Part 2

In these days of the glitzy Autosport Show, it is hard to imagine that the event could miss a year. Back in the late sixties and early seventies that is exactly what happened. In the 'off' year, usually, nothing happened at all. However, in January 1972 a strange, one-off event took place. I seem to recall that it was organised by John Webb, who at that time owned Brands Hatch, amongst other things. His idea was to moor a Townsend-Torensen car ferry on the Thames next to the Tower of London, and put on board many of the cars and trade stands which would otherwise have been at the normal Racing Car Show, were it to be taking place that year. I have always suspected that they were a bit short of exhibits, (possibly people didn't see it as a sensible project) and as we had received a bit of publicity by then, we were invited to show the car to the general public for the first time. We had been featured in Autosport in a feature by Doug Nye; also an extended version of this article had appeared in a Japanese motor sport magazine. What a performance that led to, as you will learn later !

It was a real joke, because although our workshop was well to the East of central London, on a good day, you could drive to Tower Bridge in about three quarters of an hour. Unfortunately, due to the fact that there was no loading facility down by the Tower, everyone who was showing a full-sized car on the 'Showboat' had to take their vehicles all the way to Dover to put them on the ferry. We had a 150 mile round trip to take the car down to Dover, then had to wait for the ship to sail back to practically the same place from which we started ! Still, we felt at last that we were now part of the racing 'establishment', and it felt great. It was while we were waiting for our cars to be loaded onto the ferry that I spoke to my first Grand Prix driver. Mike Beuttler, who is sadly no longer with us, was waiting to put his March onto the boat, and we had a long chat in the car park by the ferry terminal.

In the 'amusing anecdote' department there is one funny story arising from our time on the Showboat. Dear old John Bolster, who was at that time Autosport's Technical Editor, was looking around the show, and came upon our car. It must have been during my lunch break from my temporary job with the Co-op Funeral Dept, which fortuitously was situated in Leman Street, literally a five minute walk from where the ferry was. I was standing by the car when John Bolster came upon it. Presumably, he never read the magazine for whom he worked, because he had never heard of the car, and was amazed to learn of the existence of this unknown F1 car. Anyway, he looked around the car extensively, and I am proud to say made admiring noises. Now as you may be able to see from the photos, our car had a very flat, wide nose. The obvious assumption was that the water radiators were somewhere up the back of the car, a la Lotus 72, but in fact, Peter had laid the radiator nearly flat in the nose of the car, with a clever system of cooling which worked very well. The two black aluminium cowlings beside the engine contained the oil radiators. J.V.B was making notes on the design, and I heard him mutter something to the effect that the radiators were probably too small. I was able to point out to him that in fact, they were not the water radiators, and suggested that he look under the nose. Now he was not a young man by any means, but he immediately dropped onto the floor and lay so that he could see the under-nose intake. I'll never forget his words, “Well, well… if c***s like me can't see a thing, we think it isn't there ! Very ingenious.”

Our stay on the Showboat did not lead to anything in the way of sponsorship, and South Africa was approaching rapidly. Peter invited a couple of would-be F1 drivers down to look at the car; Howden Ganley, a New Zealander, who was in F3 and had in fact been the very first man to lap the Brands Grand Prix circuit at over 100 m.p.h (I know 'cause I was there) and the late Gerry Birrel both came to look. Unfortunately, although they both went away impressed, neither had any money, and so were not able to get involved. Stuart Turner, who was Ford Competitions Manager also came, and was sufficiently impressed to offer what help he could in the coming months. This help materialised later in several forms. We wrote an ambitious letter to German F1 man Rolf Stommelen, who we knew had some backing, but he was already tied into the deal to run the peculiar Eifelland March in 1972.

Somewhere along the way, Peter had contacted a guy named Brian Kreisky (whose uncle I believe, remarkably, was President of Austria at one time). Kreisky ran a sponsorship agency called Promoto, which set out to put drivers with money in touch with teams who had none, and vice versa. Through Brian, around Easter in 1972 we had a visit from a group of Frenchmen who were interested in furthering the career of their driver Francois Migault. Up to that time, Francois was a moderately successful F3 and occasional F2 driver. He also raced a small 2 litre sports car for a guy called Vincent Mausset. Vincent's car was called the Darnval, and both he and Francois were keen to get involved in something grander, without I hasten to add, too much in the way of outlay of francs. Peter had a budget, the exact details of which I never needed to know, but which, I believe, amounted to around £ 40,000. For this princely sum, Peter felt we could supply the car for Francois to drive in the Grands Prix in France, Britain, Germany, Austria and Italy.

