Grahame Goudie on the gradual rebirth of a 1968 British Saloon Car Championship staple
Those who read the opening instalment of this restoration tale might notice the somewhat dramatic difference between the photographs that appeared last month and those published here. Rest assured, this not a reflection of the extraordinary pace at which this project has progressed. Quite the opposite, in fact…
The shots of XOO 346F’s naked shell were taken perhaps 14 years ago – and it went to the paint shop in about 2006. After that, however, nothing much happened. That was partly due to Alan Mann Racing commitments occupying so much of my spare time… and partly because I’d always promised my son that I’d build him a Lotus Cortina to use on the road. That took about four years! It was only when AMR began to wind down its activities, in 2011, that I was able to start concentrating more fully on 346.
Research has taken up a great deal of time. As I mentioned last month, all the Alan Mann Escorts were very subtly different and I was – and remain – determined that 346 should be as it was in 1968. It isn’t feasible to have all the period parts, of course, but it is important to me that the specification is absolutely correct. For instance, I’m awaiting a new water rail for the FVA engine – I still have the original, which is fitted at present, but it’s as rusty as hell inside so it’s in the car’s interest that it has an identical replacement.
The shell is original, of course, but some reparation work was done before I got the car. The boot floor had been refitted – I think the original rusted – and the transmission tunnel had been returned to its original configuration. The car came to me with an absolutely huge array of bits and pieces – a decent selection of anti-roll bars, ex-Formula 1 Armstrong shockers, Morris Minor torsion bars, all stuff that was used at the time.
I mentioned previously that AMR was very inventive – and the suspension is one example. The regulations mandated that MacPherson struts must be used, but AMR just fitted them as a guide for the coil-over Armstrong shocks that were mounted behind and did all the work. It had solid discs all around – I think the rears came from a Lotus 69 – and, as this was just before the Minilite era, ran on Electron wheels. I still have the original set. In fact, from Alan’s old files I have a list of every single part you need to build a 1968 Escort. I even have the original Dymo labels that were stuck to the dash, to inform drivers about the various switches and gauges.
I won’t be replacing those…
One question people keep asking is, “Will 346 ever race again?” As a bit of background, I rallied back in the day but didn’t do any racing. That said, in 2008 Alan Mann kindly offered me a run in XOO 349F, the most famous of his Escorts, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I shared the car with Sir John Whitmore and ended up taking a class victory, which was very satisfying. The car was back at Goodwood this year, with Henry Mann and Tom Kristensen at the wheel. I don’t think either of them beat my time, but that doesn’t mean I’m about to start a belated racing career at the wheel of 346 – not least because it’s ineligible, given the absence of a roll cage.
But it didn’t have one in period, so I won’t be fitting one now.
Featured regularly in Garagista, Warren Stean’s Jordan 195 continues to make progress and is edging ever closer to final assembly. We will return to the story in due course, as the Tour de Force team prepares to return the car to its natural habitat – the racetrack