James Wood has over thirty years’ experience and has raced cars since 1990. He is a Motorsport consultant and a full-time driver full time since 2002. His work includes contemporary and historic cars of all types. He has worked with manufacturers, teams, owners, restorers plus media, sponsors and event organizers, ranging from F1, Le Mans to historic cars, he has also been involved with Cranfield University’s Advanced Motorsport Engineering (postgraduate).
He has driven over two hundred different models of car on over eighty circuits worldwide and covered hundreds of thousands of miles in cars of all types. The first car he drove by himself was a Mini, when he was eight. He first drove on the famous Nürburgring circuit, in a Maserati Khamsin, at the age of twelve, and first drove at 100mph in a 1932 Invicta “Low Chassis”, at the age of fourteen.
His father has had and used interesting cars since the late 1950s including Maseratis, Alfa Romeos, Jaguar D-Type, Abarth 2 liter, FIAT 8V, Lancia B20, Invictas, Mercedes 300SL Lightweight and Ford GT40. He grew up going to racing circuits, workshops, factories and friends’ private collections as well as having cars at home. He helped prepare and maintain cars for racing and road use. He always enjoyed discussing cars, design, and engineering and read automotive books almost every day.
Knowing many of the people involved with the cars from new, it is not surprising that he gained quite extensive knowledge and experience of motor cars and their history. He has raced cars for over 26 years and worked on test and development of cars of all eras, including new technologies, where details and accuracy are the keys to success.
He has been a judge at Chantilly Arts et Elegance, a shadow judge at Zoute Grand Prix, he has been involved at the SchlossDyck Masterpieces & Style (2017), Salon Prive London and he also participated at Pebble Beach and has attended the Cartier Style et Luxe at Goodwood Festival of Speed several times. He also attends many major international motorsport events throughout the year.
When asked about what he seeks in vintage cars, he responds, “Every car is different and each has its own story to tell. Usually, I look for a blend of attributes weighted according to the type of car. I always rate design, engineering, innovation, build quality, styling, and performance but consider their value in relation to the particular car in question. Driving pleasure is important for sports cars.” A car must fulfil the function for which it was designed!
Provenance and Originality are very important to him, as he states, “A recreation might be beautiful and a testament to the attention to detail but I find them lacking integrity. Sympathetic maintenance, restoration, and preservation, on the other hand, are harder to achieve.”
He is an owner and driver but has also been involved hands-on in the restoration of several cars, not least to fully understand their mechanical workings and oversee their preservation. The most challenging project that he pulled off as a restorer, is his wife’s 1952 Frazer Nash Le Mans Rep. It is possibly the most original surviving example, having only ever done very few miles. It was the Motor Show car in November 1952, raced at Sebring in March 1953 and subsequently only used in a handful of events and occasional road use after that; the second owner had it from 1959 to 2013.
“We checked and serviced all components to ensure safety and reliability, replacing like-for-like only where necessary, and kept everything that came off. Visually it seems untouched; even the 1950s paint has only been sealed to preserve it.” He adds.
Sports cars particularly catch his attention. “I have experienced them all my life, appreciate their design and performance. Often their styling is exciting too. Technological advances have nearly always been tested and proven on competition cars before being used on road cars!”
“There are so many examples of car and design, each with their own merit. Many manufacturers produced their most beautiful cars with independent coachbuilders rather than in-house designs. Talbot Lago combined style and engineering to produce what would now be termed a ‘Supercar’, exemplified by the T150SS Figoni&Falaschi ‘Teardrop’. The chassis and running gear were from the Grand Prix car, giving it excellent performance, yet with beautiful styling. Whilst the technology was not ground-breaking, it was very fast and reliable and the pre-selector gearbox made it easy to drive.” He explains as he finds it very difficult to single out one individual marque that defines the best of design & technology. “Bugatti is, however, a marque which consistently combined form and function across all its models.” He adds.
Invicta S-Type (“Low Chassis”), Alfa Romeo 8C 2300, Rolls Royce Phantom I, Hispano-Suiza H6B, Talbot 150 SS, Mercedes-Benz W196 Streamliner and Ferrari 250 SWB are amongst his personal favorites.