Blatted up to Bridgnorth to see the official unveiling of the Lindner-Nocker E-type after its quite incredible 7000 hour restoration. Arrived to see a sea of E-types (who would have guessed?), so slipped the Interceptor into a car park where it wouldn't upstage them all.
I've been following this project pretty closely ever since Peter Neumark acquired the Lynx-restored car and its original, crumpled shell in 2007. I've known Neumark a long time and he is always pretty enthusiastic about classics, but with this car, even way back then, he was like an excited kid whose just been picked for the Under 13s first eleven. Funnily enough, he was just as excitable last week.
The PR lady's protests that no one knew where the finished car was or had seen it were dismissed as the ever-diffident Nick Goldthorp (ex-Vicarage and the man who runs Classic Motor Cars), told me which unit it was in. I went round there understanding how Neumark must feel, only to be greeted by the legendary Norman Dewis (second time I'd bumped into him in a week) trying it out for size.
The L-N looked amazing, jaw-droppingly good.
The link to Lindner
I left them to their final preparations and went to mingle with the crowd. Among them I bumped into some fascinating characters. The first I recognised as someone I had corresponded with and spoken to a couple of years earlier when I did a feature for C&SC on the car mid-restoration. Thomas Fritz, Peter Lindner's nephew, had flown from Germany for the unveiling.
Elan racer Fritz is a great character who has played an invaluable role in the project. Having restarted his uncle's old race team in historic racing and acquired two of Lindner's old steeds - Lotus-Cortina and Mk2 Jag - Fritz would dearly have loved to have added the Lightweight to the stable, but with numbers as big as £5 million now being bandied about, it's no surprise that he hasn't.
"I've had an interest in the car for quite a long time an have followed it closely over the years," he said. "When Peter Lindner died I was only half a year old, but I grew up with all the photos of his cars and successes. I was always interested in cars and racing."
In 2007 Fritz resuscitated Team Lindner, after talking to his mother, Lindner's sister: "Just for fun I suggested to my mother that we should enter historic racing and started buying back his old cars. When I met Peter Neumark and heard what he was doing I did everything I could to help with pictures and family memories, but the best thing I found was Peter Lindner's own colour cine film from the 1960s from Le Mans and the Nürburgring. For me it was just so special to see my uncle moving around as if he was not gone."
After the initial photo-sensitive epilepsy unfriendly burst of flashbulbs died down at the unveiling, Fritz was one of the privileged first to be given a ride in the restored car, with Neumark at the wheel. Fritz had been offered the opportunity to drive, but turned it down: "I don't think my mother would think it was a good idea."
The car's saviour
Not far behind him in the queue, was the Lightweight's shortest-lived, but possibly most important owner. Patrick Lansard was in his 20s when he became the person who liberated the E-type from the French authorities in 1974, 10 years after the Montlhéry crash that claimed the lives of Lindner and a trio of marshals.
Contrary to fable, the car was not stashed under the banking at the famous speedbowl and Lansard paid the princely sum of 10,000 French Francs (about £900) for the wreck. He desperately wanted to keep it and restore it, but within months was coerced into selling to a leading French collector for a profit of 5000 Francs. Within a few more months the collector had sold it on again, having swapped the FF sign for a £ sign. Nice deal.
Lansard is not bitter and travelled over to the unveiling in his beautiful XK120 meeting brother Joël in Bridgnorth (the pair are pictured with the car abpve). Still a diehard enthusiast he shrugged gamely as the afternoon ticked away and his deadline of 11pm to catch Le Chunnel – some 230 miles away – approached. "I will just have to drive a bit faster," he said unfazed.