GRR

This unique Jaguar XK140 Gomm is beauty incarnate

14th July 2022
Andrew Willis

The Peter Collins Trophy always welcomes a stacked field of achingly pretty 1950s sports cars. It’s only right that a race named after one of motorsport’s most dashing, breathtakingly fast, but always gentlemanly competitors is so awash with iconic pieces of motorsport engineering. Each and every one steeped in class and an expertly measured amount of panache.

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At the 79th Goodwood Members’ Meeting presented by presented by Audrain Motorsport, the Peter Collins Trophy field didn’t disappoint, with the likes of Maserati 300S, Jaguar C and D-types, an Alfa Romeo 3000 'Disco Volante' and a Ferrari 250TR/290MM amongst others vying for podium places and unofficial ‘belle of the ball’ accolades. Despite the competition, one car in particular caught our eye over the weekend in the shape of a completely unique 1954 Jaguar XK140 Gomm Special.

It may not have the most elegant name in the world, but don’t be fooled, the XK140 Gomm is a complete stunner. And judging by the constant buzz around the car, we weren’t the only ones paying it the extra attention as we got the lowdown from owner and driver, Mr Rick Willmott.

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“It's a special because it has a Maurice Gomm handmade aluminium body on it. So it's a complete one off.”

Maurice ‘Mo’ Gomm, was the owner of a typical artisan motoring company that set up shop in the ‘50s around Surrey and the South of England, specialising in fabrications and metal works for the burgeoning motorsport industry. A largely unknown figure, he was said not to suffer fools, while being utterly committed to his work. Often found peering out from behind his welding mask, cigarette ablaze in a cloud of smoke.

“The unusual thing about it is that the Gomm body wasn't made for this chassis. It was originally made for a 1938 Alta single-seater GP car. The owner at the time wanted to create a more road-going car. So he had this unique body built by Gomm.”

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Indeed, the extensive and mind-bendingly complex historic records of the chequered, Frankenstein existence of this Alta Gomm Special states that the car was registered for the road on July 27 1955, before it became lost to the sands of time as a whimsical runaround for a generation or two.

“At some point in its history, the Alta Special was taken apart again, and the Gomm bodywork was laid up for a number of years until it was spotted by an XK engineer. He saw it and recognised that the wheelbase would fit an XK140 chassis, so he decided to put the two together.”

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That engineer was Charles Fripp of Twyford Moors garage in Hampshire. Said to have been “stirred” by the sight of the Gomm bodywork, he immediately set to work placing it on an XK140 chassis and Jaguar 3.4-litre engine. A two-year build process followed, with the ultimate dream of acquiring FIA papers. But because of its unique past, lacking in-period battle honours, politics got in the way and the FIA declined repeated applications.

Despite the lack of FIA accreditation, Rick Willmott was, like most who see her, bowled over by the opportunity to take responsibility for such a memorable piece of art. Having owned the car for around four years, he continues to support the Jag’s long legacy, always looking to seek incremental improvements to performance while sharing its idiosyncratic story.

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“In terms of XK, we've got a reasonably competitive car. In today's grid, not so much, because it still weighs the best part of 1,100 kilos. So compared against a D-type or a C-type, it's carrying way too much weight. But she's great fun to drive. It handles well, we've done all we can to lighten her and to lower her, but she is running on full drum brakes all round. So she is slow to stop, but brilliant fun. It looks nice, and sounds ridiculous.”

The cacophony of orchestral brilliance that Rick is talking about is produced from the original Jaguar 3.4-litre engine with twin carburettors and a four-speed Moss manual gearbox.

“She goes well and she gets the occasional invite here, which is a fantastic thing. There's still work to do though. Last time I ran her here at Goodwood she was on disc brakes and I've actually run a second and a half quicker on drums this time around. So we've managed to get more performance out of the engine and the suspension which is great.”

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Qualifying 16th, Rick was relaxed about the second to last race of the event, and was clearly just enjoying his weekend with one of the meeting's most beautiful pieces of engineering.

“Frankly, the goal is just to enjoy it. And not to get overtaken! But it’s a really fantastic opportunity to race here. It’s a genuine privilege.”

And with that, we wished the softly-spoken Rick and his stunning Jaguar Gomm Special goodbye. If there was ever a pairing to do the spirit of the Peter Collins Trophy justice at the 79th Members’ Meeting, we’d put this charming driver and car right up there with the best.

  • Jaguar

  • XK140

  • Gomm

  • 79MM

  • Members' Meeting

  • Peter Collins Trophy

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