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    Classics at La Sarthe The biennial gathering for the #2016-Le-Mans-Classic always attracts some stunning BMWs. If you’re keen on classic racing you really should take a trip down memory lane at the biennial Le Mans Classic Words: Jeroen de Laat. Photography: De Laat Foto / #Le-Mans-Classic

    Once a year the streets of #Le-Mans and surrounding villages combine together to create one of the longest and most demanding race circuits in the world. Although the shape and length of the track has been modified several times over the past century, the Circuit de la Sarthe has been hosting a 24-hour motor race here since 1923. The track’s basis is formed by the pit straight and some other parts of the short permanent Bugatti circuit, including the legendary Esses chicane and the iconic Dunlop Bridge. But the larger part consists of roads that are open to the public for the rest of the year, making a total length of 13.6km in its current shape. The fact that 85 percent of the lap is spent at full throttle makes it a fast track that is extremely demanding for man and machine. This is part of the appeal for teams, drivers and spectators alike, and one of the reasons why this amazing circuit is almost celebrating its 100th anniversary.

    With the ever-increasing number of spectators, as well as the extensive safety measures required to turn roads into a race track, the event requires a lot of preparation. And that is what caused French classic event organiser Patrick Peter to have a brainwave approximately a decade ago. Why not benefit from all these efforts and have a classic race on this temporary track as well? The operator of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Automobile Club de L’Ouest (ACO), liked the idea and Le Mans Classic was born.

    The event has a 24-hour format, although realistically we cannot expect the legendary and often priceless racers of yesteryear to compete for 24 hours, so the past century of motoring is divided into six eras making six classes, so cars can compete with their contemporary rivals. Each grid performs several one-hour stints over a period of 24 hours, so in total there is 24 hours of continuous and varied action.

    The 2016 Le Mans Classic was the eighth running of this classic event. Taking place every other year it is blessed with a booming public interest that resembles the original 24-hour race. And just like that event, there were a series of support events to get the public warmed up. These included: close to 40 Group C cars racing, including 20 of Porsche’s legendary 962; the Jaguar Classic Series, which saw 19 times 24-Heures participant Andy Wallace win at the wheel of the D-Type which won the race in 1955 (driven by Mike Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb); and Little Big Mans, where the kids do their own race in miniature versions of the actual Le Mans cars, complete with a running Le Mans start and driven by real petrol engines. There’s also a great car auction, while the exceptionally sunny and warm weather completed this year’s package.

    It was no wonder then that a record 123,000 spectators flocked to the circuit to see 550 cars, 1000 drivers (among them ten former Le Mans winners) and 8500 club cars on display. The event saw a celebration of BMW’s centenary in the form of popular club sessions, which allowed club members the rare opportunity of doing a few laps on the official circuit, and BMW demos, which featured BMW M cars ranging from the earliest cars up to the most recent models. We were very happy to get a few passenger laps to experience the track in its full glory!

    In BMW’s exhibition we found several special cars including: the legendary #BMW-328-Touring-Le-Mans ; a 507 Roadster; the 1977 Roy Lichtenstein E21 320i Art Car (that participated in the 1977 Le Mans race); and the V12 LMR that took the overall victory in 1999.

    Need more? How about the prestigious Concours Le Mans Heritage Club for cars that actually raced at Le Mans awarding the McLaren F1 GTR with a best in class award for the 1983-2016 period? And all this was on offer even before the racing began in earnest!

    On the Saturday afternoon Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake, main sponsor Richard Mille (main partner of Le Mans Classic with EFG), and Pharrell Williams opened the event under the supervision of FIA president Jean Todt. The event started off with the oldest cars in ‘Plateau One’. A Swiss gentleman we have seen racing BMWs many times before, Christian Traber (who is well-known behind the steering wheel of a 2002 and an #BMW-M1-E26 / #BMW-E26 ), was now racing against BMW.

    Together with the American former SCCA driver, Spencer Trenery, they steered their 1939 Talbot Lago to first position overall, with another Talbot right behind them, relegating the BMW 328s to third and fourth places; the French équipe Bally/Leseur took third with the German 328 team Otten and Horbach not far behind. In total nine 328s took part. It was amazing to see so many of these cars on track at one time, and it gave us a real feeling for what club racing must have been like in the late 1930s.

    Apart from the BMW engines in several prototype cars from the 1960s and 1970s, especially the #M10 and #M12 four-cylinder, we saw a #BMW-2002 in action. The Group 2 2002Ti of Renavand and Bonny completed the event without issue and even though there was no fighting the mighty Lola T70s and the M12-powered Chevrons, they duo stood their ground in their own class.

