Bruce's T55 for sale

1961 McLaren Cooper going under the hammer

It was on May 19 1957 at the Monaco Grand Prix that Cooper, the small family firm started by Charles and John Cooper, began to change the face of Formula 1 forever. After Stirling Moss decided that a trip through the chicane, rather than round it, was a good idea, a quite remarkable amount of debris was spread across the track taking out Brooks, Hawthorn and Collins. Fangio tiptoed his way through the debris and went on to win. However, the talk of the day was that a rear-engined Formula 2 car, driven by Jack Brabham, had managed to finish sixth.

Once Moss won the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix in a privately owned, rear-engined Cooper and Maurice Trintignant did the same in the next race at Monaco, the future of F1 racing changed forever.

Front-engined F1 cars were to become a thing of the past and Cooper went on to win the 1959 World Championship with Brabham in a T51. The small British firm continued to dominate Grand Prix racing, winning the championship again with Brabham in 1960.

But in 1961 the engine rules changed and the team struggled. However, Bruce McLaren managed to finish second in a non-championship race at Aintree and third at the Italian Grand Prix in the car which RM Auctions is selling at Monterey on August 15-16, with an estimate of £75-100,000.

The T55 was campaigned by Bruce McLaren throughout the 1961 season and was driven in various races in ’62 by Tony Maggs and John Lowe. It has the original Coventry Climax FPF engine, although currently fitted with 2-litre pistons and liners, and has the original six-speed Cooper Jack Knight gearbox.

Despite problems, Bruce managed to finish seventh in the Drivers’ Championship alongside a certain Jim Clark, and actually beat his team-mate ‘Black’ Jack Brabham for the first time. This is a great chance to own a car that is not only an intricate part of Cooper’s history, but was also driven by one of the most charismatic racing figures.

Back on this side of the Atlantic, Brightwells is selling a 1938 Lagonda V12 short-chassis saloon on July 2. It boasts a racing connection in as much as it was first owned by the Hon Dorothy Paget, who was the financial backer of Sir ‘Tim’ Birkin’s Bentley racing team in 1930. In 1935 Alan Good, the Lagonda boss, addressed a selection of engineers which included W O Bentley, who had just finished a five-year contract with Rolls after he sold his famous marque to the company and was kept on to ensure he wouldn’t become a competitor.

Good said, “We are going to build the best car in the world and we have just two years in which to do it. That is your part of the job – mine is to find the money.” The result? The Lagonda V12. This one is being sold with an estimate of £70-90,000.

Eighty miles south of Hatton and the Brightwells sale, H&H is holding an auction at Loseley Park, Guildford, on June 8 at which it is selling an interesting Bugatti Type 57.

Invoiced to Bugatti’s Swiss agency, Bucar SA, on September 19, 1936, chassis 57443 was dispatched to Carrosserie Graber and is believed to be a one-off commissioned by its first owner, an architect. While it is usually the show-stoppers of the 57 range which grab the eye, this is a well-proportioned and handsome four-door saloon example of the most comfortable and usable of all Bugattis. It carries an estimate of £100-120,000.

So into the summer months we go. The racing schedule gets busier and classic road cars are pulled out of garages after sitting out the winter months. This is the time that auction houses expect people who don’t have a classic to go out and buy one, so expect to see some good results over the coming months.