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Midnight Express: The Continental Dash, Part I

Once upon a time, many years ago, in an age before cramped budget airlines or bumper-to-bumper traffic on congested freeways, there was an era when Continental travel promised glamour, adventure even...Of course, practicality usually comes at their expense, but occasionally it's good to put aside such considerations and take a step back in time.

Outside the Eurostar terminal: which will be more fun?
Classic convoy speeds through London after midnight

And that's exactly what Octane editor Robert Coucher and I decided to do after the inaugural Historic Motoring Awards in London. For starters, the setting seemed appropriate: designed in 1865 by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the hotel which complements the adjoining St Pancras station is a towering monument to Victorian extravagance. It closed its doors in the 1930s, lay derelict for years when not being used as a Batman film set, and has just re-opened for business after a multimillion pound facelift. It provided the perfect backdrop for an awards evening which saw, amongst others, Sir Stirling Moss recognised for his lifetime achievements, Goodwood celebrated for its contribution to historic motorsport and a cast of other personalities rewarded for playing their part in this growing worldwide lifestyle. With midnight long gone and the final trophy handed over, colonial smoothie Coucher- Roberto to his friends- and I bade farewell to our fellow judges and headed for the grand hotel foyer where our transport awaited.... 

2am: the roads are clear and the pedals go down
Ghostly Bugatti heads for its homeland

The complete story will be published by Octane magazine on 28th December

Thanks to: Pietro Bianchi (video), Francesco  Piras (editing) and Mark Dixon (photography)