Roaring '20s: The Apex Interviews Ryan Goodyear
On this week's episode of the Apex, I am joined by Ryan Goodyear. Ryan is a connoisseur when it comes to pre-war motoring and vintage men's fashion. His Instagram page, Suits and Cylinders, has attracted over 58,000 followers, and he represents a source of inspiration for pre-war petrol heads and fashionistas alike.
Archie Hill interviews Ryan Goodyear for The Apex by Custodian. Recorded and produced by Archie Hill. Transcribed by David Marcus. Edited by Archie Hill, Jeremy Hindle & Charles Clegg.
Ryan, welcome to the show!
Hello, thank you for having me. It is a pleasure to be able to speak about this stuff rather than just post pictures and videos on Instagram.
Absolutely, and I’m glad this is being done virtually. If this was in-person right now, everyone could see how impeccably dressed you are compared to me.
Haha I am in my oily overalls!
Yeah but it's the right style, and you have got a tie on as well, I like the tie.
It's something that I like about being in the garage, putting a suit and tie on so you look good.
You perform better as well. So when did your fascination with vintage men's wear and pre-war motoring begin?
Not as far back as you would think actually, given all the cars and clothing I’ve got. It has been a fast whirlwind over the last 10 years. I want to say not that long ago, but I turned 20, 10 years ago, and now I just turned 30. It actually seems like a very short amount of time in my mind, but it is a long time in collecting I guess. It started when I left university and I had the freedom to do what I wanted to do, without the restraints of needing to focus on getting a car to ferry me to university and back, or needing to start looking at my career. So once I got that out of the way, it was just a case of, I just wanted to focus on the interest I’ve always had, and invest my money and time into stuff that makes me happy.
And so what is it about the pre-war era that appeals to you?
There are a lot of bad things about the pre-war era, but it's a case of just focusing on the things that actually appeal to you aesthetically. I think car design was, in my opinion, at its peak at the early Edwardian veteran cars, going from a block design. They are pretty beautiful cars, but it went from that into more like a streamlined design. The running boards and the long bonnets, and it goes with clothing really, it was a change from the formal black and white tie as a daily attire, and top hats and homburgs into a more relaxed style. I know in today's standards a suit is more formal, but in those days it was daily wear. It was just the aesthetics of the period, rather than anything else. I am like an old romantic, and some of the stories you hear of all the people from World War 1 dropping out from the Royal Flying Corps and then going into car racing. Again you see pictures of them and they were all in their suits and ties when they were racing the cars going around Brooklands and so on, which is very interesting to see in my opinion.
And is there a specific decade in particular that really appeals, like the 20s, 30s or 40s, do you have a favourite?
It is kind of a merge of late 20s into early 30s, that was the big change in the fashion and cars to me. You still have the Austin 7 which didn't really change much from the 20s into the 30s, but it's that crossover. When you get into the late 30s, again, it's starting to go towards 40s, and although there wasn't that much of a big change in fashion and the cars, there was actually a big change in how cars were made and what features they had. You get an early 30s car like my Singer for example, it's bare basics, it is an engine, steering and a wooden frame covered in metal. Then you get to my Rover, which is a 1939 car. It's got a sunroof, window wipers, freewheel drive. It's got quite a lot in comparison.
I am keen to talk more about your Singer in a minute, but there's obviously a great synergy between cars and clothes, particularly in the pre-war era, and I’m curious, why do you think that is?
In my actual opinion, in the UK there's always been a scene around the 1940s about remembering World War II, and you get many events around the country that celebrate the victory of World War II, and it's more about remembrance than it is celebrating it. There's always been the civilian side of that kind of scene. So there's always been a suit and people having cars from the 40s. That's where it started for me. I was big into my militaria, so I went to these 40s events and I had a jeep, etc. But then it kind of transitioned into the civilian side. I think there's always been a connection because in my opinion, if you've got a nice car, it's always nice to go out in it dressed nicely. It's not always the case, people get as much satisfaction to go out in a car in jeans and a t-shirt because they are actually enjoying the car, but I just love that. If you are going to be in a car that you spend so much time and effort in, it would be nice to compare it with the clothing as well.
I think there's also an argument to be made at the moment that you hear a lot of, and that’s the environmental benefit of keeping classics running, and then you have a similar argument with fashion as well, in terms of fast fashion and actually a lot of the clothing that's already been made many years ago is still fit for purpose today.
Yes, it's why I am an advocate for Goodwood Revival etc., they are big around sustainable fashion and how you can still have beautiful, well-made clothes that may be 80, 90 years old in some cases, but they are still wearable. For example, I've got suits dating from the 1920s and 30s, and if I am going to London to a drinks party or anywhere really that requires a suit, I would wear that rather than go and buy a new suit, because I have already got a quality good looking suit. It may not be in today's cut and style, but if you go to any of the Savile Row tailors now and say can I have a suit in a broad-breasted, wide-leg, turn up and stuff like that, they will charge you probably £4,500 to £5,000 or more, and you can buy those kind of suits for, they are still kind of expensive, but £400 to £500.
