GALLERY: Your Sexy Silhouette Race Cars Have Arrived From Goodwood
Photography by Nat Twiss
I felt more than a tinge of sadness as the weekend of the Goodwood Members’ Meeting came to its conclusion this past Sunday, and once again it was all over too soon. When an event switches themes with every edition like this, you’re blessed each year to be witnessing some extraordinary combinations of cars and drivers, rivals reunited, and odd pairings that didn’t get to duke it out in period. Many of these things simply couldn’t happen more than once, but therein lies the problem: they might not ever happen again. In terms of the 76th Members’ Meeting, there was no collection of vehicles more compelling to me than the stunning array of Group 5 machines from European series in the 1980s like the DRM joined by a handful of American IMSA racers and other ultra-wide GT cars. Seeing them all together like this was definitely a privilege and a long-term memory in the making, but still, oft-quoted proverbs about being glad something happened once rather than not at all can be damned; I want to be back on a grid full of Group 5 cars as soon as possible.
They’re more widely known by their descriptive and inclusive nickname, and these “silhouette” cars just vaguely resemble their road going counterparts when seen in profile. They’re littered with body extensions that take the form of absurd fender flares and wings, and a great deal of them are packing huge turbos. Each is as fast as it looks regardless of induction system, but it’s the Group 5 stuff that’s always done it for me. As long as you didn’t modify the doors, hood, or the roof, it was all good. Plenty of creative rulebook interpretations took place during this time, and perhaps it was endemic to the era, this sense of overdoing it. This Is Spinal Tap came out around the same time as these cars, when things really were turned up to 11.
The bodies border on caricature, yet somehow exude elegance when you take them for what they are, or just from the right angle. Boxy yet streamlined, the silhouette of the Porsche 935 “Moby Dick” is an icon not just of the era but of motorsport design period. Paired with the multi-spoke BBS wheels that were so popular at the time, or even better, fitted with huge concave turbofans, the cars sit on the grid with far more purpose and sense of restrained speed than anything modern; tell a five-year-old to draw a race car and it would look like one of these.
With such a maximalist approach to their body design and the liveries on top, typically attention-grabbing schemes like the tri-color M stripe on the E21 BMW 320 almost look subdued. Huge expanses of sponsor-friendly flat panels are the rule of the day here, and even the lesser-known cars are sporting some interesting patterns and palettes, from the Martini livery adorning the Lancia Beta Montecarlo Turbo to the blue and white Bilstein zebra hiding a Ford Capri.
Most of these cars spend their lives dotted across the globe in private collections and museums, rarely seeing natural light, let alone a race circuit in freezing conditions. Undeterred, and some even on slicks, they peeled out of the paddock onto the grid in a cacophony of engine notes—naturally-aspirated, turbocharged, six, twelve and eight cylinders all together. I wouldn’t call it harmonizing, but rather a bunch of frontmen competing to be heard. There’s little else that represents the primal side of motorsport like the silhouette cars of the late 1970s and ‘80s do, and the words “classic” and “vintage” just seem a bit too cute and nice for these fire-breathers.