The Constructors - TIGA

In the general euphoria following Derek Bell’s WEC Championship it has perhaps been easy to overlook the fact that Britain produced two other World Champions, Gordon Spice and Ray Bellm, who won group C2 in a Tiga GC85. The win paralleled Porsche’s domination of the senior class in its decisiveness and this year sees Tiga competing directly against the likes of Porsche, Jaguar and Lancia in Group C1.

The 1986 car, a Tiga GC86 will use a Cosworth 3.3-litre turbocharged DFL engine built by Graham Dale-Jones with Cosworth s assistance, which has been developed with the blessing of Ford. Initially, Tiga will have exclusive use of the engine but, if successful, the unit should become available to other teams and manufacturers and so once again open up the category to, say, March and Lola. It will be remembered that the involvement of such companies in Group C was terminated when Ford pulled the switches on the development, by Cosworth, of the 3.9.-litre turbocharged DFL engine. That decision. by Stuart Turner, allowed Porsche, with a good engine and relatively crude chassis, to dominate the class from the beginning of 1983.

A good deal more than Tiga ‘s own reputation depends then, on the performance of the car in 1986 when it will be entered by Tiga Team, prepared by McNeil Engineering and driven by Tim Lee-Davey and A N Other.

The engine is not simply a DFL with twin turbos hung on. Block and con-rods are from the DFX, pistons and camshafts are of a new design, it has stronger cylinder heads and the combustion chambers have been revised with fuel efficiency in mind.

Tiga is producing a modified version of its GC 84/85 which has a honeycomb monocoque with composite top and a kevlar and composite body. The project is seen as a three-year one and a new chassis is expected for 1987.

It is common lore that the long-stroke Cosworlh DFL suffers from such severe vibration problems that it is unsuitable for long distance racing. Keith Duckworth has always dismissed this claim as being an excuse made by makers too incompetent to install the engine properly. You might expect him to say that, but Howden Ganley confirms it saying that Tiga has never had a moments problem with the installation of a DFL.

Tiga was formed by ex-F1 drivers, Tim Schenken and Howden Ganley in 1975, the name being an amalgam of Tim and Ganley. It is pronounced, incidentally “tiger” and not “tee-gar”. Tim and Howden were close friends and each had reached a crisis in his F1 career. Someone approached Tim with a detailed proposal of why he should invest in an FF1600 protect. Howden looked at the figures, saw they were good, and thought that this was the life for him. He’d already designed his own F3 and F1 cars and could see that becoming a constructor would allow him to pursue his ambitions as a designer without having to face the politics he’d encountered as a driver when he’d tried to make a technical contribution to his team.

Tiga is now not a single company but a small group. Team Tiga, which Tim ran, is now defunct following his decision to pull out though he remains a director. Neil Crang, a well-known Tiga customer is a shareholder but Howden remains the most visible party involved in his joint capacity as chief designer and managing director. Tiga Race Cars, the production company, is run on a day-to-day basis by directors Roger Rimmer and Brian Ireland.

James Howden Ganley was born on Christmas Eve, 1941 in Hamilton, New Zealand. Though he could drive by the age of ten and his father raced an MG TF, Howden had no interest in cars until he was taken to the 1955 NZ GP. From then on he knew he was going to be a professional racing driver.

Schoolwork suffered. for what was the use of maths and history to a future professional racing driver? He took jobs in his holidays to save for a racing car and, in the meantime, built himself a little car with a 2 hp engine. Although his studies were neglected, he was good at English and, from the age of 15, began to contribute articles on motor racing to his local paper. Before long, Howden’s articles on the New Zealand racing scene, together with photographs began to appear in the British magazines. Sports Cars Illustrated and Sports Car and Lotus Owner

When he was 17 he used a friend’s 1932 Ford Prefect in grass track racing and then his mother’s Morris Minor. The big tweak was to put masking tape over the headlights! Neither car was a winner, which comes as no surprise, but Howden was quicker than comparable machinery.

A year later, a Lotus XI came on the market at £1,300. “It was an absolute fortune.” he says, “but I had to have it. I sold everything I had. persuaded my granny to give me my next three years birthday presents in advance, borrowed off my mother and just got enough. I knew nothing, nothing, about preparing a car and I was so broke I had to persuade my brother to buy a tow car.