Getting into cars then, we met at the NEC Classic Motor Show back in November, and I think you were on the Singer stand, so what's your involvement with Singer?
My Singer was my fourth actual classic vehicle I purchased. I was actually looking for an MG, as everybody does when they look at pre-war sports cars, and I was wanting a two-door sports car. I didn't mind too much about the engine size because there weren't many two-door sports cars back then that had a large engine, unless you went for stuff like Aston Martins and Lagondas and stuff like that. Then you are looking at triple or quadruple price tags. So I was looking for mid-range stuff like an MGTA or something along those lines. I just looked on eBay and this thing had popped up. I had never heard of Singer before other than the sewing machine company. It isn't related whatsoever, which everybody asks when they say oh, it's a Singer, are they related to the sewing machines? You have to explain that it isn't. So I did a bit of research into this car and Singer as a brand, and it mentioned the motorsport history, which isn't as vast as MG, but you've got stuff like the Le Mans they competed in, and if you look at mostly all of the charts from Brooklands in the 30s from the races like the double 12 and stuff like that, there's always a Singer on there, no matter what capacity it is, it changes from each race. So that piqued my interest for this two door, British racing green sports car, that wasn't an MG, but still had a name with some motorsport history to it. So I thought yes, I'll drive 9,5 hours to Newquay to go and have a look at it.
I bought it when I saw it, took it for a drive and it's a long story going into the purchase of that, which I'll probably go into another time, but it was a very stressful experience, let's put it that way. So I bought the Singer in Easter 2021 I believe, so I haven't had it that long. I have probably blown a head gasket on it twice already, and half shafts I've done, which they are known for, but I use my cars probably not to the max, but I've competed in a double trial at Brooklands. I do a lot of speed trials and stuff like that, and I don't hang back, should we say. So I use the car to its max and luckily I can fix it all now. Before I bought the car, I didn't know anything about it. I know about mechanics, super super simple mechanics, but I didn't know anything about the car or how it performs. So I just got to know a lot of Singer owners, and being young with a car like that, you get to a lot of people interested in why you are actually interested in it, especially the Singer Owners Club. Earlier this year I got asked to be the Lincolnshire and Rutland representative for the Singers' Owners Club because they wanted to inject some young blood into current events, doing a bit more with the Singer marque, which wasn't the average meet up at the pub every three months. So I just wanted to create a bit more excitement. I wanted to do trials and rallies around the local area. So that's why I was on the Singers Owners Club stand at the Classic Motor Show.
So you have owned some pre-war cars before the Singer Nine, that wasn't your first classic experience?
No, my first pre-war car was my Rover P2, the 14 HP version. It's got the big straight six, 2.0 litre which is quite a big engine. The car goes down the road quite nicely but it is a big heavy four-door saloon with a lot of glass and a lot of metal that would need that bigger engine, which I enjoyed. I did quite a lot of driving in that, but it's more of a tourer. And as exciting as it is to go down the road in a pre-war car, I wanted something that would be a bit more exciting, that I can sling around Brooklands.
How active is the community when it comes to pre-war cars? It sounds like you do go out and use these cars quite a lot, how do you deal with reliability, is that a big issue? As an outsider looking in, if you want to get into pre-war cars, that's a bit of a big step if you are not necessarily mechanically gifted or anything like that.
I think the key is being mechanically, not gifted, but have knowledge of it, because if you have basic knowledge, I've ridden motorbikes from the age of five, so I have been involved with engines in some way or another for quite a long time now. When it comes to reliability, there's always the risk that something's going to go wrong. You could leave the garage and everything's working perfectly fine, but you can go a mile down the road and the carb jet might get blocked or a gasket might fail on you, then you're thinking what's gone wrong? It can only be one of three things, either fuel, fire or air. So if anything ever happens, you go through those logical steps of check that, check that, check that, what is it, try and fix it at the roadside kind of thing.
It helps as well having that community aspect, lots of people are there to help you out if you get stuck.
There isn't the largest of groups at a younger age, which I am trying to get more on board with in the new year. I am going to be a bit more involved in events, probably a club creation of some kind, kind of like up to a 30 year old age, just getting people a bit more involved. The big car market at the minute is the 70s and 80s Fords and Fiestas, which I grew up on. Through my teens I had Fiestas and I used to go to Santa Pod and I was into the modified car scene and stuff like that. That's another story, but yes, it's trying to get people to understand that yes, they are old, and they are an unknown world to an outside person coming into it, but it is a simple thing to get into. It's hand-on stuff, if you are happy to get into the garage and get your hands dirty, you can fix anything really. Most of the cars I've got, I've still got the original manuals, and nine times out of ten I go back to that, to have a look at how to fix something, because nothing has changed. That spark plug is still in that place. It's quite easy and there's no electrics to get involved in either as such.
