Allen Grant, Tony Maggs and the Lola MK6

In August I had the pleasure of having Allen Grant from Vancouver, Washington, to stay for a few days. From the airport I took him straight to the GT40 factory where the guys had a farewell barbeque before the containers left for Hi-Tech Automotive in Port Elizabeth. That was his induction to Cape Town, South Africa!

Allen, a property developer and building contractor, was a Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe works driver in 1965 and won the Monza 1000 km race with Bob Bondurant.

In 1959, aged 19, he started taking part in autocross events and gymkhanas, in his Austin-Healey 3000, being too young to get a full competitions licence. In 1960 he bought an AC-Bristol and in 1962 enrolled at an SCCA driving school near San Francisco where Ed Lesley was an instructor. Now armed with a competitions licence he got going and in that year won 12 out of 14 races which earned him the title of West Coast Championship Rookie of the Year.

With confidence on a high he knocked on Carroll Shelby’s door one morning in January 1963 to offer his services as works driver. ‘Forget’, said the big Texan, ‘You can start as welder and please report to Phil Remington’. Well, that was at least a foot into the Shelby camp.

At Sebring in 1963 he was part of the pit crew for Phil Hill and later in that year he moved into the office where his job was to order cars from AC in the UK. In that year he bought his own Cobra and the yellow and black colour scheme was designed by Allen’s buddy, the well-known film director, George Lucas. Rather than me tell you the rest of the story please rush off to your nearest book shop and buy a copy of Bob Friedman’s fantastic book – COBRA – THE SHELBY AMERICAN ORIGINAL ARCHIVES 1962 – 1965. Allen brought me copy which he autographed with a message. A great treasure!

In 1964 Allen became part of the Shelby GT40 pit crew and worked closely with Ron Butler, a good buddy until today and whom he describes as the ultimate GT40 expert in the world. Ron lives in Santa Barbara.

Then for the 1965 World Sports Car Championship season Allen got a works drive in the Daytona Coupe and history will tell us Cobra ended up as world champs.

Also of great interest is that Allen owns the original 1963 Lola MK6 which he bought from Eric Broadley for $3,000 in 1965 and hasn’t driven it an inch since then! Mind you without an engine and gearbox it won’t go far in any case! See following article taken from the May/June 2004 edition of the SVT Enthusiast magazine.

Tony Maggs, the man who drove the Lola for the first time at Silverstone in mid-May, 1963 lives at a coastal resort about 80 miles from Cape Town. I took Allen through on a Sunday to meet up with Tony over lunch and it was great listening to a trip down memory lane between the original driver and the current owner of the car that gave birth to the GT40.

Tony reminded us that for that first race at Silverstone John Surtees was down to drive the car but had to pull out at the last minute because Ferrari wouldn’t allow him to drive the Lola because of his contract with them. Tony heard his name called over the loudspeaker system and when he arrived at the Lola pit he was told to get in and drive never as much as even having sat in the car. I doubt if this has ever happened in the history of motor sport. Tony started at the back of the grid and despite having to get a feel for the car and the engine repeatedly cutting out he finished in creditable ninth place.

Two weeks later at the Nurburgring 1000 km race he was paired with Bob Olthoff to drive the car. Both Tony and Bob told me at different times that they thought the Lola MK6 was one of the beautiful cars they had ever seen. I’m sure you would agree – just look at the shape even 41 years later! No matter how smooth the body shape, the aerodynamics were all wrong and at some 140 mph along the undulating straight leading towards the start and finish straight the rear end would come clean off the ground which gave both drivers the opportunity to blip the throttle and watch the rev counter needle shooting up. The tail would also sway from side to side and clouted the neat row of hedges on either side of the track. Next time round there would be swirling leaves all over the place.