    More BMW action was to be had when the ‘Plateau Six’ cars entered the arena. Two wonderful #BMW-E9 3.0 CSL Coupés caught our eye. Adrian Brady had a disappointing event when he ran into issues with his CSL during qualifying. Even though the mechanics thought it was only a head gasket failure they didn’t want to take any risks with the rare #BMW-M49 engine and parked the car up for the rest of the event. The second #BMW-3.0-CSL-E9 driven by Werginz/Janits/Andree/Huber failed after just two laps into race two. We spoke to Andree afterwards and learned that a broken con rod bolt unfortunately ruined their event. It was a pity after seeing so many CSLs being successful run at other events.

    In grid number six we saw some flame-spitting Lola prototypes, although when it came to BMWs spitting flames, the M1 immediately comes to mind. Christian Traber was fastest of his class with his M1 but two other M1s also completed the event without any issues.

    Every edition of Le Mans Classic is bigger and better than the previous one, and this eighth running of the event was no exception. It was a wonderful experience. The only down side is that we now need to wait two years for the next one. We recommend that you make a note in your diary to keep some days free in July 2018!

    Lovely #BMW-507 and V12 LMR were exhibited in the BMW pavilion; this year’s event was opened by Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake, Richard Mille, Pharrell Williams and Jean Todt.

    Mixed grids add to the glamour of the Le Mans Classic.

    Right: BMW-engined Lola caught in wonderful flame-spitting action.

    Above: Superb #BMW-2002-Ti-Group-2 car of Renavand and Bonny went very well in ‘Plateau 5’ but couldn’t hope to keep up with the Lolas, Porsches and Ferraris in its class. Below and Left: #BMW owners had the rare chance to drive the full Le Mans circuit in their road-going cars during the event.

    Even though they never won the event the #BMW-M1 is always linked with Le Mans – they competed here for eight consecutive years from 1979 to 1986 – and Christian Traber’s example (above, seen leading a Ferrari 512 BB LM) was as quick as ever being the fastest M1 in its class. Below: The Latham and Baud M1 looking great with driving lights fitted.

    Above: Little Big Mans sees children competing in scaled down replicas complete with the traditional Le Mans running start! Left: Stunning (full-size) #BMW-328 pulling away from the start.

    The Roy Lichtenstein #BMW-E21 / #BMW-320i-Art-Car that took part in the 1977 Le Mans race looked as fantastic as ever – what a machine!

    Sadly both the CSLs entered this year suffered engine troubles but we know they’ll be back to fight another day.
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    RM Sothebys Monterey Sale, 19-20 August ESTIMATE: $700,000 - £900,000

    / #1939 / #BMW-328 / #BMW /

    The values of 328s have been going north for some time now and this one is by no means at the expensive end of the scale, perhaps because very little is known of its early life. What is known is that for the last 30 years it’s been loved and cherished by two American owners who have used the car extensively competing in various classic events in California and beyond. As such it represents a rare opportunity for someone looking to competitively race a 328. You’ll need half a million in the bank if it goes for its low estimate… nearly three-quarters of a million if it sells for its high estimate!
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    BMW to feature at #Goodwood

    At this year’s #Goodwood-Festival of Speed #BMW will be the featured marque and the Central Feature will celebrate BMW’s myriad of motorsport successes. Taking a starring role on the sculpture created by Gerry Judah will be the legendary #BMW-328 #Mille-Miglia-Roadster , the Gordon Murray-designed #Brabham-BMW-BT52 , and the Le Mans-winning BMW V12 LMR. Visitors will be able to see and hear many products from BMW’s past that continue to make their mark today. Cars steering their way up Goodwood’s 1.16-mile course will include a beautiful 1957 507, the Mille Migliawinning 328 Touring Coupé from 1940, and a 1965 1800 TiSA – an early example of BMW’s success in touring car racing. Meanwhile, motorbike enthusiasts will be treated to an array of classic and modern bikes including a 1966 R50 S Kaczor, a 1976 R90 S 76 and legendary WR 750 Kompressor from 1929. / #BMW-328-Mille-Miglia-Roadster

    The M4 GTS will be on public view for the first time at Goodwood – both up the hill and on display – and there will be an ‘M Avenue’ that will celebrate iconic M cars from the last 40 years alongside the hottest new M products, including the new M2. The Goodwood Festival of Speed runs from 23 to 26 June.
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    Glorious #1938 #BMW-328-Stunning southern hemisphere pre-war classic still in regular use. This glorious #BMW-328 is the only one in the southern hemisphere and is still exercised on a regular basis as Chris Nicholls recounts.

