Young and foolish, when you would have rushed headlong into an affair with a shapely, marvellously impractical sports car, or been willingly seduced by a comfy, high maintenance guzzler, the reality of a deficient bank balance poured a bucket of cold water over your eagerness.
So it’s horribly ironic that when you finally have the wherewithal to indulge, the cynical inner voice you grew sometime in your 30s clears its throat to protest over the futility of such an extravagant trophy purchase.
Besotted as ever, but commitment-adverse, at least you can flirt with other peoples’ machinery at the numerous motoring rallies and events taking place throughout the county, and take in some of their thrills from the slipstream.
Sussex is richly served with celebrations of every aspect of motoring, and the granddaddy of them all is the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run which dates back to 1896, the world’s longest running automobile event. Routed along the A23, the kerb-side is faithfully lined by well-wishers with flags and thermoses at the ready to brave the chilliest season, with the finishing line at Madeira Drive. This venue is shared with the Brighton Speed Trials, the oldest running motor race; a relative whipper-snapper having started in 1905.
Re-living its days as a motor racing venue, the Goodwood Estate is home to the cream of motoring extravaganzas – Lord March’s mid-summer Festival of Speed pays homage to every conceivable aspect of motor sport, from current Formula One, back to racers from the time of steam, with everything else land-going and fast in between: rally cars, motorcycles, dragsters and road-going super cars are all represented in their polished finery.
Conceived as the ultimate hill-climb, the grounds become a dream community of related trade stands, gourmet hospitality and a chance to encounter heroes of motor sport past and present, perhaps
Sir Stirling Moss or Lewis Hamilton. Drawing in crowds from around the globe, the 150,000 available tickets move as quickly as a McLaren F1 in a hurry.
The equally stunning sister event “Revival” relives Goodwood’s heritage as an active circuit with nothing newer than 1966 roaring – and occasionally chugging – up the tarmac. The entire show is a time-capsule with period dress, vendors of vintage memorabilia and a devoted field for visiting classics provides a show within a show. Even ice creams are sold from chiming pink and blue Bedford vans of the correct period.
Rocking up to Goodwood is a must do, but Sussex is also home to numerous other hugely enjoyable family-orientated events which can be visited spontaneously.
The Senlec show in 1066 countryside is opposite the 14th century Bodiam Castle and pulls in about 300 vehicles as a central theme for a wholesome day out, including craft fair, children’s rides, falconry, lindy hop displays, and crockery smashing. Organised by local Rotary, the event enjoys the happy vibe of being in aid of great causes.
Heading back west, the Wiston Rally focuses on gargantuan steam vehicles with origins of their power source dating back centuries. Often painted with intricate designs of yellow, burgundy, black and bottle green, these dinosaurs of commercial transport are a spectacular sight roaming the fields of Steyning, and an “old-time” funfair adds to the jolly atmosphere.
For a sublime car and foodie combo, watch out for The Wisborough Pub events. Accomplishing Open Table Diners Choice last year, the barbecue and restaurant options will handsomely re-charge the batteries after a balmy summer stroll exploring acres of gleaming classic cars on cut grass.
Newcomers to events will soon be in awe of the quality of vehicles on parade – supercars, bikes and commercials are polished to perfection, with yesteryear models looking sharper than when new. Some participants can be competitive to the extreme; the plots in early technicolour films such as Genevieve (1953) and The Iron Maiden (1962) are themed on the rivalry between boys showing off their big mechanical toys. The “concours d’ elegance” is a beauty contest for vehicles and can be an emotional tinderbox to the most dedicated who have slaved over buffing and detailing in order to take home a prize. Being marked down for a wonky headlamp or a slightly misshapen wheel arch is more likely to result in the breakdown of an owner than his fastidiously rebuilt vehicle. But in concept, it is little different to dressage or the jostling between competing growers of giant-sized vegetables at a country fair, and it’s all smiles in the beer tent afterwards.
The sun does not need to shine as brightly as the cars to enjoy the day, but it helps. Drizzle set in for last year’s Magnificent Motors on the immaculate seafront lawns of Eastbourne, and families passing round sarnies in wet, steamed-up family classics like Vauxhall Victors and Humber Sceptres was suitably authentic, if not ideal. In great British style, all but a few stayed the course refusing to allow the show to falter, and perseverance was rewarded with a smiling sky towards the end of the day.
The participative draw and camaraderie enjoyed by enthusiasts breeds a social element which can easily justify that much desired sleek Ferrari, opulent Jaguar or cuddly Morris Minor as the gateway to a fulfilling hobby interest.
So if by doing the rounds of the Sussex car show scene you had hoped to suppress the desire for ownership, it could spectacularly backfire. If the rhythmic burble of a V8 engine has become Mendelssohn to your ears, you crave the faded-grand, musty wood and old leather fix of a classic car interior, and you have become ever more drawn to the razor sharp front end of a Lamborghini as a pure art form, it’s only a matter of time before a rush of blood to the heart will drown your inner voice. Then you’ll be sucked in as surely as sediment up a fuel line. Beware…
From the granddaddy of all celebrations to the more family-orientated events, Sussex certainly has every aspect of motoring covered, says Robert Hughes