goodwood

A needlessly expensive Rolls-Royce off-roader? Sign me up

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan - seen here in prototype camouflage - is being launched later this year
I IMAGINE there are quite a lot of entries under ‘K’ on the waiting list for Rolls-Royce’s next model; Kanye, Kim, Khloe and Kourtney for starters.

When you name your new model after the world’s biggest diamond it’s inevitable that it’s going to end up with rather bling connotations, even before it’s launched. But then that’s the Rolls-Royce Cullinan all over – it’s a Range Rover for people who consider the Range Rover a bit too common. It’s an off-roader with a whisper-quiet V12 where the establishment makes do with ‘just’ a supercharged V8. A toff-roader, if you will.

It is a completely pointless, jacked-up Phantom that in reality will never venture any further than a slightly damp stretch of field immediately outside Aintree Racecourse or the Royal Birkdale – in fact, you’re more likely to see one appearing on MTV Base alongside someone whose name begins with K.

But that doesn’t stop me liking it. Bentley and Jaguar doing posh mud-pluggers just doesn’t sit right with their carefully honed collective heritage as custodians of well-heeled driving fun, but a Rolls-Royce off-roader is so delightfully silly that it might just work. It’s Kingsman in automotive form; still refined enough to insist that you call its offerings motor cars, but in the background it’s teaming up with The Who’s Roger Daltry for its charity ventures, letting grime artist Skepta spec up the speakers on its one-offs and allowing its older cars to take part in marvellously OTT displays at the Goodwood Revival.

So the idea of taking your Cullinan to the Arctic Circle and lording it over everyone slumming it in Toyota pick-ups – and Rolls-Royce has been testing the new car there, just to make sure it’ll cope – fits in perfectly with the manufacturer’s softly spoken sense of fun. If it can haul itself up the same mucky hill as a Range Rover, but in a much more needlessly expensive way, then so be it. The one per cent have been doing pointless things with Rolls-Royces for generations, and the Cullinan fits in perfectly.

And if any pub bores do wander over (and it’ll be a very upmarket pub, presumably) and start piping up about how Rolls-Royce shouldn’t be doing off-roaders, then you can point out that it was taking on remote places and winning long before Jeeps and Land Rovers were even conceived. In the 1920s farmers used to travel around the Australian Outback in Silver Ghosts because they were the toughest things on the market. So the Cullinan does have off-roading pedigree.

So I like Rolls’ toff-roader because it’s a completely needless car that I’ll never be able to afford. Unless I change my name to one with beginning with K, of course…

Advertisements

Why I’m looking forward to Cholmondeley supercharging its Power & Speed event

Cholmondeley has plenty of supercars - but not enough variety

I’VE DECIDED to dispense with New Year’s resolutions this year. It’s largely to avoid the pain of stumping up for a gym membership that’ll inevitably expire of own accord by about February, but mainly because I’d much rather work on the goals I’ve already got, thanks.

Goals which probably ought to include not spending so much of my summer sauntering around the grounds of stately homes in Cheshire. The sort of places I used to dread going to on school trips are now familiar stomping grounds because they’re where car shows are held every other weekend during the summer, and I almost certainly spend far too much time at them.

But I genuinely wonder whether Cholmondeley Castle is going to be one of them. What was once openly touted as the North West’s answer to Goodwood took a breather last year because its organisers were having a long, hard think about the event and – at the time of writing at least – no firm announcement about whether the Power and Speed event will be back for 2018.

I went religiously for at least five or six years and loved the spectre of Ferrari F40s and Jaguar D-types being punted angrily up the Marquess of Cholmondeley’s garden path. Nor was it just cars; the howl of the Avro Vulcan’s Rolls-Royce turbojets as it flew over the 2015 event was one of my all-time favourite moments of any car show I’ve been to. What originally started out as the Pageant of Power had momentum aplenty behind it, but even by the time it was renamed two years ago jaded old scribes – like me – were moaning it was getting a bit staid.

