Hidden in a Barn is One Man’s Gulf Racing Obsession
Photography by Amy Shore for Petrolicious
Some of the most exquisite workshops I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting have also been the most difficult to find. Like hidden rooms behind library bookcases or James Bond’s secret gadget lair, these awe-inspiring spaces contain that air of mysterious secrecy about them. It also makes them a real pain to locate. Thankfully, I had navigator-extraordinaire Kirsten Bright with me – wife of engineer and race driver, Mr. John Bright.
After many “left here”s and “right there”s along roads where my wing mirrors skimmed the hedges on either side, we pulled up in front of a large barn building. To the unsuspecting eye, one would expect to find nothing more than rusting farm equipment stored inside. However, as I hopped out, we were greeted by John in his blue, oil-smeared overalls. This mysterious barn in the middle of nowhere wasn’t a simple farmyard building, but the workshop of the incredible ROFGO Collection.
In 2008, Mr. Roald Goethe, with the help of Mr. Adrian Hamilton, began his collection of iconic Gulf cars, starting with an ex-works Gulf Ford GT40. Just six years on, this collection has grown to twenty-nine stunning machines including the likes of a McLaren M14, a Porsche 917, a Howmet TX and an array of Mirage cars. Not to mention the huge Gulf transporter to ferry all of these timeless machines around.
Working alongside John are Messrs. Ted Higgins and Viv Cowley who happily toured me around the workshop and showroom at Duncan Hamilton as I attempted to drag my dropped jaw along with me. This collection of cars was truly incredible.
One of my personal favourite vehicles of the day was the previously mentioned Howmet TX. One of only two, the TXs (Turbine eXperimental) are each powered by a helicopter engine. It made its racing debut at the 1968 Daytona 24 Hour race. Driven by creator and racer, Mr. Ray Heppenstall, along with Mr. Dick Thompson and Mr. Ed Lowther, it reached an impressive 3rd overall before a jammed wastegate caused the car to crash. “Want to hear it fired up?” John asked me. The excitement buzzing from me was certainly visible as I vigorously nodded. An external battery, a jack and ten minutes later, the thrumming sound of a helicopter engine thundered through the barn, followed by a cup of tea and an anecdote of the time John and Kirsten took a wrong turn in it and ended up driving through a forest with the fear of stalling without any gear to start it up again.
Ted then took me to the main showroom of the collection where I met the delightful Adrian and his array of cars and memorabilia. The collection of cars in this showroom was by far one of the most impressive assemblage I’ve ever laid eyes on. It would have been rude of me to not jump straight into the Porsche 917 so naturally, that’s one of the first things I did! I ogled the McLaren F1 GTR Short-tail, drooled longingly over the Aston Martin DBR9 and stared at the beautiful way light reflected off of the stunning McLaren F1 GTR Long-tail.
These cars are each rich with their own history and it was such a delight to have been introduced to them and treated to just a snippet of their tales.