    Photography and word by Chris Nicholls. Southern Comfort. This wonderful pre-war 328 is reputed to be the only one left in the southern hemisphere.

    It’s a beautiful sunny spring day in Melbourne , Australia , and the warm breeze blows through my hair. All around people are looking, waving and smiling. My cheeks hurt from the permanent grin I’ve been wearing since we started out towards our shoot location. This is the joy of driving in its purest form. This is what the 1938 328 can give you.

    Designed in an era of classical fussiness, the 328 stood out for its clean, simple design. Not for the rational Germans the highly decorated and adorned surfaces of its rivals. Neither the pretty but impractical design touches that made others harder to work on than necessary. This was German design in its purest form and a symbol of what BMW would go on to be famous for – simple beauty and a focus on the very best driving experience.

    Funnily enough, the 328, despite its inclusion as one of the ‘Cars of the Century’ by a mix of experienced motoring journalists, has always been seen by many as actually too good to have a soul as a result. Its immense practicality, highly influential engine and excellent handling meant it lacked character to some.

    This is of course rubbish. I defy anyone to climb in, go for a drive and not come away with an insane grin. The roar of the triple downdraught Solex carbequipped 1971cc OHV straight-six at full bore, the rock solid mid-corner grip and availability of throttle- induced oversteer even in the dry is a fantastic combination, and that’s before we get to the pure pleasure of driving such an iconic car in modern day traffic. Yes, you have to deal with the actual traffic itself for a little while, but even then people just love seeing such cars on the road, and the joy you give them is a part of what makes driving a classic sports car like the 328 so special. And once you get to the twisties, you really see where BMW’s famous DNA came from. There’s a hint of initial understeer (mainly due to the tyres), then balanced mid-corner poise and the aforementioned twitch of the tail on command as you exit. The engine never feels weak on the straights either, even by today’s standards. Admittedly this example is running a sports cam and puts out a resulting 100hp or so, as opposed to the 80 it came with from the factory, but even in standard form, with only 830kg wet weight to push around, this car wouldn’t have hung about.

    The race results show just how effective a sports car the 328 was in its period, too. As many readers will no doubt know, the 328 came first in class at the Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring in 1936, then went on to take over 100 class wins in #1937 before winning its class at Le Mans, the RAC Tourist Trophy, the Alpine Rally and the Mille Miglia in ‘38. By the standards of the day, it was a rocket ship, and the fact current caretaker, Ken Bedggood of the Penrite Collection, has had it down the standing quarter at 17.2 seconds highlights that fact.

    Remarkably, as mentioned earlier, for all its speed, it’s still a very practical car. The boot, while it lacks rear access, is cavernous, and fitting in all my camera gear (and there was a lot) was easy. It could have held more, too. The rear-hinged ‘crocodile’ bonnet and quick-release clasps on the leather straps mean working on the engine is a breeze, and even the seats come out with a simple tug to ensure you can sit and enjoy a picnic without ever getting your clothes dirty.

    Of course, the completely unsecured seats, scalloped doors, lack of belts and the enamelled dashboard being only a small distance from your chest means should something bad ever happen, you’re probably toast, but that’s part of the thrill. Plus, you’re likely to be driving this a bit more carefully than your average family hatchback anyway.

    Having said that, this particular example gets driven with some enthusiasm on a regular basis, thanks to Bedggood’s philosophy that cars are meant to be used. A former champion rally driver here in Australia and manager of the Team Penrite historic racing team when he’s not running the museum and building/maintaining the cars, Bedggood has both the skills and experience to handle machines like the 328 and should he ever get hit by someone when he’s out driving, he at least has the skills to repair it himself, being a qualified fitter and turner.

    The fact this 328 does get driven almost everywhere is perhaps all the more remarkable when you consider this is the only one in the southern hemisphere. That’s right, of the 464 produced, this is the only remaining example south of the equator, and probably one of only a couple of hundred left running. (there was one other here for a while, but that was on loan to #BMW-Australia from #BMW Welt, and has since gone back). It’s so rare that Bedggood says he’s had ‘ludicrous’ offers for it in recent years, but thankfully for Australians, the owner, Penrite Oils CEO John Dymond, has no intention of parting with it.

