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1962 Tojeiro EE Buick Coupe : Classic Cars

Veteran Scottish motor racing writer Graham Gauld's history of Ecurie Ecosse – published 1992 – describes how thirty years earlier, in a letter to team backer Major Thomson, David Murray declared: " scheme this year (1962) is to cooperate with John Tojeiro in producing two cars for the Le Mans race. As you know I have a 2½-litre Coventry Climax engine and I feel that this engine in a coupe body could do well in the GT Prototype class".

David Murray went to invite John Tojeiro to dinner in his Cambridge Street, Edinburgh, flat. He outlined his ideas and John Tojeiro responded by suggesting he could use his existing Formula Junior Tojeiro chassis design, suitably widened and strengthened, as the basis for a new rear-engined coupe. Within days, on February 28, 1962, David Murray entered the as yet non-existent car for Le Mans that year...

Senior team mechanic Stan Sproat was detailed to work with John Tojeiro at his Barkway premises, building two new chassis in parallel. Graham Gauld relates how the available five-speed gearbox from the team's set-aside Cooper Monaco would mate with the 2½-litre Climax FPF 4-cylinder twin-cam engine, but it was rather heavy. Apart from an expensive Italian Colotti transaxle there were few others then suitable to match a rear-engined chassis layout. The contemporary Hewland Formula 2 gearbox was not man enough to handle the torque of the 'four-banger' Climax engine, so John Tojeiro and Stan Sproat pressed ahead with construction of a chassis tailored to the Cooper transmission, and since the team had only one such gearbox the second car could not be finished for Le Mans.

Sixteen wheel castings were ordered and some discussion over enlarging the Climax engine to the contemporary 2.7-litre 'Indianapolis' or 'Tasman' capacity ended with it left at the standard 2496cc. Commercial artist Cavendish Morton – who had styled the preceding Tojeiro sports car bodies, was commissioned to produce a body shape for the new Ecurie Ecosse or 'EE' Coupes. According to his own account, Cavvy Morton was never paid as had been agreed by David Murray, despite submitting his invoice for "Designing body for GT Tojeiro EE - £26 5 shillings". In fact Graham Gauld settled the debt 29 years later during production of his book...

In March 1962 David Murray tried hard to bring his 1956 Le Mans winner Ninian Sanderson back to the team to share the new Tojeiro EE-Climax Coupe with Tommy Dickson back at the Sarthe, but he preferred a TVR instead (which became an early retirement). David then turned to veteran journeyman driver Jack Fairman.

The project rapidly ran out of time before the 24-Hour race in June. Extra hands were hurried to Barkway to complete the lone race entry and its sister EE Coupe which would be taken along as a source of major spares, short of engine and gearbox.

When Williams & Pritchard decided they could not meet Murray's target the project was completed instead by Wakefield's of Byfleet who built the aluminium bodies in six weeks. Hasty completion of the first car left the rear tyres fouling its body paneling while the radiator mounting and pannier fuel tanks required modification. The front-mounted spare wheel did not fit beneath the original bonnet which had to be re-rolled at Barkway for extra clearance. Unpainted, Both Coupes were finally shipped to France at 4.30pm on the Monday preceding the great race, the race car unpainted, but with the paint and spray equipment in the team's famous Commer transporter that is offered later in today's Sale On a wet road near Sevenoaks, Kent, the Commer skidded and hit a wall, the impact also denting the new EE Coupe's panels inside.

All was repaired and finalized at Le Mans before scrutineering. The exciting looking EE Coupe was then accepted in every respect apart from a wooden box test when had to pass into the cockpit through the door. It would not fit, but as David Murray later told the Ecurie Ecosse Association, the ACO scrutineers "...were very decent...they said that if we could get the door to open a little wider they would allow the car to race, so we changed the hinges on the door and they let us through".

In the 24-Hour race the Flag Metallic Blue EE Coupe with its Climax engine behind the cockpit ran well for eight hours and although forced to retire when its Cooper gearbox engaged two gears simultaneously, and locked solid, it was the second-best placed British car at that time.

On the journey home to Edinburgh, Graham Gauld relates how the "...battered transporter called into Charterhall, where a club race meeting was taking place, complete with the chassis and body for the second Tojeiro on the upper deck..."

The Le Mans race car was then prepared to compete in the August Bank Holiday 50-lap Guards Trophy International race at Brands Hatch. Conditions that day were dreadful, and in torrential rain Jack Fairman spun and rolled the Ecosse car. Damage was not too serious, but it capped a difficult season for the team and late in the year David Murray determined to gain some much need positive publicity by using the repaired Tojeiro EE Coupe to attack FIA 1-Hour and 100Km speed records at Monza Autodrome in Italy.

