Race Retro – February 2013

RaceRetro, a celebration of classic motorsport, has been running for 10 years now, and I have attended every one since 2007. As well as being an enjoyable day out, it signifies the start of the motoring events season, as the dark winter days lengthen and the temperatures warm up (?!), meaning that spring its not far away. Whilst there can be no doubting the extra daylight evident both in the morning and evening, I was less sure about the temperature as a bitingly cold North East wind really make me question whether spring is just round the corner, but undeterred and well wrapped up, I headed off to Stoneleigh to see what was on offer for the 2013 event. There was lots of interest, and this report presents my highlights:


As in the last few years, Abarth UK have supported the event with a display comprising examples of the current range, complemented by a number of classic models. Of the latest cars, there was a 595 Competizione and a Punto SuperSport as well an example of the 500 Assetto Corse which was there to launch a Europe wide competition in 2013 to find new racing talent. Several Abarthisti have recently traded in their 500s for the 595 and observed that the car is so much “better” in lots of detailed ways, so I was unsure whether I should poke around the display car. But I did, and those Sabelt seats were really very nice, and fit me just perfectly… but no, before everyone gets excited, I’m not planning to change my 500 just yet!


Of the classic models, supplied by well known Abarth specialist Middle Barton Garage, the 750 Zagato was my favourite, but I have little doubt that any of the less potent models, ranging from a classic 595 to the Fiat 600-based 850TC and 1000TC would also be a riot to drive.


There was another Abarth on the MotorSport magazine stand, a 1963 Fiat Abarth 1000 Bialbero, and very lovely it was. I would rank this in my “top three” of the day. This car featured the Abarth twin cam 982cc engine that followed the same design principles as the earlier 750 Record Monza and 700 Bialbero cars that preceded it. All were specially built race cars, tuned for motor sport action. This particular car will be offered for sale by auction later in the year – lots of ££££ will be required to secure it, for sure.



Without doubt, the most valuable car at the show, and another one in my “top three” was this fabulous ex Richard Shuttleworth 1932 P3 Tip B Alfa, which was displayed on the VSCC stand.


The Alfa Owners Club had a Giulietta SZ on show, This was the rare Coda Tronca car, and is a recently restored car that competed in, among other races, the 1962 Le Mans. Very lovely.



Third of my “top three”, and also to be found on the VSCC stand was this lovely 1934 Ulster Aston Martin. It belongs to Nick Mason, and will be in action at the VSCC’s inaugural 2013 meeting at Silverstone on 21/21st April.


This DB2 was rather splendid, too


The legendary Quattro was on show, and quite right too. This car changed the face of rallying when it burst into the forests in 1980.



The little Seven was quickly adapter into a cheap car for motor sports in the 1920s and many of these models survive to this day. Here is one.







Just one example of this late 1940s model, a car based on cheap and readily available Ford Popular components.





There were surprisingly few sporting Fords in the display this year. The Lotus Cortina celebrates its 50th this year and there were a couple of these on show.

There was also a rather nice RS200 and a couple of Mark 1 Escorts.



As already noticed thanks to an imp-ressive (sorry!) display at the Historic Rally Car day at Gaydon in January, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the Hillman Imp. A special display of cars here ensured that the occasion did not pass unmarked here either. The Imp Club brought along 5 cars, including a replica Fraser Imp and the triple championship winning Bevan Imp built by the son and grandson of George Bevan, raced to victory by Bill McGovern who have been at the show on the Friday Other cars included, from the world of rallying , an ex-works Imp LWK700F, part of the team of Imps that won the team prize on the 1968 Scottish rally driven by Andrew Cowan.  There were also rallying Imps that are still racing as well as those used for production car trials by the Imp Club’s younger members, and the display included a rare Lynton twin cam Imp engine, which proved to be of technical interest to many visitors to the show.



There were a couple of examples of the surprisingly successful XJS-HE which did well in GT and Sports Car racing in the mid 1980s.


Several E Types were scattered throughout the event.

This C Type was on the stand promoting the Kop Hill Climb event. I’ve missed that event every year since its relaunch owing to being on holiday, but they certainly made it sound like it is well worth attending. The Jaguar was rather splendid, too.


Located in a different hall from previous years, the Lancia Owners Club had three cars on show: a Delta Integrale Evo, a Fulvia Coupe HF and a Fulvia Zagato. My camera seems to have missed the Hawk replica Stratos that was with them.



We were promised a special display in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Colin Chapman’s team’s first Formula 1 victory, and were not disappointed. Greeting visitors in the foyer of the complex was an example of the iconic Type 25 in which Jim Clark achieved notable success.


Inside the Halls, there was a much larger display put on by Classic Team Lotus. Along with an array of models and other memorabilia facilitated by the Chapman family and from the Jim Clark room, pride of place went to another example of the Type 25, which was shown alongside some of the original arrangement drawings for the model. These latter had never been seen in public before.

This Type 32B is a one-off, and was based on the Type 25.

In keeping with the Jim Clark theme was this fabulous Type 26 Elan. This is the very car which he drove, almost as a works test driver, and is believed to be the oldest surviving Elan, having the second chassis ever made and the ninth body. The car was recovered from a junk yard at Mallory Park once its significance was realised, and has been restored, which includes putting the earlier (and at the time troublesome) 1500 engine back in it.


Far more successful at the time was the Lotus Cortina, a car of which over 3000 examples were produced. It is often joked that the survival rate is 150%! This is a genuine one.

This is a Lotus Type 9, one of just a few such cars made, though you can see the obvious ancestry which led to the more well known Type 11

The Lotus 61 is a popular competitor in historic racing.


