automotive

Shuttleworth Collection Engineering Day = Grown Up Sheds by Shaun Armstrong

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There's something alluring about sheds. Havens with tools and tins and the gathered detritus of many hours tinkering and whittling. Attempts to fix or create, successfully or otherwise - in relatively undisturbed tranquility, save perhaps an old paint-spattered radio. And mugs of tea. And if you breath deeply, the smell of oil and wood-shavings. We're not talking Shoffices here - wooden garden workplaces with desks, books and wifi - but the sort of place where organisation means over-use of a Dymo label printer on old tubs and tins to reveal their assorted contents - nails, tapes and bits of electrical items that are sure to "come in handy" one day.

My Dad had such a shed-cum-workshop which as his gathered spoils and projects increased, he made it larger - cutting it in half down the middle and inserting a higher, pitched perspex roof to let more light in. As you do.

Sheds come in all shapes and sizes and whilst the ones at the Shuttleworth Collection of aircraft and classic cars at Old Warden, Bedfordshire are more "hangars", the principle is pretty much the same.

Every year they open up the engineering shed hangar to show their works-in-progress and for the engineers (the stars of the show along with the airplanes) to share their enthusiasm and chat to the visitors young and old.

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This was my first visit to Shuttleworth, so camera-wise I only had my little Fuji 100s and my phone, but was amazed how many people were gunned up with all sorts of kit - tripods, off-camera flash and more DSLR's with the brand and model stitched into the strap than you could shake a selfie-stick at. But when you think of how close to classic warbirds (especially the last flying Hurricane that saw action in WWII) you could get, plus see the innards of a Spitfire in bottom-up rebuild, you could see why there was such enthusiasm.

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Aside from the main focus (and smell) of the planes, I was more fascinated by the people - visitors and team, and the details of not only the machinery but life in the workplace not normally set for public "display". The quizzical technical interest of the more mature gentleman down to the families and children marvelling in the unusual sights of design, materials and finish, was fascinating.

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Here are some of my images from the Shuttleworth visit, spanning visitors, engineers and details of classic craftsmanship.

Goodwood Festival of Speed - driving up "the Hill". by Shaun Armstrong

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Driving up the Festival of Speed, Goodwood Hill Climb - one off the bucket list.

I first went to Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2002 and on the few occasions I've not been in the flesh since, I've watched the highlights on the TV.

So, I've seen many cars drive the famous 1.16 mile hill-climb, many times : the "brickyard" start, through the trees, double apex right, past the house with its latest sculpture, fast under the bridge, tricky Molecomb left, hill, Flint wall, right, left and blast up through the finish. Iconic stuff.

For the last few years I've been on the quieter Thursday slot or "Moving Motorshow" as I like to get close and photograph the cars, for my artwork, more than fighting through the crowds. But I've also watched the lucky few get to drive up the Hill in a latest production model although for some reason had not made the effort to try and bag one of the rare slots. 2015 was different.

As usual, I'd left at 4.30am to get to Petersfield by 6.00am to pop the roof down and run the ridges, climbs and fast sections on the back-roads to Goodwood. On a good day the light cuts through the tree-tunnels and mist sits in the valleys...and there is precious little other traffic to spoil my "enthusiasm". One of my favourite drives. This also bags a good parking space and place in the queue for opening at 7.00am.

So wandering through the Moving Motorshow stand/garage I was drawn to the Citroen area and the relatively small queue that had formed. I guess with planning I'd have gone for something more "exotic" but what the hey. To my surprise I bagged a slot in a DS3 Sport which if I had to describe it I couldn't, but it was a drive.

The allotted time came and I got in the car with Lucy from Citroen as they have to drive you to the start. So down at the turn by the Goodwood Hotel we swapped places and for the first time sat in a DS3; no fussy helmet and no "do this, don't do that nannying" - just go for it, she said. Good girl.

We crept up in the queue, or rather hopped, as the the DS3 had quite a high clutch bite point and I feared this may have been the start of the end with visions of start-line stalls in front of the spectators or a pedestrian kangaroo up the hill. Luckily we were also behind a keen guy in a Lexus IS-F. I had seen some people granny-crawl up the hill only to be caught by the next car and now I was actually going up didn't want that to happen.

With adrenaline pumping moving to the famous start line with the chequered-sign "Startline" bales and white overalled marshall my thoughts went to going as quick as I dared in a strange car without binning it in public....and with Lucy coerced into video duties, off we went...

Not too shabby I think. 1m 25 secs so an average of 50mph - 1.16 miles, 9 bends and an extra chicane to stops the noobs straight-lining Molecomb, 93m elevation change over average 5% incline. I'll take that for a one-off. What an experience.

I'd love to have another go as there were some places I know I could attack more and others where I know I was tight (hello, Flint Wall!) so, looking ahead to 2016! The Citroen DS3 was quite quick, if a little light on steering and soft of ride compared to my 350Z but a good car - the hay bales along the route are surprisingly high and a number of bends are unsighted until you get to know them I guess.

It's a great experience, do try and bag a ride if you go to FOS.

My car photo-artwork

 

Ferrari or Aston Martin? Decisions. Decisions. by Shaun Armstrong

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©shaunarmstrong IMG_1409I've always coveted an Aston Martin. Whilst Bond was cool in a DB5 I didn't really get the clunky, boxy, Prince-Charles-beloved barges of the 1980's even though they were built just down the road from where I live, at Newport Pagnell. But when the latest Vantage came along - what a sweet car. And when they shoehorned in the V12...!

