The death of Roy Salvadori just three weeks affer the passing of Carroll Shelby meant that the only two people ever to have won the Le Mans 24 Hours in an Aston Martin have now been taken from us.
I last spoke to Roy about five years ago, about his less well remembered life managing the Cooper Fl team in general and the Cooper-Maserati I was about to drive in particular. He was somewhat rueful about the job and the Maser engine that had been forced upon the team by its then-owner, Mario Tozzi-Condivi, who also imported Maseratis into the UK. Far from taking the baffle to the newlydeveloped Cosworh DFV, the V12 was in fact “based on the V12 made in the ’50s to give the 250F a bit more shove”.
By 1967 anyone with eyes could see what the car needed was a DFV. “But John Cooper was against it. The Minis were a huge part of his life, and he didn’t want to jeopardise that by doing a deal with Ford. Look at what’s happened to the Cooper name and the way its used today and you have to say he made the right decision…”
Indeed, but it is worh imagining for a moment what such a car might have been like. Salvadori was adamant that the T81 and T86 were decent cars with inadequate engines. Fiffed with a DFV and with the talents of Jochen Rindt and Pedro Rodriguez at the wheel, Cooper’s decline and fall as an Fl constructor could, at the very least, have been arrested and possibly even reversed.