I DON'T BELIEVE IT DEPT.

One evening in April 1972 Peter's Mother and Father arrived at the workshop with some startling news. A man called Don Anderson had just phoned, saying that he was the Personal Assistant to one Hideo Yamanaka, a Japanese millionaire, who owned a string of department stores! Yamanaka was allegedly looking for a new F1 team to back, and had seen the aforementioned article by Doug Nye in the Japanese magazine I mentioned earlier. (Doug had sent us a copy of the magazine, so we knew it had been published, complete with photos of us all, even though we couldn't make head or tail of the text !) Peter rushed home to await another call, which duly came, and arrangements were made to meet Mr. Anderson under the clock at Waterloo Station at midnight. He was only in London briefly, as he was on his way from Japan to the U.S.A (or something like that) so it had to be a late-night get-together. I drove Peter up town, (an hour or so from the garage) and Mr. Anderson arrived right on cue. We moved on to an all-night Wimpy bar, somewhere around Oxford Street to discuss budgets etc.

Don looked at Peter's projected figures, and said that he thought we were penny pinching, and increased all the figures by at least 100 %. This meant 10 engines instead of 4, a big transporter etc etc. Peter bought us all a burger and tea, and we chatted until about 1 a.m. Then Don announced that although he did not have a lot of time, he would like to see the car. So, off we went again back out to Chadwell Heath, where he had a good look around, admired the car and then sat on the bench in the workshop talking fairly knowledgeably about racing for half an hour or so. Following this, we went back to Peter's girlfriends house for coffee. Don showed us some pictures of his family, and gave us Yamanaka's business card, complete with his Tokyo number on it. He told us he was booked on a flight out of Heathrow at 7.30 a.m. and asked if I could possibly run him out there. Those of you who know London will understand that from the Essex borders to Heathrow Airport is some journey, even at that time of the morning. Still, nothing was too much, given that Mr. Anderson had already told us that Yamanaka was certain to take his advice, and he thought we would be a very good team to sponsor. By now it was about 3 a.m. so off we went again. Peter was finished by now, and went off to bed. I took the shortest route between two points, and went straight through the centre of London. At that time of day/night it is the quickest East-West route. Strangely enough though, as we drove down the Strand, this strange character suddenly decided that he wanted to make a phone call from the 'all-night post office' just off Trafalgar Square. He said, “Don't worry, I'll get a taxi back to Heathrow from here.”

I suppose by the time I got to bed it was about 4.00 a.m. Back at my desk in the Co-op just a few short hours later the inevitable call came in from Peter. What did I think ? “Well, fantastic. We're on our way etc etc.” “Mmmmm,” said Peter, “I doubt it. Too much just doesn't add up.” During the next few minutes we made some enquiries, and ultimately came to some shattering conclusions. We'd been had !

Consider: 1. Mr. Anderson was VERY scruffy. Not to put too fine a point on it, he ponged. He explained that he had just come off an aeroplane and had been travelling for 24 hours - but, even so…..
2. He spoke of his wife, twice. Once to say she was dead; and once to say she lived in Australia. (He had an antipodean accent himself.)
3. We discovered that there were no flights out of Heathrow at that time of the morning.

Still, in his defence, he did quote the Japanese magazine article, and he dropped the name of the Editor of a British car magazine. Plus, of course, there was the business card ! The investigation begun. Peter called the magazine editor he named, and found out that the guy did indeed know a Don Anderson, but he certainly did not fit our man's description. I phoned international directory enquiries to verify the address in Tokyo, only to be told that Hideo Yamanaka is about as common in Japan as John Smith is in England. And there are no department stores called Yamanaka.

So there you are. An incredibly elaborate hoax. But what did he achieve ? He certainly kept us up all night; and he had a free burger. He also got to see the car, but he could have done that anyway - visitors were always warmly welcomed at our workshop. The question has always bugged us; he was a tramp, or at least something very close to one, so how on earth did he ever get to find out about that Japanese magazine article ?

This episode in the story of Peter Connew's Formula One car may seem to be total fantasy, but I can assure you that ever word of it is told just how it happened.

For a few hours I had felt rather sorry for Francois and his group because although we had only met them once, 'Frankie' as we naturally called him had proved to be an amusing and friendly guy, and I was looking forward to seeing him drove our car. The first time we met them, we went to a nice pub for a drink and a chat, as well as taking them all to see the car. Frankie made an impression straightaway when he produced from his pocket something which I shall tactfully call a 'marital aid' but which wouldn't vibr…sorry, work. He was delighted when Roger tinkered with it, and made it work.

So now, it was all back on again.

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