What do a former KGB car, a turquoise-and-white Nash Metropolitan and an MG 1100 have in common? All who have been to Revival in recent years will know the answer at once.
Welcome to some of the most unlikely, but endearing, racers at the, er, how shall we put this? less exalted end of the historic racing saloon grid. And to one company in particular that has championed the underdog like few others, providing on the way some of the most memorable racing moments at Goodwood.
CCK Historic, just outside Uckfield, has made its name by restoring and race-prepping historic saloon cars of a type that cause jaws to drop in disbelief when they flash by in the St Mary’s Trophy. In their day most of them weren’t even remotely sporty.
Cars like the GAZ M21 Volga – competing at Revival again this year – and CCK’s signature model, the Nash Metropolitan. Other underdogs turned track stars from CCK include Standard Vanguard, Ford Zodiac, Volvos Amazon and PV544, Austin A40, Riley 1.5, MG 1100 – crowd favourites that bring not just plenty of character to the racing but speed and ability, too.
That last bit’s all down to CCK, as owner Shaun Rainford says: ‘These are family cars that were never meant to go racing. So why do we race them? Because we can, and it’s fun.
‘With natural race cars there’s no challenge. But there’s a big challenge in trying to turn cars like the GAZ, the Nash and the MG into race cars. And we love a challenge…’
There’s something else at work here too: the democratisation of historic motor sport. ‘C and D-types are beautiful works of art but they are way above most people’s budgets,’ says Shaun. ‘We are working class guys in a very rich man’s playground. We are at the affordable end of the saloon racing market, and we love it there.’
Would he swap his Austins and Standards for a workshop full of Jaguars and Ferraris? ‘Absolutely not.’
Inside the historic race car Golden Triangle
CCK stands for Classic Cars of Kent – not quite accurate since they moved from Tonbridge to near Uckfield (East Sussex) nine years ago. CCES obviously doesn’t have the same ring to it.
They occupy sprawling ex-farm buildings in a rural spot in what is a Golden Triangle of classic car restoration. Eagle E-types are up the road, DK Engineering round the corner, and CKL Engineering (of Jaguar fame) not far away in Battle. Crosthwaite & Gardiner are so close that when they restored their last Mercedes Silver Arrow and were about to fire it up for the first time, they phoned Shaun and crew and told them to go outside and listen. Sure enough they heard the roar drifting across the Sussex fields loud and clear.
Shaun and his ‘general everything’ Daniel Lackey pride themselves on having a one-stop road/race restoration business. There are half a dozen or so people here fulltime, with the workshop manager Graham Smeeton having worked with Shaun for 25 years. The thing you need to know about Graham is that in his spare time he is making a model steam engine. From scratch.
With bodyshop, workshop, prep room, machine shop, engine assembly room and paint shop, CCK can do most things: ‘A barn find can come in one end and emerge from the other a completely restored and race-prepared car.’ Cars undergoing that process at present include a Cheetah from the US (1960s Corvette-based Cobra rival), and a Plymouth Barracuda.
Not all A-series engines then. The firm has in fact a soft spot for BMW CSLs (it’s restoring its fourth) and also did all the work on the Jim Russell (of race school fame) 1956 Cooper MkX Formula 3 car that resides in polished-aluminium, exquisitely-engineered gorgeousness in CCK’s display area.
CCK also has an in-demand rolling road, used by others including CKL. It’s good for 600bhp; Shaun says they have had a BMW CSL on it at 170mph. ‘Two of the guys had to climb in the boot to stop the back wheels spinning.’ Every car that CCK is running in historic racing this year (about 10 of them) is checked out on the rolling road before each event.
CCK fields cars in HRDC and HSCC events but is closely associated with the St Mary’s Trophy race at the Goodwood Revival. Two years ago they had six cars competing: all started and all finished, despite two blown up engines, one blown up gearbox and an errant bonnet.
The Members’ Meeting gets a huge thumbs up from CCK. At the 72nd in March, Shaun raced his MG 1100, qualifying 13th against the Lotus Cortinas et al. ‘The MG has no grunt down the straights but it handles so well you can virtually take everything flat. I was taking No Name flat and tried to take St Mary’s flat too… that’s when I got on the grass. But I had to try.’