“My first big meeting was the New Zealand Grand Prix in January 1960. We had a problem with the engine and I took apart the top end and rebuilt it somehow. I didn’t know what I was doing. Anyway I finished second in class in the sports car race and won £15. Then there was a race for Kiwis, which I won, and that brought me in £150. With that £165 I was able to follow the NZ series. I’d generally pick up class wins and the money was enough to exist on. I’d got a mechanic too, a first year motor apprentice with the Post Office, a guy named Alistair Caldwell.

“I’d been working on the local newspaper at £9 a week and decided to chuck that in and work on a road construction gang where I could earn more. When the season came around again, I quit the road gang and went racing. I’d already decided to come to England and had a buyer lined up for my car when, in practice for the final race at Dunedin, I wrapped it round a telegraph pole. That car represented all my money and my new mechanic, Dave McMillan, and I had to hitch-hike back to Hamilton”

In April 1962 Howden arrived in England on a £60 ticket which covered his one-way fare and a week in Earl’s Court. “I came with £25 and the notion I was going to be World Champion.

“I did a number of odd jobs and used to hang around the Steering Wheel Club making a pint of beer last all evening and talking to everyone I could. Eventually I persuaded Mike Mosley of Falcon Shells that I could be quicker in his Falcon-Climax than his regular driver

“He gave me a race at Silverstone and I was reasonably quick, except I spun, but that was enough to get me the regular drive.

“Then Mike asked did I know about design and engineering ‘oh sure,’ I lied. I got taken on as Falcon’s development engineer. I went out and bought the Costin Phipps book on racing car design. Jon Mowatt had sketched out the chassis and had drawn up a list of parts. I hadn’t even heard of some of them, but I set lo trying to disguise my ignorance.

“With the Falcon 515 I was picking up thirds and fourths and we were just getting it right and beginning to get on to terms with the Marcos and Divas when the engine blew up during a Goodwood test. Commander Cavendish, who had an interest in both Falcon and Marcos, wasn t too happy about my mixing it with the Marcos and decided not to rebuild the engine.

“From Falcon I went to George Henrotte’s Gemini team as a mechanic. In those days the engine was run in while installed in the car and I was given the job. George saw me drive it and offered me a works drive alongside Roy Pike. There was a handful of races left at the end of the season and I got fourth at Goodwood, seventh at the Nurburgring and third at Brands Hatch and things looked good for 1965. I’d even offered to design a new car for George, when the team folded

“While at Falcon I designed a hub adaptor for the Triumph Herald and part of my job was to machine these. Another part of my deal was I could build my own F3 car in the loft, once I’d machined my quota of hub adaptors. I’d have three machines going and run between them with the bits and then I’d be up in the loft building my car. At the weekends I’d race the Falcon 515

” Id had enough and left, my F3 car went to Syd Fox, then Alden Jones and is now in New Zealand in FF1600. It was a fairly advanced design with inboard rocker front suspension and pushrod rear suspension, the trouble is that the present owner has removed the stressed aluminium panels to comply with FF1600 regulations and not added compensating tubes so its too flexible to be any good.”

“Eoin Young called to say that Bruce McLaren would like me on his team and that was the best thing that happened to me. I really learned about racing car engineering from Bruce. I was sent to the USA to learn about automatic transmissions and I helped to build the early F1 cars. At that time, though, engineering didn’t interest me as such, it was only a means of becoming a driver.

“In 1966 I went off to become Peter Revson s mechanic in Can-Am and arrived back the following year with a full wallet and bought a Brabham BT21 a van and a trailer. McLaren secured me a Cosworth MAE engine and I went to Europe to race in F3. In those days an engine rebuild cost £60 and you could pick-up £200 in starting money at the right circuits, which were rarely in France but often in Scandinavia. You could get by.

“Then, in 1969, I got a Chevron B15 and was sufficiently successful to begin to actually make money. Bruce started to take an interest in what I was doing but then I used to buy Autosport underline my name whenever it appeared, find out where Bruce would be staying next, then send the magazine to his hotel.

