Arnolt Bertone Aston Martin DB2/4 Spyder enters the fray at the Donington Historic
An Arnolt-aston DB2/4 Spyder makes its historic racing debut
The seventh Donington Historic celebrated a host of anniversaries, including a halfcentury of Formula 2 and 40 years since the track’s rebirth. But this unusual Aston – still wearing the bespoke body Bertone gave it for the 1954 Chicago Auto Show – was the star of the centrepiece Woodcote Trophy.
Arnolt’s Aston DB2/4
‘Stanley “Wacky” Arnolt commissioned Bertone to build these bodies with the intention of persuading Aston to let him build a racing Spyder for the US market,’ said David Reed, who was looking after the car for owner Heinz Stamm. ‘This one was based on a DB2/4 chassis and exhibited successfully at the 1954 Chicago Auto Show, so Arnolt went back to Aston to request a run of DB2/4 chassis and engines for limited production. Aston said no, so Arnolt approached Bristol instead and the rest is history with the better-known Arnolt-bristols.’ Arnolt only built three Aston Martin Spyders of which this is the second, although a further four were commissioned from Bertone. ‘We’ve had to give it a full mechanical rebuild for historic competition, but the body is original,’ said Reed. ‘It raced in the US when new, competing against Ferrari 250 Testa Rossas and the like in SCCA races – in fact it still has its Jackson Hill Hillclimb scrutineering tags from 1957 and 1958.’
Ford Cortina GT
‘It was an industrial unit find from Kent – doesn’t sound as romantic as a barn find!’ quips BTCC legend Steve Soper of his personal restoration project which raced for the first time at Donington.
‘It was just an ordinary Cortina GT, but the bodyshell made the ideal basis for a racer. Everything else came courtesy of Lotus, Neil Brown engines, and Barry Plowman at Team Dynamics.’
Team Dynamics – best known as Honda’s works BTCC squad – collaborated with Soper on the restoration. ‘Steve’s been really hands-on, putting blood, sweat and tears into this car over the past three weeks,’ said Plowman, Team Dynamics’ technical director. ‘He took on some pretty major jobs himself, including interior trim, bodywork
fitting and fuel tank installation, but it was built alongside the works Honda BTCC cars at the Team Dynamics HQ.
‘We got into historics for a bit of fun,’ says Plowman. ‘There’s so much pressure to perform in the BTCC, but with historic racing you can still drive away from a bad weekend happy, without feeling like you’ve lost!’
It looked competitive, and it was. ‘I qualified third in the U2TC Trophy,’ said Soper. ‘That’s not bad for its first time out, considering it ran for the first time on an airfield at 8pm last night!’ Soper performed even better in the race itself, finishing second behind Alfaholics’ Giulia Sprint GTA.
Triumph Herald Coupé
This Triumph – one of just two historic racing examples – has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround.
‘I bought it from an old lady in Carshalton,’ said Daryll Davies, owner of Motorbuild Racing and brother of racing driver Rae. ‘She used to take it to classic car shows in the Nineties and was very proud of it, winning 100 club concours trophies, but it reached a point where she just couldn’t afford to repair it, and put it in her garage where it deteriorated badly.
‘It’s a 1959 car, which makes it extremely rare because the Coupé was launched late that year and has never been common, but it also makes it eligible for the HRDC’S Pre-1960 Touring Greats.
’It cost me £2000, but then I gave it a noexpense-spared restoration which came to £40,000. I’m prepared to be corrected but at a guess I reckon it’s probably the world’s most expensive Triumph Herald!’
This Dino Formula Two car was the highlight of the Historic’s 50th anniversary F2 celebration race, and has just been restored to how Ernesto ‘Tino’ Brambilla would’ve remembered it in 1969 – as opposed to Chris Amon in 1968.
‘This chassis – 004 – has two specifications, Tasman and F2,’ said Rob Hall of Hall & Hall. ‘It’s was restored to Tasman specification in New Zealand in the Eighties. Chris Amon drove it in 1968, winning at Pukekohe and Levin, but it was at its most successful when reconfigured for Formula Two, Brambilla winning at Hockenhaim, Vallelunga, and at Buenos Aires in the Temporada series in 1969. That’s how we’ve restored it now, and this is its first race in historic F2 after a successful test at Silverstone last weekend.
‘After its F2 career it was maintained by Ferrari and used to evaluate the skills of potential F1 drivers up to 1971.
‘Then Luigi Chinetti put it in his New York showroom, where it was bought by businessman Larry Wilson who kept it in his office until 1985, displayed on an Oriental rug!’
Arch Formula Classic
Fancy a Fifties-style single-seater for £8000? That’s how much Warren Johnson’s 1992 Formula Classic was being offered for in the paddock, admittedly without an engine, and although it’s a pastiche it’s still got pedigree.
‘They cost £70,000 each to build – 15 were made in total,’ said Johnson. ‘They were made by Arch Motors, who made chassis for F1 teams including Brabham. It was a concept of Tom Wheatcroft’s – corporate race days in Fifties-style Grand Prix cars – but the Ford Sierra Cosworth-based engines were terribly unreliable.
‘Donington’s board of directors fell out over the whole idea so they only raced once before being auctioned off. Most were broken for spares because they have such parts as the Cosworth engine, bag fuel tank, AP Racing F3000-derived brakes, Willans harnesses and Sparco seats. This one – chassis 13 – is one of two or three remaining.’
Fit your own engine and it’d make a fantastic track day or hillclimb project – call Johnson on 07961 871230 if you’re interested.
Soper’s Cortina was a BTCC team’s after-hours project
Arnolt-aston’s Swiss owner bravely allows it to be raced with original body Dino 166 appeared at Donington newly restored to its original F2 spec The Arches promptly collapsed Sixty-six genre-defining After an impressive concours career, and now a £40k rebuild, this Herald now races in historics