Here’s another unexpected treat I found at Goodwood last week: seeing old friends again, of the meat and metal varieties. Up there with me is Alex Goy, who’s done a bit of writing for us, but is also the other person in the Lone Picture of Me Where I Almost Look Cool, taken in 2015 as Alex and I drove in the Mille Miglia race around Italy, in an incredible 1952 C-Type Jaguar best known by its number plate, PUG 676. Well, not only did I get to see Alex at the show, I got to see PUG again! Don’t tell Alex, because he may get pissy, but that was the real treat.
Looking inside the metal tub that makes up the inside of that car, a whole brainload of sensory memories came pouring back in, of co-driving stints I did in that car with Alex and also the car’s colorful owner, Ben Cussons. Those memories weren’t exactly comfortable ones: the inside of that C-Type is hard and sharp and hot, hot enough that Alex’ shoes were melting as he drove.
Plus, I remember Ben’s driving style was, um, spirited. As I wrote back in 2015:
Ben’s guiding philosophy when it came to driving and passing was to just stay on the throttle, and the universe will sort of re-arrange itself to accommodate you, somehow. He maintained that it was when you let up that things got nasty. This, of course, was also the man who discouraged me from using the vestigial seat belts because he maintained I’d “rather be thrown from the wreck.”
The thing is, Ben wasn’t ever wrong. Somehow, every time, a gap in the right lane did materialize, moments before I was sure we’d end up inside the engine block of an Iveco truck or apologizing to the family in the overturned Multipla. Ben had a special connection with this car — he’s had it, and, more importantly, been really driving it for over 25 years, and he’s so comfortable and in tune with the car that he basically wears it and uses it like a colossal prosthetic. It just becomes part of his body.
The Mille is run on public roads and no attempt is made to close the roads, so a lot of my memories in that car were of leaning over the side at speed to see if we could actually squeeze through some alarmingly tiny gap in oncoming traffic. It was, um, invigorating. A great way to invigorate the pee right out of your bladder.
Cars are like memory storage devices, unlocking teraneurons of data when you encounter them after a long while. PUG is one of those storage devices for me, and I’m so happy I was able to say hello again at this tiny little reunion.