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A Rare Comet Sighting on the North York Moors

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

On a hazy, late August day, the Dowsetts Classic Cars team made the epic six-hour journey up to North Yorkshire in order to capture the beauty, craftsmanship, and pure visceral, mechanical power of their infamous creation, The Comet.

All around us stretched undulating hills covered with a light frosting of heather, with nothing except the occasional quietly grazing sheep wandering into view to disturb the scene. The calm, early dawn light filtered over our motley collection of men, vehicles, and equipment, subduing our over caffeinated excitement to a sluggish anticipation. We were perched on a hilltop in the North York Moors somewhere between Castleton and Guisborough, facing east, waiting for sunrise. Waiting to capture that perfect shot.

On a hazy, late August day, the Dowsetts Classic Cars team made the epic six-hour journey up to North Yorkshire in order to capture the beauty, craftsmanship, and pure visceral, mechanical power of their infamous creation, The Comet. The crew consisted of an eclectic bunch of individuals, all with unique talents and all with petrol running through their veins. In charge of the day’s proceedings was Steve Hall, the renowned auto photographer, full of nervous energy and apparently living in his beaten-up BMW 330d estate. Chris Mapey completed the creative duo as our videographer for the day and had travelled up from Suffolk in his TVR purchased for £6k a few weeks ago. “It needed a good run, but the bloody wipers didn’t work that well on the way up”. Driving rain the previous day must have created a few challenges for Chris’ 220 mile journey.

Ash “The Transporter” Hargreaves, who had lovingly ferried the Comet up from its home in Hertfordshire, was on stand-by and ready for anything with coffee by the bucket load, telling us that “coffee is really important on these shoots, believe me.” His words would ring true as the day prolonged. Colin Stickland, our marketeer and the man who made it all happen, together with his son Alex, had chosen to drive up in an old Ford Focus – for some reason that none of us could really fathom. Perhaps in case we needed a tracking vehicle that was more than 18 years old? And then there was me, a complete rookie to these events, slightly trepidatious, and experiencing moderate to severe anxiety as we had borrowed a client’s car that only I was permitted to drive that day. I’d driven up in my BMW that was already being used by all and sundry as a ferry and general dumping ground. But I had other things on my mind…

And so, to the Comet, the real star of the day’s show. A Faeger creation that combines unique British styling with a V8 heart. A piece of personalised, hand-built, automotive art quite literally limited only by the customer’s imagination. From exterior styling inspired by the design language of 1950s and 60’s motor sport – sleek, sweeping curves that fuse together the best of Anglo-Italian styling – to the intricate features and luxury touches of hand-built and crafted interiors with small details abound. This automobile is truly a thing of beauty. And those small details and design cues couldn’t have looked more at home in the dramatic landscape in which we were situated.

As soon as the sun peaked over that horizon it was all systems go. The Comet was cleaned, located, and re-located several times until the stance was to Steve’s liking. This sunrise photo-shoot was merely part one of a multi-phase plan that encompassed tracking, stills, drive-by shots, video, and drone work – plus a lot of driving and waiting around. The plan unfolded and the hours sped by. The LS3 V8 soundtrack ripped into the peace and tranquillity of the Yorkshire Moors as drive-by footage was captured and filmed over and over again. I had no idea that it would be this involved but was advised by Steve that the hit-rate from tracking shots was less than one in ten. I must admit to some nerves during said tracking shots, trying to hold the Comet at a steady speed whilst watching my own car being driven on the wrong side of the road as we approached a potentially lethal bend, but I should have known to trust in these two experts.

Steve worked like a man possessed. His appetite for detail and his sheer professionalism were a wonder to behold. He never seemed entirely satisfied but he clearly knew what he was trying to achieve. Whether he was hanging out of the boot of the tracking vehicle or lying flat on his stomach getting a close-up of the wheel, Steve was totally absorbed in his craft. Chris was the Yang to Steve’s Ying, working in perfect harmony with this unstoppable force of a man. Laid-back and relaxed, he made the drone work look far too easy. At times I emerged from the Comet feeling pleased with myself and confident that we had taken a great piece of footage, only to be told that we needed to do it all again. Suffice to say, Ash had been right about that coffee.

The Comet drove like a dream, never putting a foot wrong. It simply did what it was told all day, at all speeds, on a variety of tarmac. Everyone who saw it commented on its beauty and distinctive appearance. The more I drove it, the more I became increasingly confident in its abilities. It is an incredibly difficult vehicle to unstick and is very forgiving. The front/mid location of the LS3 engine and Tremec ‘box give it a very neutral balance, creating a sense of confidence; added to which, the ride is relatively forgiving. It’s a great place to spend time, firmly located by the racing harness and very much in touch with what the car is doing. Bags of torque from the engine mean it is easy to just get into and drive.

A late lunch at a nearby pub was followed by yet another opportunity to shoot this magnificent machine. With the landlord’s permission we took some more photos with it parked outside, the Comet attracting quite a crowd thanks to its arresting presence and curvaceous lines. People seemed transfixed as their minds raced through reference points and tried to identify it. I am sure that watching as it cornered those winding, hilly roads with absolute mastery was a sight to behold. It is a such a rarity these days to find a car that one simply does not tire of looking at, and it is impossible to ignore the sound of that engine echoing through the hills.

As dusk began to wind its way across the dramatic landscape, it became time to set up our final shot of the day: sunset, scheduled for 20:23. Waiting nervously, suddenly some clouds appeared and obscured the sun as it was dropping towards the horizon. I could feel the disappointment in Steve’s voice as he paced back and forth, smoking yet another cigarette. Even he couldn’t control the climate. Had we bitten off too much in attempting to cram everything into a single day? Looking over to Chris, he seemed typically unperturbed. I felt the group’s anxiety levels rising. We had waited all day for this. The weather hadn’t let us down until this point and we were now simply at the mercy of the gods. Dramatically, as if on cue, at 20:19 the clouds lifted, and Steve and Chris managed to capture a dramatic sunset, drawing an end to a fantastic day that we will surely never forget.

And then we were done. You could almost hear the team’s collective sigh of relief as we manoeuvred the Comet into Ash’s trailer for the long journey home. My head wouldn’t hit the pillow until 4am the following morning. An immensely long and intense day, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Jeremy McNamara,

Dowsetts Classic Cars

Thanks to:

Chris Mapey

Ash Hargreaves

Hannah McNamara

The Comet by Faeger Design

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