I used to work in a record store many years ago, Tower Records to be exact. Think of me if you will, as Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner, speaking, with heartfelt sorrow to Harrison Ford, then slowly read the following true events of my life: I once took a very intoxicated Ozzy Osborne to the loo during a midnight signing session of Black Sabbath (I stood outside, thank you very much). I once had Michael Jackson, ask me for the DVD of 'To kill a Mocking Bird' (whispered it to his bodyguard who asked me), then MJ threw a discreet tantrum when I told him directly we haven't got it. I once had an Agent call me a “Mofo” just to impress jazz impresario Lonnie Liston Smith. (The Agent later got busted for nicking records). But, I never got to meet Miles Davis before he died. I'm bringing Miles up because I always remember the opening line to the Miles Davis autobiography by Quincy Troupe. It read something like “the best feeling I ever had with my clothes on was listening to Charlie Bird Parker play the saxophone”.
Let me start by suggesting that one of the best feelings I ever had with my clothes on was at the MPH/Top Gear Live Show. Actually that's not true for me, but judging from the hordes of people that showed up for Jeremy Clarkson et al, it fair to assume that someone in that huge crowd was that way inclined. Clarkson, I'm unashamed to write is a marketing genius; we sat for nearly 20 minutes while he bombarded us advertising of his new DVD called “Duels”.
Personally, after a day that tested me physically, I was tired but sat down patiently to watch a high octane show conducted by the ringmaster in chief with support from his two assistants Richard Hammond and James May (aka the boys), with a very brief cameos from JK from Jamiroquai and Comedian Jimmy Carr .
I arrived at Earls Court at approximately 5.10pm and was treated courteously by MPH staff. Considering I broke my camera my 'beloved' camera on my way there, the experience was subjectively anodyne. After receiving my press pass and paperwork, I proceeded to enter what I saw as 'The Great Hall of Automobiles'.
Being a bit of a history boffin, I naturally start my admiration of automobiles from a historical perspective. A substantial part of my affection for auto sport and mobility is based on an appreciation of its history. The history of motor racing specifically is a narrative of development in the pursuance of set goals in excellence. So as I glanced to the left side of 'The Great Hall of Automobiles' I saw what I instantly recognised as a 1920s 4 ½ litre Supercharged Bentley.
During the 1920s the goals of the so called Bentley Boys who drove these cars was to race; and race hard with cars that Ettore Bugatti described as the “fastest lorries in the world ”. Most notorious of Bentley Boys was Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin a bon fide “man of action”. His goal was to see Britain build a race track to rival the type he liked to race on in Europe. Birkin, a dashing celebrity to many a boy racer after penning the book “Full Throttle” pushed hard for a worthy British circuit to compete, but didn't get to see one. He died within a period of three weeks from an arm wound gone septic, obtained while racing in 1933.
As I write this article, the British Race Drivers Club (BRDC) website has a story of Birkin and Barnato winning the 1928 Le Mans. The Bentley Boys formed the core beginning of the BRDC who own the Silverstone Circuit. Unfortunately, neither Silverstone nor any other British circuits seems likely to hold the British Grand Prix in 2010.
While on the subject of Grand Prix, Brits, myself included are noticeably excited about the return of Lotus to Formula One albeit with Malaysian paymasters. 'In The Great Hall Of Automobiles' I was drawn to the effervescent green Lotus eleven (1956-57) on display with the “Team Lotus” livery. The Car (the Le Mans Lotus) designed by the great Colin Chapman and aerodynamicist Frank Costin, looked regal but was placed at a difficult angle preventing me photographing it in all its splendour (with my blasted mobile phone I might add). After a thorough dose of British heritage, I went looking for the Americans.
When it comes to 'American Muscle' I'm a Mustang man. However, of late my fidelity to that Pony Car has been tested by the sheer brilliance in appearance of the 2010 Camaro. Forget the blasted Transformers film; I never did watch it properly, not even for Megan Fox.
At MPH, The 2010 yellow Rally Camaro was hidden away behind a semi-cordoned off segment of the hall. Odd place to situate something so beautiful I thought to myself, but, the car looks great no matter where, and is reportedly well engineered for performance. Some Camaros come with a V6, but in my humble opinion, any Muscle Car worthy of the term “Muscle” should have a V8; but with a 6.2 litre engine there's a high cost of fuel to consider. Same applies to Mustang and Dodge.
I saw one classic Dodge Charger SS with the hood open. There was a wider variety of Mustang's on display, put on by an amiable gentleman called Bill Shepherd of Bill shepherd Mustang. Noticing I was intrigued by the plethora of Ponies around me, Mr Shepherd assured me he could tune one of his Mustangs to give me 700hp (or was it 700bhp?). However, the pride of Mr Shepherd's collection lay with an orange very limited edition Shelby Mustang. Mr Shepherd priced the car at 100k but confessed he'd be quite fine keeping the car. With that, I decided it was time to pay my respects to the Europeans.
