Certain figures are forever associated with star drivers
It is interesting what a famous number or logo can do to a product. The likes of Gilles Villeneuve, Richard Petty, Barry Sheene and Valentino Rossi made certain numbers a central part of their racing history. The number 46 is now so well known that it could be plastered all over a Vauxhall Astra in the back end of Skegness and still be recognisable to a fair few people.
It’s not completely clear why Valentino Rossi uses 46 race in, race out, but the general consensus is that it was his father’s number in the first of his three Grand Prix wins on a 250cc Morbidelli in 1979. It is also said that Rossi was inspired by Japanese MotoGP rider Norifumi Abe, who made an impression on the Italian rider when he eclipsed more seasoned riders in the wet.
Thus an entirely standard Honda can be transformed by a number, in the same way that a historic NASCAR stock car can be recognised in an instant with the number three and the words ‘GM Goodwrench’ painted down the side.
Three was the number of Dale Earnhardt, aka ‘Ironhead’, aka ‘The Intimidator’. He drove in 677 NASCAR Winston Cup races between 1975 and 2001, winning 76 times, and was so closely tied to the number three that it has been used only once since his untimely death in 2001 when his son, Dale Jr, raced a Chevrolet Monte Carlo in a second-division Busch series race at Daytona. He went on to win.
The number is still available but no-one wants to take up the mantle. Understandable, really, when you imagine someone using the number 46 after Rossi’s retirement and the verbal flogging he would receive.
Earnhardt had thousands of diehard fans but also his fair share of critics. However, anything related to his 27 years in NASCAR is a hot favourite with collectors, and many will be watching closely when RM Auctions sells his No3 1990 Chevrolet Lumina on June 14 in Tustin, California. Although the estimate of £25-35,000 looks quite low, expect some animated bidding.
In the same auction, the collection of the late Joe Macpherson, there are also two of the most beautiful racing cars ever. The supercharged 1925 Miller 122, chassis No2, is one of the super-slim machines US engineering artist Harry Miller built for the 122ci formula; this rear-drive example is listed at £450-600,000. Forty years later Dan Gurney brought a similarly aesthetic eye to his Eagles, and the 1966 Indy car bears the classic shark nose of his stable. Estimate: £150-200,000. Alongside these is another classic piece of American racing history, a 1960 Watson Indy Roadster (£125-150,000).
Back in Britain, one car of particular interest is the prototype ERA R1A, up for sale at the Goodwood Festival of Speed auction hosted by Bonhams on July 11. R1A was first driven by Raymond Mays at the car’s public debut on May 22, 1934. It went on to have much record-breaking success at Brooklands and was raced consistently by the likes of Reg Parnell, Ron Flockhart and Richard Seaman. The scion of a legendary British marque, R1A has been a regular entrant in historic motor racing events with Jost Wildbolz and Dean Butler. It is to be sold without reserve with an estimate of £400-500,000.
ERAs come up for sale very rarely, so interest will be huge – for reasons that go a long way beyond race numbers and sponsor liveries.
•We would like to clarify that the Jaguar 6R4 engine referred to last month was the JV6 turbo derived from the original rally powerplant. We have been asked to point out that rebuilds on the engine can cost between £15-25,000, not necessarily the amount of £100,000 quoted.
Our pick of the upcoming sales and the items you can’t afford to miss
April 3 The Classic Auction Company, Classic and Prestige Cars, Automobilia and Transport Collectables, Severn Hall, Three Counties Showground, Malvern, Tel: 01684 562213
April 4/5 RM Auctions, Toronto International Spring Classic Car Auction, Canada, Tel: 001 519 352 4575
April 15/16 H&H, Fine Collectors’ Cars and Automobilia, Harrogate International Centre, Tel: 01925 730630
April 21 Bonhams, RAF Museum, Hendon, London, Tel: 020 7468 5801
April 22 BCA Vintage Motor Vehicles, Blackbushe, Surrey, Tel: 01252 877317
April 25/26 Seidel & Friedrich, Porsche Automobilia from Herbert Linge collection, Ladenburg, Germany, Tel: +49 (0) 6203 957777
April 25/27 RM Auctions, Michigan International Spring Classic Car, USA, Tel: 001 519 352 4575
April 26 Old Timer Galerie, 100 Classic Cars, Toffen, Switzerland, Tel: +41 (0) 31 819 6161
April 28 Barons, Jaguar Heritage, Classic and Collectors’ Cars, Sandown Park racecourse Surrey, Tel: 08454 30 60 60
May 1 The Classic Auction Company, Classic and Prestige Cars, Automobilia and Transport Collectables, Tel: 01684 562213
May 3 The Worldwide Group, Houston Classic Auction and Concours d’Elegance, Texas, Tel: +1 866 273 6394
May 10 Coys, Legende et Passion, Espace Fontvielle, Monaco, Tel: 020 8614 7888
May 10 Bonhams, Les Grandes Marques a Monaco, Tel: +44 (0) 20 7468 5801
May 17 Bonhams, Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd, Newport Pagnell, Tel: 020 7468 5801
May 18 RM Auctions, Ferrari Leggenda E Passione, Maranello, Italy, Tel: 020 7293 6336
Around the dealers
Competition cars currently for sale here and abroad
1952 Ferrari Tipo 225 Sport Barchetta
This 225, with coachwork by Carrozzeria Alfredo Vignale, was sold new to the Momo Corporation of Woodside New York in 1952. William (Bill) Spear raced the car over the next year and a half, including at the Sebring 12 Hours with Phil Hill. Towards the end of ’53 the original engine was replaced by one from a 225S, chassis number 0152 EL. The car eventually found its way to Hollywood and was used in the film business before being extensively restored to its original specification.
POA, www.martinchisholm.com, Tel: 01242 821600
1964 Triumph TR4
This TR4 has been freshly rebuilt from a UK, right-hand drive car and is fully race prepared. The car has a full race engine, Webers, Quaife ’box, LSD Salisbury axle, and two sets of alloys with Dunlop Historics and Avons. It also comes with a comprehensive spares package, FIA and HTP papers.
£36,950, www.runnymeademotor company.com, Tel: 01753 644599
Derek Bell’s 1988 and ’89 World Sportscar Championship car, which the UK-based Richard Lloyd team developed, had many top finishes including a second place at Silverstone and a fastest lap at Spa. It was fully rebuilt for 2007 and went on to take outright wins at Brands and the Silverstone Classic.
£425,000 (plus VAT), www.eaglegb.com, Tel: 01825 830966
Chassis number TS5-02 was manufactured in the UK and then exported to South Africa where it made its debut on March 30, 1970. The car was raced extensively over the next four years and was then used in a sole drag racing event. It has been fully restored to its original condition.
£55,000, www.legendsautomotive.co.uk, Tel: 01451 821611
What happened to the latest classic cars to go under the hammer
H&H, Cars sale, Cheltenham Racecourse
•Ex-Colin McRae 1992 Subaru Legacy: sold prior to sale
•Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 Pescara: £550,000
•Austin Mini ex-works: £44,000
•Morris Mini ex-works: unsold
H&H, Automobilia sale, Cheltenham Racecourse
•Williams FW11B model: £1400 plus the premium
Coys, Lord’s Cricket Ground
•Aston Martin DB5: £163,800
RM, Amelia Island
•1934 Ford Model 40 Special Speedster: £872,000
•1965 Brabham Formula C BT15: £22,000