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Aston Martin V12 Vantage S: Taking A Visceral Trip

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So, what makes an Aston Martin?

Well, it needs to be powerful, of course. Something like a V12 with 554hp would be great. Ideally, if it’s still possible it should be normally aspirated. You should be able to hear the engine gasping in big lungfuls of air and the throttle should crack open instantly. It needs to be beautiful, too. The proportions should be spot-on, the silhouette should be unmistakeable, yet there should be no excess. No flamboyance or ostentation. It should look expensive, but somehow not flashy.

And it should exude a slight air of menace. There should be latent violence lurking beneath those fluid curves. The car in these photos, for example, with its carbon fibre grilles and hungry intakes. It’s a Aston Martin Vantage S V12, and it has a manual, seven speed gearbox. It may be the most Aston of all current Martins.

And I’ve just experienced it.

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Slip Slidin’ Away: Wet and Wild at Goodwood

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When you’ve got a couple of hundred classic cars, many of which are historically significant, some of which are utterly priceless, you have to be careful. As we all note every time we read the reverse of our ticket, “Motorsport Can Be Dangerous”. Bad things can happen on even the best, tamest or driest racing surfaces. Add standing water to your blacktop, and you’re gonna have a bad time.

The Goodwood Hillclimb is performed on a narrow ribbon of concrete, lined with harder-than-you-think straw bales and, towards the top, a solid flint wall.

So, rain stops play at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, right?

The hell it does.

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Automotive Nirvana: Welcome to Goodwood

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It’s the greatest show on Earth, probably. As I type this a gentleman has just lightly crashed a Porsche 917 Pan Am, causing very mild cosmetic damage to the venerable, vulnerable aluminium panelwork, probably causing more, altogether uglier, damage to his underpants in the process. Meanwhile, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd is powering a 1936 Auto Union Type C up the hillclimb.

This could only be the Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2016. Welcome.

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Bulges and Muscle: The Jensen C-V8

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It must be over-exposure to Interceptors that has numbed my brain to such an extent that I’d forgotten about the forerunner that iconic glassbacked bruiser. Indeed took a good few seconds before my brain had parsed what, exactly, it was being confronted by.

Of course, I proclaimed to myself. It’s a Jensen. A C-V8; the brutal follow-up to the 541. Pleased to re-acquaint myself with it, I spent the next ten minutes walking around it and drinking in all those details that I had, shamefully, forgotten all about.

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The Carchive: The MG RV8

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I’ve got my bolt-cutters and flashlight, please join me with your balaclava and soft soled shoes so we can quietly break into the abandoned Leisure Centre of time and throw ourselves down the wobbly waterslide of motoring past. Welcome, once again, to The Carchive.

Last week we looked at Rover Groups great white hope for the resurgence of MG in the ’90s, the MGF. Well, I’m feeling pretty comfortable here in pre-millenial Britain so let’s hang back for a little bit. Actually, no, lets wind backwards to ’92 and look at the other roadster that Rover tried to tempt us with that decade.

It’s the RV8.

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A real Triumph Of Styling

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The Hofmeister kink. The Hofmeister bloody kink. It appears in lists of ‘favourite car styling cues’ with monotonous regularity. That and the shark-nose grille. It seems either that BMW have been credited with more than their fair share of design hits. And, I admit, rightly so.

But could mankind’s adoration of the design output of Bavaria not be drip-fed by constant exposure, just like a piece of music will be embedded in your psyche after you’ve heard it a hundred times on the radio, on TV spots and as you walk past storefronts? It took a good thirty years for BMW’s design language to markedly change, but which time it had become part of the landscape. No wonder the best of classic BMW styling is universally hallowed.

Sometimes its easy to forget about the fallen. Those cars which have been lost in the fickle mists of time. When I recently saw this track-prepared Triumph 2500 I remembered just how strong a visual statement it made.

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Unlikely Race Cars #3: Sierra XR4x4by Jove

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I make no apologies whatsoever for being a terrible Ford Sierra Fanboy, and I was duly excited to see a Sierra Cosworth darting purposefully up the track at the Crystal Palace Hillclimb, followed closely by its later, more practical,  three-box, four-door Sapphire Cosworth successor. What I didn’t expect to see was a crazily be-winged family car cleaving its way around every hairpin while shouting with a voice I didn’t quite recognise.

Of course, we all know that the only five-door Sierra hatchback with any claim to sporting credentials was the XR4x4. Well, this used to be one of those. A long time ago.

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Normality Redefined: Driving the Fuel Cell Toyota Mirai

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It had been haunting me all day long. Long and impossibly shiny in its chromium finish, it would glide serenely past as I sat behind the wheel of whichever “ordinary” car I was sampling. Everybody I saw driving it seemed to have the same facial expression- brow slightly furrowed but with an enthused sparkle in the eye.

When a car as exclusive, as under-the-radar as the Toyota Mirai turns up at a press event like this, I assumed that the list of drivers booked in to drive it would read like a who’s who of journalistic glitterati and high-profile celebrity guests. By comparison, according to my pass I’m a no-name blogger from www.Hooniver.se, some obscure Swedish website.

Well, I was wrong, and it urns out I like the Toyota PR team quite a lot.

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The Carchive: The MGF

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The ticket machine has spluttered out a cheap-rate fare and the windswept platform is bare. In the distance approaches a clanking, decaying locomotive and a rake of moribund, down at heel coaches. Let’s board the train of weary discovery and take a trip along the buckled rails of motoring past.

Welcome back to The Carchive.

Last time we lurched across the Atlantic to see what General Motors had to offer us if we wanted a Canadian Market T-Platform. This week we’re heading forwards in time to the Mid Nineties, where Central England was stirring with the sound of celebration. The MGF had arrived.

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Unlikely race cars #2: Jaguar XJ6 “Club Sport”.

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Last week I we got a glimpse of the fun to be had on a hillclimb course when your steed is part SEAT Marbella and part Lancia Y10 Turbo. This week we look at something equally alien to the track, but no less fun and a whole lot bigger.

I grow tired of seeing Caterhams, Lotus Elises and beautifully optimised classics monotonously excelling as they’re threaded, inch-perfectly, from apex to apex. Such machines are so perfectly suited to this kind of driving that it seems almost like cheating. Surely it’s rather more fun if your car’s natural talent is rather more focussed on other areas?

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