Supercar Sunday at Gaydon – June 2007

Once a year, the British Motor Heritage Trust museum site at Gaydon plays host to some rather more exotic machinery than the sort of vehicles housed in its own museum. This is “Supercar Sunday”, an opportunity for the owners of a wide variety of “supercars” to show off their prides and joy, in a mix of static displays, demo rides, and a series of themed concours exhibits within a marked out arena, complete with “interviews” of some of the lucky drivers.

Despite the odd menacing black cloud, the 2007 event was blessed with sunny weather all day, allowing a decent sized crowd to enjoy these splendid vehicles at their best. Early arrivals were grouped together by marque, but once the main display area was full, later arrivals parked up wherever they could see a space, thus changing the form of the displays. Not that anyone was really going to care, as long as they could see the cars and take their share of what was doubtless TerraBytes of photos that were snapped during the day.

Here are just some of the photos taken by “The Motor’s”‘ lucky reporters for the day.

Firstly, Ferrari……… represented mainly by newer models, including the very latest 599GTB Maranello, and a very rare right hand drive 575 Superamerica. Older models were in evidence, too, with a 400 which on first being fired up sounded like it could be there for the duration, but once the 12 cylinders did burst into life was nearly as sonorous as the more recent and much louder Prancing Horses.

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Numerically, TVR was better represented than any other, with significant numbers of each production model from the Griffiths and Chimaeras of the early 1990s to the final 350T and Sagaris. Little sounds finer than a row of TVR’s all firing their engines and setting off toward the arena in a long procession.

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A good turn out from Lamborghini, too. The oldest car here was an Espada, that sneaked in and out before a camera could be pointed at it. Most of the cars were Gallardos, Murcielagos and Diablos, and several of them came in the garish and luminescent hues that seem to suit surprisingly well.

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Alfa Romeo have produced plenty of sports cars over the years, but few really qualify as “supercars”. The striking SZ probably gets closer than most.

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One of the rarest cars on display was a Bugatti EB110S.

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A strong lineup of Lotus cars staged an appearance, too. Most of them were Esprits, covering the entire 20 year model life of this range. A sole M100 Elan and an Excel were in evidence for part of the day, but they seem to have eluded the camera.

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Porsche was, naturally, well represented, with a whole array of 911s, of all generations, some in more tasteful paint schemes than others. Also, a couple of 924s, 944s, a 928 a Boxster and a Carrera GT completed the lineup.

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Britain was further represented by Aston-Martin. Perhaps not as many of these cars as you would expect were there, but a Virage Vantage, and couple of DB7s made sure that the marque was not forgotten.

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And so to America. It is indeed debatable if America has ever really produced a “supercar”. What is beyond question is that this is the home of the “muscle car”. Few would argued that it was inappropriate that these vehicles, however they are categorised, should have been denied a place at the event. The real rarity of the day was this beautifully restored Corvette Stingray from the mid 60s, which its proud owner said had been acquired as a complete “basket case” and had taken him many a long hour to bring to the condition in which it was presented.

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It was joined by an example of the modern Corvette, a C5 generation car.

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Among the more modern American offerings were a number of Vipers. This GT was at least a foot longer then usual, owing to the incredible “cow catcher” type spoiler at the front.

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The late 60s and very early 70s were the period of the American Muscle Car. Ever larger engines, boasting impressive total horsepower were put under the bonnets of what were otherwise mostly quite staid family sedans, to create cars which were fast in a straight line. Not so good on the corners, and with brakes that definitely were not upgraded in the same way, these are highly collectible cars these days. This trio are good examples of the genre.

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Some might say that the AC Cobra provided some of the inspiration for the large engine philosophy, as the original AC Ace started out with a humble 2 litre 4 cylinder engine, but after Carrol Shelby spotted the potential of the basic car, the legendary 289 and 427 models were created with engines all the way up to 7 litres.

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Finally, a few cars in categories all of their own, starting with the oldest vehicle on display, and perhaps a “supercar” of its time, the SS100 Jaguar.

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Japan was represented in 2 ways: a small line up of Honda NS-X, a car which fully deserves the supercar title; also a whole row of Nissan 300ZX and 350ZXs and Skylines, none of which were in any way quite in the form in which they would have left the factory, all “embellished” in objects that you would either love or hate, with fancy metallised paint work, huge exhausts, highly polished chromed engines and the like. Here’s the NS-X:

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And then there were a few cars which clearly were not “supercars” at all, but which made for an interesting and yet more varied display. These ranged from the familiar – the MGA and some early Toyota MR2s – to the rare, a Rochdale Olympic from the early 1960s.

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Completing the cars that I photographed was this, again, not really a supercar, but one designed for the track, and with performance that would not be embarrassed by the other cars on show.

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As well as being used as a display area, the arena was twice the “playground” for Russ Swift to demonstrate his prowess and precision car control. A spectacular show saw him executing a series of perfect parking manoeuvres, with the 2 cars between which he was parking getting ever closer, then after showing how to drive a Mini on just two wheels along the length of the arena, he thrilled a lucky member of the crowd with what he called a “gentle circuit or two” of the arena area. Brilliant!

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