Talking of events as well, you mentioned the Goodwood Revival. You live the Revival every day almost don't you, is that event the highlight of the year for you?
Yes, it celebrates the late 40s onwards, so 50s and 60s, which is great because I have a big interest in those cars and that fashion as well. It's a chance for me to go there in my 30s and 40s clothing without looking out of place, should we say. But yes, it's a great event. I am a big advocate of what they do, keeping motorsport alive. It's a beautiful track on its own anyway, so to see some of the cars going around there, it's pretty amazing. At this point there isn't an event like that, that focuses on the more pre-war stuff, because there's loads of places out there still like Brooklands etc, that have the racing of the 30s, but I guess the 50s was a bit more up beat and the music was a bit more lively, and I think it appeals to people a bit more than some of the depressing times during the 30s.
Are there any fashion events that are a bit more geared towards the 20s and 30s style that stand out in your mind?
Again, no, not really. There's places like fairs that sell clothing, and people go dressed in, but there aren't actually any events out there that focus on the pre-war stuff. There's obviously trial events, speed trials that have a cutoff point to the 1940 cars. One that I went to recently, called Grimsthorpe Speed Trial. It has a cutoff of I think 1940, which is great because in my mind, I want to go somewhere to see all the cars I am interested in. I love seeing war time cars. I love seeing 50s and 60s cars, but if I want to immerse myself in an event that's just pre-war, that's quite nice to know there's a cutoff. You have all the Bentley 3.0 liters going down there, and the Aston Martins and Lagondas, but they are all from the 20s and 30s era. It's quite nice but sadly there isn't more of it. I always think it's going to take off, thousands of people are going to come, then you think how popular actually is it? It would be nice for it to be popular, because the market for pre-war cars at the minute isn't great. There is less interest in the purchase of them, going more favourable towards the later cars, but hopefully like any market, it will come back up.
There definitely is an interest there in many respects, because your Instagram for example, Suits and Cylinders, that has 58,000 followers now, how have you found that as a platform and the interaction from other people?
All positive to be honest with you. I was going along at 10,000 followers for five years when I first started, and then the reels came into it. I didn't want to post a reel. In my mind Instagram is about photos. It's nice to take a good photo and show it off without being surrounded by all the rest of the rubbish social media is surrounded with. So I didn't post a reel for at least half a year. The trouble is now the algorithm is going more towards videos and is pushing that content, while I was posting photos which I thought were great, but they weren't going anywhere. I am not too bothered because I do it for myself and it gives me a platform to show my adventures off and what I am doing, so it doesn't really matter how many people are interested, as long as I am able to share it kind of thing. But then I started posting reels and then it just grew and grew.
I think there's a lot of growth to be had at the minute. I have got friends that are constantly posting reels and they have gone from 10,000 up to 200,000 or 300,000, and it can happen within a week sometimes. But it's just time consuming, really it's time consuming to create content, especially with the cars, because you have to get them out and you have to make sure they are all okay, then you have to go out and do the content. I tend to only do content if I am actually going out for a drive or going to an event. So that brings the enjoyment of actually doing something about my day rather than just going out to create content. But most of the time I get good feedback and a lot of people are interested in what car it is or what I am wearing, so it's good to see that there are people interested in it.
I imagine it helps with your personal brand as well, is that what got you some involvement in The Crown, are we allowed to bring that up and talk a little bit about that, because I know you have done some filming for that which is pretty cool.
Ever since I was very young, I have always wanted to get into the film world. When I was back in college they started filming Downton Abbey. I went to Lincoln College and they used Lincoln Castle as part of that filming, and on my lunch break I went up there and said oh, what's going on here? They said we are filming Downton Abbey. So I walked into the costume department, not knowing anything about it, and they said oh, are you here for filming? I just said yes, and they said oh, can we have your name? I put it down and they said oh, you are not on the list? I said oh no, I won't be, I just walked in. They said oh well, do you want to be in it? I was like okay. So I was an extra for that and then it sparked off being an extra for something else. I then became a bit more involved with the crew side of stuff. I was doing stand-in work and body doubles, I was a stand in for David Thewlis, and if you are a Harry Potter fan or a fan of, I think it was Naked, the film back in the 80s or 90s, and it was great to see him and work with him and stuff like that. The Crown was a bit of an accident because I applied just to be an extra, and I couldn't make the fitting because it was down in Elm Street Studios in London. They said okay, we might have to let you go and release you. Then they came back to me saying do you want to be a main character? I said yes but I've not had much acting experience. They said oh, it's just reaction and you might get a line if you are lucky. So I said okay, and they put me down as Ben Elliot, which is Camilla's nephew. I am a big fan of the Crown anyway. It's a great series. The actual filmography and the costumes and the atmosphere is brilliant, so to be actually on it and get in at the last second before the season finished, it was interesting. I am yet to see it, I think it comes out on Thursday, 14 December.
