2018 – SCS’ first year in review
Google is a godsend for lazy writers searching for quotes. Because really, how well do you think we actually know 18th Century Irish poetry?
“Looking back to see how far you’ve come quote”
Pithy inspirational quote or not, 2018 has been quite the year, and indeed, it wasn’t until I started digging through my archives on an unrelated search (ie, looking back) that I realised just how busy this year has been. January feels an age ago.
Busy. That word we all love to use, our crux. Everyone is busy. Is anybody ever not busy? I listened to Elon Musk on the Joe Rogan Experience while I sorted these photos, and I sure won’t claim to be busy in comparison. But still, 2018 marks the first year of Sports Car Safari proper and my first full year of living in the United Kingdom, so I thought it would be fun to share the past 12 month’s journey.
Sports Car Safari Quarterly is just one of a few projects that co-founder Luke Jaksa and myself are involved with, so a lot of the work in this post isn’t strictly magazine related, but it is hopefully of interest nonetheless.
Burger Meet and SCS Issue 01 launch
Is it heresy to start a 2018 review in 2017? Ignoring the semantics of dates, my year started from afar on December 30 with Burger Meet at Penny’s Hill in McLaren Vale, South Australia. After
Why was it so special? We chose this event to launch the first ‘Prototipo’ edition of Sports Car Safari Quarterly, and after talking about it for so long, it felt immensely satisfying to see our first issue as a physical product, in people’s hands. We even had a handful of the feature cars at the meet.
January Sunday Scramble – Bicester Heritage
The year kicked off on January 7 with a frigid Sunday Scramble at the excellent Bicester Heritage facility, my first time there. ‘Cold’ is underselling it somewhat – temperatures were in the low single digits all day and my fingers struggled to operate the camera, but the pain was offset by the quality of cars at this informal gathering. Blue F40, anyone?
The Autosport International is a world-famous, wintertime motorsport trade show, and it’s somewhat of an institution here in the UK. Held indoors at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, it was a nice reminder of what we all get up to in the summer months.
The big UK based teams like M-Sport are there, and the halls are filled with team and championship launches, and trade stands from seemingly every supplier in the country. Want to buy an LMP2 car, a WRC drive, a Quaife sequential gearbox, a new helmet, a sticker set, a marquee, tools or enter an around-the-world classic rally? If it’s motorsport and for sale, it’s here.
Snowing in London
How do you spot the tourists and newcomers in London? We were the ones out excitedly taking photos of the snow, while the true Londoners were just trying to reach the pub without getting wet feet.
One of the true surprises of London is how people regularly use interesting cars as actual transportation, and I soon developed a passionate hobby of keeping my eyes open for interesting cars parked roadside, covered in snow. It never got old.
A January escape to Portugal
Portugal is known for its sun, surf
The true reason for my visit was to shoot the Cool & Vintage workshop for Sports Car Safari Issue
London Classic Car Show
February already? The London Classic Car Show was one of the year’s biggest
The past few months have taught me to never be surprised by anything automotive in London, and despite living in literally the least old-car friendly city in the world, Londoners have a true passion for classic cars. I met up with some London-dwelling members of the Mercedes-Benz Club and joined them for their trip into ExCeL in East London, and it wasn’t until I saw an XJ220 LM… and a Stratos… and a Muira Jota… and an XJR15… and an F40, all within the first minute of arriving, that I realised just how wrong I had been.
The Beast from the East and the London Outlaw Gathering
We got to experience heavy snow in London twice – how lucky are we? The famous Beast from the East brought to the country to a standstill (nobody could get to work yet all the pubs were full…) in late February/early March, and in its final few
I’m not sure what was cooler – seeing a bunch of modified Porsches fight through the melting snow and slush, or handing Magnus a copy of Sports Car Safari.
Coming Home… temporarily
Late March saw a whirlwind trip back to Australia to shoot a handful of stories for Issue 02 of Sports Car Safari. The contrast couldn’t have been greater if you’d tried – I went from snow and icy cold winds to an Australian summer. Thick coats and beanies to top-down drives in my Fiat X1/9, which had been sadly tucked up under a cover in my Dad’s garage for months. I’ve never been much of a beachgoer, but after that UK winter, I packed three swims into a fortnight.
