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Peter Giddings Racing

Fifty Years with Peter Giddings

by Judy Giddings

(This article is from Veloce Today, July 2, 2019. Edited by Pete Vack, reprinted here with permission)

On April 11, 2019 a Celebration of Life was held for Peter Giddings at the Sonoma Raceway, where a very nice booklet was distributed to the many attendees. It was lovingly put together by Judy Giddings, a series of stories about her “50 years with Peter Giddings,” showing a personal side of Peter few have known. She sent VeloceToday a copy and we edited it for our readers. We also thank the Giddings’ website manager Mike Sims for his help with the photos. Part 1 of 2.

An exciting beginning

My 50 years with Peter Giddings all started at a typical late 1960s London party. However, there was never anything typical about Peter. He was tall, handsome, and suave – also very intelligent, confident, knowledgeable on so many subjects, and most important of all, a good sense of humor. Peter picked me up for our first date in his blower Bentley, complete with a blanket to keep out the cold and dampness of the London winter evening.

Honeymoon Rally

During our engagement, I spent many hours sitting in a rented garage whilst Peter and a very young Simon Moore (who attributes his Alfa introduction/passion to Peter) worked on the 1928 Alfa Romeo 6C-1500 Spider we would use for our honeymoon – the Varenna Rally in Italy, May 1968. Post the wedding reception, Simon accompanied Peter in the “Just Married”-adorned street car (Simon was very red faced/ embarrassed, explaining “I am not the bride!” Peter, of course delighted in this.) My going away ensemble comprised of goggles, and a 1960s equivalent of a “hoodie.” We met up with several of the other rally participants and put our cars on a train bound for Italy. (See lead photo.) In fact, I recently heard from Trish Pilkington who recalled, “We have many memories of Peter and you over the years, and particularly the sharing of a train couchette on your honeymoon!”


Peter and Judy looking very happy on their Wedding Day.

Whilst we were guests of Alfa Romeo, we stayed at the beautiful Villa d’Este on Lake Como, although when we checked in, we had been driving in the Alfa through torrential rain. There we stood dripping on the reception carpeting, whilst receiving some very strange looks, and a wide berth, from the other bejeweled and gowned hotel occupants. In fact, we were very quickly shown to our room so that the reception floor mopping up could take place.

Alfa & Trousseau

Honeymoon vehicle was loaded up with Judy's trousseau and no doubt a good tool kit.

Of course, this was decades before GPS, and map reading was never a talent of mine, to say the least (whilst I turned the map around and around to try and to get it at least the right way up, I was the recipient of much teasing from Peter). Anyway, on one occasion, the road got narrower and narrower. Peter commented, “Are you sure we are on the right road?” My nervous response was “Yes of course, darling.” As we rounded a bend at high speed, the road ended at an open gate, some 2” wider than the Alfa. A few yards inside the gate was the very substantial bottom of a lady bending over weeding. Peter applied the brakes as hard as possible, bringing the steaming car to a stop about 6” from said derriere, having put tire marks right across her cabbage patch. She was not happy, as we tried to apologize with our two words of Italian, and carefully but quickly backed out.

On another occasion whilst on the rally (and this time we were on the right road — thanks to my guardian angel), to our right was a man on a plank balanced between two ladders, painting some ornate black lettering on the yellow wall of a restaurant. His back was towards us, but he picked up on the glorious sound of the Alfa, and looked over his shoulder. As he followed the course of the Alfa, he forgot to remove his paint brush from the wall: as a result, he had a solid black line across the yellow. We looked back in the rear view mirror to see him waving his arms in the air, and stamping his feet.

Alfa Factory

Judy poses with the Alfa 6C 1500.

Star attraction at the Alfa Factory

One of the events on that same honeymoon was a tour of the Alfa factory. Peter and I brought up the rear of the visiting group. Part way through, a director of Alfa ran up to us, totally out of breath, managing to get out “We must stop the tour!” When Peter asked why, he was advised that a number of mechanics had left the production line. “We have cars coming off the line with no wheels, no doors! The workers want to follow your wife!”, and sure enough there was a line behind us. This was the era of the micro mini. At that point, a handsome, expensively dressed Alfa Romeo director offered to take me to his office so that Peter and the others could continue the tour. Peter’s response was the 1930s English phrase “I should cocoa!” slang for “over my dead body!”

Home sweet homes

Post the rally, it was back to our Victorian house in Redhill, England. To help build up our finances, we lived downstairs and rented rooms out on the upper two stories to nurses.