I'm not going to write too extensively about European Supercars because there's simply too much to cover and if you know your cars, which I'm sure you probably do, you've read it all before. There were the usual suspects in attendance in 'The Great Hall of Automobiles', Enzo, Lambo, Spyker, Spyder, Zonda. All looking so vainglorious compared to a 1976 Triumph Stag on the other side of the hall .
I took pictures of the SL 65 AMG but couldn't find the SLS Gullwing. I took pictures of the Ferrari California in black but couldn't quite find the 458 Italia. I took pictures of an elegantly placed white Bugatti, but saw no hint of a Bugatti Pur Sang or Bugatti Sang Blu. I could have missed them; there was so much to do. Nevertheless, I was impressed with the No 8 (of 20) exclusive Lamborghini Murcielago Versace (LP640-4) in white, with Versace interior and livery. The Company in procession of this stunning limited edition is called BF Performance based in Stuttgart. I didn't want to insult them by soliciting a price. BF proudly flaunts its performance enhanced cars in terms of speed and had a powerful tuned Lancer Evo X on display
With all the potential for high horse power and torque put on display I ignored the traditional Supercar-cum-GT field for more specialised speed racing brands. By the way, there was a Ferrari F1 car around with people encouraged to practice tyre changing. It demeaned the car. Furthermore, it made Pit Lane seem a prosaic experience best ignored.
Three cars stood out for me at the show. The Keating TKR, Mclaren SLR 722 GT (2007) and the Radical SR8 LM.
First, the Keating TKR from the Keating Brothers which has an engine prepared by Nelson Racing based in California, has recently been trying to break records in the El Mirage desert. With 1800hp it managed to hit 260.1mph on its last attempt, and according reports in Car magazine it aims to break the 300mph mark next outing. The paint work on the car was done by a company called Reefpaintshop.
Secondly, The Mclaren SLR 722 GT is a limited one make Racer that has a narrative similar to the Bentley Boys. The Car appears massively aggressive. But then it has been designed purely for the rich racing enthusiast. It's a 5.5 litre V8 with kerb weight of 1390kg. The one on display by the company called CBR had (Jean) Alesi's name tag and French Flag.
Lastly, the Radical SR8 LM, which claims to hold the current lap time at the legendary Nurburgring weighs 680kg, has a top speed of 170mph, goes from 0-60 in 3.2 seconds and is very unattractive.
Speaking of attraction, I'd hate to appear sexist, but the uber-fine women at these events seem to be there not to look fantastic as they already do, but appear salaciously sexy bordering on cheap and sleazy. Furthermore, they know it. Ask them about the cars and “the jokes on you jack”. I mentioned Bill Shepherd earlier for his Mustangs. However, Mr Shepherd also had two of the most scantily dressed girls in cowboy boots and hats; it was Texas pantomime all the way. The girls were all exceptionally beautiful but two stood out for me. One girl was representing a “Support Our Troops” stand. The other girl was employed for the day by 'Racoon Vehicle Branding'.
The lady representing the troops was “sex on legs” (with an unfortunate acne problem) dressed in camouflaged hot pants, camouflaged top and was extraordinarily pulsating when she walked in heels. “Legs to die for”. The other lady sell for Raccoon Vehicle Branding was friendly, gorgeous and dressed in classy black knee length dress, (skin a bit orange from a fake tan but who cares?) Both women were tall, neither was blond.
Top Gear Live Show
I went on to see another hot girl kick off the Top Gear show. I mean literally hot because she did a dangerous act involving loads of spitting flames. I bet she's Romanian or something. Well, Jeremy did his thing with the others in tow and the Stig. If the pyrotechnics were any hotter the VIP row would be dry toast.
The highlights were a motor rally with Robin Reliant three wheelers (to cut the cost of tyres in motorsports), some awesome precision driving by young (in a Suzuki rally car) and old (in a Caterham) stunt drivers. Jeremy Clarkeson routinely insulting his VIP guests as rich and ugly, who after you see them on camera you think actually agree deserved the ridicule after all. Then, the Stig took part in some bizarre “Carmageddon” game hosted by Jimmy Carr.
Add to that some audience participation, some mocking of Fifth Gear alongside Gordon Brown, and there you have it, the perfect Top Gear formulae. It works rather well. I was exhausted, but most importantly I was fully clothed, and happy.
For Charles’ pictures go here: http://twitpic.com/photos/IBMsports