Unravelling Cottin mystery

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I had forgotten what became of this Cottin et Desgouttes 60hp racer, until Kevin Wheatcroft reminded me it was in his father’s splendid racing car collection at Donington. This is how Ben Collings, that great enthusiast and skilled driver of the more exciting vintage cars, came to acquire it and get it back into original form.

I heard first of this exciting Type C 1911 10.6-litre side-valve chain-drive racing car when, in 1944, a Mr Grace sent Motor Sport a photograph of it as it had emerged from a shed in Woodbridge, Suffolk, in a sorry state and with the touring body that it then wore. I was not then aware that this was a successful racing car.

Driven by Deydier, it had in 1911 won the racing class at the Limonest hillclimb and followed this with FTD at the Valley Suzon and Mont Ventoux hillclimbs, won its class in the one-kilo race at Geneva and set the quickest lap in the GP de la Sarthe, retiring after hitting a horse and cart. The next year, Deydier took a class win at Limonest again, and repeated this at Mont Ventoux.

The Irish peer Lord Carbery then bought the racing Sixty and it was given that touring body by Cann & Co in London. In 1922, a Major Craig, bought the Cottin but it was laid up from 1928 to ’44, when we published the aforesaid photograph. Anthony Heal saw the picture and went along and bought the car. The next owner was J L ‘Jumbo’ Goddard, who by 1957 had rebuilt it to racing form.

He let me drive it and I found the C-D to have a smooth clutch, a nice gearchange if one remembered to use the button on the top of the lever to unlock each ratio, and how the rattle of the driving-chains was in keeping with this car with its bi-block engine as it ambled at 60mph in top gear at some 1000rpm.

In 1960, it entered the Donington Collection. Having acquired this historic car and managed to find a picture of it as it had been in 1911, Ben Collings had a body made on these lines by specialist Hugh Murray in Gloucester, while he fully restored the engine and chassis, the former needing careful stitch-welding of a crack in one of its huge cylinder blocks.

Ben was rewarded with excellent performance from this short(9ft) wheelbase car weighing about 22cwt. Indeed, I am told that on test a genuine 100mph was recorded. So, another interesting Edwardian racing car is alive again. If anyone can fill in its history between the late 1920s and the 1930s, Ben would be grateful.