Hamp­ton Court Con­cours of Ele­gance

An in­cred­i­ble Mclaren F1 GTR Le Mans vet­eran makes its post-restora­tion de­but

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents -

The sev­enth Con­cours of Ele­gance brought ev­ery­thing from Twen­ties coach­built one-offs to bat­tle-hard­ened Nineties en­durance rac­ers to the grav­elled boule­vards of Hamp­ton Court Palace.

Mclaren F1 GTR

Mclaren launched its cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gramme with the un­veil­ing of a 1997 Le Mans F1 GTR Long Tail, fresh from a two-year restora­tion. Said her­itage man­ager Tom Rein­hold, ‘It was the last con­tem­po­rary Mclaren F1 race car and the first time a GTR has been restored to this level. We were up un­til four or five o’clock yes­ter­day to get it ready.’

A fire forced Ray Bellm, Andrew Gil­bert-scott and Masanori Sekiya to re­tire chas­sis 025R from Le Mans in 1997 af­ter 326 laps, but 020R and 026R came home sec­ond and third.

‘From 1999-2005 it was cam­paigned by Hi­tot­suyama Rac­ing in Ja­pan, be­fore end­ing up in a col­lec­tion, painted white. Our brief was to take it back to com­pletely orig­i­nal 1997 Le Mans spec­i­fi­ca­tion, right down to the aerial. It still had the orig­i­nal tub, though it had been re­paired a few times, but it has seen a lot of changes to both the me­chan­i­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tion and body to keep it com­pet­i­tive.

‘Around 90 per cent of the parts needed were avail­able from stock – even the tyres and mag­ne­sium wheels. We had to open a lot of pack­ing cases to dis­cover just what we had. The hard­est job was work­ing out ex­actly how the car ran at Le Mans that year, be­cause spec­i­fi­ca­tions, even spon­sor­ship de­cals, changed from race to race. For­tu­nately we have an ac­cu­rate ar­chive, in­clud­ing old emails and let­ters, and could talk to peo­ple like orig­i­nal team prin­ci­pal Michael Cane and lead tech­ni­cian Russell Han­cox.’

Fiat 1200 Won­der­ful

One of two sur­viv­ing Fiat 1200 Won­der­fuls made its post-restora­tion de­but at Hamp­ton Court. It was one of five bod­ied by Vig­nale to a Gio­vanni Mich­e­lotti de­sign. Said Scott King, who man­aged the restora­tion for owner Stephen Bruno, ‘It’s the per­fect blend of Ital­ian and Amer­i­can styling. It was built in 1958, mak­ing it the first-ever targa top. And un­like the later Tri­umph TR4, when the top comes off it fits in the trunk.

‘The car was found in Italy with the third owner, who hadn’t com­pleted the restora­tion. The trick­i­est part was ad­her­ing to au­then­tic­ity and us­ing the cor­rect ma­te­ri­als. Most of the car is orig­i­nal, even the glass, but we had to fab­ri­cate the stain­less steel side trims from pho­to­graphs – each car is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. It needed new wheel cov­ers, which are from a Dual Ghia, but for­tu­nately we found a restora­tion shop that had made a batch of them and had some spare.’

1957 Fer­rari 500 TRC

The last four-cylin­der Fer­rari ever built made its UK event de­but since be­ing im­ported from Ja­pan. Said owner Chan­tal Chamandy, ‘When I found the car it had been kept in the owner’s liv­ing room. It looked pris­tine but I had to do a me­chan­i­cal over­haul – it hadn’t been driven. It’s chas­sis 0708MDTR and was or­dered new by John Von Neu­mann, who had it painted in the rac­ing colour of Ger­many, but with the red stripe in hon­our of Fer­rari. I picked it be­cause it was the pret­ti­est car I’d seen, and it drives so well. It just wants to go. Al­though I’ve driven it on track I haven’t raced it, but it’s won­der­ful to drive on a rally.’

In 1958 the TRC was bought by Jack Nether­cutt, who raced it suc­cess­fully through to 1960, af­ter which sub­se­quent own­ers fit­ted a Buick NASCAR V8 and then an­other TRC engine be­fore it was re­united with its orig­i­nal straight-four in 1990.

Rolls Phan­tom I

Frédéric Ler­oux sums up his taste in clas­sics with the likes of Biz­zarrini 5300GTS, so the Rolls-royce Phan­tom I Coupé Chauf­feur he bought last year, com­plete with van­ity set and pas­sen­ger-to-driver in­ter­com, sits oddly. ‘I was flick­ing through an auc­tion cat­a­logue and went back to it three times.

‘I found I couldn’t avoid buy­ing it. It rep­re­sents the time when wealthy peo­ple had no shame in show­ing their wealth. It’s a car­i­ca­ture of os­ten­ta­tion, or­dered by a wealthy widow, Irene Schoelkopf Car­man in 1929, just be­fore the fi­nan­cial crash, with gold-plated ev­ery­thing.

‘The gold wicker-ef­fect on the rear body­work would have taken the crafts­man at Brew­ster three months to com­plete, ap­ply­ing it with a de­vice like a cake icer. As soon as Irene’s sec­ond hus­band died, she bought this car. But his fam­ily de­cided that she didn’t de­serve the money and made her give it back.’

Restora­tion of the Mclaren F1 GTR back to orig­i­nal 1997 Le Mans spec was com­pleted just hours be­fore the show

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