“Eventually Bruce invited me to an F1 test at Goodwood along with Reine Wisell. On the strength of that he gave me a F5000 drive, with the backing of Barry Newman, and said that since he d be retiring at the end of 1970, he’d give me a try in a couple of F1 races as well. Those didn’t happen because he was killed but I did manage to finish runner-up to Peter Gethin in the F5000 series.

“Bruce had spoken to Louis Stanley about me and. for 1971, I was drafted into the BRM team to share the third car with John Miles but, after South Africa, the opening round of the World Championship, and a couple of non-Championship races I alone had the drive. BRM had decided to send just Jo Siffert and Pedro Rodriguez to South Africa but, through a friend of Barry Newman’s, BRM got the money to send me as well and thereafter John dropped out of the picture.”

Nobody can pretend that Howden was an F1 natural but, by mid season, he was putting his BRM at the business end of the grid and managed to qualify fourth quickest at Monza where he finished fifth. Sometimes in the points but never on the podium, sums up his F1 career.

The following yew he was generally the quickest of the BRM drivers after Jean-Pierre Beltoise but while he struggled through a typically chaotic BRM season, he had to live with the fact that McLaren had made him an offer which Louis Stanley would not release him to accept. Then it was on to Williams in 1973 with an agreement to allow him to make a technical input.

This agreement seemed to have been forgotten and Howden drove at the back of the field. At Monaco, however, he put his foot down and demanded that some of his ideas be put into practice. This centred around aerodynamics, “I reasoned we were getting positive lift under the car and we should eliminate this. I had them put some V-shaped baffles under the car to deflect air passing underneath and small airscrapers on the wings.” The first moves towards ground effects were thus made and the Williams which, on previous form should not even have qualified, started from tenth place on the grid. It started 11th in the next race, the Swedish GP, but personality differences within the team caused the aerodynamic experiment to come to an end.

“I then decided that the only way I could have technical control over my cars was to build my own. I advertised for a draughtsman from outside of motor racing and struck lucky with Martin Read who has since gone on to other teams. My experience now is that there is a wandering band of wierdoes going around the racing scene, people who reckon that five wheels are the answer, or who want to hang the engine in the airstream. There are plausible disasters about. I’ve picked up some draughtsmanship but have never used a wind tunne.l Aerodynamics are a matter of common sense, think of yourself as a block of air and ask what sort of shape you’d like to hit you.

“Anyway we’d got the car 70% finished and was talking to Marlboro about sponsorship. I said they could have my project as the 1974 Williams car. It didn’t happen and I’ve still got the car. One day finish it off and run it but had we been able to complete it, I think it could have seen me through until 1977. It had pull rod front suspension with the radiators just behind the front wheels, there was a vestigial venturi and a skirt.”

Howden began 1974 with March, but had not abandoned his idea for his own car and then the representatives of the Japanese Maki project offered him serious money to drive the car. It was an offer which would both keep him in the F1 swim and help him finance his own project.

The Maki, a crude beast, did not appear until the British GP, where it failed to qualify, and then at the Nurburgring the rear suspension broke and the car hit a guard-rail. Its monocoque was made in two parts and the front end went down the road leaving Howden with smashed legs.

It took months to recover and he never raced in F1 again, being edged out of a 1975 drive by a rentadriver. He continued in various sports car categories, showing he’d lost none of his speed, until one day in 1978, having brought a de Cadenets Mirage GR7 home first of the 3-litre cars in a Can-Am race, he decided that he didn’t enjoy racing any more and hung up his helmet.

In the meantime, he and Tim Schenken had discovered racing car manufacturing through the chap who’d made an approach for Tim to back an FF1600 project and made it all sound so good that Howden and Tim decided it was for them. “The most time consuming part of making a new car is making the bucks for the bodies. Tim and I had decided to go into making FF1600 cars in November, 1975 and we needed to have a car ready to run by January. It happened that my accountant was a major shareholder in an FF1600 company called MRE and was getting fed up with it. Through him we bought MRE simply to get the body moulds and I designed a new car to fit inside it. With the purchase of MRE came some spare parts and a couple of orders so we had instant cash flow.

“We started with just the three of us, Martin Read drawing, wiring and body trimming; Tim did the buying, drove the van and test drove: while I designed and fabricated. Most of the work we sub-contracted though, later in 1976, we took on two other employees.

