Letters To Readers - Serendipity (2)

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Your reactions to my suggested Serendipity Championship have been numerous and varied. There are those of you who just looked at me blankly, wondering if the winter cold and damp had got to my brain, while others greeted me with “I am looking for a car that doesn’t exist so that I cannot enter for your championship”. Then there was the phone call from Alan Henry who said he had found the Ferrari F1/89-113! It was in the back of his garage and he had forgotten all about it. The Ferrari factory had lent it to him when he was updating his book on the Ferrari Grand Prix Cars. Somehow they had never sent the transporter to collect it. This was good news but I had to tell him it wasn’t eligible for my Championship, because it actually existed.

This was rather like the Gonda racing car that a reader in Devon tracked down in France, through his father-in-law. It was said to have been planned for the 1939 season of Grand Prix racing when engines were limited to 3-litres with superchargers and 4½-litres without superchargers. After much delicate negotiating he was shown “La Gonda voiture de course” and it turned out to be a heavily modified Lagonda V12 with the engine reduced to 3-litres with a very short-stroke crankshaft, fitted with two-stage supercharging by Roots type blowers. The project was undoubtedly inspired by the performance of the two works V12 Lagonda sports car in the 1939 Le Mans 24 Hour race. Sadly, I could not accept his entry for the Championship as there was tangible evidence that the car existed even if it was never completed.

A reader from the Midlands pointed out that the J-type Connaught cannot really qualify for my Championship as firstly the 5-speed pre-selector transmission actually exists, and in my own Racing Car Review of 1958 I stated that “The projected rear engined car. . . . was roughly assembled”. Which is quite true for I saw the bits laid out on a surface plate at the Connaught factory at the time, though I don’t think any two components were actually joined to each other.

However, the next entry that came in was acceptable without question. I happened to mention to this reader that Alan Henry had found the missing Ferrari, but it was not eligible, and he said “What a good thing, because my entry of a Brabham BT47 would have blown it off, literally”. The Brabham BT47 was the second generation “fan car” to follow the BT46 which caused such a furore in 1978. Brabham didn’t build two BT47 cars and this reader’s entry for the championship isn’t the second one, which would have been John Watson’s car, if you see what I mean.

This same reader also asked if the races would be on handicap, because if they were he would like to enter a Lotus Mark 5. This was the 100 mph 750 Formula Austin 7 sports car that Colin Chapman intended to build, but it was superceded by the Lotus Mark 6. This sounded like a very legitimate and serious entry and as the owner said, “I can’t show it to you, but if you shut your eyes you can clearly see that this is how Colin would have made it”!

A letter came from Clive Galloping, writing on behalf of Count Zecronkzie, saying that if one of the rounds of the championship were to be held on the Brooklands Track they would enter their White Highup Baby Special which has two Liberty V12 aero engines mounted side-by-side with the driver between them, in order to get a short wheelbase. I have a feeling that this letter came from one of the older readers of MOTOR SPORT, though the post mark looks suspiciously like Mid-Wales!

Of course there were some serious and plonking letters about the Serendipity Championship that fell through the letter box with a dull thud, so I left them on the mat unopened. There has been sufficient support for the idea that it proved worth proceeding with, so I am happy to say that the first round of the Championship did not take place in early March. It wasn’t held on the proposed road circuit built on the Sussex Downs behind Brighton, and the winner wasn’t Anthony Mayman, who didn’t enter the 4-litre 1938 ERA sports car. So many cars, in half completed state, turned up for scrutineering and were found to be illegal, having been started as much as fifty years ago, that the small committee who are not organising the Serendipity Championship decided not to organise another Championship. This will be for cars that were actually started but never completed, or as today’s Classic car world says “metal was cut”.

This second championship should be a much greater success, for we can guaran tee a very full paddock, even if none of the cars ever get completed and make the grid. The aforementioned Gonda Grand Prix car is the first entry, along with Ferrari F1/89-113 and many other entries are expected such as the Kieft Formula 1 car, the Brooke-Weston engined car that only needs a chassis, suspension and gearbox and body to complete, the Sacha-Gordine V8, the transverse engined Ferrari, the 250F Maserati 2513 (which was never completed until it became historic), various Cosworth V8 engined specials that never got beyond an engine and Hewland transaxle, WB’s Early Morning Special, and many more flights of fancy.

If nothing else the paddock should prove to be a highly entertaining place as enthusiasts endeavour to complete a project started and abandoned many years ago. The first round of the Serendipity Championship was not very exciting, especially as there was no sign of a paddock at the Brighton circuit that did not get built, and as none of the entries had never been built there wasn’t much to see. With the season now under way we can look forward to some good Hysterical Racing, but I am still not sure where the J5 project (Connaught?) fits into the new old-car scene.

As a measure of light relief form the complexities of old cars, historic races, auction sales, collectors and historians and the rest of it, I will turn my attention to the simple business of Formula 1 Grand Prix racing, which has already started with a win by Ayrton Senna in a 1990 McLaren-Honda V10. That is something I can understand and which gives me straightforward simple pleasure. DSJ

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