APR 08th 2015

GRR Read Test: Octane's Italian Job

Where to start out as a historic race driver? A good place might be this month’s Octane magazine, or rather the freebie supplement that comes with it.

Read_Test_Octane_May_0804201501‘Chequered Flag’ is far from all you need to know about historic motor sport, but for novices keen to join the grids in their own historic racer it offers a useful introduction.

Which includes a seat-of-the-pants report from the latest historic race class: the Historic Racing Drivers’ Club (HRDC) Academy for Austin A30s and A35s. The brainchild of HRDC and Goodwood stalwart Julius Thurgood, the Academy is a new entry-level historic racing category aimed at the more affordable end of the spectrum.

Affordable? Octane’s editor David Lillywhite reports that it’s possible to build one of the little racers for £15,000. Which includes the donor vehicle.

No surprise then that 16 Academy cars – all certified to HRDC spec – have so far been built and are to take to the track this year in the two HRDC series for which they are eligible. You may have seen one of the cars in the Sopwith Cup at the Members’ Meeting.

Lillywhite says his A35 is bags of fun on track and the racing this year promises to be close and exciting. Perhaps, but we reckon the most excitement to be had will be from behind the wheel.


The supplement does a good job explaining the different historic championships and 2015 racing calendar, has features on data-logging and circuit driving tips, and comes up with suggestions for potential historic race cars – like the Mazda RX3, Merc 450 SLC and Jensen 541. ‘The Jensen might even get the call for the St Mary’s Trophy,’ surmises the mag.

And Octane itself this month? You’ll spot it by the orange Lamborghini Miura on the cover and the ‘Italian Job’ coverline. The Miura ‘drove into a tunnel, hit a bulldozer – then disappeared for 45 years. Seems like it’s back…’ trumpets the mag.


So, the actual Italian Job car used for the film’s opening driving shots? They can’t be entirely sure but the Octane forensics team goes to great lengths to support the supposition that it is. Apparently the imperfectly even lines of perforations in the white leather of the driver’s headrest are a real giveaway. And yes, there are photographs of said perforations so you can make up your own mind…

True or not it makes for a good yarn and is a must for Italian Job anoraks. But, it’s an investigation not a drive story – into Italian tunnels or anywhere else.


The mag remembers Jem Marsh (Marcos founder, of course) and historic rally pioneer Philip Young, who tragically was killed on the Road to Mandalay Rally earlier this year.


F1 tech genius Ross Brawn, very much alive and well, spills the beans about his new motoring passion: a 1904 Wilson-Pilcher veteran. We like the story too about the ex-Jabouille-Depailler Renault-Alpine A443 that was robbed of victory at Le Mans in 1978. The track test sums it up as ‘everything Renault and Alpine knew about racing cars crystallised into one epic machine.’ Quite a car indeed.

Also robbed of (sales) victory was Octane May’s road test subject: the AC 428. Part of the problem was that this Cobra successor was not at all Cobra shaped, says reporter Richard Heseltine, and as a result didn’t go down well at the time. Heseltine finds, however, that today the 428 is ‘one of the best cars ever to wear the AC badge’, as well as the most handsome of Anglo-American hybrids.

And finally, more orange paintwork caught our attention – in the form of the Lincoln Indianapolis, a one-off Boano-bodied show car from 1955 that has been restored not just as a show car but as a car to be driven to the shows and back.


 Maybe its new owner (the spectacular machine is in the RM Sotheby’s auction in Fort Worth, Texas, on 2 May) will be good enough to drive it over here for the Style et Luxe concours d’elegance at FoS in June!



GRR Read Test Verdict

Great effort this month from a mag at the top of its game

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