As our finances looked a little rosier, we sold the Victorian and purchased a stable in nearby Reigate. We turned the upstairs into an apartment, and then downstairs the harness room became our office, and the carriage storage area/stable (still complete with feeding troughs) became car showrooms. In fact, Richard I’Anson set up the Bugatti specialist firm, Tula Engineering, in the downstairs area.


In Reigate, the couple found a stable and converted it into living quarters and a car showroom below.

Hello Long Island

After three years, we decided it was time for an adventure, and via CE Hammond & Co Ltd – then a very successful distributor of Revox tape recorders and other audio products in the UK, Canada and the U.S.A., Peter was able to obtain a USA treaty trader visa, so it was off to Long Island, New York. At that time, the amount of money one could take out of England was very limited, so we purchased a Rolls Royce Sedanca de Ville, behind which we towed our Don Parker trailer on which was loaded a crate containing our Lyons Bugatti. We settled into a waterside apartment on the north shore of Long Island, and awaited the arrival of our Rolls and Bugatti. Once offloaded, we decided to do some exploring of the local countryside, and set off in the Rolls, only to be stopped shortly thereafter by a New York motorcycle cop. We had no insurance, no registration, no driving license – you name it! As he wrote out the ever longer ticket, the officer kept looking at the Coat of Arms emblazoned on the Rolls door. Finally, he stopped writing, and upon trying to hand us the ticket, Peter said (of course in his very British accent) “I am terribly sorry officer, but the Queen told us it would be perfectly O.K.” The officer looked again at the door of the Rolls, tore up the ticket and said “Just get out of here, I don’t want to ever see you again!” We followed his request!

Rolls Royce

Bugatti and Rolls-Royce in America.

Go West Young Man

On his travels, Peter sent me a postcard during a visit to the west coast reading “One day we shall either live In Santa Barbara or San Francisco.” In fact, we ended up going to San Luis Obispo and lived on a trout farm, whilst we formed a company called Soccermailia. We then decided to try San Francisco and, unseen, rented an apartment in Haight Ashbury. The problem was that our old VW bus and trailer could not groan up the hill. We walked up, slept on the floor one night, and then the next day moved into the John Muir apartments in Daly City. From there we did some exploring, and liked the warm weather of the East Bay. Eventually, we found a lovely adobe, with a pool, very close to downtown Walnut Creek.


Adorable adobe was great but with only a single car garage!

Unfortunately, there was just a single car garage with no room to build a shop, so we sold, and purchased another adobe on five acres in Alamo. We spent circa 20 years here, sub dividing and building/ selling three new homes in the walnut orchard.

Not THAT far West!

Our next project was to build a three story Victorian “painted lady” on an acre in the back, beside the Iron Horse Trail. We then sold the adobe and moved into the Victorian.


California Victorian “painted lady.”

It was during this time that we investigated emigrating to Australia, but due to restrictions on the importation of classic cars, we decided instead on New Zealand. So, we sold the Victorian, and rented one of the two cottages on the property, together with the workshop to store our excess furniture, put one of our cars and most of our furniture into a 40 ft. container and sent it off to Christchurch to be stored at Auto Restorations, who, over many years, have effected amazing work on many of our cars.

We then started the process of obtaining New Zealand residency, which necessitated purchasing properties there to a certain dollar amount, which we could rent out, but not live in ourselves.
Then I started to have doubts about leaving California, but did not want to say anything to Peter ….. I thought “what if Peter gives up his wish to live in NZ, we have an earthquake in California, and lose everything” (of course, in fact the earthquakes happened in New Zealand!). It so happens Peter was feeling exactly the same. End of story. We stayed in California.

After four years of real estate adventures in New Zealand, we purchased a large house with a great pool in Danville, California. There we built a large workshop with an apartment at one end – the only problem was that the road to the house/ shop was steep, there was a sharp drop off on one side, a huge old oak tree in the middle of the road which had to be circumnavigated, and the entrance into the property was at a very sharp angle. This meant that when we got back from a race, we had to park in the road at the bottom of the hill, unhitch the RV, drive it up the hill, drive our pick up down the hill, attach it to the trailer (no back up camera so lots of shouting!), and then drive everything up the hill!


First Danville home.

So – we found another Danville property on a one acre flat lot (great for Havoc!) and a really large car showroom – great for … guess who!

Current Danville Home

Plenty of room for everything in the current Danville home!