“We went into the project with some good connections, so we were able to get Fred Opert to become our American agent and to persuade Mike Knight to buy three cars for his Winfield Racing School. Then David Lang who won Winfield’s Pace Scholarship, which was a season in the Dunlop ‘Star of Tomorrow’ Championship, went out and won his heat and final, set pole and took fastest lap in his, and Tiga’s, first race, at Mallory Park. We sold 21 cars in our first year.”

Soon the firm moved to the old Fittipaldi headquarters near Reading and added an FF2000 car to its range. Then in 1977 it was dragged into S2000 against its better judgement. “Someone brought along an S2000 project and asked us to build it. I said ‘No way. unless you’ve got three firm orders’. He had, so we went ahead with it but it was not the best and something best struck from the record (for the record, it was the Tiga SC77, the company has an admirably simple way designating its models)

“Jack Nelleman was promoting a Danish S2000 series in 1978 and he approached us for five cars. We couldn’t ignore that and when my wife and I went on holiday I spent four days alone in a study and designed the car.” From 1979 to 1985, a Tiga has won either the British or the European S2000 Championship.

“SC78 was our first good car, we changed the body the following year and undertook a major re-design in 1980. In this business, about half the changes are the result of development and half come down to fashion. No matter how quick it is, you can’t sell an FF1600 car with outboard suspension, for instance In 1981 we changed the body but had a new car for 1982, but there we tripped up on the aerodynamics and had a balance problem which was not helped by a lack of good drivers in the car. Then we had a new car in 1983.

“Lately we haven’t sold much on the British market and most of our 30 SC86s will go 10 106 USA. There’s a finite market for S2000 cars and we and Lola have had the biggest share. Others have come along and offered cars at prices at which they couldn’t have been making any money, no doubt hoping to pick up on spares. That’s put a wobble in the market and has meant that firms like Lola and Tiga have not sold as many cars as we should have done.

“I’m not complaining about straightforward competition, the American company, Swift, has come in with a good car sold at a sensible price. It’s taken some of our market, but that’s fine, its done it because it has a good product. What I complain about are firms which compete in the short term with discounts and are then not sufficiently financially stable to follow through. That affects us all.”

Connected with, but separate from, the main company was Tiga Management which was run by Tim Schenken. In 1978 Tim ran Andrea de Cesaris in an F3 Ralt RT1 (and a March 793 the following year) Eje Eigh in F2 and James Weaver in FF1600. At the end of 1979, the partners looked at the F2 March, decided it could be improved upon, and so was born an F2 car, the Tiga F280.

Tiga Racing Cars built the machine and then sold it to Tiga Management. Hans-Georg Berger, a driver of some promise but limited experience was brought in to drive the car but was killed at Zandvoort. At the Nurburgnng Berger might have won but for a broken gear linkage. Later in the year an F2 tub was converted into a Can-Am car which performed well and which could have opened up new opportunities for Tiga, but the buyer of a second car was unable to proceed with the project and Tiga faded from Can-Am. “The story of my life.” says Howden, “is ‘a day late and a dollar short’.”

Ian Taylor had won the British S2000 Championships in 1979 and 1980 and James Weaver, Tiga’s protege had finished runner-up in 1980. That side of the business was going well and, in addition, the company made about 20 FF1600 cars a year and a handful of cars for FF2000. “We eventually sat down and costed the FF1600 cars and found we were making just £50 a car, we ceased production in 1983”

1981 saw the team ready to run James Weaver in a works F3 car but Weaver’s sponsor insisted on a Ralt RT3 and it was not until the sponsor pulled out at mid-season that James went back to the Tiga. The car was not on par with the Ralt but then it hadn’t the same amount of development. James managed a fourth place at Snetterton late in the year but that was not enough to attract buyers.

Meanwhile Tim was also running a couple of no-hopers in the category and while he had dreams of packaging F3 after the manner of FOCA and F1, at the end of the year he left Team Tiga. He’d had enough of going to races every weekend and having drivers whine at him about their cars when it all came down to the simple fact that the drivers weren’t up to the job. The seemingly endless succession of futile tests and futile races got through to Tim and he left to work for John Fitzpatrick. Team Tiga was closed, though Tim retains an interest in the main company.

