultimate of the breed. Whist Fane was sadly killed in his Spitfire during the war the car survived and has been through only three other owners since.

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Best Drive of 2012

Undoubtedly the long drive up from Lands End to John O’Groats as part of this year’s LE JoG. Even though I navigated, rather than drove, most of it.. Whizzing around Goodwood in the McLaren MP4 after a tour of the MTC comes a close second.

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You take the high road..

MTC

MTC

Best Car of 2012

I have seen many fine cars this year, at The Festival of Speed, Goodwood Revival, various events with McLaren, at Brooklands, Crystal Palace and on the London to Brighton run. The fabulous collection of Auto Unions at the Goodwood Revival was particularly memorable but the most stunning car I saw was the Daimler Double Six at the Windsor Castle Concourse of Elegance. just look at the lines and that long long bonnet!

Star of the show for me - fabulous Corsica bodied Daimler Double Six

Star of the show for me – fabulous Corsica bodied Daimler Double Six

Best Motoring Event Attended 2012

The Goodwood Revival is always amazing and one of the motoring high points of my year. For racing thrills and passionate crowds the newly competitive British GP at Silverstone is a must for all UK petrol heads. The London to Brighton run is always fascinating and the Classic Motor Show at the NEC was a great season closer. But my top event for 2012 was the Windsor Castle Concourse of Elegance. I am not usually one for car polishers but the collection of cars brought together at the Queen’s weekend home was stunning. Even my wife and kids found it interesting, which is saying something!

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Her Maj’s Roller even interested the kids..

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Achtung! Auto Unions!

Best Motoring Event in which Participated 2012

LE JoG – no question.

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Hero of 2012

Of our current crop of F1 drivers Vettel, now the youngest triple F1 Champion, stands out. If he had been less temperamental when faced with adversity then maybe he would have crept to the top of my list. As it was I think Alonso gave him a great run for his money in a clearly inferior car. Hamilton also showed some of the genius that seemed lacking from his driving in 2011. And that strange petulant streak that marred many of his performances last year was largely absent. Just look at his reaction when Hulkenberg’s rash lunge robbed him of victory at Inerlagos. But my hero of 2012 is former F1 driver and Double Champ Car Champion, Alex Zanardi. Not only did he magnificently overcome the horrific loss of his legs in a racing accident in 2001 to go on to a successful Touring Car career, he now has a fistful of Paralympic medals to add to his trophy cabinet. Winning two golds and a team silver at the age of 45 in a sport he only took up two years ago, is particularly impressive.  And the venue for his most emotional success (Gold in the Hand Cycling Road Race)? Brands Hatch of course – where his highest previous finish was a second in a F3000 race in 1991.  What a remarkable and inspirational man!

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I remember once entering my car in a Pride of Ownership at an MG show at Silverstone. I was assured a POO (as it was unfortunately known) was not as serious as a concourse d’elegance. However I turned up to find that others in my class had cleaned the inside of their bonnets with a toothbrush. I hadn’t even opened mine. So I abandoned the car and went to watch the racing. That was when my general aversion to the world of car polishers started. In my view it is far better to use your car as its maker intended – even if it gets a bit battered and dirty.

Lyon’s masterpiece..

It’s fair to say my cars are very rarely the best turned out in the paddock when I race. Of course one of the main problems is that I drive to venues and in summer that can mean a world of dead flies caked to the front. But at heart I would rather be tinkering with my tyres or engine rather than polishing the chrome. So I recently surprised myself by replying to an advert in Jaguar Driver looking for cars to go on display at Windsor Castle as part of the Inaugural Windsor Castle Concourse of Elegance (note the spelling – this is England you know) being held as part of the Queen’s Jubilee Celebrations.The cars invited to participate in the main Concourse were parked up in the Quadrangle of the Castle – a perfect setting. The Bentley and Jaguar Drivers clubs were invited to bring a car for each year of the Queen’s reign to be parked on Long Drive leading up to the Castle. I entered my wonderful Series 1 XJ12 and the old girl looked wonderfully patrician, on what was her own 40th jubilee, amongst the usual E types and Mk2 saloons.

Jaguar XJ12

I would like to say her shiny paintwork and detailed engine bay were the work of many hours of preparation. Well indeed they were – just not by me. I’m ashamed to say I paid someone else to do the work. Still, she looked good if not concourse. In fact I felt a definite pride in my ownership of her.

Others stirred by proprietary pride no doubt included the captains of industry, hedge fund millionaires and other plutocrats who owned the star cars up in the Castle. Whilst I prefer to see cars in motion, many of these stationary cars were indeed beautiful and it slowly dawned on me why people flock to Pebble Beach and Amelia Island. The most beautiful car in my mind was the 1931 Corsica bodied Daimler Double Six with a bonnet so long its radiator was practically in Hampshire. The most over the top (and frankly hideous) car was the one off  1925 Jonckheere Rolls Royce. Clever, wonderful attention to detail but undriveable with its long tail and appalling visibility.

RR Phantom Jonckheere Coupe

But the cars that caught the eye were those with patina. Two of the best were William Ainscough’s wonderful 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C, still resplendent in its original paint and Canadian Army (of occupation) formation insignia, and Nick Benwell’s faded yet glorious 1935  twin supercharged (gulp) Shelsley Frazer Nash. An interesting contrast was provided by two 1950’s Ferraris. The first, a heavily restored ex Fangio 290 MM Scaglietti Spider looked magnificent but also brand new. It could have been a replica. The second car, a 1957 Testarossa driven at various times by amongst others Collins, Hawthorn and Phil Hill was in paint decades old, still bore the number it last raced under and seemed to have beeb baptised in Castrol R. One was clearly a car for the polishers – the other for the drivers. I know which I preferred.

Even uglier from the front..

Star of the show for me – fabulous Corsica bodied Daimler Double Six

Alfa Romeo 8C

Ex Fangio Ferrari 290 MM

Testarossa!

Frazer Nash twin supercharged Shelsley