    “Because all the Europeans have been buying them up [in recent times], we have so few of these classics here in Australia any more; we have to keep the ones we’ve got. I mean, I understand those who do sell, as it’s basically their retirement fund, but we’ve got to hold onto some, otherwise what’s going to happen to the next generation? We can’t pass on that passion,” says Bedggood.

    That’s why he takes it out as often as he can. Whether it’s the Geelong Speed Trials, where it ran its 17.2 quarter, or the famous Phillip Island Classic, where it competed in the regularity field a few years back, Bedggood ensures it get used as intended. Just a few weeks after this shoot, it went out in the Breast Cancer Foundation Rally, and later in 2016 it will be in the parade contingent for the Clipsal 500 V8 Supercars season opener in Adelaide.

    Sadly, due to a small oil leak, it’s likely not going to be driven interstate for that, but the very fact it gets driven almost everywhere else is almost a miracle, and definitely something car lovers in Australia should be grateful for. It’s also something that shocked BMW Australia when both this 328 and its example turned up at one show together. “It’s funny, we took it to this event once and the employees from BMW Australia trailered theirs in a covered trailer and we just drove all the way there and they looked at us when we arrived as if they were like ‘what are you doing?!’.” Not that all this driving doesn’t have risks.

    Bedggood relates another story where the team was invited to show it off it as part of the historic parade at the Melbourne F1 Grand Prix one year, and only realised when they got back to the pits that the fuse box cover had come off mid-lap.

    “I thought to myself, ‘oh no! Where am I going to source a genuine Bakelite Bosch fuse cover from 1938?’ but afterwards, a marshal came up to me and said “I think this came off your car just near where I was marshalling” and handed it back to me. Unbelievably, it was in perfect condition.”

    Indeed, the whole car is in remarkably good nick, considering its age and history. Previously owned by Chris Browning in the UK, current owner John Dymond came into it after Browning sadly fell ill with cancer and passed away. Dymond, a close friend of Browning, always talked to him about wanting the car, and Browning agreed to it before he passed. It then competed in a Frazer Nash Rally to Milan before being shipped to Australia and has been used regularly ever since. Even after all that, mechanically, the only issue right now is the aforementioned slight oil leak, which will no doubt be fixed, and the fact the alloy head already has 36 welds holding it together. Ideally, Bedggood would like to keep this part original, but has a Bristol head waiting in the workshop should he ever need it, as spark plug sizes aside, they’re identical (for those who don’t know, the Bristol engine was based on BMW designs taken by BAC and Frazer Nash representatives from the bombed factory after World War II). And given the car already had an overdriveequipped Volvo Amazon synchro box – a common and highly regarded upgrade over the fragile stock Hirth ‘box that, uniquely among other options, bolts on with no body modifications – fitted prior to Dymond’s purchase (the original came with it too), matching numbers is not so much of a pressing issue. At least the ultra-purists will be happy knowing the original toolbox is still intact. And in a lovely touch, the Victorian number plate is actually the same as the one it wore in the UK.

    Aesthetically, the wonderful cream paint outside is almost entirely unblemished, apart from a patch missing on the bonnet due to the straps not being done up properly prior to a road rally and the bonnet flying up and hitting the windscreen, and a bit of peeling around the now useless crank handle hole (the car was converted to 12 volt electrics while in the UK). Inside, a paint chip at the bottom of the dash and around well-used knobs and one of the VDO gauges is about all you can see. The unusually plain Bakelite three-spoke wheel obviously has some marks, but overall, it’s a stunningly well-looked after machine. It really is testament to the care Bedggood and the other museum staff impart.

    Machines like the 328 are, by definition, rare. Not just because of the limited production numbers and scarcity down under in this case, but because cars that get things this right only come along once in a proverbial blue moon. Whether it’s style, performance, handling or ingenious design, the 328 ticks all the boxes, and car lovers should be grateful such cars still exist, let alone get driven and put on show regularly like this one. It’s a source of pure joy, and my time with it was an experience I will never forget.

    Plenty of original equipment remains intact on the Penrite 328 such as its factory tool kit.

    TECHNICAL DATA #1938 #BMW-328

    ENGINE: 1971cc #OHV #straight-six based on #BMW-326 block (66mm bore, 96mm stroke). Alloy head, 7.5:1 compression ratio, inclined inlet valves operated by pushrods and rockers, exhaust valves operated by secondary pushrods and rockers, triple downdraught #Solex carburettors, sports camshaft, 100hp (estimated), 80hp (standard).
    GEARBOX: #Volvo-Amazon all-synchro four-speed with added overdrive (Hirth four-speed originally).
    CHASSIS: Tubular ladder-frame steel with aluminium body panels.