This WMB bodied sports car is based on an MGB, though you would probably never realise unless you were told. Not that much is known of the history of this car, though it appears to have had an eventful past before being rescued and restored.


Hard to believe, but it is 30 years since the launch of the Maestro, and a couple of MG versions were on show.


The zany MG Metro 6R4 was also staging an appearance.

There were of course a couple of the classic MGB as well.





A varied display by one of the dealers comprised the latest Three Wheeler and Plus Four with some older models. Almost impossible to spot the difference unless you look very closely!



The 240Z.


The Manta 400 may be the car we all remember, but before it came its saloon brother, the Ascona, like this one.



One of the last of the Group B cars, the iconic 205 Turbo 16. Fabulous.



The 40th anniversary of the Renault-Alpine A110’s success in the Monte Carlo rally was also being celebrated, and there was a splendid display of several A110 models in one of the halls, including the ex Pat Moss car (still unrestored).


A further assembly of cars including the later A610/GTA cars was to be found outside the main entrance.


An R5 Maxi Turbo was also on show.


A splendidly presented Nine.


An interesting array of historic stock cars featured in one of the halls. There was quite a contrast in size between the one based on a 1940s American Ford and the much smaller Ford Popular based models.



The Sunbeam Lotus, shown here in road going form.



This 1964 Corona is an unlikely, but effective competitor in historic touring car racing, where it often wins races.


Another outing for the promising Iceni. Powered by a 6.6 litre diesel engine with hybrid technology, the proud boast was that one of these with a 120 litre fuel tank could drive from London to Venice and back without refuelling.



This duo of TR2 and TR3 were for sale, and looked almost too good to use (and priced accordingly!).



Star of the Octane stand was this Turner, a now mostly forgotten marque from the 1950s and early 1960s.



An example of the Chevette HS, perfect example of how to transform a mundane family hatch into something very exciting indeed.


Well, not really, but as it looks like one (ish), what else should I call this rather individual creation?



An elegant small sports coupe.


There was a vast assembly of motorbikes in one of the halls, I am no expert on these, but I did take a few pictures, including an array of Suzukis that had been raced by the late Barry Sheene. and a series of Jim Lee machines.



As in previous years, a dazzling array of former rally cars (and some recreations) was on show, firstly inside one of the halls and then in action on a special stage. This year there were far more cars then in previous years, and rather than having only one car at a time on the stage, they were let out just seconds apart. Although the tarmac was dry, the surrounding mud was not, and there were plenty of spills as the drivers sought both to amuse themselves and to entertain the crowds. It was bitingly cold, but worth losing the sensation in my fingers to see and hear some of my favourite rally cars of all time (only an Integrale and a Chevette were missing!).




During the course of the three days, many famous people associated with motorsport participate in the event. The voice of rallying, Tony Mason, was to be heard providing commentary on the Rally special stage, and not only were the cars which he was talking about often replete with history themselves, but several well known former rally drivers were behind the wheel of them. Jimmy McRae was certainly enjoying himself at the wheel of the Subaru Legacy which his much missed son, Colin, had driven when it was new. When he saw my camera, he very kindly turned round and paused by the car for me.

Sadly I missed Sir Stirling who had been present on the Friday and Saturday, but I did catch Murray Walker. He gave a 20 minute interview and question/answer session. It’s probably just as well he was sitting down, as the red trousers he had selected really did look at odds with his choice of jacket, tie and shirt , but he more than made up for this with what he had to say. He talked about his love of bikes, and after challenging the audience to name the winner of the first Grand Prix on which he commentated, the 1949 British (and no, no-one knew!), he explained how he got started by doing the Public Addresses at Shelsley Walsh in 1948 when his father had to opt out and how we made sure he impressed a BBC man whom he knew to be there. I really did think that he could have talked – and held his audience spell-bound – all day.


Fifth Gear presenter and racing driver Tiff Needell had brought his newly restored Formula Ford Lotus 69F, his first racing car which he won in a competition run by the weekly racing magazine ‘Autosport’. It featured on a stand which was also there to promote both his recently published autobiography and his new racing school at Thruxton. He was on hand on and off during the day, though I confess I missed him whenever I went by the display area. Although these days he is best known as a tv presenter, he had a chequered career in the sport, starting by working his way up through the national racing scene to become a Formula Ford Champion in 1975. From there the only way was up: he finished fourth in the 1978 British Formula Three Championship, behind future Grand Prix stars Nelson Piquet and Derek Warwick; and in his debut British Formula One race he came second. A lot of driving followed, including: Le Mans, British Touring Car Championship and the Rally of Great Britain.



Perhaps wisely, the organisers had decided that the surrounding grass fields were too soggy to be used as parking, so they had to accommodate visiting cars on the various areas of hard-standing on the site. By virtue of arriving a few minutes before the show opened, I got in an area very close to the exhibition halls, but others were not so lucky having a long walk. This did mean that it was rather harder to scan the car parks for interesting vehicles, but in the area I did survey I found a few notables.


I enjoyed my day at Race Retro. For sure it was the coldest one yet, and t could not help feel that the main halls had less in them than in previous years, with more trade stands and less machinery than before, but the cars on show did pretty well make up for this and despite noting that ticket prices have crept up (£25 each on the door, down to £18 thanks to a discount code, but with the iniquitous £2 booking fee if bought in advance), but this is a once a year opportunity to see some of our motor racing history and heritage and as Murray Walker so carefully observed “now I’ve discovered it, I will be back”.

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