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Peter Giddings Racing

It's a Giddy Life of Cars for Enthusiast Giddings

Southern Festival of Speed 1990

Racer of old cars long before they became vintage events

by Denise McCluggage, in Autoweek, June 17, 1991

I venture a CAT scan would show that Peter Giddings' heart has overhead valves.

Growing up in England not far from the Goodwood circuit fed his natural inclination for things with engines. Now a Walnut Creek, California, resident and an executive with an electronic equipment company, Peter remains in thrall to cars.

His handsome face with the soft, satisfied smile of a man doing exactly what he wants to do - messing about with cars - is a welcome sight at vintage events. And most often beside him the beautiful, blonde Judy, managing to look elegant while up to her elbows in a Lago engine, helping out. A chore fitting for a wife whose honeymoon included an Italian rally/race with a vintage 1926 Alfa Romeo 1750.

Peter's first car was more a motorcycle - at least that aspect of its heritage was emphasized because he was too young for a regular driver's license. It was a 1932 BSA air-cooled three-wheeler. From there it was to a Brooklands Riley 9 and then a series of chain-driven Frazer-Nashes, one of which he restored in his living room.

Peter was a "vintage" racer before it was chic. It was a matter of default. Lacking the wherewithal for new race cars he drove the old ones. For instance, he made his racing debut in 1959 in a 1926 Frazer-Nash (cost about $500).

"It gave a great account of itself at circuits such as Silverstone, Crystal Palace and Oulton Park," he says. Actually it gave a great account of itself on the way to and from those places, too - rain or shine - because he couldtn't afford a tow car or a trailer.

In his racing future were to be Bugattis, Alfa Romeos, Talbot Lagos, the ex-Le Mans Atalanta, a straight-eight Triumph and many others. He even drove more modern machines that belonged to others: Connaught F1, Jaguar D-type, Lotus 18, etc. And in the late 1960s he campaigned an ex-Rodriguez Ferrari, a rear-engined 196 SP with the twin nostrils.

Peter has lived several of the fantasies of car nuts. Take the Bugatti-in-a-basket, for instance. What collector hasn't dreamt of finding a Bug in bits and pieces? Well, Peter did. On a farm in Spain. And restored the 1924 Lyons GP model into a car in which he took the fastest time of day at a Ferrari event at Bridgehampton..

And there's that other dream. As a boy on a bicycle on a visit to Goodwood he fell in love with a Maserati 8CM (CN 3011), at one time or another driven by Whitney Straight and Prince Bira. Thirty years later he owned the car.

Peter's enthusiasm, care and skill have been recognized by others. In 1985 at Monterey, his preparation and driving of his Alfa Romeo Monza and his Tipo B P3 earned the Phil Hill Trophy, presented by none other than Juan Manuel Fangio. And winning more vintage events in his Alfas than anyone else in the world brought him the Italian Scuderia del Portello Trophy.

Peter will not say how many cars he now owns, only that he is more concerned with refining his collection to an essence.

"It's close to there," he smiles. And he likes sharing his enthusiasm with others - witness the time and effort he and Judy expended getting North Americans to New Zealand's Southern Festival of Speed. He likes to research the sometimes labyrinthine history of individual racing cars.

And in the research department he is particularly proud of tracing down the convoluted history of his Maserati 250F, No. 2501/2523(B), and how it came to be confused (indeed, even "fused"). with the 250F numbered 2504.

It's a mouth-opening tale worthy of more detail. Ask Peter at the next race. Wherever.

Autoweek, Vo. 41, No. 24

In New Zealand