“We’ll have it going half sensible by the end of the day,” says Tony Hansford after climbing out of his just-restored Rochdale GT, its race-spec Coventry Climax engine ticking away after some early track action today at the first pre-Revival test session.
“This car is a bit different for me,” confides Tony, who normally races a Formula One car – an Arrows A21 – in the EuroBOSS (Big Open-wheeled Single Seaters) historic F1 series. A bit different? He can say that again. The GT is a pretty little fibre-glass bodied two-door coupe on a Ford Popular chassis, put together from the 1950s by the tiny British kit car firm Rochdale. An F1 car it ain’t.
“They only made 98,” Tony explains. “They were road cars but because they were so light – my car weighs just 620kg – they were popular in club racing in the 1950s and ‘60s. My 1959 car had a Climax engine, the full Lotus XI spec unit, in its day so has always been pretty quick on its 135bhp.”
There are now only a handful of Rochdales left and Tony’s immaculate BRG car will make a rare sight at Revival competing in the Fordwater Trophy. “I will be up against cars from Ferrari 250s and Mercedes Gullwings to MGAs and TR2s,” says Tony. “I think the Rochdale GT will be good. I am pleased with the way it went this morning and I think we will be quick. I am looking forward to the racing.”
Revival will in fact mark the debut of both car and driver. “I have never done a Revival before – always been off racing somewhere else,” Tony says. “ In fact I have to say that the last time I drove around Goodwood was 20 years ago when I did a Formula Ford test.” Don’t worry, Tony. It hasn’t changed much.
Tony might not win the Fordwater Trophy but one thing for sure is that the sight of this British rarity will make a great advertisement for H Engineering, Tony’s classic car restoration business in Tunbridge Wells (and you can see pictures of the restoration here).
“The car had been sitting in the workshop since I bought it, as a wreck, five years ago. The restoration has taken three years, on and off. It is very different sort of thing for me but I love older cars and after having restored lots of them for customers thought it was time I did one for myself. I think I am going to enjoy competing in it. I have rebuilt it in road/rally spec so I can do some historic rallies in it as well.”
Good luck Tony, and watch that oversteer…