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Goodwood Revival 2014 - Magnette taxi driver

by Stephen Tickell

I spent an interesting three days as a taxi driver on the Goodwood Revival 'Transport Corps' (GRTC), transporting visitors to and from this event in my 1958 Varitone.

Paul Batho had initially responded to the GRTC invitation for Magnette drivers, but finding he wasn't able to attend, suggested I take over his duties. Instructions from the organizers stress that volunteers have to be available for all three days, although I believe several did in fact make appearances for only a day or two, and a couple retired with mechanical problems. 

The Revival is a re-enactment of 1950s/60s motor-racing which has been running for nearly 20 years and now attracts huge numbers of visitors. Most use the public car parks and reach the circuit by walking or bus, but a 'Vintage' taxi service is provided for those staying or dining at the Goodwood Hotel and the Kennels Clubhouse. Volunteer drivers and their cars are recruited from various car clubs, with the offer of free petrol, basic food/accommodation and access to the event, in return for working about 12 hours each day. GRTC also provides insurance. Another fleet of vintage and classic Rolls-Royces transports Lord March's personal guests from Goodwood House. 
 
Having only attended as a visitor before, I was unsure exactly what to expect. However we were well briefed on the locations and routes for taxi drivers, and at 7am on Friday (dressed in 50s cravat, cap and blazer) I reported to the circuit taxi rank , where a selection of classic cars and their owners were gathering, ranging from a 1940s Lanchester to a Ford Zephyr and Triumph Vitesse. Adding to the period look were an old-style taxi office, and the 'Glamcabs girls', a group of smartly dressed young ladies ready to greet visitors.
 
In the morning we were expected to keep sufficient cars at the hotel or Kennels to take visitors, press/PR and race drivers to the circuit, and then back for lunch or evening meals. The actual driving was mostly easier than I expected, as we avoided much of the main influx of cars by cutting through the estate past Goodwood House. With round-trip journeys around 3-4 miles from the Revival to drop-off/pick-up it was possible to be back in position in a few minutes, with time to chat in between. The exception was late afternoon, when heavy traffic out of the main car parks resulted in some lengthy queues and longer trip times that we couldn't avoid, and required continuous working by all drivers to keep up with demand.
 
By taking advantage of quieter periods, it was possible to get at least a couple of breaks to walk round the race circuit. It was great to catch part of the St Mary's Trophy when Julius Thurgood competed in 'Bumble', Stirling Moss's D-type parade lap, and to see (and hear) the fly-past by the only two still-airworthy Lancaster bombers. 
 
The weekend was pretty demanding physically, at least for someone who doesn't work normally as a taxi driver ! But the friendliness of the other volunteers (most of whom come back each year) and the feeling of being part of a very popular event made the effort very worthwhile. The car got much dirtier than I expected, even on a dry summer weekend, and you would have to be confident of mechanical condition to consider volunteering - eg. cooling system good enough to cope with slow traffic. My Magnette performed very well, and actually the only problems were:
- rear door seals which weren't fixed securely enough and tended to get pulled off by so many passengers trying to get their feet in and out.
- brakes squealing at times, which hasn't been a problem before. Possibly it was due to clouds of dust in places getting into the drums.
 
The Magnette seemed pretty well suited to taxi duty, and got a number of compliments on the comfortable ride, although several times I transported four adults in slightly less comfort, such as when Barrie and Sheila Hope with their friends appeared by chance at the taxi rank as I was waiting. Four Jowett Javelins were similarly doing great service, and there were several Austin 1950s London taxis on the fleet - perhaps the ideal combination of interior space and low-speed manouverability - but people seemed to appreciate the variety on offer. Several larger saloons were on duty at times, offering more luxury, however they found the tight turning circles at the taxi rank fairly challenging. 
 
It would be fun to repeat this experience with a team of Magnettes, but I realize it's not for everyone - particularly if you have a near concours-condition car, or if spending three long days on and off at the wheel doesn't appeal ! Hopefully the above will provide a bit of helpful information for those who might consider it.
 
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