As expected, the Goodwood Festival of Speed this year proved a great event. I was particularly looking forward to seeing the return of the record breaking Fiat Mephistopheles to these shores. During the 1960s I knew both the car and its owner very well. But regrettably it proved to be a disappointment at Goodwood.
Firstly, little or nothing seems to be mentioned of the fact that this car was saved from oblivion and the scrap heap (literally) by Mr Charles Naylor of Mobberley, Cheshire. The car remained in England after Eldridge’s famous Land Speed Record run in 1924 and was eventually bought by Nay-lor in 1946, days before it was due to be scrapped. Naylor then restored the car at his own expense with the help of Peter Gresham, Bill Briggs and his son John Naylor.
During the ’60s the fully restored car was raced and demonstrated in England and at Monza before it went to the Fiat Museum in 1969 in, as I recall, immaculate working order.
But what concerned me the most was the condition of the car on its return to this country for what, I assume, was a demonstration run of an historic motor car in the care of a giant multi-national company. Closer inspection revealed that the car had been poorly maintained by Fiat both mechanically and bodily. It was more of a botch-up really. No wonder it leaked and smoked its way up the Goodwood’s hillclimb.
This must have been very distressing for John Naylor, who attended the meeting to see the return of his father’s car. It must have been of great embarrassment to Fiat. Surely it can do better than this as custodian of one of the world’s great cars.
In my view the return of the Mephistopheles did Fiat no favours.
I am,Yours etc,
Ian Wilkinson, Cheshire