In the throes of rebuilding one of Alan Mann Racing’s 1968 originals, Grahame Goudie, the car’s owner, describes the project’s background
How did I come by an Alan Mann Racing Escort? The short answer is that Alan let me have it, though there’s a little more to the story than that. I guess the ‘modern’ part of its history started in 2000, when I was helping my friend Jim Morgan’s JTM Racing run a couple of cars in historic events – and XOO 346F came into his hands during that time. Jim had worked with Alan Mann Racing in period and we had a Cortina in AMR colours. Alan was invited to race it at the 2003 Goodwood Revival and, having been away from the sport for a long time, he fell completely in love with it all over again.
He subsequently asked Jim to build him a Mustang, resurrected Alan Mann Racing and started buying back a few of his old cars – including XOO 349F, Frank Gardner’s 1968 British Saloon Car Championship-winning Escort. For a time the whole operation was run from my Surrey workshop – Ron Dennis and Neil Trundle were once based here, in their Rondel days – and Alan bought 346 from Jim early in 2004. Like 349, this car was built up from an Escort 1300GT and also used in the 1968 BSCC – it was driven variously by Peter Arundell, Jackie Oliver, Graham Hill and Roger Clark, and made its debut in Peter’s hands at the Mallory Park round in June. The team fitted it with a supercharger, which put the car into a higher class – a bid to take points from Brian Muir, Frank’s main title rival, who was racing a Falcon. Alan told me that they had also tried turbocharging the car. It ran once in that form, during a test at Silverstone, and Frank apparently set some blistering times but hated the car’s delivery – you’ll remember how much lag early turbocharged road cars suffered when they came to the market during the 1980s, so one can only imagine what things were like in the late ’60s… The engine eventually blew – there was a suspicion that Frank parked up at the back of the circuit, selected neutral and revved the thing to destruction, but we’ll never know – and the experiment wasn’t repeated.
At the end of the ’68 season the car was sold to Frami Racing, in Belgium, before returning to the UK and passing through the hands of many well-known club racers, including Doug Niven, Alistair Lyall and Mike Chittenden. When Alan reacquired it he wanted Jim to do the work – having been involved originally Jim knew the car well, but sadly he passed away before a great deal had been done. In February 2006 Alan offered the car to me – I declined initially, but he was very insistent because he said he knew I’d get the work done. So when AMR needed bigger premises and moved away from my workshop in 2011, 346 remained.
Why has the restoration taken so long? I had little option but to do things gradually. There wasn’t a lot of effort in the early days, because racing took up too much time and I also had a day job as manager of a farm estate, which is still the case – my boss, happily, is a racing fan and very understanding. On top of that, I’ve been working mainly from photographs and finding suitable references wasn’t the work of a moment. Quite a few enthusiasts clearly poked their cameras into Alan’s cars when wandering the paddock in 1968, but 40 years on it wasn’t so easy to trace the results.
I can use 349 as a reference, of course, but in detail the two cars are quite different: 349 had two differential oil pumps, with the ducting blowing out beneath the car, whereas mine has one and the ducting blows up into the cockpit. It’s a reflection of the fact that AMR was very inventive and always prepared to try different things – and I have been determined from day one that the car should be absolutely as it was in ’68.
When the car arrived it was a bare shell with a mountain of spares – everything from shocks and wishbones to a set of Dymo labels used to identify switches on the original dash. I don’t yet have quite all the bits I need, but when next I write I’m hoping it will look ever more like an Alan Mann Escort. The target is to have 346 running again before the year is out, which would be an appropriate way to honour Alan and Jim, neither of whom is with us any more, and to celebrate the car’s 50th birthday.
Next month: Scouting around for period-appropriate parts – where the hell do you find an Alan Mann Escort speedo?
Warren Stean’s restoration of his 1995 Jordan Formula 1 car continues with final assembly about to begin ahead of a planned shakedown in the autumn. Garagista will continue to follow the work and will revisit the project over the coming months.