I had put just under 250 miles on the clock before the date for the Goodwood Festival of Speed came around. By road, the Festival is around 400 miles from Falkirk. The plan was not to rush too much, but to set off on the Thursday evening and do a couple of hundred miles before meeting up with a friend, Rav, in the North West, then on Friday meeting my brother Brian in London and overnighting at his place. The final leg would be a short run to the Festival with them both early on Saturday. The return was to be just one stop in the North West to see family before the last leg home.
Prep involved the packing for me, but also for the car. What tools to take? I decided on a range of spanners, a small socket set, some tyre weld, WD40, gloves and a couple of screwdrivers. I also decided to put the half-hood on the car rather than the full hood for ease of getting in and out at the cost of some weather protection. I don’t mind a bit of weather in the car while I’m driving. Most important of all, I took ear plugs.
Setting off from Scotland on Thursday, the weather was less than optimal. Persistent heavy rain through the day and into the evening made me question that decision about the hood. It also taught me about the aerodynamics of the car. Above about 60 mph, when driving through standing water, the spray from the tyres comes in through the opening at the back of the hood and travels horizontally forward in the cabin. At one point I thought I needed wipers on the inside of the windscreen, there was that much flying about.
This phase of the journey was soon done with, and by the time I got south of Carlisle, the sky had lifted. The rain stopped and the progress got easier, the pace faster and the drive more fun. The rest of the weekend would be dry, and the car performed faultlessly for the entire 800 mile round trip. I did a fair bit of talking to the car on the drive. Long hours of driving, no radio, and nobody else to talk to meant she got to hear my thoughts. She’s a good listener.
After picking Rav up in his Lotus, we only had a couple of hours driving on the Friday to get us to London, so we nipped into the British Motor Museum at Gaydon. Lots to see here, including early incarnations of the 7, land-speed record cars, racers, road cars from yesteryear (one that caught my eye was a Vauxhall Viva like my Dad drove when I was a kid) and film props from Back to the Future, Bond movies and Robocop.
I reached the limits of the ride height on a couple of occasions. Once at a motorway service station, over an irritatingly placed speed bump mounted on a crest in the tarmac, and once on the temporary flooring laid for the car parking for the Festival in a field. Nothing too serious in either, but I’m still very conscious of the sump and grounding it.
The car is surprisingly comfortable over long journeys, and over the whole trip I never ached or felt sore after driving. The noise levels at motorway speeds are comparable to a motorbike. A combination of engine, diff and wind noise makes it too loud for me to take over long periods, so I was glad I had my ear plugs. These certainly contributed to me being able to drive for 3 – 4 hours with only a stop for fuel. I’m still not sure how far a full tank will take me, and I don’t trust the gauge, so I was stopping every 130 miles or so.
After the Festival, Brian and I popped into Caterham South in Crawley to meet Simon from the CTG and have a chat over a coffee. I also took a couple of pictures of the adjustable suspension on a 360 for reference when I fit mine. Thanks for making us so welcome Simon!
The car is run in now, so I am exploring the upper reaches of the rev range once the engine is warm, and I’m understanding the clutch, gearbox and engine characteristics better. The grip from the tyres is immense, and the drive out of corners fantastic. I took my Dad out for a spin in it on the way home and he loved it. It’s a touch faster than his old Viva.
All this means I’m starting to get to know the car in a different way now. I know every nut and bolt I fitted through the build, and now I’m understanding more and more about how she drives. And how fast. Every drive is like it’s own show, with a starting ceremony, a great middle section, and a finishing routine giving me time to reflect on the drive just finished, as the exhaust clicks and cools. What an experience.