Motormouth’s Mutterings- Tipos, Austin Sevens, Westfields and The Candyman!

It’s been a while since I have put virtual pen to paper for a non specific rant, so here goes. Firstly, as you probably know if you read my virtual scribblings, we managed to win Best Sports Blog at the Blog Awards Ireland, for the second year in a row. This makes me hugely proud, especially as we cover what essentially is a minority sport, but also as a thank you to those who have helped me- take a bow David Hall, Michael Chester, Aaron McElroy and Annie Dempsey. To all those who wrote Inside Line blogs, again this is also yours, so thank you- and congratulations!

In other news, I have bought and sold a few cars since I last wrote about them. I finally managed to let go of my beloved BMW Z4 3.0 Coupé. I loved it but just couldn’t justify the €1,500 a year road tax so she was just sitting on the driveway, with the odd short spin and wash. Anyway, a mate made an offer and off it went and before you ask, yes I was sad seeing it drive away.  Next to get the hammer was my little 106 Rallye. I had ambitions of doing my first ever rally in the car but when I priced up how much it was actually going to cost, including new seats etc, I ran away and hid behind the couch! It wasn’t actually sold directly but went to the UK as a trade in against a Radical SR3 Supersport 1500, which I briefly co-owned with Erik Holstein.  I say briefly, as we have sold it on. Happily, it is staying in the country so we should see it on track here soon.

When I was young (I know, I know) Dad and I used to keep a keen eye on historic racing, as he always had something old in the garage. One of the quicker, and more exciting of these was the ACJ Special of Tony Dowling. The single seater, based on a 1934 Austin 7 Ruby chassis, raced in the 1970s with a variety of engines, including a supercharged Coventry Climax screamer, and was always brilliant to watch.  When Tony had his big accident in the Phoenix Park, in a Clubmans car, he sold the Special to Stephen Boden who intended to restore it with his Dad. Stephen, a bit like yours truly, is a proper petrol head and has recently decided to slim down his collection to concentrate on getting one in articular, a Gilbern, back on the road. He has always offered me first refusal on the car so when I got the call, we arranged to meet up for a beer and a haggle. The deal was done and I am now the hugely proud owner of a Pre ’55 Racecar! It needs some work but it is so simple, it looks like a Mecanno set and all the parts are widely available, so all going well it will return to the tracks in 2018- I might even ask Tony to do a few laps in it!

Does not quite end there though as I got a call from Michael Barrable Motors recently asking me if I was interested in a 1995 Fiat Tipo- course I was. I got a lift out there, grabbed the keys from Rob (there were two, always a good sign) and headed to the car for a look. An end of model (they ran from 1989 to 2005) 1.6.ie car in dark green it looked clean enough but once I sat in, I knew it was something special. On the passenger seat were two bags- one with touch up paint, the other with a full service history with notes, a Haynes Manual and the original Tipo Brochure! It started up and drove beautifully so I paid the man and headed over to Dad’s to show it to him.

Now Dad is a big Fiat fan so it was received well and my youth was replayed as we opened Dads garage and checked it for oil- full and fresh, plugs, clean and new etc. We then got the hose out and gave it a wash and leather, followed by a quick polish with Mer (remember they used to demo that stuff at the car shows with a red Mini bonnet?) and a bit of gel for the black bumpers. We thought it looked so well, we should celebrate so we headed  up the mountains for a spot of lunch in Johnny Foxes! The sun was out and we had a lovely spin with the car performing faultlessly. Dad had even brought a Paddy Cole cassette so we listened to that on the Phillips stereo system as we drove! Long story short, it is so much fun to drive I have not got out of it all week- and it seems way more economical than my GTI too……

You would think that would be enough? Well, no actually. Myself and a group of friends have a WhatsApp chat group, called appropriately enough “Car Sh*te”. One of the lads posted a few weeks back that he was thinking of getting rid of his Westfield- I didn’t even know he had a Westfield! Now I have always wanted one, but being (slightly) more sensible these days, I thought that if I got one, the novelty would wear off in a week. We got chatting and I went to see the car. It was lovely, if a little dusty and needed a few electrical bits sorted. It was also extremely spartan. More like a race car than a road car. 1600cc Ford on twin 40s with the usual Sierra box and lsd and it was sitting on four genuine Minilites.

Anyway, I agreed to have a spin in it once he had sorted the issues and a week or so later he called me and I went over. It started first turn and popped and banged and spluttered while it warmed up- like a proper car should! On the hill up from my mate’s garage, the limited slip diff did its thing on gravel, whilst I was trying to keep moving and not slip the clutch too much. Once out on the road, it was great fun. Loud, fast, pointy and great brakes. Did I mention loud? The twin 40s pop and splutter at low revs, almost daring you to plant the foot down and let them clear out. I have driven plenty of different cars but nothing as raw as this, on the road anyway. No heater, no doors, no sidescreens, no hood, nothing. Perfect for a Sunday morning spin to clear the head, Anyway, I said I would think about it and if I am being honest, that is all I did for the next few days. I convinced myself it was a great idea and after the usual bit of haggling, a deal was done. Myles O’Reilly tells me he does a kit car policy once you join the club, and it is already taxed so it is pretty much ready for road! I can’t see myself taking it out until the spring though!!

In other news I recently met up with Colman Candy, brother of the late Vivian Candy. As you may or may not know, Vivian, or “The Candyman” as he was known, was a racing driver of note in Ireland in the 1970s (and subsequently on the European and World stages), and many believe he was the brains behind the Marlboro deal which he did, along with Eddie Jordan, to set up Marlboro Team Ireland. They ran FF1600s, Formula Atlantics and of course the famous ex David Hall Hallspeed Imp. Colman was moving to the UK and asked if I would like some of Vivian’s stuff- I screeched to a halt outside his place about half an hour later! I arrived home with the most incredible collection of paraphernalia, including books, sponsorship proposals, magazines, newspaper cuttings, trophies- you name it. One of the trophies was particularly nice, it was for a Kirkistown win. After a quick chat with Colman, we decided to make it the Vivian Candy Memorial Trophy and award it to the number one driver in the Motorsport.ie Top Ten each year- effectively the National Racing Driver of The Year. Aaron McElroy is also penning a Top Ten Rally Drivers piece and we will shortly be announcing a very special trophy for that one too. Similarly, the wheels are in motion to do something with Rallycross also. Anyway, that is about it this time around, although I have just bought a Fiat Panda 100HP!

More about that one next time,

Leo

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Header image from Con Connolly