Classic Wheels

SAM JOHN­STON’S FIRST CAR – THE JWF MILANO – LOOKED LIKE NOTH­ING LESS THAN A SMALL FER­RARI MONZA, MARANELLO’S CLASSIC 1950s RACER. EX­CEPT, IN­STEAD OF THE LAMPREDI 3.0-LITRE FOUR-CYLIN­DER EN­GINE, JOHN­STON’S COPY OF THE PIN­IN­FA­RINA BEAUTY SAT OVER THE CHASSI

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - FIRST PUB­LISHED MARCH 1983

Home-built thoroughbreds

After sell­ing around 200 Mi­lanos, JWF moved on to build-ity­our­self Holden-pow­ered sports cars, be­fore John­ston sold the by-then much-di­ver­si­fied busi­ness in 1979.

Sam John­ston, how­ever, al­ways had the idea of build­ing a sin­gle-seat rac­ing car. He’d con­sid­ered build­ing a Maserati 250F around a Maser Se­bring en­gine, “but the 250F had a com­bined gear­box and dif­fer­en­tial and there was no way I was go­ing to build that.”

At the time his garage con­tained a 246 Dino GT and a 308 Dino. Why not build a Grand Prix Dino, the 2.5-litre V6 from 1959/60? Not the stumpy 1958 Dino that took Mike Hawthorn to the world cham­pi­onship, but the later, more el­e­gant, Formula Two model com­plete with disc brakes and wish­bone in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion, one of the last front-en­gine Grand Prix cars. How­ever, John­ston dis­cov­ered that only one chas­sis was built and the car no longer ex­isted.

The late Gra­ham Howard’s Wheels story de­tails how John­ston went about find­ing the ba­sic di­men­sions by ex­am­in­ing in de­tail any pho­to­graphs of the car and even­tu­ally made scale draw­ings of the chas­sis. In 1980, on an over­seas trip, he vis­ited JCB Bamford in Eng­land, the firm hav­ing com­mis­sioned four replica Di­nos that were built by Grey­paul Mo­tors. “I took a cou­ple of rolls of pho­to­graphs and mea­sured the cars all over,” John­ston told Howard. “When I got home and com­pared all the JCB mea­sure­ments against what I’d built, I was bug­ger-all out.”

With the help of ded­i­cated and tal­ented friends, John­ston recre­ated the Dino. He searched the world for an en­gine and gear­box be­fore Maranello Con­ces­sion­aires, then the Fer­rari dis­trib­u­tors for the UK and Aus­tralia, mirac­u­lously found a new Dino 246 V6, still in its box. This en­gine went into Sam’s 246 GT, the road car’s trans­verse mounted V6 then had to be mod­i­fied to sit “more or less” lon­gi­tu­di­nally in the rac­ing car. The body was fi­bre­glass and not the orig­i­nal’s hand-beaten al­loy, though vis­ually you can’t pick the dif­fer­ence.

John­ston’s Dino first ap­peared in pub­lic at the 1982 Ama­roo Park His­toric race meet­ing where it cre­ated both dis­be­lief and de­light. Dur­ing demon­stra­tion laps, it looked and sounded mag­nif­i­cent, even if the 135kw en­gine didn’t quite match the per­for­mance of the circa-215kw of the real GP car.

“JOHN­STON WENT ABOUT FIND­ING THE BA­SIC DI­MEN­SIONS BY EX­AM­IN­ING ANY PHO­TO­GRAPHS OF THE CAR AND EVEN­TU­ALLY MADE SCALE DRAW­INGS OF THE CHAS­SIS”

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