    FRONT: Independent by transverse leaf spring, lower wishbones and hydraulic dampers
    REAR: suspension: Live axle, semi-elliptic springs and hydraulic dampers
    BRAKES: 280mm hydraulic drum brakes. Automatic footbrake adjustment
    TYRES: #Dunlop Racing 5.50-16

    This particular example gets driven with some enthusiasm on a regular basis.

    I defy anyone to climb in, go for a drive and not come away with an insane grin.

    The interior is in remarkable condition with the perfect patina; plenty of lovely details too, such as the stylish gear knob.

    This 328 gets regularly exercised and is a hoot to drive thanks to a sports camshaft and 100hp. ‏ — at Melbourne VIC, Australia
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    BMW CONCEPTS: #2011 /// The stunning concept BMW built to celebrate the 328. The cars they could have made #BMW-328-Hommage . A true, lightweight sports car that was close to its roots, the 328 Hommage was the perfect modern take on an old icon.

    We reckon this was BMW concept styling at its very best and although we only know it was powered by a straight-six you can bet it would have been a whole lot of fun to drive

    In our opinion, this could quite possibly be the bestlooking concept car that #BMW ever built. As the name suggests, it was a concept created to pay homage to the legendary and very successful #BMW-328 of the 1930s. Back in 2011 it was the original model’s 75th birthday so the idea was to recreate the 328 in a modern style but with a nostalgic feel. Designed with performance in mind the car was made from carbon fibre reinforced plastic, following on from the valuable experience gained making the M3’s roof panels, so the whole thing weighed in at just 780kg. Styling was heavily inspired by the original but it was now much wider, lower and meaner.

    The front shares the same tall kidney grille design together with the large, round single headlights and four-leather straps adorned the side of the front wings to mimic the bonnet straps used on the 1930s 328. The side profile was wonderfully elegant thanks to the long bonnet and short rear end design and it was set off against oversized two-piece wheels that somehow work perfectly.

    The large, streamlined headrests dominated the rear half of the car and the rear end itself was a lot more modern in design.

    Inside was also a great mix of old and new. There were just the two seats, finished in tan leather, which extended up around the cabin. The split windscreen allowed room for the rear-view mirror and instead of one single instrument panel to display everything as usual, there were two iPhones located in custom holders like stopwatches to record lap times.

    Despite the fantastic looks the car wasn’t exactly what you might call practical, though. There was no foldaway roof hiding behind the rear body work and those large recesses at the side are there to allow access in and out of the car as there aren’t actually any doors. Still, it looks like a lot of fun to us although BMW was shy to enlighten us what kind of engine and running gear would power the Hommage, or at least in any detail. The only mention of power was a six-cylinder straight-six but as for horsepower that was anyone’s guess. The pictures seem to suggest it was an automatic gearbox, though, which is a little disappointing. Rest assured it would have been fast regardless due to the extra light body.

    We really wish BMW would give ideas like this a go once in a while. It would be brave but they certainly add a bit of spice into the line-up of saloons and SAVs. The more radical i8 was given the go ahead so why couldn’t we see something like this? It seems a real shame when you consider how good it looked.
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    One last time. Frazer Nash last competed at Le Mans in 1959 – in this car. Time for Tony Dron to test it on track at Gooodwood.

    The gentleman driver #John-Dashwood invited the accomplished club driver #Bill-Wilks to share a Frazer Nash in the 1959 Le Mans 24 Hours. They'd heard about a Frazer Nash with a #BMW-V8 engine but, as no such thing was suitable, Dashwood bought this 1955 Le Mans Coupe from the Frazer Nash makers, AFN Ltd.

    But hang on - the name Dashwood rings loud bells in any Englishman's mind. Was this John Dashwood related to the infamous rake of West Wycombe, Sir Francis Dashwood, who founded the notorious Hellfire Club of the 1750s? Yes, indeed, he was of that ilk.

    These are arcane matters but the Dashwood baronetcy of West Wycombe is the Premier Baronetcy in the Baronetage of Great Britain. As a younger son in that line, the Dashwood who owned this car in 1959 had no title. He was just plain John and, also unlike his colourful 18th Century forebear, he appears to have led a thoroughly respectable, indeed blameless life - Eton, Oxford, 'something in the City', a nice house in Surrey, a successful marriage and two children - an all-round good chap, for sure.