A road trip to Sydney and twice crossing the Hay Plains further served to highlight the difference between the two countries, and my time in Sydney allowed me to live out a few of the Aussie summer dreams I’d been harboring all winter. I went cruising in the dunes with Ryan and his excellent 911 ‘Rallycab’, hung out with the guys at Deus ex Machina in Camperdown, shot Sherri’s Alfa Spider for Issue 03 and stopped for coffee at Classic Throttle Shop and
The opening of The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia is a pivotal moment in Australian motorsport history, and while the track was yet to see a wheel officially turned in anger, I was thrilled to drive a few slow laps with my Dad in his Alfa Romeo.
Back to Bicester for another Sunday Scramble
Just a few days after returning from Australia, it was up to Bicester Heritage in a borrowed Ford Capri for their April Sunday Scramble. I’ll admit that after a fortnight of sun and sand, I was having slight misgivings at our choice to move somewhere so comparatively arctic.
However, it took only a few minutes at Sunday Scramble to remind me of just why we’re over here doing this. The UK scene is truly unparalleled, and this sort of stuff just doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. And while it was a little chilly at times, the sun shone brightly and it was the first perfect day of what would become an almost endless summer.
Brabham launches the BT62 in London
Was the BT62 the surprise of the year? We’d known that the Brabham brand was relaunching with David Brabham at the helm, but the fact that the car was designed and built in Adelaide seemingly flew under the radar until the last moment.
A little digging revealed that I actually knew a handful of people who had been secretly involved in the build of the first prototype. It was pretty cool to visit Australia House for the preview knowing that not only was the star car built in my
Historic Masters visits Brands Hatch in May
Here’s an example of how nutty the UK historic motorsport scene can be. I’d only followed the Historic
The Historic Formula One class was on-track when I arrived, and I walked slack-jawed around the paddock looking at the most carefully prepared Cobras, GT40s, Lolas and 911s that you’ve ever seen. This meeting would have received national attention in Australia, but in the UK, it’s kinda normal.
Touring the cities of Northern Italy
In early June, the phone rings from a freelance client. ‘Can you go to Italy on a press trip for us tomorrow?’
Uh, yes. Of course! The funny thing was that we already had a trip booked to the same region of Italy the following week, so I was able to roll it all into one of the most enjoyable and indulgent fortnights of recent memory.
The first leg was a whirlwind tour starting near Modena, spending a night each in Parma, Bologna, Genoa, Florence
The story was covered in Sports Car Safari Issue 02, but the highlight was undoubtedly seeing in person the Alfa Romeo Sprint 6C in the Alfa museum, a car I’d dreamed of seeing for years and until very recently had never been on display.
Speechless at the London City Concours
It’s not an event I would have specifically returned for on its own, but it freakishly worked out that flights had already been booked and I could return to London for a Friday night and go to the London City Concours.
The event itself was great and sipping champagne in the company of these cars was enjoyable, but to be honest it wasn’t anything you can’t see or do at countless other UK events. What made it super memorable was a tip-off to head out onto the street at the
This is London, remember, and most of the cars were being driven home. I love the relaxed attitude toward using cars that people have here, and these owners saw nothing wrong with tackling Friday peak-hour traffic in cars that are worth millions of pounds.
We grabbed a pint from a nearby pub and stood on the footpath and watched as Muiras, an F50, and countless other exotica passed us by. That Ferrari 250 SWB is the car that Stirling Moss used to win the 1960 Goodwood TT, easily AUD$35,000,000 worth. And were it not for a mechanical fault suffered on a trip to Belgium and the wait for parts to be made, the 1910 Fiat S76 ‘Beast of Turin’ would have been driven too.
Just think about that – the owner was disappointed that he had to tow it into London. This, a car with a 28.5
God bless the UK.
Taking on Eroica Britannia
Vintage racing bicycles have become an increasing passion since moving to London. Unless you are willing to pay rent that stretches into the thousands of pounds per month, off-street parking is but a dream in London which makes project car ownership rather tricky. A bicycle, however, can be restored in one’s loungeroom, much to the delight of one’s girlfriend.
It’s an observation that many cyclists are also into cars, and especially when you look at vintage Italian machines, you can see why. Restoring an old bike is kind of like restoring a car in that you really need to do your research, know your history, and spend countless hours chasing the right parts down. At the same time as Campagnolo made the drivetrain on my bike, they were also making racing wheels for Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, so the link is pretty solid.
