Revival visitors might have wondered why an Isuzu Bellett was in attendance. Being in a race might be curious enough, but what on earth could it have done to justify a place among some of the most wonderful sports racing cars ever built in the tribute parade to Bruce McLaren?
It’s all a bit like this rather undistinguished looking Japanese saloon has taken a wrong turn en-route to the public car park. As you will have guessed, however, its credentials are impeccable.
A Bellett race car was entered by the Nippon Company in the Goodwood Easter meeting in 1965 – the driver one Bruce McLaren. It might not have actually raced but Bruce did drive it in practice. There are the pictures to prove it.
It must have been as curious a sight then as it is today. It was the first Japanese car ever at Goodwood and, despite no doubt the best intentions of the Nippon Company at the time, the Bellett was never really designed to race.
One of the pictures of Bruce McLaren in the car in 1965 inspired Mark Bevington to recreate the racer as a wild-card saloon entry for the St Mary’s Trophy, a race that is of course not quite complete without a quirky surprise or two at the back of the grid.
That was easier said than done because Isuzu Belletts were never sold in the UK. They were however in Australia, which is where this one came from a few years ago. It was a rusty wreck without a floor but was rebuilt by Chris Snowdon Racing (in seven weeks) and took part in its first Revival in 2013.
Obviously with a back story like that the red car had to be back this year to help celebrate the McLaren anniversary and strut its stuff again in the St Mary’s. Which it did on the Saturday with no less a driver than David Brabham behind the wheel and in part two of the race on Sunday with owner Mark driving – and to the crowd’s delight enjoying a particularly fierce dice with the Anglia 105E driven by Theo Paphitis. Fierce? The Bellett still bears the dragon’s scars…
We called by the Bellett in the paddock to see for ourselves just what sort of car it is. The first thing to say is that it looks even less of a racing car when parked alongside the Ford GT40 prototype (though in fairness the GT40 has that effect on a lot of cars.)
But with its (Hillman Imp inspired) swing axle it offers a very tunable setup; D Brabham (Bentley Boy, now Bellett Boy!?!) reported the car ‘handles beautifully but runs out of breath’ after his stint on Saturday. The Bellett’s 1600cc engine is good for around 90bhp.
The Bellett is also, according to Aussie fans Tom and Julie Amos, ‘built like a Sherman tank’. Tom and Julie are from the Isuzu Club in Australia, where there are hundreds of Belletts in enthusiasts’ hands, though few of them race any more.
The Amoses have come over from Sydney specially for Revival, with the highlight being their drive in the Bellett in the McLaren parade.
‘It’s quite a thrill,’ Julie tells us. ‘But then just being here is a huge a thrill.’