Automotive events come in all shapes and sizes from simple car club meets to grand affairs like concours at Amelia Island or Villa d'Este. The locations are pretty diverse too, Windsor Castle or the village green. Perhaps a most unlikely location for a car show would be an organic/biodynamic farm in Hampshire, 40 miles to the South West of London - but that's exactly where I found myself for CarFest.
Targeted at families rather than car geeks and aiming to have something for everyone, CarFest South was no ordinary automotive gathering. This is the third year of this "medley of fast cars, great food, live music and a rich mix of family entertainment" to quote the mission statement. So would this be an all-things-to-all-men mess or would it keep a focus on automobilia? I had to go and have a look for myself.
CarFest is held in two stages over the month of August, one in the North of England, this year at Oulton Park racetrack and the South is at Laverstoke Park, the above mentioned farm. Laverstock is owned by Jody Scheckter, who some of you might recall won the 1979 Formula One World Drivers Championship for Ferrari. He now owns his title winning car.
The creator and driving force behind the CarFest concept is the eccentric TV and Radio presenter, Chris Evans. He is a serious car collector owning a number of Ferraris, including this 1965 275 GTS Spyder. However, this event is not about showing off cars, it has a more serious purpose, that is to raise funds for the charity BBC Children in Need. More on that later.
CarFest is something of a hybrid event, combining the traditional attractions of a village fête with a more contemporary car festival. There was also a Big Top, bringing the flavour of a circus to CarFest. The Ferris Wheel and Merry-Go-Round have an enduring appeal, a reminder of English heritage and this is, after all, an event for families. It taps into the impulse to be philanthropic while having a good time, a win-win in most peoples' book.
There was a strong link to other BBC brands such as Top Gear, cross promotion is the order of the day, though I did not actually see Jezza or The Stig.
There was a stage and each day a number of bands and artists strut their funky stuff for the appreciative audience. This is the Kaiser Chiefs - Rocking the House, allegedly.
If the music is not entirely to your taste, then there are also air displays, here the Red Arrows are pulling off their usual unbelievable stunts.
With all this activity folks get hungry, and even then there is an element of competition with Saturday afternoon being taken up by "Cakes Vs Pies". Other epicurean delights included 'Dorset Wine Tasting', 'Sourdough Bread Demonstrations' and 'Mozarella Talk'. What the last of these involves is anyone's guess, but all of this food fun was greatly popular.
However for the likes of me, the main focus was on the display of cars. Our host opened the proceedings with his family riding along in his replica Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car from the '60s musical, well it is his show.
This La Ferrari, one of 499, is part of Evans' Magnificent Seven.
Somewhat removed from this Ferrari splendour is Edd China's Motorised Bathroom.........I have no good answer as to why.
There were many unusual and interesting cars on show. This Howmet TX is powered by a gas turbine and was raced in the 1968 World Sportscar Championship including Daytona, Sebring, Brands Hatch and Le Mans.
The engine is a Continental TS325-1 2960 cc two-stage gas turbine intended for a helicopter, it was part of a wave of similarly powered vehicles in the late 60's that ran at races as diverse as the Indianapolis 500, the Italian Grand Prix and Le Mans 24 Hours. The chassis was an old Can-Am McKee adapted for the longer events - but the project, though technically interesting, was not successful on the track in the international races though two victories were scored in the 1968 SCCA National Championship.
Another old friend was to be found in the paddock, chassis 15R, the McLaren F1 GTR that Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones and Pierre-Henri Raphanel campaigned in the 1996 BPR Global GT Series. I shot for Gulf Oil that season and followed this car round the world... memories, memories.
Another classic endurance racer and old acquaintance is this EMKA Ferrari 512 BB LM that I saw race at Le Mans in 1980. Back then it was owned and driven by Steve O'Rourke, Pink Floyd's manager. These days it is in the collection of Nick Mason, who was, and possibly still is, the band's drummer.
Formula One was also on site with the Toleman TG 181, although no one would consider this odd beast as a classic. During the 1981 season, Derek Warwick and Brian Henton only managed to qualify for a Grand Prix once each out the twelve races that the team entered.
Toleman had chosen a particularly difficult route in their quest for glory, eschewing the all conquering Ford-Cosworth DFV in favour of a turbocharged 4 cylinder Hart 415T engine. The car was complicated, overweight and lacking in power, not a winning combination, especially in the shark pool also known as Grand Prix Racing.
There were plenty of classic road cars on hand, the Ferrari 246 Dino is without doubt one of the finest creations to ever come out of Maranello, at least in the looks department.
The world of rallying was represented by this immaculate Alpine Renault A110, Gallic flair and ingenuity at its best.
The Audi Quattro changed the face of motoring, launching the brand towards its current stellar orbit. It also changed rallying as a sport, this original A1 road car has been converted to Group B spec and was up for sale, though somewhat out of my budget.
At the other end of the rallying world is this Lada VFTS. Dating from the 80's it is proof that motorsport will flourisg almost anywhere, even behind the Iron Curtain.
The backbone of any automotive event are the car clubs and CarFest was no different in that respect. Particularly appealing was the Jensen display, the legendary Interceptor with its elegant and timeless design by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan.
More automotive goodness was to be found at the Karmann Ghia podium.
A number of personalities were also at CarFest. Mark Webber was always one of the most popular Grand Prix drivers in the UK, now he races for Porsche in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The fans enjoyed getting up close and personal with these celebrities.
So what was the final verdict? Perhaps as I am not the target audience I should relay what Chris Evans thinks.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you… here's to everyone who has helped make this year's two wonderful CarFests ever bigger, even brighter and even better than ever before. Most importantly they've raised record amounts of money for BBC Children in Need, so while we've being having so much fun, it's great to know that this money is hard at work elsewhere in the UK helping others have a better time, too.“We just love what we've created with CarFest. It's so cool to see so many families out there getting involved and having such a brilliant party time – whether it's watching all the fabulous cars, dancing along to all the fab bands or enjoying all the incredible sideshows. I've absolutely no idea what we're going to do next year, but we keep raising the bar higher and higher, so I guess we'll just have to do it all over again!"
The numbers were impressive with over 50,000 attendees, and more importantly in excess of £1.5 million has been raised for the BBC Children in Need Charity. Who says having fun can't be philanthropic, CarFest is a summer party with a serious result, roll on 2015.
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