Out of the blue

This Tojeiro pioneered the 'cart-before-the-horse' approach to GTs as Paul Parker explains

Ecurie Ecosse's Tojeiro-Climax is a landmark car in the history of European sportscar racing. When it appeared in 1962, it was arguably the first professionally-constructed, rear-engined (and closed-roof) GT prototype and was one year ahead of the Lola effort that formed the basis of the iconic GT40.

From its origins in 1952 this famous Scottish team consistently favoured Jaguars and Jaguar-powered machinery. Ecurie Ecosse was rather more adventurous than the works team and sallied forth far and wide during the decade, including the Buenos Aires 1000Km ('54 and '57), Monzanapolis ('57/'58), the Mille Miglia ('57), Sebring ('58) and of course the Nürburgring, Le Mans, the Goodwood TT and the usual British events.

The team is most celebrated for the consecutive Le Mans victories in 1956/57 with Jaguar D-types (EE's first two Le Mans appearances), the remarkable showing at the '57 Monzanapolis, where Jack Fairman finished fourth overall against the Indy roadsters, and Masten Gregory's Lister triumphs at Silverstone and Spa in '58.

The advent of the 3-litre limit in championship sportscar racing for 1958 ended Jaguar's Le Mans domination, the frailty of its various 3-litre engines in the longer races spelling finis to the competitiveness of Jaguar-powered machinery.

Ecurie Ecosse stuck with Jaguar power, however. John Tojeiro, who had already built several XK-engined sports racers, loaned the team John Ogier's car in 1959 and built a second for Le Mans which was immortalised by Gregory's baling out at Goodwood later that year.

Realising the need for change, team patron David Murray ran a Cooper Monaco in 1960 that was driven by Roy Salvadori and Jack Brabham as well as team regulars Tommy Dickson and Bruce Halford. It was very successful during '60/'61, but by '62 Murray wanted something more up to date and the Tojeiro-Climax 2.5 was the result. Two cars were commissioned, but for '62 only one car was completed. This car was raced at Le Mans (by Dickson/Fairman) where it retired after eight hours with gearbox failure after selecting two gears at once. At the August Bank Holiday Guards Trophy at Brands Hatch it was crashed and overturned by Fairman and then repaired for some world one-hour and 100km record breaking at Monza on October 30. This was abandoned when it was realised that the car was simply not quick enough, although Fairman did manage a 152mph average around the bumpy banked section.

This first car had a difficult birth, being hastily finished with help from Stan Sproat, Ecosse's chief mechanic, and set off for Le Mans still unpainted with the paint and spray gun on board!  En route  the transporter (with a second incomplete car on its roof as a source of spares) crashed near Sevenoaks, Kent and the 'Toj' suffered panel damage that was repaired at Le Mans. Originally the body was to have been built by Williams & Pritchard to a design by Cavendish Morton, who had also created the Tojeiro-Jaguar shapes. Alas, W & P was too busy to build the body, so it was actually constructed by Wakefields of Byfield in six weeks. The total cost, including expenses: £47 5s 10d.

Meanwhile, in August '62 it was decided to change the 2.5 Coventry Climax FPF engine for one of the new lightweight Buick V8s that were to power both cars. These arrived later in allegedly mysterious circumstances with about 140bhp and required some fundamental changes to become competitive. This was partially achieved by consulting American tuning magazines that recommended items such as Iskederian and Racer Brown camshafts. Sproat converted the engines to dry sump, raised the compression ratio to circa 10.5:1 and fitted a Jaguar clutch. Inevitably money was tight and some features were the result of ingenuity and expediency. Problems with breaking Corvair gearbox shafts were finally solved by using Rolls-Royce shafts originally used to drive the superchargers on the Merlin-engined Spitfires from WWII. Another complication was the unique Tojeiro-designed bolt-on wheels that had to be replaced for Le Mans with knock-offs, but these began to break up when subjected to the ultra-fast driving of newly-signed Jackie Stewart during testing at Oulton Park in early 1963.

Although there were only two such cars ever built there is some confusion as to the individual identity of each machine. Previous information, including a magazine article by Christopher Bibb and details given to race organisers, suggested that the Tojeiro featured here is the '62 Le Mans car, but Sproat is adamant that in fact this is the second car built that was carried incomplete on the roof of the transporter to Le Mans. Previous owner Hugh McCaig confirms this. A period photograph shows that both had similar rooflines and windscreens at this time and contemporary race reports do not differentiate between the two.

According to Sproat, the original car was the one that received most of the development and was re-engined with a Ford Cobra V8 in 1964 with a different profile and larger screen. In '63 both cars, known as EEI and EEII to Ecosse (but otherwise quoted by Graham Gauld as TAD-1-63 and TAD-263), were raced with Buick power. To further confuse matters, current owner Charles Worsley pointed out that his car carries a very old chassis plate stamped EEII that is the nomenclature for the first completed car, in other words the '62 Le Mans entry. Additionally 1960s photos depicting inner panel details and the car's unique crossover manifold, unlike the other Buick-engined machine, suggest that this is the original '62 version. Oh dear!  What is certain is that this particular Tojeiro is a genuine period car and not a latter-day reconstruction.