Then when Tony was at the wheel he noticed a silver flash in the rear view mirror. It was a rapidly disappearing wheel spinner followed a few seconds later by the right rear wheel coming of. Tony brought the Lola to a stop, retrieved the wheel and found a pole with which to lift the car. Some spectators offered help which would have resulted in disqualification as drivers had to carry out repairs by themselves. He got the car going and handed over to Bob who eventually coasted to halt when the distributor drive broke. Bob then wanted to get back to the pits by going through the forest but was prevented from doing so by a policeman. Not a problem, Bob punched the cop straight on the jaw and as the stunned upholder of German law and order fell on his back he drew his firearm. Several spectators formed a shield between a fast disappearing Bob and the cop!

Then again two weeks later when Richard Attwood and David Hobbs drove the dark green sister car at Le Mans, David crashed it in the Esses when the gear selector stuck.

Were the first three races for the Lola MK6 exciting and turbulent? A baptism of fire? You bet!

Tony asked Allen to autograph his book on the history of Lola, also written by Bob Friedman. Allen obliged and wrote most appropriately, ‘Thank you for not crashing my car.’

I also introduced Allen to Bob Olthoff’s long standing friend and fellow pilot, Derrick Tessnaar, who makes resin bodies of racing and sports cars for slot car racing. Derrick also makes a model of the Lola MK6 and has two with Bob and Tony’s autographs on the roof. See following pic.

From the late 1960s Bob and Tony went their own separate ways but were to be re-united years later by a bizarre twist of fate.

After Tony had returned to the family farm in the Northern Transvaal after retiring from racing he started going out with the daughter of the owner of the Ranch Motel near Pietersburg. One day his farm manager, Basil Pogson, arrived with friend in a Piper Aztec. Tony and his lady friend were invited to come for a joy ride. The pilot then started showing what the Piper ‘can do’ but lost the plot and hit the deck. The Aztec burst into flames but Tony managed to get out only to dive in to pull the others out. He did so knowing that there was a gas cylinder on board. He ruefully told me that after having survived on race tracks all over the world he had to be barbequed in a plane crash.

His lady friend suffered leg burns but recovered eventually. The pilot, of course was OK and Basil died a few weeks later from his injuries. Four years later Tony married Basil’s widow, Frances, who had a young son, Merlin.

Many years later Merlin married Bob’s daughter, Cheryl, thereby keeping it in the family! Cheryl’s brother, Dennis, is continuing to run the Superformance dealership in North Carolina after Bob’s death a few months ago due to lung cancer.

Here endeth the history lesson!

Now an important question. As Allen owns the original car and Rob Beddington in Robin Hood country owns a set of production moulds we have been discussing the possibility, also with Lola Heritage and Eric Broadley, of building a replica. Only three MK6s were built and we feel that if we were to go ahead the 1965 Mecom car with wider wheels and wheel arches would be the one to replicate. We feel that with the new FIA ruling that will allow precise replicas to run with original cars with FIA papers there could be a limited market for the historically important Lola MK6. Opinions please.

Best regards,
Andre 40
 
Allen Grant's Lola MK6
 

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Tony and Allen going down memory lane!

Note Dave Friedman's Cobra book on the table
 

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Allen and Derick (with one 'r') with the model of the Lola MK6 with Tony Maggs's and Bob Olthoff's autographs on the roof.
 

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Andre, did Rob B. get it sorted out with reproducing Colotti transaxles...?

Interesting story, btb, incidentally, just picked up my copy of George Lucas's "THX 1138" JUST to watch Robert Duvall driving the Lola T-70 down the tunnel doing 150+ mph

Not many people know that George was a mechanic

Rick /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif
 
Hi Rick,

Don't know about the Colotti transaxles but will ask Rob.

Please tell me more about George Lucas's 'THX 1138'. Is it a film or a book?

Best regards,
Andre
 
The Mecom Lola MK6.

In the 1965 Nassau Speed Week, Augie Pabst scored the MK6's only victory.
 
[ QUOTE ]

Please tell me more about George Lucas's 'THX 1138'. Is it a film or a book?

[/ QUOTE ]

THX-1138 is George Lucas' first movie (1971). It's a very strange story set in a very bleak world where everything and everyone is controlled.

It was released on DVD last month.
 
Thanks for that BenL and Rick. I'll order a copy.