    After driving their car recently at Goodwood, I set about tracing Dashwood and Wilks but 55 years after the event it was not easy. In John Dashwood's case it was impossible but I did eventually track down his son, Tom, who gave me the sad news that his father had passed away in December 2013.

    Bill Wilks, however, was eventually found - thanks to the 'VSCC mafia'. He's 80 now, obviously fit and happily retired in Dorset, but in 1959 he was 25 and had already made a name for himself as a quick man in Frazer Nash cars.
    'Actually', Bill told me, 'I had just packed it all in because I was getting married and taking out a mortgage but then John asked me to join him at Le Mans and I thought, why not?' Dashwood, who was Five years older than Bill, had chosen well. Young Wilks wasn't just quick, he was also a proper engineer who recalled doing a lot of work on the car himself, putting it as right as he could before they set off for Le Mans, where the ACO had accepted them as first reserve.

    The four-year-old Frazer Nash was hardly going to set the pace at Le Mans in 1959, to be frank, and Gregor Grant's Autosport race report stated: 'With the non- appearance of the Conrero Alfa Romeos, all reserves were called in, including the veteran Frazer Nash of Dashwood and Wilks.' Bill was well aware of that but, hey, you don't turn down a drive at Le Mans lightly.

    Dashwood's aim was to take part in a good sporting spirit Even so, they reckoned the old Coupe might still be quick enough in its class - and its large fuel tank would ensure long stints between pit-stops. AFN's standard tanks varied from 14 to 25 gallons, with a 5 ½ -gallon auxiliary tank available.

    Rumours that they added an extra fuel tank from an Austin Seven set off my personal bullshit sensor. No, Bill Wilks explained that they raised the fuel capacity to about 18 gallons by adding an auxiliary tank of about two gallons: 'I am absolutely certain it was not an Austin Seven tank - I made it!'

    Its pace on the long Mulsanne straight in qualifying wasn't bad - pulling 6000rpm in top, which equated to 140mph with the 3.54:1 final drive they had fitted. At that speed, the kink in the straight should have presented no worries but Bill remembers getting a big shock there.

    'I looked at that kink and thought, no problem, I can take this on full noise - easy!' As he turned in, the rear suspension jacked itself up, the car took a great lurch and Bill was looking into the trees. 'I thought it was Judgement Day - I really thought that was it.' But he held it and, back at the pits, investigated the alarming handling problem.

    Excessive body roll was expected in those cars and earlier, back at the Isleworth factory, the legendary Harry Olrog of AFN had altered this Coupe's rear suspension, creating a Panhard rod arrangement. What Bill recalls now, very clearly, is that the real problem was not that but dodgy dampers. On closer inspection, they had been modified in a curious way, presumably to stiffen them up. 'I think I found some pieces of wood inside but, anyway, I put them aside and found a better set from a supplier in the paddock - Armstrongs, I think they were, but, whatever, they were much better.'

    Apart from that, the car had gone well and Dashwood wisely nominated his more experienced co-driver to start the race. There was some concern over whether the brakes would last - some say that it had roadgoing cast- iron drums, though Bill insists that it had Al-Fin racing brakes - 'But they still weren't any good!' he adds.

    Three hours into the 24, Bill came in to hand over to John. T told him to be careful because the brakes had gone but I had some sort of premonition as he drove off - I felt something was about to go wrong.

    It did. The overheated brakes really were finished and John Dashwood did not complete one lap. At Amage comer the car buried itself in the mound of sand on the exit, where, as Bill recalls, it remained until the end of the race.

    Dashwood was devastated, feeling he had let everybody down but you have to feel sympathy for the poor chap - it was really very bad luck.

    Legend has it that the gearbox casing was split in Dashwood's effort to slow down before hitting the sand. Bill says that's wrong: 'Reverse gear did break in John's efforts to back out of the sand after the race. The steering was slightly damaged but they managed to patch things up enough to drive it back to England.

    So ended the last appearance of a Frazer Nash in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Ten years earlier, in 1949, Norman Culpan and 'Aldy Aldington had finished in a blaze of glory, third overall in a Frazer Nash High Speed model, but that was to remain the finest hour of Frazer Nash in the 24 Hours. What concerns us now, however, is how the remarkable Le Mans Coupe of the later years came into being at all.

