The 29th Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance has been one to remember. We went for a walk on the Concours field, focusing our attention on the motorsport aspect of the event.
First, let me introduce you to the Concours’ best of show in the Sports category, the 1962 Lotus 23 entered by Robert Mirabile. This is a car of unique provenance as it uses a sixteen-valve cylinder head (amazingly all of the original trio of cylinder heads cast for the car remain with it today) that was developed for the original Twin Cam engine. According to the car’s caretakers at Valerio Motorsport, “It was designed by Ford engineers that built the four-cam Indy engines. They were hired by Mark Webster, the original owner of the car.”
Despite a significant number of retirements due to the unique engine’s unreliability in period, the car competed until the early seventies. While the closed-wheel flyweight took the honours, it was accompanied by two other Lotus’ (as a period press release confirms as the correct pluralisation) of the owner’s stable: a 69F Formula Ford of 1971 and Formula Junior of 1959, a close relative of the illustrious Lotus 18.
Fiat 8V Zagato
Another entry that drew great attention was a locally-owned Fiat 8V Zagato. Of course, the terminology ‘8V’ was entirely with reference to the layout and number of cylinders rather than the count of valves per cylinder. This was a notable misunderstanding from the perspective of Fiat as it was their belief that Ford had copyrighted the designation of ‘V8’. On the matter of production, this derivative of the 8V is astonishingly rare, with only 25 units being produced by Zagato.
A featured class at this year’s event was dedicated to the HRG marque. Though unknown to most, this marque is one of the earliest British concerns dedicated to sporting cars, whose presence helped to build the foundation upon which the UK has become one of the motorsport capitals of the world.
Several original competition HRG’s compiled the category, including Douglas Stuart’s 1956 Twin Cam which happens to be the only remaining example of three produced during the final year of the marque’s production. In addition, this exact car competed from the front row at Goodwood the same year as its manufacture. As the final model of a marque that purposed itself to be ‘The Sportsman’s Ideal’, the Twin Cam indulged in innovative technologies as a tubular monocoque chassis, the eponymous twin cam engine and all-around independent suspension.
Another shining example of the marque was Scott Fenley’s ‘Hurgenhauser’, the name referring to this specific car’s intriguing story with ties to Offenhauser. The car was originally bodied as an ‘Aerodynamic’ and unfortunately fell victim to a fire in the late fifties. This gave the car’s owner the opportunity to reinterpret its styling in the form of a boattail-style works Le Mans entry from 1936.
On the mechanical aspect of matters, this car was equipped in period with an Offenhauser alcohol engine that required an interesting start-up procedure involving two fuel tanks that also carried gasoline. Since, a previous owner changed the engine to a different ‘Offy’ motor fuelled by conventional gasoline. Interestingly, the carburettors fitted to the current engine are rather sparse, at only around 100 produced by SU for Cooper’s Climax-propelled Grand Prix programme.
Devin Sports Cars
Though not an entrant to the Concours, event sponsors Devin Sports Cars are certainly a notable presence, having a distinguished history from the golden era of sportscar racing with six period victories at Pikes Peak as well as 32 triumphs in SCCA racing between 1955 and 1963. The marque remains true to its period roots by producing a series of continuation cars from original parts and designs.
Oldsmobile drag racer
So far, we have only covered the sportscars and single-seaters of the Concours. However, it would be unfortunate not to mention this year’s Radnor Award victor, an Oldsmobile Cutlass S W-31 Convertible. It might sound odd to mention a drop-top Oldsmobile when speaking of competition cars, however, this one lived rather an interesting life in the domain of drag racing in the NHRA championship before its eventual purchase from period driver Jim Waibel and recommissioning by current owners Jeffrey and Brenda Kane. The car was originally prepared by Oldsmobile’s special engineering division in 1968 for a six-car (including five Oldsmobiles) concern supported by the American comic duo ‘The Smothers Brothers’. According to owner Jeffrey, “This is the only one of the five that’s in existence right now and no one has found the other four, so it’s a pretty rare car.”
From a historic motorsport perspective, this year’s Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance has certainly been an event that focused on quality and distinction as evidenced by the above. We are immensely looking forward to the 2024 edition. Full Concours results here.