And the Italian attitude to record keeping is identical in the automotive and cycling worlds. Trying to positively identify my Colnago frame and prove its authenticity took weeks. Minor details were changed ad-hoc mid production run, and even though my bike does have a serial number, Colnago never kept any records, so it’s kind of pointless.
Building the bike and doing the vintage Eroica Britannia ride in the Peak District was a major goal for 2018, and next year, I hope to take it to Tuscany for the proper L’Eroica ride.
We’ve been toying with the idea of including more cycling content in Sports Car Safari – what do you think? Let us know in the comments at the bottom.
The Grand Prix Ball
July is Grand Prix month in the UK, and when the Formula One circus reaches the country, the Grand Prix Ball at the exclusive Hurlingham Club is an institution. Sure, it’s not a patch on the actual on-track action, but it’s a pretty good way to spend a Wednesday evening and is the closest you can typically get to the cars and stars without a paddock pass.
The British Grand Prix at Silverstone
An institution is the only way to describe the British Grand Prix, and it is an experience I’m thrilled to have had. We were in the grips of a genuinely hot and lengthy summer and Silverstone isn’t the most pleasant place to be in such circumstances, but the revelry of the crowd more than made up for any discomfort.
Not only was the English Football (nee Soccer) team doing increasingly well in a World Cup semi-final which was played and won on
The race didn’t quite pan out as hoped for Hamilton when he was spun into
The podium presentation provided a stark insight into the driver’s personalities. Despite his stunning performance, Hamilton was clearly furious that he hadn’t won and behaved accordingly. Meanwhile, Vettel had accepted that
A return to Goodwood for FOS
The following week saw us back at Goodwood Estate for the Festival of Speed. There’s really nothing more to add, other than to reinforce that this event is always a pure assault on the senses.
It takes a will greater than mine to stick to a schedule, and even walking a few minutes from the media
‘Oh, there’s Derek Bell in his Le Mans winning Porsche 962. Oh, there’s 10 Paganis (count them) in the spectator carpark. Oh, they’re about to start warming up the Mercedes W196…’ It never ends, and it never gets old.
A long overdue road trip and a brush with the law
The whole idea for the name Sports Car Safari came from a road trip through Virginia with friends Andy and Steve in 2013, as published in SCS Issue 01. We had an Alfa GTV6, an Alfa Spider and a Porsche 914, and spent a happy few days hunting out driving roads and craft beers.
Andy was coming to Europe from the US for a wedding, so we decided that a follow-up road trip was in order. Since I don’t have a car here yet, we rented an Abarth 595 Competizione and headed toward the Lake District, with plans to finish at the Silverstone Classic.
Driving the Evo Triangle in Wales was a must, and we were slicing through the bends at a reasonable (but still responsible) rate when an Audi A4 quickly caught us and sat on our tail. We picked up the speed a little, as you do. Sure enough, the hidden lights came on and we were pulled over. Used to the nature of American policing, Andy thought we were done for, and to be honest, so did I.
We couldn’t have been further from the truth.
‘We saw that you boys were having some fun, so we just wanted to stop you for a chat. I’m sure that you’re aware this is the Evo Triangle and it’s a popular place to drive quickly, so just keep it reasonable for us here. There are plenty of other roads in the area that are much quieter, here, do you have a map…?’
Andy couldn’t believe it. What a mature approach to policing, and one that had an actual impact on road safety that day. We instantly knew that we were welcome to have fun and we weren’t going to have the book thrown at us so long as we didn’t take the piss, but that we were also being watched. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – God bless the UK.
The sheer scale of the Silverstone Classic
This is the world’s biggest historic race meeting, and we ended our road trip here for a day of spectating. Silverstone is built on an old WW2 airfield and it is huge. Even on Grand Prix weekend, it looked a little empty, but during Silverstone Classic, it was packed.
The numbers are accordingly massive – around 1,000 entered competition
Luftgekühlt comes to the UK
The UK really comes to life in summer, and July was the embodiment of this. We were in the grips of an unprecedented heatwave, the Brits were even starting to develop tans, and it felt like there was an endless stream of back-to-back trips and events. By the final weekend of July, I’d already covered four major events and a road trip that month, and we still had the first ever Luftgekühlt to be held outside of California to go.
