Here is the versatile British driver Vic Elford with a McLaren M7B in Tarzan Corner at the old Zandvoort circuit during the Dutch Grand Prix on June 21, 1969. Now what, you might ask, has this to do with Antique Automobiles? Everything. On the side of Elford’s car one may see those words, printed in an antique typeface, so they were his prime sponsor. But who were they, or rather he, as this sponsorship had been arranged by the famous British car broker of those years, Colin Crabbe. This unlikely partnership contested several of the year’s Grands Prix, usually qualifying last, but often finishing. Here they matched that standard again for both qualifying and finishing.
The Antique Automobiles Racing Team was a way for the entrepreneurial Crabbe to go racing in the big time of F1. Crabbe was then, and is today, a larger than life character who had done well in the 1960s and 1970s in finding old and often long-abandoned racing cars in unusual and far away places. His sniffing out of such opportunities took him behind the Iron Curtain to Eastern Europe, to Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and into the back street garages of such cities as Sao Paolo, Brazil and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Some of his “finds” included various prewar Grand Prix cars, forgotten Ferrari Testa Rossas and similar automotive icons. They were not worth much then, and their physical conditions were often nearly scrap, which made a small payment often sufficient to obtain ownership, transport back to the U.K. for restoration and an eventual profit.
Vic Elford was indeed of unusual racing abilities. He drove almost everything, starting out in rallies from which he used an almost photographic memory, needing to drive a road only once to have it ready to take at 10 tenths. This also made him an accomplished racer. In 1967 he won both the famed Monte Carlo Rally in a Porsche 911 and the Daytona 24 Hours in a Porsche 907. He also won the Targa Florio, which demanded all his rally instincts, as well as winning the major sports cars races at Sebring and the Nürburgring. He was never offered the level of F1 opportunity that his obvious talents deserved.
Photo by Nigel Snowdon ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcll.com
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