Simanaitis Says

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LECO MK 2—MY NON-TOJEIRO RIDE

WHEN ALEX Quattlebaum, Jr., went hunting for an English sports racing car, he struck lucky in a Suffolk farmer’s barn and a car identified as a Tojeiro. By the time the dust settled, years later, Alex had met some fascinating people, the car had turned out to be even more special—and, along the way, I had myself a really neat vintage ride around the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

First, the Tojeiro confusion. Portuguese-born John Tojeiro was brought to his mother’s England in the 1920s. Typical of so many back-garden sports car builders, he learned his craft in the Fleet Air Arm during World War II and had a small but highly regarded specialty automotive business.

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The sporting lines of the 1952 Tojeiro-MG had spiritual influence of the Ferrari 212 Touring Barchetta (see www.wp.me/p2ETap-15R).

One of Tojeiro’s early designs, influenced by the Ferrari 212 Barchetta, led to the English AC Ace and, eventually, the Shelby Cobra.

When Alex was told that the Suffolk barn find was a Tojeiro, even John Tojeiro himself thought he recognized the car as his handiwork.

Alex had the car restored in 1983 and vintage-raced it at venues such as Mid-Ohio, Road America, Road Atlanta, Watkins Glen, Freeport in the Bahamas and as far west as Phoenix.

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Alex’s “Tojeiro” in the paddock at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, 1991.

Years later, Alex entered his car in the 1999 Goodwood Revival.

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LECo: History of Two Special Racecars, commentaries by Peter Tompkins, Nicky Sturges and Alex Quattlebaum, Jr., privately published by Alex Quattlebaum, Jr., 2012-1013.

When Revival organizers requested history of the car, after extensive research the British Motor Museum discovered it wasn’t one of a handful of Tojeiros—but, even more rare, one of only two LECos.

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LECo Mk 2, as it appeared in 1954. Image from LECo: History of Two Special Racecars.

Alex and the LECo have recently been racing in Europe at venues such as Spa, Zolder, Dijon, Silverstone, Oulton Park, Donington, the Goodwood Revival and through the streets of Oporto, Portugal.

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Goodwood Revival Madgwick Cup, 2013. Alex and his LECo (car no. 10) finished fourth. Three weeks later, they came first at Castle Combe. Image from LECo: History of Two Special Racecars.

At Goodwood 2009, Alex met Nicky Sturges, whose father Fred and his friend Peter Tompkins had built the car. Check out yesterday’s mini-essay, www.wp.me/p2ETap-1NI, for the tale of this talented pair.

I met Alex when I wrote an R&T article on his Devin Super Sports (see www.wp.me/p2ETap-UO). Over a congenial dinner with him and Bill Devin, we concocted another adventure for me, namely, a drive of Alex’s “Tojeiro” at the 1991 Mid-Ohio Sport Car Course vintage races.

Alex’s kindness may have been influenced by my speaking a phrase in Swahili (Kiboko ni kuharibu kibanda/A hippo is destroying the hut). Alex learned Swahili in his Peace Corps days.

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Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio.

I showed up for my Mid-Ohio ride just in time for first practice, not a bad idea as I had never seen the course before. The car, no. 75, proved a sweetheart to drive, its primary challenge being this English race car’s righthand drive—and left-hand shifting. Its XPAG MG engine didn’t need high revs; being English, it had modestly good torque.

As a newcomer, I learned the line by carefully following my competitors. Now you tell one.

As a newcomer, I learned the line by carefully following my competitors. Now you tell one. Image by Brightly.

I quickly recognized that much of Mid-Ohio could be treated as a series of essess, including Turns 6 through 8 which actually carried this name.

The car’s modest acceleration—and my wish to preserve it in any event—meant that Turn 3 didn’t really exist as a bend. But, inexplicably, picking up the pace I found myself advancing my Turn 4 braking point rather more than expected.

I almost felt like I was overworking the car’s drum brakes.

My race proved great fun. I qualified mid-pack, passed a couple cars, got passed a few times and finished mid-pack—no embarrassment to the car’s heritage or to Alex.

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Apparently I kept the yellow car at bay for at least two laps. Images by Brightly.

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It was only later, being shown around the place in a golf cart that my Turn 4 quandary was revealed: Its braking zone is on a considerable downhill! ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013

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This entry was posted on November 28, 2013 by in Classic Bits and tagged , , , .
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