For sale: Gordini Type 15S, a grand prix car that raced at Le Mans
Imagine taking a current Formula 1 car and converting it so that it could race at Le Mans. Unlikely? Today, impossible. But not in 1952…
That’s exactly what French sports car manufacturer Amédée Gordini did with his 1947 Type 11 monoposto grand prix car, as driven by Jean Behra and the future quintuple Formula 1 World Champion Juan-Manuel Fangio.
Gordini wasn’t known as “the Sorcerer” for nothing and he often converted GP chassis into sports racers. In 1952 the Type 11 was reborn as a Type 15S two-seat barchetta and, just days after the conversion, entered for the 1952 Le Mans. It made it through 18 hours before retiring with clutch problems. It went on to compete again at Le Mans and in other top-flight sportscar races.
As well as its distinguished showing in two top motorsports categories, the Gordini Type 15S is a real rarity. Only five of the single seaters were made in 1946/47 and of all the Gordini four-cylinder barchettas there are only two in the world. One is in France’s national motor museum at the Schlumpf Collection in Mulhouse. And the other is the car you see here which Bonhams will be selling in its auction in Chantilly in France on 30th June.
And what a pretty thing it is. As a GP car, competing in places like Pau, it was powered by a 1,220cc and then a normally-aspirated 1,430cc four-cylinder engine – the latter unit enabling Jean-Pierre Wimille to hold second place until lap 57 in the 1947 Monaco Grand Prix. So it was quick as well as pretty. In its subsequent life as a sports car it was clocked at 118mph on the Mulsanne Straight.
In 1953, after an impressive second place over Maseratis, Porsches, Aston Martins, OSCAs and Jaguars in a sportscar race in Roubaix, the Gordini was bought by two Irish spectators who were impressed by its performance. Thus it was the Gordini Type 15S that went to Dean's Grange in Dublin. Now painted dark green with an orange stripe, one of its first races was in the 1953 Goodwood Nine Hours.
In recent times the car has been extensively restored and competed in the Mille Miglia, Monaco Historic and Le Mans Classic, as well as appearing in concours events.
If you want a four-cylinder Gordini two-seater it is probably best to grab this one because chances are the Schlumpf Museum won’t be selling the other one any time soon. Bonhams reckons it will make up to a million euros – or around £620-890,000, when it crosses the block as one of an impressive line-up of collectors’ cars at its Chantilly sale.