Monday, 27 September 2010

Let's begin!

It started at the inaugural 360MRC 6 Hour Race at Snetterton in August 2010. I was sharing a drive in the Team Mont Blanc MG Montego, and man was it fun! This car was basically standard, it cost a pittance to build, and at the end it was running strongly enough to win the up to 2-litre class! I'd raced the Monty in a sprint race at Silverstone, and while it was fun there was no hint that the car would be suitable for a 6 hour race. But boy did it deliver :-)

For 2011 there was going to be no repeat, because the Monty was up for sale - and I love endurance racing so I needed to find something to build.

Actually, it started a long time before August 2010, probably in 1981 when I first entered a sprint in an MG Midget. Over the years I'd developed the car - it was a totally original, "only one new head and two new handles" - to 1380cc spec running in the FISC championship around Europe: Nordschleife, Spa, Dijon, Zandvoort, culminating at Monza in 2007. Check out the video:

Early 2010 for various reasons I sold the Midget, so by summer I was champing at the bit looking for a replacement. The criteria were simple: RWD, 2-litre or more, front engined, preferably pre-'81 to qualify for the Eifelrennen at the Nordschleife, and now it had to be a GT or saloon car for "The 360". I had already considered and discarded MGBGT (been there, done that), Rover SD1 (likewise, also too hard to find) and Capri (too expensive) when the idea of Porsche 924 popped into my mind.

Two days and a couple of beers later I hit eBay. Another couple of beers later and one was mine, for the princely sum of £160 - and "Project 160 for the 360" was born! When I sobered up I reflected on what I'd done: I know nothing about 924s, ANY Porsche for £160 is bound to be a shed, and how the hell would it fit on my MG Midget-sized trailer to get it back from Maidstone to Wiltshire?

Thanks to the timely intervention of long time racing buddy and all-round good egg MG David, owner of the now-famous Montego, the car came back to Wokingham where we had to load it onto my ever-so-slightly-undersized trailer. Running on, ooh, must have been two cylinders and with binding brakes, my first EVER drive of a Porsche between the trailers was traumatic. With the Porker now jammed onto the trailer I set off on the 100-mile homeward drive. First 924 problem exhibited itself as soon as we left the 30mph limit...with the car's 50/50 balance there was no weight on the tow hitch so above 38mph the trailer swayed. Alarmingly.

Discretion was the better part of valour, we came off the M4 after one junction. I stopped and tried to adjust the car on the trailer. It was jammed so tight I had to use the ratchet on a tie down strap like a winch to pull it forwards - still, it was never going to fall off, was it!

It was better, we could now tow at 50mph before the dreaded sway so a peaceful, if slow, drive back to Devizes ensued. We crawled into bed at midnight, and in the morning the true horror of what I'd done began to sink in...
It didn't run, it had a brown driver's door which didn't open properly, it had been over-sprayed in matt black, it had a smashed windscreen where the last owner had clashed with a gypsy family, the inside smelt like a wet labrador...and the bloody thing was stuck on my trailer.

I hadn't got any time for a few weeks, I was working every weekend on the Racewear Roadshow, so I sighed and left the car in the drive until I next got a few days off...