Lotus treasures revealed at Race Retro

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Anniversary displays for Jim Clark’s first Grand Prix World Championship, the Hillman Imp and the Alpine-Renault A110’s rally glory year were the highlights of Race Retro from 22-24 February.

Motor sport legends Sir Stirling Moss, Win Percy and Barry Lee were among the special guests, while outside 50 Group B rally cars thrilled shivering fans around Stoneleigh Park.

Clive Chapman organised a superb Classic Team Lotus display that, as well race cars and Clark’s Elan ‘997 NUR’ (main image), featured a rare showing of Colin Chapman’s original Type 25 ‘general arrangement’ drawing – its first public display. Fans of the 1963 Grand Prix-winning beauty had the unique chance to compare car and design plan.

On Friday, Chapman Jnr was thrilled by a special gift of Clark’s old race overalls from Val Le May Neville-Parry, the widow of Chris Parry who was competitions manager for Firestone in the '60s. Mrs Neville-Parry felt that the overalls would be safer with Classic Team Lotus, although there were thoughts that the Clark museum at Duns would be the best home. At the show Chapman confirmed that CTL will be heading to the Scottish Borders museum in May with two Lotus 25s for a special demonstration around the town.

Highlight of the miniatures on show was the unveiling of Amalgam’s fantastic 1:8 scale Lotus Type 49B and 38 (above), while Club Kit Lotus displayed a scratch-built 1:8 Lotus 40 (below).

There’s always a strong replica element at Race Retro with this year the Whistling Billy steam-powered racing car, Crossle 9S HTP, and Sanction 2 WSM Sprite all creating as much interest as authentic machines. 

"They are built to order and this, a road car, is our second,” said Tony Wilson-Spratt, the son of WSM founder Douglas. "The plan is to limit it to 11 to match the original production and the price is around £30,000. We’re also restoring the WSM Healey 3000."

Barn-finds are guaranteed to create a stir, none more so than the rusty Lotus 19 chassis on display with specialist Crosthwaite and Gardiner. 

One of only 17 built from 1960-'62, it was originally supplied to Harry Zweifel of Switzerland where it competed in hillclimbs before being hidden away. The Buxted-based specialist is beginning a full restoration with plans to return it competition soon. 

The team also reported that production work has recommenced on its replica pre-war Silver Arrows racing cars after successful discussions with Mercedes-Benz.

Pre-war cars were thin on the ground at Race Retro, but the Vintage Sports-Car Club teamed up with the Historic Grand Prix Cars Association to display Tony Smith’s fabulous ex-Richard Shuttleworth Alfa Romeo Tipo B (above), which was undoubtedly the most valuable car on display at the show.

The VSCC also presented Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason’s treasured Aston Martin Ulster team car (above), which will feature in a special centenary race for pre-war Astons at the VSCC’s Spring Start meeting at Silverstone on 21 April.  

As always, the Historic Sports Car Club had a diverse selection of machinery including Rudolf Ernstaig’s ex-Betty Haig HRG 1500 (above). The car was subtly modified  for Haig with more windscreen rake and rounded wings in place of the usual square-riggers. Haig was a founder member of the HSCC and drove the HRG in the 1950 Alpine Rally and the Maloja Hillclimb, and later raced it at Goodwood.

Another car with lady rally driver history was the star of the superb Alpine A110 tribute, Chris Rabbets' timewarp ex-Pat Moss Group 4 car that Roger Clark ran for her in the ’73 British Championship.

A superb Imp Club display featured road and rally cars, plus rare engines including a Lynton twin-cam 16-valve prototype. Imp ace Bill McGovern was thrilled to see Tom Blackwood’s replica of his old race car, and regaled stand visitors with his colourful stories.

He was originally a Mini man and the Imp was the first rear-engined car he drove: “I went for a test at Brands, and on the wet track I thought I was hopelessly slow, twirling the steering wheel from lock to lock.  I just couldn’t sort Paddock but it turned out I was 2 1/2 secs quicker than everyone including Mike Wilds,” recalled McGovern, who won three BTCC crowns with Imps.

Other unusual classic tin-top racers on show included SVG Motorsport’s ’64 Toyota Corona, which regularly wins best-prepared car in the Classic Touring Car Racing Club’s championship when driven by SVG boss Andy Johnson.

Full report to follow from the Silverstone Auctions sale held on 23 February.

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