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Which cars were launched at the very first Festival of Speed? | Axon's Automotive Anorak

28th April 2023
Gary Axon

Although I still remember it well, it only seems like yesterday – rather than 30 years ago – when I first drove down to West Sussex to attend the inaugural Goodwood Festival of Speed presented by Matercard. With a great drive down in June 1993, helped by having the roof down in the bright sunshine in my beloved new Saab 900 Convertible, my sense of anticipation for this brand new event was off the scale, given the legendary status and history of Goodwood 

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Within minutes of arriving, I was instantly hooked and have been a huge Goodwood aficionado ever since, attending (and often working) every ‘modern era’ Goodwood motoring event ever since.

For the first hour or so of arriving in June 1993, I wandered around the (then considerably smaller) site in a bit of a daze, amazed at the variety and quality of cars and motorsport heroes that I was seeing; all just casually being displayed within touching distance with full access and no restrictions.

A brace of sublime Ferrari 250 GTOs, Maserati 250Fs, Alfa Romeo Tipo 158 Alfetta, Aston Martin DB3S, a BRM V16… the list of outstanding cars just went on. As it did with famous drivers and faces; Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks, Derek Bell, George Harrison, Nick Mason, etc, with Damon Hill casually readying himself to drive his father’s Jaguar Mark 2 up the deceptively challenging 1.16-mile Goodwood Hillclimb.

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As a road car guy, one of the most momentous and outstandingly memorable sights at the 1993 Festival of Speed was getting my first glimpse of the then all-new Aston Martin DB7, which was making its UK public debit. The model that arguably went on to save the marque was statically displayed on the immaculately kept turning circle lawn, directly outside of Goodwood House. One full year ahead of the first deliveries of the car being made to lucky customers in 1994, the new Aston Martin set a trend, it being the first of many significant road-going cars to make get their global reveal at FOS.

The now-famous circular piece of turf was still completely pristine and intact back in 1993; prior to it becoming the location of the many awe-inspiring annual FOS Central Features, from Henry Seagrave’s imposing Golden Arrow land speed record car in 1995, to numerous spectacular sculptures celebrating Porsche, BMW, Ford, Lotus, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and so many more.

Subsequent important new car debutants at the Festival of Speed over the years are to numerous to be named comprehensively but have ranged from significant new OEMs like Ferraris, Porsches, Aston Martins, BMWs, Rolls-Royces and more, to the troubled but staggering Caparo T1, the Abarth brand British debut relaunch, the De Tomaso P72, and countless others.

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Given the popularity of supercars and other interesting new machinery, Goodwood soon introduced the exciting and crowd-pleasing Batch 6 ‘supercar run’, twice a day as a dynamic part of FOS, later adding First Glance and the Moving Motor Show on Thursday, to showcase other interesting but affordable cars.

By comparison to what it's grown into, the very first 1993 event was a small, informal affair.  The Duke of Richmond (then Lord March) and his then-small Goodwood team weren’t really certain if the format of this new event would appeal, and thought that it would probably be a one-off celebration of motorsport at Goodwood. The unexpected popularity lead Lord March to decide to continue the event for 1994 and beyond, being held every summer since, with the exception of 2020 due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. 

Despite being busier than expected, with the benefit of hindsight, that first 1993 event was quite tame by subsequent standards. Now, 30 years on, the event has matured to enjoy an enviable global reputation and status, attracting many top brands as keen partners, as well as a spectator audience of 200,000 enthusiasts+ annually, joined online by an even larger worldwide audience. It’s become quite a monster, and long may it continue.

  • FOS 1993

  • Festival of Speed

  • Aston Martin

  • McLaren

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    Festival of Speed

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    The story of the first Festival of Speed

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