RIP influential race car designer John Crosslé

| 15 Sep 2014

The founder of the oldest surviving specialist racing car manufacturer, John Crossle, has died. He was 82.

The Scottish-born farmer began his racing career in motorcycles, but by 1957 had been seduced by four wheels and set up the Crossle Car Company in County Down.

Unable to afford a Lotus, Crossle decided to build a racer himself in. His project was born of an unassuming turkey shed in Ulster, where he turned a Ford 10 van into his first racing car.

That same Ford special carried him to victory in his very first race at Ards in 1958. Demand for similar 1172cc specials came rolling in following his sporting success, and a short time later he'd built his second for an RAF officer at nearby Aldergrove.

The company expanded in the 1960s and began producing European Formula Junior, American Formula B and Formula C cars, with Roger Barr winning the SCCA National Formula B Championship in 1968 in a Crossle 12F, which prompted a wave of interest from the United States.

A year later, Scot Gerry Birrell won the European Formula Ford series at the wheel of the incredible Crossle F16 – Crossle's first foray into Formula Ford. Again, its resounding success and the publicity that followed filled up Crossle's order book. 

Greater success followed in the 1970s. At the beginning of the decade a Crossle 19F set the first 100mph lap at Aintree, while a 25F posted a new Formula Ford World Cup lap record at Brands Hatch two years later. By 1975 a 31F had won the British Formula Ford 2000 Championship, and a 30F conquered the SCCA Formula Ford Championship a year later.

Crossle's designs proved hugely popular throughout the '60s, '70s and '80s – up to 15 Grand Prix drivers including Nigel Mansell, Eddie Jordan and Eddie Irvine cut their teeth in his cars.