It meant another return to Bicester Heritage, which in some respects was a little disappointing as the venue has been well and truly done with four Sunday Scrambles and other events throughout the year, but
We borrowed a Volkswagen based RSK replica and planned to arrive in something a little bit fun, but driving it around London the day before revealed the total lack of windscreen or weather protection made motorway work tough going without helmets.
We were up for
The event was sodden, but the Porsche passion was strong and the quality of cars top-notch. It was warm and dry the very next day and stayed that way for weeks after.
Rolling around London in a Rolls
London is truly the worst city in the world in which to own a classic or vintage car, yet I’m constantly surprised by the passion for old cars that lurks here.
‘A friend of a friend has a 1923 Rolls-Royce, do you want to go for a drive and get a pint with him?’
Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace
The great thing about having just moved to a new country is that you’re constantly
These guys know how to do an event. The media pass gave us access to the champagne and lobster lunch, and with my colleagues George and Rick, we had a rather pleasant meal sitting behind a line of eight 246 Dinos. Ideal.
The 037 Stradale in the public carpark on the way out was the final kicker.
The Goodwood Revival
The following weekend saw a return to Goodwood for Revival, which really does reset your internal compass in regards to what is normal. It’s the kind of event where there are multiple F40s parked in the public carpark and nobody really cares. The weather was accordingly stunning and the racing appropriately fierce.
Saturday evening’s Kinrara Trophy was the nuttiest car race that I’ve ever seen, and allegedly the grid for this race alone was calculated to be worth £200,000,000. Multiple 250 GTOs, a barely believable twelve 250 SWBs, DB4s
I actually giggled at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.
A retreat to The Cotswolds
One of our freelance clients had planned a press weekend away to a house in a private members club in The Cotswolds, and while my stay was technically work, it was a lovely break after the past months of automotive madness.
A pool heated to 27 when the ambient is 13, interior design by Jade Jagger, access to the day spa, an in-house chef and dinner companions comprised of the most fascinating journalists you never knew existed. The perfect change of scene.
Oktoberfest… but not as we know it
We joined our friends at the Wriggly Monkey Brewery for their Oktoberfest celebrations, kicking off the first proper event at their brewery located within the Bicester Heritage site. This wasn’t quite like other Oktoberfest celebrations – when your neighbors are some of the most renowned classic car workshops and dealers in the world, the display cars tend to be rather interesting.
Sports Purpose had a 964 Carrera Cup driven by Mika Häkkinen and their famous Paul Smith striped 2.0 Cup 911 race car on display, there was a BMW 2002 works rally car with a full-house Formula Two engine and the brewery’s famous racing car bar serving cold pints, to name but a few.
Wriggly Monkey Brewery now stock Sports Car Safari Quarterly, making a convenient excuse to stop for a pint if you’re in the UK
A flying visit to Prague
Further travel stories took me for a flying visit to Prague in the Czech Republic, a city that has witnessed so much over the past eight decades, yet has emerged with its soul and aesthetic beauty still firmly intact.
Norweigian Fjords with Ponant
Just a week later I popped across to Bergen, Norway, for a three-night cruise with Ponant for the first journey on their new ship, Le Champlain. I’ve done the big, three thousand passenger cruises before and
The only distraction was the Fjords, which in Autumn were alight with yellows and oranges as the trees turned for winter. I’ve never witnessed an environment quite like this – the light changes so quickly that you can stand on the balcony of your room and get a completely different photo every few minutes. It was truly breathtaking. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and am desperate to get back.
A fresh GTA-M build in London
One evening I got an Instagram message out of the blue. A fellow Aussie knew a Canadian guy who was briefly in London with his new GTA-M build. Sounded interesting enough, so we went for a pint.
It turned into one of the coolest nights of the year. Jeff had spent the past six months at an Alfa specialist in Holland building this neat 105. He’d had the car sourced and the body done before he arrived, had shipped a 2.0 Twin Spark motor out from Canada, and then under the guidance of the specialist, worked night and day to build the car.
He’d had it on the road for a fortnight and was driving it around the UK visiting Alfa specialists like Alfaholics, before shipping it home out of Southhampton. As I type now, the car has just arrived to him in Toronto.
