Having bought chassis 766.2 back in 1976, I had been racing and competing in the car ever since. In those early years I had been racing in what was then Modified Sports Cars, a formula that spawned a number of championships for current sports cars of the period which were modified for racing, but had to retain the original engine and gearbox, albeit heavily tuned.
At the time I bought this chassis painted then in Purple, I did not fully realise its past history other than it had been circuit raced and sprinted by its two previous owners. It was only some years after, that I had the time to research its history and that it had been raced by Piers Forester in 1968 and then as a factory works car in 1969. I just raced the car as that was what you did in those days. I had been driving as a daily driver come rain or shine (or snow and ice !), the white 998cc Cooper engine ex-factory Demo car 1266.7 and it was not until later, that having contacted some key ex-factory employees, that its provenance as being the first chassis sold and built as well as being the first Competition GT version, became apparent. That it carries chassis #2 rather than #1 is explained in detail in my book on the marque’s history available through from the Shop on this website..
But never the less, both founder and designer of the cars, have verified the cars provenance. Bottom line was that I left everything as it was and didn't change anything on the car, including springs and shocks !. Something I later wished I'd done a lot earlier as the resultant handling characteristics meant some pretty spectacular opposite lock moments !.
So fast forward to 2014 and the car was starting to look a little tired paintwork wise. I had also not restored or repaired any of its original patina (thankfully) and given it was now some 34-years since I had repainted the car back to the works Yellow colour, I felt it was time for a refresh.
A gap in my overseas work schedule prompted me to begin what was initially to be a respray, but ended up being a pretty comprehensive rebuild, but most importantly would ensure the historical patina and originality of all parts, was retained.
This Blog is the first of a series taking you through the steps of its rebuild. It is important to remember that as I said, it was started as being just a paint job, so some tasks were started in a manner, which if I’d have intended to do what I ended up doing, would have been tackled differently. The focused retention of its patina, also dictated some of the approach that you will see. The end result was however, exactly what I wanted.
Initially the car was put up on its original factory production stands and the engine removed. The paintwork was then begun to be rubbed down, and this is where the enormity of the task just grew and grew. I could have removed all the multiple layers of paint, the multiple factory Yellow resprays (first was the first customer’s Yellow followed by the factory ‘works’ racing Yellow) the Purple and finally the last Yellow coat. All with primer coats of various colours in between. All in all many coats of paint, which added up to add a substantial thickness to the body and weight !. The other factor that this exposed was that such thick paint over time, will crack. Many of the ‘blemishes’ on the car looked like they were Gel Coat cracks, but were in fact confined to just the paint itself.
I laboured long over whether to remove all the paint, which was the obvious way to both produce a perfect finish and reduce weight, but in the end, I could not bring myself to remove all that history. The final finish would be high-gloss, but would still exhibit signs of its past. Never going to win a Concours, but perfect in maintaining its history, for which many other cars rely upon chassis/engine numbers to confirm and we know how this has been sometimes abused in the past.
The following pictures show the initial stages of the rebuild.
Many parts were not fully stripped out at this stage as mentioned.
Engine/Gearbox removed along with all suspension removed from the car. The 10" steering wheel I fitted shortly after buying the car, as I had been racing Mini's for many years with a 10" wheel and liked the more direct steering response this gave.
Doors had been removed along with all the internal sill covers to expose all the cables/pipes and gearchange. Note the front floor chassis tube cross-bracing the chassis. The full corner-to-corner cross-brace tube is unique to this car.
Front suspension removed. Some of the Rose-joints connected to the chassis could not be removed at this point as the retaining bolts had seized into the chassis tubes. This would require considerable time and effort to remove so as to replace the worn joints with period correct items.
The rear chassis was in very good shape but was showing its age. Note the rear anti-roll bar only fitted to the 'works' raced cars. Also the Oil cooler mounting on the nearside chassis tube. The triangular round tube frame on the offside was installed in 1969 to satisfy the Endurance race requirement to be able to carry a spare wheel. Front brake cooling ducting was channelled from the front through the round aluminium flanges forward of the front suspension. The bright metal bolts protruding from under the fuel tank in the lower right picture, were fitted in its latter years to retain an FIA aluminium fuel tank.
The next stages required a more comprehensive removal of components, which will be the subject of the next episode. Please keep watching the Blogs for more progress on this rebuild and of others currently underway.