    Since taking over AFN Ltd in the late 1920s, the Aldington brothers, led by the dynamic HJ 'Aid/ Aldington, had made heroic efforts to become big players in the high-performance motoring world. They had made the best of the fabulous chain-driven sports car designed by the company's founder, Archie Frazer-Nash - the man has the hyphen but the cars don't - but they always lacked the capital to become truly independent manufacturers.

    That was overcome in the 1930s by a strong link with BMW. When the German company proceeded to design the world's most advanced sports cars, business boomed at AFN. The efficient Aldingtons were well-organised importers, with workshops and a talented team enabling them do far more than merely service the cars they brought in. They made parts and bodywork, modifying cars as required and marketing them as Frazer Nash-BMWs. They worked extremely well with the BMW management and engineers, who were right behind them, and things, you might say, were going great guns in the first months of #1939 .

    When the world then came crashing down, AFN Ltd switched to war work. As peace returned in #1945 , they wasted no time in returning to high-performance cars. Had it been possible, the link with BMW would have been resumed immediately but German industry needed time to recover and, anyway, British buyers weren't that keen on German products just then.

    Controversially, Aldy Aldington did retrieve some useful items from Germany at the end of the war, but that has probably been misinterpreted. He wanted to resume his business links with the German engineers that he admired so much but, in a radically changed world, he simply couldn't.

    Instead, he looked for a link with a large British company. After unhappy meetings with leaders in the Midlands motor industry came to nothing, an agreement was signed between AFN and the Bristol Aeroplane Company to develop new post-war high-performance cars from the legacy of BMW's advanced pre-war models.

    That should have provided the industrial muscle Aldy needed but the relationship was doomed. A relatively small business in the motor trade, led by a quick-thinking and impatient visionary, could not work with a large corporation accustomed to the different engineering ethics of the aeronautical industry.

    They soon fell out and AFN Ltd went its own way, retaining an agreement for a supply of the new #1971 cc straight-six Bristol engines, which were based on BMW's pre-war engine and ideal for the new models that AFN planned to produce.
    The basics of the post-war #Frazer #Nash had been laid down by AFN's John Perrett, who designed a two-seater sports car based closely on the front end of a #BMW-327 , with transverse-leaf suspension and lower wishbones, and the rear end of a BMW 326, with longitudinal torsion bar suspension and a live axle located mainly by an A-bracket. The main frame was based on the tubular chassis of the #BMW-328 .

    Aldy then managed to recruit a superstar: Fritz Fiedler who, as the chief designer of BMW cars from #1932 , had been behind all the great BMW sports cars of that decade. Arriving at Isleworth in #1947 , Fiedler took on the development of the post-war Frazer Nash chassis, suspension, body design and construction and also part of the work on the Bristol engine. A mild-mannered genius, he was a very well liked at AFN, if gently amused when they called him 'Doctor' Fiedler.

    Fiedler returned to BMW after three years, having made a huge contribution to AFN's early post-war success. He went on to influence BMW's return to prominence, which was secured by the time he retired and continues to this day.
    In 1952, a revised #Frazer-Nash chassis was inspired partly by race driver Ken Wharton's wish for a single- seater Frazer #Nash-F2 car but also by a desire to produce a simpler chassis that was cheaper and easier to make.

    By 1953, Aldy knew that the adventure as a manufacturer was all but over for AFN. It had been a glorious effort, resulting in some wonderful thoroughbred cars. The Le Mans Replica, a copy of the High Speed model that finished third in the 24 Hours, was and remains a truly great classic. Other superb post-war Frazer Nash models emerged from AFN but the enterprise lacked sufficient scale. The quality of the cars went without question and the few that they could make sold well despite being very expensive.

    In the mid-1950s, AFN Ltd became the official importer of Porsche cars, a move that was destined to transform the company into a much bigger, very different business - #Porsche Cars Great Britain Ltd.

    Only nine Le Mans Coupes were made in all and the first of them, driven by Ken Wharton and HA Mitchell, took a fine class win and 13th overall in the #1953 Le Mans 24 Hours. By then the Le Mans regulations demanded enclosed wheels and encouraged coupe bodywork. AFN's Le Mans Coupe was therefore developed from the open two-seater Targa Florio model.

    This particular Coupe was originally sold as a road car to Mrs Kathleen 'Kitty' Maurice (nee Gorst, later Mrs Thomas) in April 1955, and it had a well-documented engine change early in its existence. Kitty Maurice was a keen motorist and, as the landowner of Castle Combe, she had made the conversion of the wartime airfield into a motor racing circuit possible. She soon sold the car to a Dr Mawe, who used it in club competitions in #1956 before selling it back to #AFN late in 1957, where it remained until John Dashwood bought it in March 1959.