For years I could take you to an event and tell you roughly where all the cars would be on display and which ones would be taking part in demonstrations, because year-on-year virtually nothing changed. It was still a superb mix of cars, but it was one we’d all sampled before. So seeing it being rested altogether last year wasn’t that surprising.

Yet I really hope that while the Cholmondeley show’s been off the road it’s been given a thorough service, a bit of a valet and fitted with a turbocharger, because the likes of you and I shouldn’t have to go all the way down to Goodwood to hear what a Bugatti Chiron sounds like at full chat.

Let’s hope the organisers make it their New Year’s resolution to freshen it up, get some new cars in and change things around a bit in time for this summer. It’s better than a gym membership you give up mid-February, after all…

The Ormskirk MotorFest is great – but it could be even better

The MotorFest has evolved into a real success story for Ormskirk

YOU CAN’T help but love a show that picks a Vanden Plas Princess – basically a posh Austin 1300 – above a Ford Mustang, Opel Manta and Rover P5 as its concours champion.

Even the 1957 Vanwall Formula One car in which Stirling Moss won that year’s British Grand Prix briefly had to step aside while the beautifully polished BMC baby hogged the limelight. It was a crushing victory for the plucky underdog (and its owner, of course), and one of the many reasons why I loved last weekend’s Ormskirk MotorFest.

I go to far too many car shows for my own good and all the best ones have a single snappy nugget of brilliance that sums them up neatly in a nutshell. Le Mans is a big Brit petrolhead party – that just happens to be held in France. The Goodwood Revival is an overdose of 1960s nostalgia. The NEC classic show is Britain’s big season-ender. And the MotorFest?  Your chance to see the world’s coolest cars parading around Ormskirk, of course. It’s a winning formula that seven years on is still packing the crowds into West Lancashire. Job done.

But even if it ain’t broke there’s still ample opportunity to muck about with it, of course. There was nothing wrong with the original 911 but it’s a far cry from the tarmac burners Porsche puts in its showrooms half a century on.

Which is why the formula’s changed ever so slightly since Ormskirk’s first MotorFest outing back in 2011, even if you hadn’t noticed. An autotest’s been tried to add a little tyre-screeching drama, there’s now a concours for anyone who cherishes their Vanden Plas Princess, and for anyone who (like me) preferred Top Gear 20 years ago the event now comes with added Steve Berry.

But what I think it needs more than anything else are the long gaps between the parades filling in. It’s time to nick a page out of Goodwood’s book and send all those lovely cars out one at a time, so there’s always something doing the rounds on Ormskirk’s big day.
I’d love to see Steve Berry and motor sport commentary legend Neville Hay bringing all those Astons, Jags – and yes, the bubble cars – to life as each heads out around the one-mile circuit. You’d get to see a lot more, as long as nothing breaks down there’d be no awkward gaps, and hopefully you’d learn a few pub facts about the Ferrari F40 while you’re at it.

The MotorFest is a superb event that does Ormskirk proud, but I reckon it can be even better still. Oh, and more Vanden Plas Princesses, please!

The Skoda Yeti is a hard act to follow

Skoda put substance ahead of style with its Yeti

IN A WORLD of Jukes, Capturs and Mokkas the Karoq is a good thing; a proper, evocative car name of the old school.

Not only is it drawn from the language of a remote Alaskan tribe but you can just imagine it being slapped across a supercar’s rump. A Maserati Karoq has a certain ring to it.

But this name isn’t going on some Italian slingshot; it’s going on Skoda’s new baby off-roader, which looks great and should sell like Ed Sheeran tickets when it goes on sale here later this year. I’ve no doubt it’ll be an accomplished all-rounder (especially if its Kodiaq big brother is anything to go by) but it means Skoda’s existing baby off-roader, the Yeti, will be quietly put down.