Who is Shaun Rainford?
Shaun was 14 when he began his first restoration, of a Triumph TR4 (which he still has) at home in south-east London. He left school as soon as he was able, landed an engineering apprenticeship and enrolled for college with his scraped-together two O-levels.
Soon he was into racing in a mix of Sprites and Midgets, mostly of the Lenham Modsports variety. He clearly has an enduring love for Lenham – well known in the 1960s for fibreglass-bodied Spridgets, some successful racing cars and a great many aftermarket hard-tops. In 2008 CCK bought Lenham Motor Company Ltd.
Lenhams on show in the ’CCK Collection’ include the Lenham GTO, the open top version of the Le Mans Coupe, and a recreation of John Britten’s famous racing Lenham GT, SS1800, which gave Shaun one of his early podium finishes at Revival.
So what made him switch to tin-tops? ‘I would rather race with a roof,’ he says. He jumped at the chance to partner Richard Cross in a Riley 1.5. ‘As soon as I drove the Riley I knew these cars were for me.’ The Austin A40 came next, then the MG 1100 – ‘a theme had started to develop.’
What is it about these wacky racers that the crowds – and top touring car drivers too – love so much? ‘It’s door handle to door handle racing,’ says Shaun. ‘You get Morris Minors, Mercedes, Minis, Ford Galaxies, it makes an awesome sight. They are cars that people can relate to. And the standard of driving is very high, with a lot of car control on show.’
What’s next from CCK?
Shaun Rainford loves a project. And CCK has several on the go, as a quick look around the yards and workshops shows.
There’s the Austin-Healey 3000 they found up on bricks in a garage in London last year. A one-owner car, it hadn’t moved since 1975 and is still covered in almost 40 years’ of London grime. Not much to beat that in the authenticity stakes… apart perhaps from the Morris 10 they acquired. Still a runner, it’s just as it was in 1938. And no, that’s not being turned into a racer…
Why so many Jag XJSs around the yard? Shaun is collecting tired and tatty V12 coupes – ‘they can cost just a few hundred pounds’ – in order to turn them into affordable track-day warriors.
Project XJS involves adding a roll cage, new manifolds and swapping the injection system for half a dozen Weber carbs. The circa 300bhp result would be a road-registerable track special for not much outlay. ‘What else is there like this?’ asks Shaun. ‘BMW M3s are too expensive.’ For Shaun it’s another way of proving that you don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to have fun in old cars.
If it happens – and we suspect it will – the refurbished Jags will be badged Lenham Jaguar XJS.
Talking of which, he is clearly itching to see a resurgence of interest in historic Modsports racing so he can taken his Lenhams out on track again. ‘Modsports in the ’70s and ’80s was massive. I think it will come back – it’s a great alternative to big bucks racing.’
QUICK FIRE ROUND
Shaun Rainford, your time starts now…
Your daily driver?
‘A Porsche 944 that’s been in the family since 1987. It’s got Carrera suspension and (924 Carrera GT inspired) bonnet vents, now all I need is a turbo engine for it.’
Oddest job you’ve been asked to do?
‘A Mini stretch limo for the Mini’s anniversary party at Revival a few years ago. We bought three rusted wrecks and created one very long Mini. In six weeks. Today it’s very popular for proms and weddings!’
‘We have the Cheetah under way now which we hope will make its debut at Revival next year (see separate ‘CCK cars that rock’ article), while we have started work on a Plymouth Barracuda. There’s a quick one racing already here but we figure another will be good. We have a plan for it… and a great colour scheme!’
How much does it cost to go historic racing with CCK?
‘Allow about £1500 per race meeting. You can buy a reliable, race prepared historic saloon for £10k. You’d be at the back of the field though.’
What advice for would-be owners?
‘Choose a car you can fall in love with a bit. A car with some heart, not just a box on wheels. It helps.’
How would you use the last tank of petrol in the world?
‘For the most fun, I’d put it in the Lenham GT SS1800. For such a small car it does everything you want a car to. It’s tremendously quick around Goodwood. After the drive I’d be on a high for a week.’