Jackie Stewart drove both and recorded a win in each (Charterhall and Snetterton) and several good placings in 1963, while for '64 the remaining Buick-powered car was driven again by Stewart and also by Douglas Paterson, continuing into '65 with Julian Sutton, Bill Stein and Andrew Cowan. They respectively recorded a third at Croft, a win at Ingliston for Stein, and third and fourth for Cowan, also at Ingliston. Thereafter the Buick-engined car's Ecurie Ecosse career ended, while the Ford 289 V8 powered car was raced by Stewart, John Coundley and Cowan in '64/'65. It was still moderately successful, Coundley winning at Brands Hatch on September 27 '64. Ultimately it metamorphosed into the spider version that Stein crashed at Brands in '66, destroying the car and suffering very serious injuries. Today this car has returned to its '64 coupé format. The Tojeiros represented the end of Ecurie Ecosse's period involvement in serious two-seater racing, although there were to be various forays by a reincarnated Ecurie Ecosse into prototype racing until the late '80s with some success.

A sunny day greets us at Goodwood and there, resplendent in its flag-blue metallic, is the Tojeiro-Buick. Prepared by CKL Engineering and personally fettled and re-engineered by Barry Burgess, the car looks very low and more attractive than it does photographically. Having had a good nose around and noting the very Tojeiro-esque use of small-bore tubing and framework, I climb aboard. I am six feet tall and with a modern helmet that adds probably two inches or more to my height, so headroom is very limited. The fitting in the '60s of a thin alloy bulkhead to separate driver from the V8 that intruded directly into the cabin behind the driver's left shoulder has added to the problem. Even the rudimentary seat lifts me too high. To accommodate my legs Burgess moves the pedals forward, but this then shortens the throttle travel.

These days the Tojeiro sports a Hewland 'box sited on the driver's right door sill using a dog-leg first. The clutch is quite fierce but I only stall it once. Leaving the pits I am aware of the fact that despite the obligatory silencers there is considerable mechanical noise in the cockpit, complete with the accompanying perfume of hot oil, petrol and rapidly heating aluminium. The hastily repositioned offset pedals are a little tricky with my feet crammed into the bottom of the footwell, so double declutching and heel-and-toeing are awkward. Nevertheless, once I manage to wedge myself into a viable position I can start to use the car properly.

The first thing I notice is how easy the car is to position accurately. So accurately that I can safely shave the tyres at the chicane with no risk at all. Obviously being seated further forward helps, but the view out is reassuring and enables you to place the Tojeiro just where you want it. The overall stability is better than I was expecting, although it must be noted that CKL has added a lead weight to the front of the car to counteract its tendency to aquaplane in the wet, as noted by Jackie Stewart in period. Additionally the air outlet on the nose has been enlarged to offset air-pressure buildup under the front of the car.

I complete five laps and then stop, going back out again after 20 minutes or so, my brain now adjusted to the characteristics of car and circuit. The flexibility of the engine is such that one could simply use fourth and fifth gears, chicane included, and still keep up a respectable speed. Some understeer is apparent at Madgwick, but overall the 'Toj' seems well balanced. As ever the gently curving Fordwater (second fastest part of the lap) is spooky as the car gradually drifts out to the grass verge, before braking hard and dropping to third for the right leading to the left-hander at St Mary's. I stay in third through Lavant and then quickly into fourth and top for the dog-leg Lavant Straight, where I reach nearly 5000rpm in fifth before braking on the patch for Woodcote. This requires some caution as too much loud pedal forces you over the edge at the exit. A blast up to the chicane and through, and you are on your way to another satisfying lap.

The tyres are period-pattern Dunlop R7s of modest proportions, while the Jaguar D-type brakes are well up to the task of stopping the Tojeiro's modest 750kg. Hugh Chalmers and David Leslie have driven this car at Goodwood and their opinions concur: Leslie found it difficult to place accurately due to chassis flexing and the very light front end but otherwise enjoyed it. The Buick engine was always marginal on power — it had 221bhp in its heyday but now, with the benefit of a little development and modern technology, has a more reasonable 250bhp. Burgess has stiffened the rear frame by fitting a cross-bar behind the V8 that has improved the torsional rigidity and handling.

This then was a brave effort that pre-empted the future big-budget GT prototypes, produced on a shoestring but still well advanced for the time. It was also the first really quick car that Jackie Stewart drove and deserves far more recognition in the chronicles of motor racing history.

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TechSpec -- Tojeiro-Buick

Engine: 215cu.in all-alloy V8 with 90mm x 71.3mm bore and stroke

Capacity: 215cu.in, 3629cc

Carburettors: 4 off 45DCOE Weber.  Red line: 6000rpm

Gearbox: Hewland 5-speed

Clutch: Quarternaster multi-plate 7.25in with organic lining

Toe-in: Front 1/8 inch.  Rear 1/8 inch

Dampers: Spax adjustable

Brakes: Front Mk9/LWE 21/8 in dia.  Rear: E-type 15/8 in dia. Steel.

Pads:  Front MGB 705 M1177.  Rear: MGB 704 M1177

Tyres: Front: Dunlop Racing 550 L15.  Rear: Dunlop Racing 600 L15

Weight:  795kg