GRR

The seven coolest pre-war cars to see at the 80th Members’ Meeting

12th April 2023
Simon Ostler

One of the most exciting aspects of the Goodwood Members’ Meeting presented by Audrain Motorsport has always been the incredible timeline of cars that we get to see in action on the Motor Circuit. This year at 80MM, the entry list spans more than a century of motoring, which begins all the way back in 1905, and ends with the launch of the GMA T.33 Spider, a car we only saw for the first time a few weeks ago.

The new stuff is exciting, as are the roaring ‘80s touring cars and beautiful ‘50s sportscars, but there may be nothing cooler than experiencing the very earliest days of motoring in full motion right in front of your eyes, like some kind of mind-bending time warp.

The sights, sounds and smells of pre-war racing is unlike anything else on the planet, and we can’t wait for the cars from both the S.F. Edge Trophy and the Trofeo Nuvolari to fire up for the first time this weekend. Here are seven such cars you really won’t want to miss.

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1. 1911 Fiat S76 'Beast of Turin'

This is the only place to start on this list. The ‘Beast of Turin’ as it’s called has become perhaps the most famous car to race at Goodwood, and it has become a mainstay in the paddocks of both the Members’ Meeting and the Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard. Just two of these were ever built by Fiat, and it was unofficially recognised as the world’s fastest car in 1911, reaching speeds of up to 135mph. The car that enthusiastic owner Duncan Pittaway drives today is actually a mix of both original cars. The chassis of one has been married to the 28.5-litre engine of another. We’d say the Fiat S76 is unmissable, but you’d have to be trying pretty hard to miss this enormous, flame-spitting, burbling leviathan.

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2. 1905 Darracq 200hp

The Fiat S76 is 112 years old, but it’s still not the oldest car due to run at the 80th Members’ Meeting. That crown goes to the Darracq 200hp, which was built originally in 1905, which makes it a 116-year-old machine with a power figure that would not be out of place on the road today. It’s a different story for the car itself, though, which looks more like a deconstructed piece of art demonstrating century-old engineering than something you’d expect to see racing around the Goodwood Motor Circuit. Its simplicity is alarming. There’s no bodywork, its V8 engine is fully visible, protected only by a radiator at the front. The steering column is as much an implement for turning the wheels as it is something for the driver, perched on a seat directly atop the rear axle, to hold on to. The Darracq 200hp is an incredible history lesson, and it will be an incredible sight to behold at 80MM.

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3. 1939 BMW 328 Frazer Nash

We’re taking a step forward in time from the S.F. Edge Trophy, and arriving now at the Trofeo Nuvolari, and a particularly special car that a certain Stirling Moss made his racing debut with. Moss didn’t turn his first laps in this BMW 328 Frazer Nash until the 1940s, including his first race win in 1947, but the car itself was originally built before World War Two in 1939. It’s a beautiful, sweeping open-cockpit sportscar, which on its own may well blend into the sea of similarly stunning machines in this gorgeous race for sportscars that raced before 1939, but this one has it’s own very special page in motorsport history.

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4. 1909 Benz 200HP ‘Blitzen-Benz’

Back to where it all began here, with another very early holder of the land speed record. The ‘Blitzen Benz’ as it’s called is more recognisable as an early motorcar, it fits that more traditional shape than the Darracq. It has the open cockpit, with comfortable-looking leather seats, and the long bonnet housing a gargantuan 25.5-litre four-cylinder engine producing 200PS (147kW). This is one of six original cars made by Benz & Cie and represented the company’s first forays into building a performance-focused speed machine. More than 100 years later, the ‘Blitzen Benz’ is still an unmissable sight.

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5. 1931 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 ‘Monza’

In a race named after the great Tazio Nuvolari, it only makes sense for the entry list to include some of the most legendary machines of the likes the great man once raced himself. One such car is this, the original variant of the Alfa Romeo 8C, built and raced in 1931. While this particular one wasn’t driven by Nuvolari, its appearance at 80MM does at least give us a great opportunity to revel in the beauty of this great and hugely successful feat of engineering. We’ve picked the original 2300 spec, so-called for its 2.3-litre inline-eight-cylinder engine. It won the Targa Florio twice in 1931 and ’32 as well as the 1931 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, which led to the ‘Monza’ tag being added to the car’s name.

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6. 1933 MG K3 Magnette

Alongside the big-engined Italian overlords of 1930s motorsport, there was a not-unsubstantial effort arising in Britain to try and take on the status quo. The likes of Bentley and Aston Martin led the charge, but perhaps the biggest surprise came from MG, who won the Mille Miglia in 1933 with the diminutive K3 Magnette. With a supercharged 1.0-litre six-cylinder engine producing around 130PS (96kW), it proved more reliable than the big Alfas and yet still delivered many impressive performances. It’s a lightweight machine, so it ought to hold its own around our momentum-friendly Motor Circuit, which makes it one to watch at 80MM.

Image courtesy of Pikes Peak

Image courtesy of Pikes Peak

7. 1913 Oakland Romano

Finally, we have the first-ever winner of the Pikes Peak Hillclimb. The Romano Demon Special as it was known was entered with a young driver by the name of Rea Lentz. Aged just 22, he was an unknown quantity, but duly turned up at that inaugural event in 1916 and took the trophy. Upon receiving his prize money, though, he disappeared and was never heard from again. Fortunately, the car survived, and we will be able to experience it soaring around the Motor Circuit at 80MM. It’s a striking thing, running with an 8.2-litre V8 engine and a remarkably open cockpit with incredibly low sides. We can’t imagine how this would have felt to hurl up the world’s most treacherous hillclimb, but we can’t wait to see it in action in the S.F. Edge Trophy.

The 80th Members’ Meeting presented by Audrain Motorsport takes place on the 15th and 16th April 2023, and you can watch every second of the action right here on GRR.

Photography by Mark Beaumont, James Lynch, Nick Dungan, Paul Melbert, Dean Grossmith, Jayson Fong.

  • 80MM

  • Members Meeting

  • S.F. Edge Trophy

  • Trofeo Nuvolari

  • Pre-War

  • List

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