On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
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.
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.
Years later, Alex entered his car in the 1999 Goodwood Revival.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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