James Weaver did not contribute to Schenken’s decision and Howden believes that, given the right break, he could still make it to the top. It’s a hope shared by many of us.

While talking about drivers, one would think that having two ex-F1 drivers running a company would be a distinct advantage when it came to sorting out cars. At first Tim and Howden would undertake the testing of their cars but they soon discovered it was counterproductive. Both men found it easy to get down to competitive times in, say, an FF1600 car, but they discovered that the requirements of a novice driver were not necessarily those of an expert. Howden recently found himself testing a customer’s car and, after a few laps, found himself enjoying the experience again. “I got out the car feeling really enthusiastic, but then better sense prevailed. I’ve got a business to run and I’ve reached the point when I want to spend more time with my wife and pursuing interests outside of motor racing”

The F3 car might have made a mark, given the right circumstances, but the F Atlantic variant did quite well. Twelve were sold and a Tiga won the Australian “F1” (Atlantic) Championship two years on the trot but the company never managed a major Championship win which would have established it as serious manufacturer of single-seaters. It’s the old story of a maker needing the right driver and team in the right place at the right time.

Neil Crang who’d raced a Tiga in S2000. had an ambition to race at Le Mans and commissioned a GpC Tiga, the GC83. This year’s car will be based on that design. Neil’s budget did not run to a Cosworth DFL so a 5-litre Chevrolet engine, taken as part-payment in the Can-Am deal, was used instead. The car appeared late in the year, and with Gordon Spice co-driving, finished seventh at Imola. At Brands Hatch it suffered problems with its windscreen wiper and the car was punted off at Mugello.

In 1984 a 3.3-litre DFL was fitted and the car ran, updated, in Group C2 with Crang, Spice and Ray Bellm sharing the driving in the second part of the season, everything clicked, the team won the category in five consecutive races to finish third overall in the C2 Championship.

The car was sold to Tim Lee-Davey and has been seen, with Crang sharing the driving, in Thundersports and the odd GpC race, and Gordon Spice’s team bought a GC 85 and a spare rnonocoque (which will form the basis of the 1986 Larnborghini-powered Spice car)

Spice and Bellm had a superb year winning the C2 class at Mugello, Monza, Le Mans, Mosport and Spa with only the Ecosse really challenging. The team won the C2 Championship with ease It was a tribute to the car, the drivers and a thoroughly professional approach over-seen by former Williams team manager, Jeff Hazell.

In the meantime Tiga made a smaller, cheaper, simpler, version, initially for Roy Baker (with a 1.7-litre turbocharged Ford Cosworth BTD engine) but with IMSA in mind as well. Six of these cars have been made, two for Baker and four for IMSA. For 1986 there is a completely new car, the G286 (IMSA) or GC286 (GpC2), and at the time of our visit, they were being fitted with Porsche, Buick and Mazda engines. Two open-topped versions have also be made for Thundersports, one with a Hart and one with a BMW.

Tiga is a healthy little operation, employing around 16 people and doing 85% of its work In-house in two workshops near High Wycombe covering 6,800 sq ft. It has its own body shop and has recently installed its first CNC machine for cutting components.

Around 70% of its production currently goes to the USA and this year Tiga expects to produce 25-30 S2000 cars, two or three for Thundersports and ten GpC and IMSA cars. Though the numbers produced are relatively small, the company’s turnover is quite large since a GpC car costs £85.000 and an IMSA GC2 car is £56.000

Tiga has carved itself a niche in the market place and the tie-up with Cosworth and Ford this year shows that it is both forward-thinking and well-respected, as it should be with 11 Group C2 wins in two seasons. Many constructors dream of F1 or, as a first step, F3000, but Howden is not one. He’s been there, he knows the aggravation and Its over ten years since he was involved at that level. In the way in which a driver might decide that It’s better to be a front runner in GpC than an also-ran in F1. Tiga has controlled its ambitions and set itself alternative goals.

On the other hand, taking on the might of Porsche in GpC can hardly be said to show a want of ambition. It would be a pleasant twist, though if Tiga is successful with a car designed by a man who once had to buy a book on racing car design in order to hold down a job as a racing engineer. — M.L.