An alternative day out for the motoring enthusiast

If I have an interesting car to test (and it’s sadly rare these days – see dull crossovers and SUVs) then I head down into Sussex to Goodwood for a sarnie and the hope of seeing something interesting circulating the track – which is what Luc Lacey and I decide to do today.

The Camaro most definitely fits into the ‘interesting’ category. It’s a wonderful car to drive slowly. I much prefer Chevrolet’s pushrod V8 to Ford’s 5.0-litre overhead-cammer in the Mustang. Kevin Hurl at Ian Allan will sell you one of these gems for only a few quid over £40,000. When he’s run out of his stock of coupés and convertibles it’s unlikely that any new Camaros will come to our shores. It’s not even certain that Chevrolet will continue to build its iconic pony car for much longer.

We’re in luck. There seems to be some sort of manufacturer-customer day in progress at Goodwood. McLaren is here with a few 720Ss, Aston Martin has a Vantage wearing the company’s famous AML 1 number plate, Ferrari has a 812 Superfast and there’s a Singer here too. Aside from the Singer 911 I’d rather have the Camaro than any of these exotics.

More luck, Derek Bell is here. Bell is a constant presence in our world, popping up like Zelig at car launches and various events. If you’ve had the pleasure you’ll know what a warm-hearted bloke he is. “You’ll never believe it,” he exclaims, “I’ve just spun that BMW M4 at Madgwick.” If I’d come out with this sentence the world would have replied, ‘and so?’, but D. Bell losing it is unusual. “It’s modern steering: no feel for what the car is doing.” Quite.

We must crack on as we want to be at our next stop for afternoon tea. We’ve got to negotiate the A27 east of Brighton and then head north to the village of Buxted in East Sussex, home of Crosthwaite & Gardiner. Put simply, this outfit is one of the finest automotive engineering companies in the world. A bold statement, but given that Mercedes-Benz and Audi trusted the company to build replicas of their Silver Arrows racing cars, the claim is somewhat justified.

Dick Crosthwaite, who set the company up in 1969 with the late John Gardiner, is now semi-retired and his son Ollie runs the business day to day. There is much going on at C&W that we’re unable to photograph or talk about, but that doesn’t overly restrict us as there’s plenty to gawp at and ogle. The machine shop is fascinating, with cutting-edge computer-controlled tools producing parts to ridiculously tight tolerances.

A trip around the stores is worth another couple of hours of our time. Beautifully turned nuts (with integral washers) for Bugattis, brand-new D-Type cylinder heads. Talking of which, C&W will supply a brand-new E or D-Type racing engine ready to go. Or a 2.5-litre Coventry Climax engine for a Cooper or Lotus F1 car. Then there’s the room where hundreds of patterns are kept. The last time I felt this in awe of history I was standing in the Museum of Cairo.