    Its next owner was the well-known racing driver and Gerrards Cross-based specialist motor trader Roy Bloxam, who fitted disc brakes and other mods such as a #ZF limited-slip differential. He took second in class and tenth overall in the 1960 Autosport Production Sports Car Championship.

    Its many owners in the half-century since then have generally cared for it well and it remains remarkably original. At the end of the 1960s, an owner in Malvern had the #Panhard rod removed and an A-bracket restored, taking the rear suspension back to its original specification. By 1963, its original green had been changed to wine red but its Swedish owner in the 1970s, Ake Andersson, had it painted blue. Early this century the colour was changed again, going back to a shade of green close to its original colour.

    One owner, though which one isn't known, changed it back to drum brakes - aluminium at the front and iron at the rear. The FLA papers issued for it in 19% show this had been done by then. And, about 12 years ago, a Laycock overdrive was Fitted - a type that would have been available when the car was new. With the standard final drive, an overdrive transforms the car, especially for normal road use - and it might even be about right were somebody to take it back to Le Mans to run it in the Gassic.

    It is obviously eligible for top events such as that and the Mille Miglia but would also be ideal for great open- road driving events, such as the Colorado Grand, which it has done twice in more recent times.

    My instant reaction on driving it at Goodwood is that it feels like a superb roadgoing sports car, even today - and it's certainly quick enough to outperform most modem traffic. By racing car standards it Is heavy - it was weighed at 2079lb (943kg) by the Le Mans scrutineers in 1959 - but against most of today's road cars it's a featherweight with a formidable power-to-weight ratio.

    This car's obviously high value, of course, is largely the result of its genuine Le Mans history, so the normal preference of Frazer Nash fans for the open cars definitely docs not apply here. There's a lovely period feel to the small, high-quality tan interior but tall prospective owners should note that it is best suited to shorter drivers - the seat had to be completely removed for me and I sat on the carpet to drive it.

    Even so, it was a pleasure to power it round the Goodwood circuit, where it felt quicker than I had expected. The handling was a bit skittish at first and I went back into the pits after just one lap to have the dampers adjusted. They had been on the hardest setting but, with them suitably softened, the car was much better.

    It's a stable car at speed, a true thoroughbred of the old school in some ways - years of sound engineering and the black art of 'chassis-sorting' created a confidence- inspiring machine with sensitive steering. On the straight, it runs true but there is always the feeling that it's ever ready to tackle the next comer. It turns in well and immediately adopts a superbly neutral angle of drift, which the driver can make a little bit more or less pronounced almost by merely thinking about it. The famous Bristol engine is a delight and, in my short run, the brakes were fine - as we know, it takes three hours to knock them out!

    This delightful post-war sports car has a great story to tell - the next chapter of which begins after its sale by Bonhams at Goodwood in March.

    THANKS TO Tony Bancroft. Blakenoy Motorsport. Tom Dashwood, the #Frazer-Nash Car Club and Archives. Goodwood Motor Circuit, Richard Procter, James Trigwell, and Bill Wilks. Bonhams is selling the car at the #Goodwood 73rd Members' Meeting on 21 March.

    Car #1955 #Frazer-Nash-Le-Mans-Coupe
    ENGINE 1971cc six-cylinder, OHV, three #Solex downdraught carburettors
    POWER 142bhp 5750rpm
    TRANSMISSION Four-speed #Borg-Warner manual, rear-wheel drive
    STEERING Rack and pinion
    Front: independent, transverse leaf spring, lower wishbones, telescopic dampers.
    Rear: live axle located by A-bracket, longitudinal torsion bars, telescopic dampers.
    BRAKES Drums
    WEIGHT 963kg (2079lb - as weighed by #Le-Mans scrutineers, #1959 )
    PERFORMANCE Top speed 140mph claimed at Le Mans. 1959. 0-60mph c8sec

    Above, left and right Closed bodywork was developed from the open-top Targa Florio - only nine coupes were made: power comes from a #BMW- derived triple-carb straight-six.


    Left. Surprisingly civilised inside for a Le Mans entrant, though it lacks headroom for the taller driver. Tony Dron had to remove the seat and sit on the floor...

    Above. With 142bhp from its 2.0-litre straight-six and a (scrutineered) kerbweight of 943kg, the Frazer Nash was capable of 140mph on the Mulsanne straight.
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