First of all, let’s clear the headline up a bit. Of course Baby Bertha has been to Goodwood before, six times in fact, but each time that’s been a stone’s throw up the road from the Motor Circuit at Goodwood House for the Festival of Speed.
Vauxhall’s latest VXR8 GTS hasn’t been here previously either, but that’s more excusable as the latest version of the company’s V8 monster saloon has only been around for a short while, there are only a handful in the country, and when we drove it last time the circuit was being used for something else.
Baby Bertha, in case you’ve somehow missed her, is a car that was built by Dealer Team Vauxhall (and Bill Blydenstein and Frank Costin) to race in the Modsports series in the mid-Seventies. It ran a 500bhp Repco-Holden V8, and was nigh-on unbeatable for two seasons, in which time it failed to finish just twice with the legendary Gerry Marshall at the wheel.
However, as the years have passed since those glorious days of the Seventies, Baby Bertha has become more than just a successful racing car. Mention the name to a racing enthusiast and no-end of reverential adjectives and anecdotes inevitably follow; partly due to the success Marshall had in a very competitive field, partly because Joe Ward still campaigns it today, partly due to its distended-winged, extended-nose-and-tail appearance, but mostly because… just because. Somehow the car just encapsulates something that draws people in, and makes them smile.
When we had a conversation with the car’s owner of almost thirty years, Joe Ward, it was with some amazement we learned that Baby Bertha had never been to the Goodwood circuit before. Anticipation at our end quickly reached feverish levels. ‘Privilege’ isn’t the word…