Our drive was limited, and three-up meant it rubbed so we couldn’t go that hard, but wow what a cool build.
Caffeine and Machine kicks it out of the ballpark
The concept behind Caffeine and Machine is rather simple, but the execution is sublime. Renowned petrolhead and XJ220 owner Phil McGovern bought an old pub on a plot of woodland in the pretty
The roads to get there are lovely, and inside, the interior decoration includes oddities like the actual rear window from a Paris-Dakar 959 hanging behind the bar, an indoor display area to fit a car, chesterfield couches, an open fire, and walls covered in the finest automotive art. It’s the ultimate destination, and has already proved to be wildly popular in the depths of winter – who knows how busy it’s going to be in summer?
Caffeine and Machine launched with a special weekend in late October, and Classic Car Club London loaned me a stunning Volvo P1800 to take up. My girlfriend came for the ride and we made a weekend of it, fending off the cold and snow (yes… a little bit) in what is probably the coolest car I’ve driven all year.
Chasing the London to Brighton
Veteren Car Run
The London to Brighton is the perfect example of Britain’s penchant for automotive eccentricity. Exclusively for pre-1905 vehicles, the 87km run shows how it was before we’d settled on the basic DNA of the automobile. Coal, petrol, steam, and electricity powers them, there are hot tube ignitions which use bunsen burners to
I ditched my camera this time so I could ride part of the route through central London on my bike,
Trying trialing out
Through the Wriggly Monkey Brewery came a great invitation – to join in on the
Run by the Veteran Sports Car Club, the concept is simple. Get in a pre-1932 car, and do whatever it takes to get to navigate the course and get to the top of the muddy, slippery tests. I jumped in with Jack Williamson in his pretty Austin 7 Special, and while our results weren’t anything to write home about owing to an early error when we went the wrong side of a tree, and a subsequent test where we didn’t make it very far up a wet grassy hill, I had a blast.
Okay, so the winter weather was unseasonably pleasant for November and I’m reliably informed that it’s much more of a challenge when it’s raining sideways, but still, I think I’ll be back.
Look for a story in a future issue of Sports Car Safari.
A return to Australia for the Adelaide Motorsport Festival
After missing the excellent Adelaide Motorsport Festival last year, I made a personal resolve not to make the same mistake twice.
This was probably the biggest weekend that we’ve ever had for Sports Car Safari. Not only did we have a space at the event with display cars and the fresh line of merch that Luke has been working feverishly to design and produce, but we also ran the official event photography service for the Adelaide Rally, Luke jumped in to do the Prima Tour with Andre Bezuidenhout in his World Tour 911T, and we created and produced the Official Adelaide Motorsport Festival Event Journal. Oh, and for good measure, I competed in the Adelaide Rally, co-driving again with my mate Guy Standen in his lovely 1962 Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint.
Our time at the Adelaide Motorsport Festival will be covered in an upcoming video, but we were thrilled to have Sports Car Safari represented so well by our friends on their
The time back in Australia was crazily
A week of repeated visits to 8000rpm
Coming back to an English winter was a much harder pill to swallow this time around. The photo above was taken on a Thursday night. We were in the water with friends at Tennyson Beach, sipping beers as the sun dipped below the horizon, and then by the following Monday, it was coats and an icy wind in London.
But London is a special place to be at Christmas, and thanks to Classic Car Club London, I was able to pursue a shoot idea I’ve had for a while. In their E46
My girlfriend and I also escaped for a trip to the South Downs, and I fell in love with that engine. I don’t think I could stomach the risk of owning an E46 M3 myself, but holy hell it sounds magnificent at 8000rpm.
When Santa arrives in an Edwardian Bianchi…
One of the reasons it’s been great working with the team from Wriggly Monkey Brewery is that they have an innate sense of the wacky. Because, of
Spending Christmas in rural France
As soon as we
However, when you have some spare time, a map, a rental car and the Pyrénées foothills at your disposal, what do you do? You go driving, of
The year is dead… long live next year
If you’ve got this far, well done. This piece was never intended to be so long, but it wasn’t until I started to collate the material that I began to
2018 has undeniably been one of the best years of my
As I sit here on December 30, it is just seven days until the first Sunday Scramble of the year at Bicester Heritage on January 6.
2019 – lets do it!