Just noticed that the Mecom MK6 pic didn't attach. It's dead on 100000 bytes. I'll reduce it and post later today.

Andre
 

Lynn Larsen

Lynn Larsen
Andre,

I promise before God that this isn't meant to tick you off, but, other than the big scoop behind the side screen, that looks exactly like a Fiber Fab Avenger in that shot or, rather, maybe I should say the Avenger looks just like it.

Maybe we had it wrong all of these years thinking the Avenger was a GT40 look alike or maybe Fiber Fab figured more people knew what a GT40 was than knew what a Lola MK6 was.

Regards,
Lynn
 
Hi Lynn,

Good one!

There are some people who don't like the large scoops on the sides of the MK6.If you look at the original John Frayling styled MK6 it had no scoops.

With on-going development in race car design it's possible that breathing was poor to the engine bay and that the Mecom guys added the large scoops in 1964/65.

What puzzles me is that the green, Japanese owned MK6, driven by Attwood and Hobbs at Le Mans in 1963, was identical in appearance to the original silver car. It could be that whoever restored the car in recent years felt it would look better in Mecom format even though painted green.

The Fibre-Fab people were quick on the draw for as far as I can recall their VW Beetle based GT40 look-alike was introduced in the mid-1960s. As the GT40 was being styled in the UK during 1963 there's no doubt that they were ahead in that race!

If we were to build a replica of the MK6 we would go the Mecom car route in view of its wider wheels and arches which would be more practical for racing. Also the original MK6 had most unusual wheels, never to be seen again, whereas the Mecom car was fitted with Halibrands, replicas of which are made in South Africa as on CAV cars.

Lynn, thanks as always for your kind support. Why don't you come on the proposed SA tour, as posted this morning?

Best regards,
Andre
 
Hi Andre, Lynn and others

First, IMHO, the Lola GT looks nothing like a Fiberfab Avenger/Valkyrie - in any of its guises.

As for the air vents/ducts etc, these were an early addition (see top image below). On the Attwood/Hobbs Le Mans car of 1963, the Le Mans scrutineers would not allow the centre duct through the roof as there was no rearward vision. This was a last minute addition after initial scrutineering by Specialised Mouldings.

The original Lola GT had cooling problems. Mecom tried with various ducts in the nose sides etc before the car was widened (see 2nd image below from Brands Hatch). The widening was carried out by Lola in England for Mecom (although Eric Broadley wasn't around when the wide body was added and he wasn't best pleased with the end result!).

Ford tried with various scoops on the Lola also, including scoops where the GT40 scoops are (see the Lola GT in the background in the GT40 pic below).

[ QUOTE ]
What puzzles me is that the green, Japanese owned MK6, driven by Attwood and Hobbs at Le Mans in 1963, was identical in appearance to the original silver car. It could be that whoever restored the car in recent years felt it would look better in Mecom format even though painted green.


[/ QUOTE ]

The rebuilt green Le Mans car does not use the wide body styling of the Mecom car. Look at the front and rear wing profiles in the last 2 images below, especially the front arches of the Mecom car and where the rear clip meets the rocker panel. Both air ducts on the rear of the rebuilt Le Mans car (at the rear windows and the panel over the Le Mans scoop in the panel) below are removeable. The nostril was the biggest change, and this can be converted to the twin nostril look at least.

The ducting of the rebuilt green car is a work of art, with ducts going to the brakes, gearbox cooler, engine cooler and for engine aspiration, all trying to keep to the original design at the same time keeping the number of vents to a minimum.

lolaevolution.jpg


The Lola is no doubt a prettier car without the vents. It did run without vents in its first two races, but not without troubles.

Hope this helps.

Cheers.

Rob
 
Hi All,

As I always say, when you wan't to know anything about Lolas just speak to old Rob in Robin Hood country!

Thanks for all that Rob. Cleared up some issues for me as well.

I found a mistake in my original post, one of those senior moments! I knew a Bob Friedman in Cape Town but the author of the Cobra book was of course Dave Friedman.

Andre 40
 
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