GRR

This Connaught was raced by the man who funded the team

07th September 2018
Andrew Evans

There are many famous names and brands at the Revival this year, some still making cars today and some lost to the sands of time.

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Sitting firmly in the second category is Connaught. It was a short-lived endeavour, set up by two ex-airmen after the Second World War, that lasted barely a decade – although it still left quite a mark.

The name Connaught itself was a play on the phrase “Continental Autos”, reflecting the company’s origins as a garage specialising in racing cars from the continent. The airmen, Rodney Clarke and Mike Oliver, had originally set up as Continental Cars, in Send, Surrey, dealing with Bugatti and Maserati models. With the supply of Bugattis drying up as Molsheim shut down after the war, Continental turned to making its own cars under the Connaught banner.

Owner Guy Loveridge comments: “The start of the story is that they came out of the war and they wanted to go motor racing in a grand way. They started out trying to be a Bugatti agency, because they’d all played with Bugattis. By 1948 Bugatti had said it wasn’t going to get back into production, so they started running other people’s cars. Then they decided they wanted to be manufacturers, bought a Lea-Francis frame and turned it into this.”

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The car in question is Connaught’s first road car. It’s called the “L2” (“L1” was a prototype that never saw light of day), as a nod to the fact it was a Lea-Francis beneath the Clarke-designed body. The L2 was derived from the Lea-Francis 14hp model, using the chassis and engine – albeit significantly reworked. In its original application, the 1.8-litre four-cylinder would produce around 65hp. In the Connaught it was good for over 100hp – more when equipped with four Amal carbs like this model.

“I’ve been associated with Connaught and fascinated by the make. I’ve raced the sister car (AHC 82) a couple of times. I’d always wanted to have a real car with real history, and when this car came up at H&H Auctions at Chateau Impney Hill two years ago I went and bought it.”

Loveridge’s L2 is the very first, which Connaught built in competition spec for the company’s benefactor, Kenneth McAlpine. McAlpine, who is today the oldest living F1 driver, is a member of the family behind the McAlpine civil engineering company, and funded Connaught’s activities. Indeed this car was McAlpine’s own.

“Kenneth McAlpine was the funding behind Connaught. This car was made for him – it was his works car; the MPH cars were the factory cars.

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“It went to a guy called Graham Simpson in the 1950s. It then went to Australia to a motor museum for 20-odd years. It came back and raced in the Historic Grand Prix Car Association, where it had a chequered career until it came to us. I’m delighted to have had a chance to bring it here and race it, 70 years after its birth.”

The L2 is as old as the Goodwood Circuit itself. It appeared at the opening meeting in 1948, although it didn’t compete and instead made its racing debut at Poole in October 1948. It did race at Goodwood in the 1949 season though. While Connaught went on to concentrate on single-seaters, the L2 continued to race at Goodwood through the 1950s.

The end of the Connaught story is just as strange as the start. As Loveridge explains, it ended for love:

“When McAlpine got engaged he promised his fiancée Patricia he wouldn’t race any more. Within two years of him pulling his money, Connaught went out of business.”

Photography by Peter Summers

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