Classic Sports Car
CHRIS CRAFT 1939-2021
Former tin-top hero, Le Mans ace and later specialist car manufacturer Chris Craft died on 20 February following a lengthy illness.
Having started his career in the automotive industry with an apprenticeship at Ford, Craft soon found his way into the competition department and began racing in ’61 in a press fleet Anglia. He became a stalwart of the British touring car scene driving for Superspeed, Broadspeed and Gordon Spice.
Although perhaps best known for his exploits in saloons – he narrowly missed out on the 1969 BSCC title – Craft drove some 44 different makes and models in a wide variety of formulae across his 20-plus years on track.
He achieved huge success in sports cars, with 14 appearances at Le Mans and victory in the 1973 European Sports-prototype Championship, but his Formula One record was rather shorter, with just two disastrous outings in 1971 aboard Alain de Cadenet’s Ecurie Evergreen Brabham BT33.
“I never really liked single-seaters,” Craft told Richard Heseltine in a 2010 interview for C&SC, having watched too many of his friends perish in open-wheelers. “I did Formula Three and F5000, but I preferred saloons and sports cars.”
The redundant Brabham formed the basis of the Duckhams Special that Craft raced at La Sarthe in 1972, introducing him to a young South African designer by the name of Gordon Murray. Some years after his final race – Le Mans in 1984 – Craft and Murray were reunited for a road car project, the sensational Light Car Company Rocket. “For years I’d wanted to do a road car but he was always too busy,” said Craft. “Gordon wanted a single-seater, but I’m no fan of those so we compromised on a tandem layout.”
Always busy himself, from furniture to F1 to fishing, Craft was a great character who will be sorely missed.