I always wanted a pre war race car, or at least one that would allow me to race in the current Pre 55 class. People who race them told me I must be mad, they are terrible to drive, one going so far as to describe it as being akin to sitting on a wet cardboard box with the steering wheel vaguely connected to the front wheels and the brakes practically non existent.
Such stories didn’t put me off though. When I was young, Dad had an old MG TD and I used to sit in in in the garage, pretending to win the Phoenix Park races, (complete with commentary, which is not without irony!) Years later, having managed a Phoenix Park win or two, the hankering remained to race an older car, preferably an MG. Prewar MGs though, and even post war ones, do not come cheap and so it remained just a dream for many years. A few years back, I dropped into Stephen Boden and his petrolhead mates in their communal lockup (location top secret, Secret Seven style!) for a cuppa and a chinwag. For some reason I looked up whilst chatting and there was a racecar. On a pallet. On a rack. An old racecar, a really old one! I immediately recognised it (unintentionally confirming my anorak status to all present) as the ACJ Special- an Austin 7 based single seater campaigned with great success by Tony Dowling.
Obviously I was all questions and it transpired that once Tony had stopped racing the car, he had moved onto a Clubmans single seater. After a monumental crash in the Phoenix Park, where both Tony and the car ended up in a skip, both in similar states of disrepair, he had sold the ACJ Special to Stephen, who had intended to restore it with his father. A bit like yours truly, Mr Boden has more than a couple of cars (!) and recently decided to concentrate on one so he could get it on the road and use it. True to his word, (I may have reminded him of this any time we met!) he gave me first refusal on the car. Typically, I was sitting in a Westfield having just done a deal with the owner when the text came through. No matter though, I had to have the little special. Stephen joined Dad and I for a pint on one of our regular Thursday nights in Dundrum and after a token haggle, we shook hands and the deal was done.
The car stayed up on the rack after the deal until recently, when we agreed a date for collection. In the meantime, I had spoken to Kevin and Luke O’Hara, and shown them pictures of the car and they had expressed an interest in rebuilding it for me. I was delighted with this because they have done some incredible rebuilds on single seaters in recent times, transforming the roughest of machines into something probably better than the day they left their respective factories. Last Monday, with the aid of a forklift, the Special and the pallet it had lain on for many years, were loaded up onto a flatbed recovery truck and delivered to LOH Motorsport in Kildare.
Kevin and Luke inspected the car carefully, laying the panels beside the car in a manner reminiscent of the way air crash investigators put the pieces back together. As ever, there were few words as they worked their way around the car discussing various brackets and bits. Luckily for me, they were almost as enthusiastic as me about the project and I have no doubt that this project will allow them to showcase their extensive skills. We have no timeline for the build as who knows what we will encounter along the way. That said, it would be wonderful to have this car back on Mondello tarmac for the 50th Anniversary Historic Festival in August….
Obviously I will keep you updated on the progress here once the stripdown is complete.