words and pictures by David Champ.
The profile of the GT40 rises year on year. I expect mainly due to the new Ford GT and the publicity it brought to the marque in general, it now seems every schoolboy once again recognises the shape. Perhaps more so now even than in the 1960's and the stands at the Classic Motor Show reflected this trend. There were no less than three full island stands, spookily adjacent, highlighting exclusively or prominently a modern replica of the 1960's classic sports racer, plus several other examples dotted around this enormous exhibition.
First, and naturally foremost, was our very own GT40 Enthusiasts Club. We were showing three replicas: centre stage, and looking better than ever, was the silver CAV monocoque of Christine and John Beattie; to the left the GTD40 of Martin Gough and to the right the Tornado TS40 of Wilf Atkins. The island stand certainly was a major improvement on the half-stands we have had in the past, well done to Richard Guest and accomplices.
Next was Gerry Hawkridge's Hawk Cars stand showing a stunningly beautiful SPFGT Mk1 in classical Gulf Colours and an equally shiny MkII in Silver with black stripes. Also on the stand were a Cobra Daytona and one of my old favourites the Hawk 289, an excellent 289 Cobra replica, more understated than your typical hairy Cobras.
The Mk1 had about the best paint job I've seen and even the marigold wheel spokes were absolutely gleaming. It looked just as good on the inside trim-wise, unfortunately I didn't get a look under the hood. Click on the image for a larger view. The application of period decals certainly gives it that authentic appearance.
The third GT40 stand was that of RCR with Fran Hall. He only seized the opportunity at the very last minute and I make no apology for devoting a good deal of the report to his exhibits as I believe they were the most interesting items on display. I had caught a glimpse of the RCR aluminium monocoque on the GT40s forum but it was a treat to see it in the 'flesh'. Click on the images for a larger view and to gaze at the quality of the design and workmanship. One of the chassis was cloaked in a body shell which looked to fit very well out of the mould.
I was able to get a full tour of the chassis with Fran who explained his approach to the design. Most of the monocoque is made from 1/4" aluminium sheet welded together with a very attractive and consistent finish; hopefully this comes over in the photos. The whole chassis looks very strong yet simple in construction; Fran says it has 10,000 lb [per degree] stiffness. The pressure tested fuel tanks are separate yet welded in to form an integral part of the chassis giving much of the longitudinal strength.
There is an option to fit bag tanks within them to meet racing regulations. There appears to be comparatively plenty of room in the footwell, this may be aided by the fact that virtually all the pick up points match that of an original GT40. The one exception is apparently the forward mounting points for the trailing arms - these have been moved further inboard to reduce toe changes on cornering which suits modern radial tyres (hope I got that right!).
The uprights and even wishbones are CNC'd from billet aluminium of the 'right' grade, Fran doesn't believe in castings as they may contain flaws. My understanding is that in practice if properly heat treated and stress tested this isn't an issue but certainly using billets lowers the tooling investment and avoids these production processes. Its an interesting concept using aluminium wishbones, I expect they bend just like steel tubes if you hit something!
All the suspension was rose jointed and was adjustable for the usual setup procedures. The 'horseshoe' at the rear wishbone suspension mounts (see right) was a thing of beauty on its own and looked massively strong. The rear tray was cleverly supported by adjustable rods and holds the mounts for the rear body moulding.
All in all an impressive piece of engineering, well finished. Fran says a finished car would be 2300 lbs, which is relatively light. Its maybe not everyone's cup of tea, and definitely not a replica mono, but as valid as a spaceframe with the advantage that the 'panelling' is already complete!!
Apart from the GT40 contingent, the show is a must for any and every lover, or even luke warm follower, of older cars. I visited last time two years ago and it seems a good deal larger; mind you the prices, especially on the Sunday are larger too! It was attached to Clarkson's MPH section but I didn't have a backwards-baseball-cap so couldn't gain entry - I suppose I could have borrowed Brian Magee's (sorry Brian). Actually I did have a swift walk around the area where there was a new Ford GT and other even better looking models.
On a closing note, there was another regular feature at the show namely Sporting Bears, with the GT40 band organised by John Wisher. Visitors pay a fee to a charity in return for a trip in their chosen car. Pete Bryant and Paul Brameld seemed very busy taking passengers around a local loop of roads, fortunately the weather was kind, at least Friday. Hats off to the guys who gave their time to this feature, it's a brillliant concept as every one wins.