GRR

This MG Bellevue Special raced at the very first Goodwood meeting

08th September 2016
Adam Wilkins

Funny how old racing cars go through a phase of being almost worthless. This MG Bellevue Special, for instance, was found languishing in a scrapyard in the 1960s, the final ignominy following a descent into having had an unflattering GRP body fitted in place of the original aluminium.

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That’s not how its began life in 1937. The Bellevue Special was built by Walter ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson on a 1935 MG Magnette to create a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre offset monoposto. ‘Wilkie’ went on to make his name working on Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar C and D-Types, but was working for the Wandsworth based Bellevue Garage when he built this aluminium bodied MG.

‘Wilkie’ and Bellevue founders, the Evans brothers, raced the car with some success in its first season, and two years later it was sold to Brooklands racer Charles Mortimer. During the war and just after, it changed hands a few more times until, in 1948, it was purchased by Basil de Lissa. He raced it at Goodwood’s first ever meeting in September 1948, and was responsible for the addition of a supercharger and updated radiator cowl.

It was after de Lissa sold the car that it was fitted with unattractive GRP bodywork and ended up in a scrapyard. Norman Hart acquired the car in 2003 and carried out a thorough restoration. When historic motor trader Tom Hart was enlisted to help sell the car a few years ago, he couldn’t resist keeping it. The original engine and six Amal carburettors are on display in Tom’s showroom.

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He brought it back to Goodwood last year, but unfortunately a broken crankshaft meant that the car retired. It took 30 weeks to source a replacement, but he’s back with the car this year. Since we last saw it, the suspension has been put back to how it was in period, and the manual gearbox has been swapped for a pre-selector ’box, the car having alternated between the two transmissions throughout its life. The chassis has also been put back to its original Bellevue Blue from the BRG we saw last year.

The softer suspension has made the car easy to drive on the limit, says Tom: “On the last lap of qualifying, I came out of the chicane sideways. My wife Helen said ‘I told you not to do that!’” He plans to stiffen up the suspension before the race but his other qualm, heavy steering caused by excessive castor, can’t be rectified in the paddock.

It’ll be great to see a car from Goodwood’s very first meeting competing again this weekend.

Photography by Tom Shaxson

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