NZ Classic Driver
THE CARS OF STEPHEN BEATTIE
Ifirst met Stephen Beattie in the mid-1990s, at which time he owned Formtool – a light engineering company based in Howick. It was outside that factory that I first spotted his Cortina-powered and LolaClimax-inspired Beattie Clubman, and as a classic car and motorsport enthusiast and writer, I was soon in conversation with its creator with a view to putting together a feature on the car.
An opportunity to do just that came along in early 1996.
Stephen had been approached by Graeme Cameron, at that time a two-time winner of the Bridgestone Porsche Series, who wanted to investigate the feasibility of a Beattie as his next racing car.
As such, a track testing session was set up at Pukekohe Park – and I was invited along to record the occasion.
At Pukekohe, with Graeme at the wheel, lap times for the Clubman quickly tumbled down to an impressive 1:08s. Pleased with the outcome, Stephen would soon find himself building a racing car for Graeme – you can read more about that in our cover story.
With the track test complete, Stephen asked if I’d like to drive the Clubman back to Howick … is the Pope a Catholic?
Judging by the car’s obvious abilities on the circuit, I’d fully expected a race carfierce clutch and an indecent helping of NVH (noise, vibration and harshness).
I was totally wrong – Stephen’s little sports car was an absolute delight to drive. Its beautifully considered suspension set-up came as a total surprise. I wouldn’t experience a car with a better ride/handling compromise until, 12 months later, I got the opportunity to test-drive the very first Lotus Elise to arrive in New Zealand.
In the summer of 1997 I was also on hand as
Stirling Moss checked out the Beattie Clubman at Whenuapai’s Wings & Wheels event.
Some years later I was able to drive another of Stephen’s automotive creations; the midengined SR2000. Much quicker and even better balanced than his original Clubman – although rather less practical as a road car – the Toyota twin-cam-powered SR2000 was an absolute blast to drive.
By the time of my drive in the SR2000, the Beattie Clubman had taken on a life independent of Stephen, with its design and construction having been taken on by Kevin Hunt and his company, Redline Performance Cars. Indeed, my next drive in a Beattie would be at the wheel of a Toyota 3SGE-powered Redline Road Sport. Kevin had further developed the Clubman as a more track-focused car and while still a great car to drive, the RPC version could be a bit of a handful on bumpy roads when being driven quickly.
In the years that followed, Stephen’s life took a turn for the worse and for a time his passion for cars and motor racing took a back seat to personal issues and a family tragedy. I was happy to hook up with him again at the Ellerslie Intermarque Concours in 2019 and discover that he’d regained his mojo. Before long came news that he was once again busy designing and building cars.
Today Stephen is based in Geraldine so I haven’t had the chance to drive his latest cars – as featured in this edition – but I’d be willing to bet that both the LT16 and Paolo would be epic drives - definitely on my bucket list!