Ferraris and most Italian marques, come to that, always seemed a little too "look at me" by comparison albeit the pic on my old Top Trumps (a flattering pic of a red Ferrari 365 GT BB against some rocky desert backdrop) did stir. So with a hatful of preconceptions and little (no) experience of actually driving the things, I set off to Silverstone "The Home of British Racing" to cash in an Experience Day voucher driving these marques back-to-back in anger.

Silverstone as a venue is pretty well geared up for this sort of thing now after Bernie gave them a rocket over F1 and they moved away from the old airfield tin-sheds-and-mud affair to something more fitting. As you wind your way around the perimeter track for what seems like miles and past the fancy Porsche facility, you're welcomed and organised in a nice shiny, and busy, Visitors Centre. After looking at the various large racing-heritage displays (great photos) I was ushered into the briefing room with the other suspects to basically be told to behave and not break anything. Guess the last thing they want is some adrenaline-fuelled wannabee trying to gymkhana their way around the course...

First up was the Ferrari 430 - a flappy paddle-shift beastie. I've not driven this way before, so the combination of this, a low cabin, roll-cage, helmet and a guy right next to me telling me to do things counter-intuitively didn't really enable me to capture the "spirit" of driving an Italian Stallion over the few laps you get. The experience was all a bit too mechanical and as for the car I was really surprised at how sluggish the up-shifts were. Bapping down the Hanger Straight and hoping for some rifle-shot shift just didn't happen. More of a click-pause-bump with too much a drop in revs, not the scream your expecting from a Ferrari. Perhaps with a couple more hours to get the feel of the 'box and where to find the limits would have helped. Possibly. The other problem with a way-sorted chassis and grippy rubber is that unless you're feeling the edge, it's just a bit..er, "boring" on such a large wide road.

Next up was the Aston. With a manual box. Yes! With the benefit of having had a few sighting laps in the Ferrari and one less new element to think about, off we went. What a sound. My instructor this time was a little more supportive to me "pressing on" as he could tell I had no problem in using my right foot, sighting apexes and could drive quick. This was waaay better and I actually felt I was in tune with the car and making the most of the track (50% of the famous F1 circuit), finding the lines and using the car fully to improve my progress. Amazing.

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When we pulled up after some fairly swift laps and overtaking many slower drivers, the instructor complimented me on my commitment and said that he was happy to let me push harder as I was driving well. Cool. What a buzz. I'll have one in blue please...

So, on aesthetics and theory (which most of us only really ever judge supercars and hypercars on - unless you work for EVO magazine or Top Gear, or are minted) I would have chosen the Aston Martin. After driving them, albeit briefly in unnatural surroundings, I would stick with the Vantage if someone forced me to have one. Whether this was the order of driving, the unfamiliarity of paddle-shift or a genuine preference I don't know, it was only a taster, but it looked, felt and sounded right.

Back in the real world, the family and I climbed up into our Toyota RAV4. Not quite the same but it does its job perfectly. That said I'm lucky to drive a Nissan 350Z GT Roadster I enjoy every single mile even now. It's a keeper. Perhaps because the more you get used to something the more it feels part of you. It's not lavish by any means and very much an old-skool, front-engined, real-wheel drive thing with a strong engine and a communicative chassis. And with the roof down you can't beat it for the money. It looks the biz and feels special, to me anyway.

"a rich man is one who knows he has enough"

A little dreaming is not a bad thing. Within my photography world I love observing the detail in well designed objects that have purpose and beauty, especially cars - lines, curves, shapes, badges and wheels have a particular fascination. I use these elements to inspire some of my abstract  artwork "artAuto" such as this Aston Martin One-77 wheel.

I think if I go on a track experience again I'll go for proper racing cars - fit for purpose tools rather than adapted road-cars. On the road, I'm quite happy with the 350Z and hope to take it on some adventures and trips, more of which to come...

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my "extract" artwork projects...a bit of background by Shaun Armstrong

In all things I'm interested in form, contrast, shape and the way these interact creating visual beauty. I'm drawn to parts of man-made items, especially machines for my artwork. This could a high-performance supercar, a classic aircraft, a musical instrument or a piece of iconic equipment such as an ENIGMA enciphering machine.

I look for the details and capture them in an image before using a number of digital colouring and patterning techniques to make them bold and interesting pieces of artwork.

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My abstract artwork (or rather "extract")* collections are developed from an image to produce art, albeit with honest roots, rather than works that are photographs in their own right.

I'm not a fan of Photoshop as far as digitally cutting, pasting and compositing is concerned preferring to know that the image beneath the treatment is still the originally chosen capture of a real thing and therefore its story has integrity. This is valuable whether you are buying an image because you are a fan of Porsche, or wish to show your business products off in an challenging way.

When created as part of a commission through my business image solutions, these works form part of the "decorate" service, building collections that adorn new buildings and people-facing spaces and helping tell stories too.

My self-generated galleries are evolving based on opportunities and partnerships, but my initial work is based on high performance cars and is known as artAUTO.

* I heard an interview with famous photographer, Ansel Adams who said photographs could not be "abstract", as they capture something that is actually in existence, rather than the free hand or palette of an artist who can be truly abstract. Instead photographs can be "extracts" and that is what I choose to do, even if they are not obvious literal views of the subject in any way.