Historic scene: November 2017

Author

Gordon Cruickshank

View profile
Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Current page

183

Current page

184

Current page

185

Current page

186

Current page

187

Current page

188

Current page

189

Current page

190

Current page

191

Current page

192

Current page

193

Current page

194

Current page

195

Current page

196

Joining a road trip to commemorate a spectacular triumph for British – and Scottish – sports car racing six decades ago

It was back in April I received a call – “It’s 60 years since the D-type 1-2-3-4-6 walkover at Le Mans and we’re getting as many of the cars together as we can.” A hard task, yet in August a spectacular convoy of curvaceous blue bolides homed in on Jaguar Classic Works, where the new Lightweight Es, Ds and XK-SSs are built, before visiting Wappenbury Hall, one-time home of Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons. There was a nice family connection here as Lyons’ grandson Michael Quinn was part of the party.

After a lap of Silverstone and a visit to Silverstone University Technical College, which provides engineering courses that bridge school and university, the convoy blue-streaked down to Williams F1 where I caught up with them in time for a tour of the advanced engineering shop, eloquently guided by Claire Williams, the outfit’s deputy team principal. Apart from its Formula 1 racing activities, the firm through its associated arms develops a huge range of prototypes and technologies for others: a team was just finishing the FW-EVX electric chassis module – a sort of electric skateboard with integrated batteries and four motors that can carry a wide variety of stuctures – for its public announcement, while nearby sat a pair of Nissan BladeGliders. Never seen one? You’re unlikely to – these sporty three-seat EV concepts, wedge-shaped in the idiom of the Japanese firm’s DeltaWing and ZEOD Le Mans experiments and sporting a Williams-developed 246bhp powertrain, were a Nissan flag-flier at the Rio Olympics to show that battery power can still be fun. But while those built were fully working vehicles they were exploratory studies, not pre-production prototypes, so you can expect your shopping Nissan to continue having a wheel at each corner for a while yet.

Elsewhere sat the scorched form of a C-X75, the gorgeous sports car Jaguar decided not to build (and which would have been assembled here in the building where we are standing). This wasn’t the result of problems with the mooted gas turbine power unit; this was the stunt car that featured in the explosive Spectre Bond film – hence the charred finish. Photos on the wall showed Daniel Craig ‘driving’ behind a bonnet filled with cameras while attached to the roof is a cage where a fearless stunt driver is actually controlling the vehicle – the only double-decker Jaguar known to science.

Along with the expected ‘you can’t look at that’ four-wheeled secrets, Williams has developed its lightweight Babypod, a hi-tech portable incubator that benefits from F1 survival cell technology, and it’s also testing an aerodynamic spoiler for supermarket freezers which saves 30 per cent on electricity and means you don’t have to wear thermals to buy your frozen peas.

From future to past, in the shape of the Williams Heritage museum. Through its theatrical entry you are guided sinuously from start-up to today via the great, the disappointing and the occasional ugly – I’m pointing a rude finger at the sabre-toothed FW26 and the broken-nosed 34 – as well as a Metro 6R4 and quarter-size BMW V12LMR wind tunnel model, which both enjoyed Williams involvement. It’s a magnificent show of racing glory, as is the trophy cabinet upstairs, a dazzling wall of gleaming silver justifiably boasting of 16 world championships.

On the way out Sir Frank came to admire the Jaguars – apparently the noise of their arrival stopped all work – and we exchanged memories of Stoke Mandeville hospital as we’re both ‘alumni’.

This was my first chance to inspect the Bedford van that Clive Beecham, owner of XKD 603, has restored into a faithful copy of the 1950s Ecurie Ecosse service van – a perfect accompaniment to the main dish, consisting of the 1957 Le Mans winner from the Louwman museum, Beecham’s second-placed car, the bright blue short-nose privateer that came third, plus XKD 504, the prototype long-nose car, and Jaguar’s own works long-nose from its Heritage collection. All four of the Europe-based long-noses in one place, and the first three cars over the line at 4pm at the Sarthe in 1957 – an amazing feat of organisation, and all about to hit the road just as the team would drive to Le Mans 60 years back. In a touching gesture, Sir Frank was by the gate to see the convoy off. A proper racer.

Likewise the shimmering blue D-types as their rounded rumps disappeared down the road toward the next rendezvous, the RAC’s Woodcote Park clubhouse where there was to be a gala dinner. It was a brilliant sight to see these five historic machines upstaging everything else on the road, even if they did get jammed on the M25. Not a fair test for a car designed to do 175 down the ligne droite des Hunaudières; yet all made it without exploding, a tribute to the robustness of the D and to the attention of their present carers.

At Woodcote Park (venue for Motor Sport’s Hall of Fame events) the Ds posed on the lawns among a large array of Jaguars of all types, while inside speeches and films lauded that extraordinary 1-2-3 achievement and Ecurie Ecosse’s part in it. Hugh McCaig, who reinvigorated the team in the 1980s, attended along with senior Jaguar figures including design chief Ian Callum, who briefly silenced the room by declaring he had probably already designed his last pure petrol car.

Ron Gaudion, mechanic for all three D-type Le Mans wins, related his memories and swapped recollections with the evergreen, bootlace-necktied Norman Dewis, Coventry’s test driver when the D-type was a twinkle in Malcolm Sayer’s eye. Remarkable to have two people from those heady days, both with pin-sharp recall, discussing something that seems history to us but which was their live experience.

On the next day the Ds paused at Brooklands to pose on the banking, a nod to the Race of Two Worlds, or Monzanapolis, of 1957 when the Scottish team sent a trio of cars to that lop-sided event on the Italian track’s high banking.

From there this convoi très exceptionnel made a blaring midday arrival at the Hampton Court Palace concours, where in front of Wren’s baroque frontage it formed the centrepiece display among some magnificent machinery stretched up and down the gardens. Among the 8C Alfa Romeos, V12 Ferraris and Bugattis old and new, unexpected treasures included a chunky but good-looking Fiat 1100 barchetta, Piero Frua’s first car, a truly lovely 1954 Siata 208S spider concealing Fiat’s 2-litre 8V motor within a svelte Motto body, and a swooping streamlined Castagna body on a Lancia Astura.

Duncan Hamilton Ltd showed a Can-Am Ferrari 712 that grew out of a 512M, while Abbeyfield brought an Arnolt Bristol Bolide, its surging Bertone lines hiding a Bristol engine about three storeys high.

Returning to the Jaguars’ location you had only to turn your head to see both an 1896 Arnold Benz and a McLaren P1 GTR, six decades each way of extraordinary automobile development all arrayed within lush green lawns. It was a fine close to an eventful week.

AN IMPRESSIVE 21 works competition Minis reunited in August at the Abingdon, Oxfordshire, base where BMC’s motor sport team once hand-assembled the giant-killing vehicles for their attack on races and rallies around Europe. The 1930s building, now reclad as a mail distribution centre, held many memories for the likes of team chiefs Stuart Turner, Bill Price and Peter Browning, Monte winner Paddy Hopkirk, co-drivers Paul Easter, Willy Cave and Mike Wood, Mini racers John Rhodes and Christabel Carlisle and mechanics Den Green and Dudley Pike, who all contributed to the Mini Cooper legend. More than 70 race or rally Minis came out of this place between 1959 and 1970, and survivors are keenly sought after.

Appropriately the weekend wrapped up in the nearby Dog House pub, which was the team’s drinking hole in period.

Long-time staffman Gordon Cruickshank learned his trade under Bill Boddy and competes in historic events in his Jaguar Mk2 and BMW 635

Related articles

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore

Related products

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore