18 March 2011

Race Retro Packs Them In

Stoneleigh site celebrates 100 years of the Monte Carlo Rally with Lancia displays and 50 years of the Jaguar E-Type, while rally cars run a live rally stage outside.

The fourth Race Retro at the National Agricultural Centre in Stoneleigh 25-27 February showcased unimpeachably top cars and racers among the rough-and-tumble of its narrow aisles. And when you’d had your fill of looking and listening, there was always the Hall 4 autojumble, where you could buy a real Elva body and chassis to recreate an historic racer (and test your marriage vows, no doubt).

The main celebrations were of 100 years of the Monte Carlo rally and 50 years of the E-Type, so the Jaguar Heritage stand gathered early racers along with their competition brethren. Amongst those included were the OVC 501, the D-type prototype that never raced, and the Silk Cut Group C winner, alongside the XK120 coupe in which Stirling Moss and his co-drivers averaged 100 mph for seven days and seven nights at Montlhery in 1952.

A fabulous collection of rally Lancias lined up next to the Monte Carlo commemoration, featuring real Monte runners from years gone by, many of them the actual winners. There was also a welcome sighting of a favourite old warhorse, Baby Bertha, the V8 Vauxhall Magnum synonymous with the late, great Gerry Marshall. The duo annihilated the opposition in the 1975 and ’76 Tricentrol Supersaloon Championship. Along with bellowing in-car footage with Gerry in its glory days, it looked scary enough standing still, but will race again this year with the Classic Sports Car Club.

Outside, real rally cars performed in real time on the live rally stage, including Miki Biasion -- of Lancia fame--in an Integrale. Biasion also appeared on the interview stage, one of a string of guests including Russell Brookes, Barrie ‘Whizzo’ Williams and motorcycle aces Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read.

Agostini’s old mate Norman Dewis, these days elevated from test driver to messiah, remembered his adventures with the E-Type, one of 25 cars Dewis helped develop in his 36 years with Jaguar. He said the high spot was delivering the second E-Type to Switzerland in 11 hours – mostly in the dark – to help leaven the media frenzy over the svelte new sportster at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show. The crowd also had a rare opportunity to hear about his hitting 172 mph in a streamlined XK120 in Belgium, and rolling the XJ13 into a cabbage field.

As ever, aisles in three of the four halls were crammed with specialists, clubs, events organisers, artists and artisans – even the wild yellow ’37 “Fangio coupe” Chevy on Rally Preparation Services’ stand was a winner (of last year’s Peking-Paris Motor Challenge), and it’s for sale. Almost as old, the ex-Dennis Poore 1940 Dodge race transporter made its post-restoration debut after a three-year labour of love by its owner; this RAF surplus 1940 hauler was a regular sight in the paddocks in the post-war years carrying the ex-Scuderia Ferrari Alfa 8C-35 that entrepreneur, financier and racer Roger Dennistoun “Dennis” Poore somehow acquired, hill-climbed and raced.

Next to it was a battered Lancia Aurelia, bearing scars from the recent Monte Carlo Historique rally and ironically described as “concours original” on the stand of Jim Stokes Workshops, better known for its exquisite restorations and recreations. Stokes also displayed a perfect Alfa 6C 2300.

If you hadn’t noticed how strong the interest in historic racing has become, this show was a sharp reminder, with 28,300 visitors over the three days – up 1,300 from 2010. More at www.raceretro.com.

Meanwhile, across from the main halls on 26 February, H&H Auctions realized $89,100 for a restored 1967 Jaguar E-Type roadster. The 4.2 roadster was one of the last desirable S1s and one of only 863 right-hand drive examples built. It attracted spirited bidding and beat its estimate by £6,000.

In the Race Retro spirit, a well-used 1950 Healey Silverstone brought £121,000, but the Big Healey “Bulldog” racer of Denis Welch stalled at £180,000 before a disappointed crowd.

More modestly, a 1936 MG TA special went for £41,250, while two Aston Martin replicas – a DB3S and a DBR2, bizarrely with BMW and Jaguar power – sold for £35,200 and £38,500. Meanwhile some bold soul coughed up £7,700 for a restoration project 1964 A-H 3000 MkIII. A former press car, it certainly had a hard life at the start, anyway. One of only six Britannia GTs ever built fetched £8,525 as a rolling shell, minus its Ford Zephyr powerplant. The only left-hand drive example remains in the American Northwest.

In addition, the “Whizzo” Williams’ 1938 Austin Seven Pearl Cabriolet generated a decent £6,820 and a Triumph GT6 HSCC racer brought £4,400. Anybody lusting after a Ford Escort RS1600 could have done much worse than buy the 1971 rally car, built up from parts and raced all its life.

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