Which is a real shame because I still reckon it’s one of the most talented tiny off-roaders out there. In fact, it’s one of the best motoring all-rounders, full stop.

I remember road-testing it for The Champion in 2010, not long after it first arrived in the UK, and thinking how willfully different it was from the rest of the Qashqai-alikes out there. It eschewed trendy styling and clever in-car infotainment for slab-sided proportions and minimal overhangs for better ground clearance – just like you get on a Land Rover Discovery. It even had the same sort of chunky buttons and indestructible interior plastics as most off-roaders, so that even the clumsiest of schoolchildren or the hungriest of Labradors wouldn’t be able to ruin it.

But best of all it had that rare thing missing from so many of today’s off-roader-esque family cars; the prowess to match the proposition. One of the cars we occasionally use at Classic Car Weekly for photoshoots is a 13-reg Yeti, and no matter what we throw in its direction it always emerges totally unflummoxed. On one jaunt back from the Goodwood Festival of Speed we actually took it green laning to avoid the traffic jams and it dealt with the muddy ruts and rocks superbly – and as a result, it was faster than every Ferrari, Porsche and M-badged BMW within a ten-mile radius.

For a five-door hatchback that kicks in at a shade under 18 grand it is supremely talented, and definitely something that even in its twilight years I’d thoroughly recommend. I can only hope the new arrival picks up the Yeti’s baton of being something you can count upon in a muddy field, rather than following the me-too route of looks over all else.

It does at least have a cool name, though, which is a good start.

Why the Goodwood Revival needs to heard north

the-goodwood-revival-is-a-step-back-in-time-to-racing-in-the-1960s

DEAR Lord March,

I very much enjoyed your nostalgia-tinged car show on the outskirts of Chichester last weekend. I suspect just about every other petrolhead from across Europe did too, given the size of the traffic jams on the way in and the fact the 3,500 classic cars eventgoers brought along made what’s effectively a visitor car park bigger than most classic car shows in its own right.

The Goodwood Revival is a motoring event quite unlike any other. Nowhere else has the same near-obsessive attention to detail – everything from the cars and bikes to the shops and costumes has to fit in with the idea you’ve somewhere stepped back in time to 1966. Nothing else has quite the same scale of ambition too. You might think squeezing the cream of the world’s touring car talent, Le Mans winners and David Coulthard into identical Austin A35s for a race sounds a bit far-fetched. But it isn’t. Last weekend the sort of race you’d dream up six pints into a night out actually happened.

But there is one real problem with the Goodwood Revival. It’s miles away, and nothing in the North even comes close.

The Cholmondeley Pageant of Power – sorry, Cholmondeley Power and Speed – is a noisy step in the right direction but it doesn’t have quite the same atmosphere or scale as the Revival. An event I went to over in Scarborough last year, the East Coast Classic, nailed the motorsport pedigree bit by bringing classic cars to an old street racing circuit but lacked the sort of ruthlessly efficient timetable that makes the Revival’s every-other-minute thrills so beautifully coordinated. The closest thing I can think of is the Oulton Park Gold Cup, which is brilliant and very well attended but lacks Goodwood’s sense of theatre.

What you need to do, M’Lord, is venture up here and bring a little Revival sparkle to the North West.

Happily we’ve just the venue too; Aintree. We already hold a small race meet there called the Grand National but it’s also the place where Sir Stirling Moss won his first British Grand Prix. It’s steeped in motor racing history, and thanks to all the horse racing fans it has proper grandstands and facilities too. I think you can see where I’m going with this one.

Just imagine how brilliant it would be if you could have some Team Lotus F1 cars or Jaguar C-types belting around the circuit in its full, three-mile glory. You could insist everyone dressed up in 1960s costume too, and have vintage aircraft circling overhead. There’s so much potential for a Goodwood of the North – and we have the perfect place for it, right here.

You know you want to – and if it all goes wrong, just say that bloke from The Champion put you up to it.

Regards,

David