After visiting Shelsley Walsh for the first time last weekend for one of the venue’s Breakfast Meetings, and being delighted by both the venue itself and it’s beautiful surroundings, I returned just a week later for what was billed as their flagship event of the year, their Classic Nostalgia weekend, and it certainly lived up to expectations!
Under the banner of “Celebrating the Glory Days of Motorsport”, this was to be a weekend of historic motorsport and demonstration runs on the hill, classic car displays, a Concours, live music and plenty of food and drink, so it promised much, and I have to say, it delivered in spades, helped in no small way by the arrival – finally – of summer, as we enjoyed temperatures in the high 20’s centigrade; sun cream and hat were essential accessories for the day, with a long cold lager at lunchtime to help keep cool.
Knowing this was a popular event, I made sure I got there in good time on the Sunday in my 280CE, having booked a space in the Classic Parking area. This time I was parked between a very tidy 1983 Golf GTi Mk1 – how small they look now compared to their modern counterparts – and a white ’65 Mustang. and set off to find a coffee and some sustenance to prepare for my wanderings around the hill, paddocks and display areas.
Before I could do that, however, I got side-tracked (not difficult) by two of the prettiest cars ever made – a 1960 AC Ace Bristol, and an Alfa Giulietta Spider 1600, and then by something I’d never seen or previously heard of – a dark green Formosa 120GR. This one was based on Reliant Scimitar 3-litre mechanicals, with a GRP body; Formosa Cars are based in Poole, Dorset, on the English south coast, and they also use Triumph Heralds and Vitesse’s as donor cars. I have to say I thought it looked pretty good, with a decent standard of fit and finish, and there’s more information on them here.
There was a full schedule of events organised for the day, kicking off with the first hill runs due to start at 9.00, so to start the day I thought I’d wander up to the top of the hill before it got too hot, which gave me a chance to watch a few of the many cars snaking their way up. The hill isn’t quite as interesting as Prescott, which doubles back on itself and has two very tight and troublesome bends, but nevertheless the sight and sound of historic racing cars going at or close to full chat – well, maybe not quite all of them, as this was not a competitive weekend – warmed the heart.
Having sweated my way up the hill, with glorious views of the surrounding countryside from the top, but a poor view of the cars as they crossed the line, I made my way back down to wander through the entries for the Concours where there was much to delight the eyes, but for reasons of space I’ll limit myself to just a few, starting with a very rare beast, a silver and black 1970 Porsche 914-6, the fire-breathing version of Porsche’s collaboration with VW from the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s. This one, however, was even fiercer than usual, since it had had a 3.4-litre unit shoehorned into it – god knows what it drives like. A few metres away, a very smart blue Rochdale Olympic (especially for our International Editor), a chic Renault Caravelle, and a few more steps away still, a gorgeous maroon 1971 Gordon Keeble, one I’ve seen on a couple of previous occasions, but it’s always a treat to see a GK with its blend of elegant Italian-designed coachwork and American V8 power.
Other interesting classics among the Concours entrants included a vivid yellow, immaculate 1972 SAAB Sonnet, and a very lovely red 1954 Swallow Doretti roadster, one of only 275 or so made in 1954 and ‘55. Despite the Italian-sounding name, the car was manufactured in the less glamorous surroundings of Walsall; there are hints of Jaguar XK, Big Healey and AC Ace about this car, which has the TR2’s 1991cc engine under the bonnet. I liked it very much.
Most unusual road car on the day was definitely the Lotus Elan +2 Shooting Brake – I couldn’t find out more at the time but a little subsequent digging revealed that this is one of a few – four, as far as I can tell – that were built, not by Lotus but individuals. This blue one is known as the Makhlouf Estralle Shooting Brake, after it’s owner Roger Makhlouf and was created and built by Makhlouf and Paul Matty, a major Lotus dealer, in 2007 using a 1973 car as the platform. Besides the obvious extensive body modifications, the interior was also given a significant upgrade. I’m not sure what question it was the answer to but compared to some similar exercises – a very ungainly Jaguar XK120 brake comes to mind – this works reasonably well, I think, and is believed to be the only such conversion still in use.
Elsewhere around the site were very impressive turnouts from the Morgan and MG clubs – 30 Morgans in a line and probably half as many MG’s of all sorts again – and a row of 8 Porsche 914’s, the most I’ve seen together at a single event.
Among the competition cars I have to start with the maddest – a “FIAT 500”, which, on speaking to owner and driver Ian Medcalf in fact had nothing to do with that microcar except that it’s basic shape was used to make the mold of what is effectively a one-off special, sporting a Swiftune-built 1380cc engine that produces over 140bhp and has provided him with enormous fun since 1987. An utterly bonkers car.
There were also some pretty special “star cars” not least in the form of a Formula 5000 McLaren M18 but perhaps the most spectacular competition car was the BRM P154 Can-Am car, which made an ear-splitting din each time it was fired up, as did the Hepworth alongside it. It’s not often that a Porsche 904 isn’t automatically my car of the day, but this time I awarded my virtual personal prize to the ex-Stirling Moss Ferrari 250GT, the car in which he won the 1961 Tourist Trophy, and it was possible to win a ride up the hill as a passenger in this historic Ferrari – unfortunately, I didn’t win.
Other fabulous racing machinery from both track and rallying included a brutal 1978 Porsche 911 RSR in Martini colours, a Lancia Rally 037, and a wide variety of single-seater and sports Lotuses, whose numbers were probably boosted by the creation of two classes just for them, sponsored by the aforementioned Paul Matty.
For the BMW fans among us, there were a couple of very cool ‘02’s, one a white 2002tii, the other a 1600ti in the colours of the 1960’s pirate radio station, Radio Caroline, a station I remember listening to under my bedcovers and with an earpiece back in the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s, a gaggle of Reliant Scimitar coupés, and much more.
After almost six hours in 30 degree heat, it was time for me to head back home after what had been an excellent day. The most succinct way to describe the event is as a smaller scale Goodwood Festival of Speed, with perhaps not the same international glamour but much less crowded, more relaxed, more accessible and a lot less expensive. This was a super way to spend a few hours and I have a feeling Shelsley Walsh is going to be a regular destination for me over the next few years – I think the photos will show you why.