I’ll admit now that for a column professing to be about classic road and racing cars, devoting it to a brand new Volkswagen camper van is pushing it a bit, and if you’re reading this at all it’s only because my editor has decided to allow the exception because, clever chap that he is, he’s realised it’s actually a story about the Member’s Meeting wearing a quite brilliant VW Commercial Vehicles disguise.
There is no other place I go to race that requires any kind of ritual. Each autumn I toddle off to the Spa for the Six Hours and don’t think that far past packing my race gear, licence, a toothbrush and scruffy clothes. But Goodwood is different. I have all the fashion sense of a man whose clothes are bought by his wife, without his knowledge, almost exclusively from the Boden catalogue. But every time I go to Goodwood, I don’t just reach into the wardrobe and lucky dip whichever shirts fall to hand. I actually manage a rough approximation of what a normal person might recognise as caring about his appearance. I have a sports jacket that has only ever been worn at Goodwood and a pleasingly ridiculous cap too. At the Revival I might even tie a length of knotted silk around my neck. I believe it’s called a tie.
I am told the Members Meeting is a far more relaxed affair but I still took more than the usual 30 seconds to pack this morning. It was nearer the entire minute. But this is because Goodwood matters. It’s not some manufactured modern facility, nor something that was once beautiful but has since been butchered into an unrecognisable shadow of its former self. Last week I found myself wandering around the paddock just because I happened to be near enough to make the detour. And if I am at Goodwood, I want to stay at Goodwood.
‘While I shall have to learn how to drive it in qualifying, I am told the car is in fine form.’
Of course there are those with rather better accommodation strategies than me. I remember being lucky enough to be placed on the same table as Rick Mears at one of the lavish Festival of Speed balls a few years back. We were sitting, I think, in the Yellow Drawing Room when my wife, ill equipped to engage him on a professional level, politely asked where he was staying, to which the slightly baffled reply was, ‘Upstairs.’
Not being a four times Indianapolis 500 winner, my options are perhaps more limited. In fact as I am to a tent what a Polar Bear is to the rain forest, I really have only one option at my disposal. Which is to ring the VW press office and ask if I can borrow the California camper they keep on their fleet. You have to book early mind, because if you’re at all behind the curve, some other freeloading hack will have beaten you to it.
If you think a 1959 Mini, a 1997 Mercedes A-class or a Tardis is a miracle of packaging, go look at a California. In a shape no bigger than the Caravelle MPV upon which it is based, it provides sleeping space for four, an awning, table and chairs, a refrigerator, sink with running water, wardrobe, storage space and a gas cooker. Even with the base 2-litre engine it’s quick enough to lose you your licence on the motorway, yet it will do 40mpg at a gentle cruise. And it is very, very comfortable both as a car in which to travel and a room in which to sleep. It also has four-wheel-drive, which may yet prove handy in the Goodwood mud.
So now I am packed and about to saddle up and head down to Goodwood, where I shall be joining my fellow Road & Racing contributors for another glorious Goodwood weekend. I’m driving Earl Howe’s own MG K3 in, fittingly enough, the Earl Howe Trophy. And while I shall have to learn how to drive it in qualifying, I am told the car that helped MG win the Team prize on the 1933 Mille Miglia is in fine form, which given what it’s up against, it will need to be.
I look forward to seeing and meeting you there.