05-09-2018 – Laurie Southern
Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Before I start this coverage, I’m going to preface by saying that to truly understand the magic of Retro Rides Gathering you just have to be there.  It’s an event I simply won’t allow myself to miss each year. From the atmosphere of the campsite to the symphony of engines tearing up the hillclimb, there’s nothing I don’t love. However packed your event list for next season, make sure this is a part of it.

What I can show you through my lens however is the sheer variety of cars that turned up to attack the hill on Sunday. Enjoy the selection.

If you take a wander through the paddock the night before the event the first thing you’re likely to spot is one of the ‘guest’ cars. Or maybe it isn’t. The truth is, the majority of people that run the hill put so much time and effort into their builds it’s often hard to tell them apart. This Ford Sierra is no exception, sporting some particularly functional aero to keep the front end planted no matter what. Not bad for the first sighting, eh?

Turn full 180 and you’re greeted with something else entirely. Derek Kessell’s Maguire Mini is a car I’ve seen a couple of times over the years, and it never fails to excite me. It looks just as striking waiting in the wings of Shelsley Walsh’s iconic paddock as it does heading full chat up the hill.

In the short space of time it took me to gather my friends for a closer look, another of the guest cars made an appearance. You must be starting to realise why I love this place by now. Damien Bradley’s Subaru Legacy is quite the machine, built to comply with the Club 4WD class of the UK Time Attack Championship. You may notice the DIY aero becoming a bit of a theme.

It’s a car that looks at home on the hillside just as much as it does on the Time Attack grid. Speaking of which, a little info on the hillclimb itself probably wouldn’t go amiss.

The aim of the game is simple – get up the hill as fast as you can. Gradients are steep and corners are tight. The only thing you’re racing to the top is the stopwatch, so you’ve no traffic to worry about.

Shelsley Walsh plays host to the world’s oldest motorsport venue still in use today. It was constructed in 1905, and still provides a short intense challenge for hillclimb drivers the world over. A 1 in 6 gradient over 1000 yards is enough to keep anybody on their toes.

Right off the start line you’re able to build up speed in the open, before the circuit tightens as it climbs into the trees. Getting up there quickly requires a lot of power, a lot of grip and a hell of a lot of bravery.

The competition during RRG was a little more relaxed however. A number of invitational cars come along to put on a show, with the rest of the track activity playing out as a ‘run what ya brung’ style event. And what a show it is. The staging area before the start line provides a small length of tarmac in order to get the tyres warm…

…Which drivers are all too happy to use.

I took this photo at 11:32AM, with over 5 hours left of run time. That’s a lot of rubber.

The RWYB sessions were full of surprises. The Rover SD1 V8 waiting patiently is cool enough itself. Park it next to the instantly-recognisable Lancia Delta HF Integrale however, and you’ve got a pairing that would spark conversation among any automotive audience. Don’t you think that Rover would make a great looking Group B rally car?

Every direction you turn in this paddock, something else fights to draw your attention. I stopped in my tracks when I spotted this car. The Cobra 427 has always meant a lot to me. I hadn’t seen one in the flesh up until this year, and now I’ve seen two. Maybe I wasn’t looking in the right place? Or perhaps they’re currently in the hands of the right people? With that said, if it was mine I don’t think I’d have the guts to take it up the hill. Fair play.

It’s okay, I forgive you. I’d doubt me too.

What’s even more incredible is the fact that you can get so close to these cars and their owners. It’s a sensory overload. The cacophony of an ex-Grp 4 Escort doing a burnout just feet away from you is something that has to be experienced before you die.

That’s nothing however when the next car up is a twin-engined Peugeot 205 that looks like it’s about to destroy your very existence. Two 3.0L V6 (one for the front, one for the back) blocks putting out a total of 670BHP is absolutely insane. It’s said that only the brake pedal, windscreen and door handles haven’t been modified in some way. If you check out one thing on the internet today, make it this. Did I mention Retro Rides provides variety?

A rather welcome sight was Phil Morrison’s (of Driftworks fame) Promodet-graced RWB 964. It’s Phil’s dream car and, I’ll be honest, I think it’s mine too. Just look at it. The two stage launch control was a sight to behold off the line too. I’m glad it’s driven the way it’s built to be driven.

And then on the other end of the scale there’s this. Sure, why not. You do you. Live your best life.

If you do however like your cars to be esteemed hatchbacks then you’re absolutely in luck. If there’s one thing Retro Rides Gathering does provide it’s pocket rockets. So many of them. I guess you just can’t deny the functionality of a lightweight car with a short wheelbase when gunning it up a steep hill.

Or just go for the polar opposite. Whatever tickles your fancy. This Model T ‘rod is one of the cleanest builds I’ve seen in a very long time.

It would be rude not to give young Potter an honourable mention when someone shows up in a Ford Anglia, wouldn’t it?

Whatever your preference or flavour, RRG can provide it. I can’t stress enough how important this event is for car culture on the whole in the UK. It brings so many people together from every corner and discipline. The atmosphere is the friendliest I’ve seen, and the action both on and off the track are enough to keep me going back year after year. Get on it.

EDIT; the aforementioned Cobra is in fact a replica. Must remember to reg check before making bold claims!

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Laurie Southern