Did you get a line, did you get lucky?
No, sadly not. I will be lucky if I even get used.
Going back to Revival briefly, if people are looking for some inspiration for that event, you have a shop as well, don't you, called Blitz and Bobs, is that where you sell some vintage clothing?
Yes, I have been doing that since 2017. It stemmed from finding stuff for myself and then finding other stuff and not being able to leave it there. I used to buy stuff and just bring it home and not do anything with it, horde it should we say. But then I thought it would be nice to actually give it a new home, so I started an online shop. It's more a hobby selling off my collection. But yes, that goes down really well. I've got customers and a lot of new friends out of it because I trade down in London. There's something called the Classic Car Boot Show, which again is about classic cars and selling clothes out of the back of them, so I'll go to that. Then there's a couple of events around the country that focus on vintage fashion that I sell at, but it's mainly all online and it goes worldwide. Japan, Australia, America, Canada, everywhere really. It's quite nice to give this clothing a new home and see other people enjoy it.
Yes, clearly some demand for it then if it is going worldwide.
I think vintage fashion as a whole at the minute is in big demand. I think there's so many different interests and eras. When I was 18, 19, the 1930s and 40s, there probably was a market for it, but I didn't see it, but now there are a lot of people getting into that earlier style of clothing. They might not wear it as it would have been worn, they wear it in their own way, which is quite nice to see. And again, the 60s and 70s fashion is at its peak at the moment, and then 90s fashion as well.
To end on, I am keen to ask some quick fire questions. The first one is, I am curious to know what your dream three car garage looks like.
It's a tough one because it keeps on changing. I have a dream garage for older cars and I have a dream garage for modern cars.
The older cars?
I would love a pre-war Frazer Nash, purely because I have done some family history recently, beautiful cars, and my great-uncle was a test flier for de Havilland aircraft back in the 30s, and he was best friends with the owner of Frazer Nash during the time. And they had a race, my great uncle in his aeroplane and his friend in the Frazer Nash. So it would be great to have that connection, that car in my garage. A second would be a Bentley, whether it be a 3.0 litre Vanden Plas. Everybody would say the pin up car of the 30s, which I call the Bentley Blower. I have a friend that owns one and I have seen Goodwood do a big revival on them. Then the third one has to be a car that I already have because I love the cars that I have and enjoy them, so I've got to keep my Singer I am afraid. I don't replace stuff, I want to enjoy it. I bought the stuff because I like it, so it would be nice to have other cars, but I'm afraid I don't think it would be limited to three cars if I had free will.
Do you have a pre-war fashion or racing idol?
Not particularly, no. I've read quite a lot on the pre-war racing drivers etc, but I am more interested in the everyday racers of the era. You go through the records of the Brooklands races, and it's just business owners that have got a nice car, and I am actually really interested in the women racers of the time. My Singer actually belonged to a lady racing driver of the '30s, and she raced at Brooklands, not in that car, but she has records at Brooklands. I just like that day-to-day life of there wasn't a professional racing driver, but they were blaring around Brooklands at 100 mph sometimes. I like that side of stuff.
Do you have a favourite outfit that you own or a favourite look?
It's one thing I do like about pre-war fashion, there is a look for all occasions. I know there's sportswear that you can wear today if you are going to the gym or if you are going outside and it's raining, you wear a waterproof jacket. But back in the 30s there was clothing specifically made, for driving, there's stuff for walking, there's stuff for flying. If I am going out for a walk in the country, I wear tweeds and plus fours. They look different to what people wear today, because they are cut off trousers tucked into your socks, but they are actually useful because you don't get your trousers soaking wet when you are walking. Again, if I am going to the city for drinks, I've got nice Savile Row tailored suits. If I'm in my car I've got a big collection of leather driving coats and motoring coats, gloves and caps and goggles and stuff like that. I wouldn't say I have a favourite look, I've got nice stuff to wear when the occasion suits. I prefer the more workwear kind of look. I don't want to be in a suit all the time. I like to have a leather jacket on.
Ryan, it's been an absolute pleasure chatting to you. It's super interesting to hear a bit more about the pre-war era. Thank you so much for your time.
No problem, thank you for having me. It's been nice to actually talk and answer questions about my passion.