Jack Fairman drove but the attempt had to be abandoned when a broken oil pipe sent the car smoking into the pits. David Murray told the press present that this 'fire' rendered further running impossible, but the sad truth was that he simply didn't have the funds to stay at Monza any longer. According to Graham Gauld the episode's only concrete achievement was to set the highest speed yet by such a car around the Monza Pista de Alta Velocita speedbowl – 152mph.

Interest had been growing in adapting production-based American V8 engines for installation in the two Tojeiro EE Coupes for 1963. Stan Sproat read about a new alloy-block lightweight V8 engine produced by General Motors. He recognized its evident potential – pre-dating interest shown by Bruce McLaren and Teddy Mayer in founding their McLaren sports car marque...and indeed by the Rover company which adopted the 3.5-litre GM V8 engine as the basis for its own production unit in the 3500 and SD1-series saloon cars.

Plans were laid at Merchiston Mews to convert the EE Coupe to accept one of these new lightweight aluminium-block 3.5-litre Buick V8s, which could be mated to a Chevrolet Corvair transaxle-type gearbox. On November 12, 1962, writing to Major Thomson, David Murray recommended sale of the old Cooper Monaco, suggesting that "...the proceeds of sale of the Cooper Monaco might be used to finance the purchase of the Buick engines (including the additional parts for conversion into racing engines) and the two Corvair gearboxes which will also require modification". The Major demurred, preferring to have the Climax engine returned from Merchiston Mews for refitting into his Cooper Monaco that is offered today.

Still at least one Buick V8 was acquired and converted by Stan Sproat to dry-sump lubrication and developed to produce as much as 228bhp compared to the unit's standard 140bhp. For 1963, trimming his Ecurie Ecosse programme to a series of club and national racing only, David Murray signed-on former team driver Jimmy Stewart's promising young brother, Jackie.

Doug Graham would also be considered as a team driver for the Tojeiro while the second Tojeiro EE Coupe chassis became the first to be fitted with the Buick V8 engine and Corvair transmission.

Jackie Stewart won one race and finished second in another at Charterhall on June 30, 1963 but in July at Snetterton the car was crashed by Doug Graham. The original ex-Le Mans ex-Climax FPF-engined car was also converted to Buick V8 power and on June 23, 1963, it was driven by Tommy Dickson to finish fourth in one race at Ouston aerodrome, then retired from another that day when driven by local star Jimmy Blumer.

This car finished second at Charterhall driven by Tommy Dickson, retired at Snetterton when Jackie Stewart made his debut in it, and was then placed 14th at Silverstone in the hands of Doug Graham. Back at Snetterton on August 5, 1963, Jackie Stewart won with the car, following up with a third at Snetterton two weeks later, then retirement from a race at Oulton Park on August 31.

At the end of the season the Ecurie Ecosse Association took space in 'Autosport' magazine to advertise the team's 'Success in Development' – citing the Tojeiro-Buick's new outright GT lap record at Oulton Park and race win at Goodwood. The sister EE Coupe had been completed with a Buick V8 engine, being similarly campaigned until it was equipped with a larger and more powerful 4.7-litre Ford V8 engine for 1964.

The Tojeiro EE-Buick Coupe now offered here is, we understand, the car acquired after lying fallow for many years by the revived Ecurie Ecosse team's new patron Hugh McCaig in the 1980s. He and Hugh Chalmers both campaigned the car occasionally into the 1990s and in 1998 the latter drove it in the Goodwood Festival of Speed, taking a second place in class behind a Project Aston Martin. The car was acquired by enthusiast Charles Worsley, for whom that accomplished Scottish driver, the late David Leslie drove it in the 2002 Goodwood Revival Meeting. The car reappeared annually at the Goodwood Revival 2003-2005, being prepared and sympathetically developed by leading specialist Chris Keith-Lucas's CKL Developments company. Modifications to both rear cockpit bulkhead and floor improved habitability, structural rigidity and safety. A Hewland HD5 five-speed transaxle had long since replaced the original Corvair production unit, and at Goodwood David Leslie succeeded in holding off a more modern Ford GT40 for many laps.

This is an historically significant and pioneering rear-engined endurance racing Coupe design, predating the far more celebrated Lola Mark 5 GT/Ford GT family. The Tojeiro EE Coupes were commissioned and originally tailor-made to compete at Le Mans. This example's recent history includes a period in American ownership before being sold via Hall & Hall of Bourne, Lincolnshire, to Mr Dick Skipworth for his Ecurie Ecosse Collection in 2009. In his hands this rare and distinctive endurance racing Coupe has been further developed and race-prepared for Historic competition by James Dean Racing Services. Spares are include an original Corvair gearbox, wheels, some engine components and other sundry spares. It is provenly a most attractive car to organisers of the world's leading Historic racing events, its production-based American V8 engine is not only a powerful and reliable unit but also extremely economical to maintain and service...and above all, this is a superb example of an historic predecessor to so many V8 rear-engined racing Coupes... A well-judged bid buys into history.

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Sources : 1962 Tojeiro EE Buick Coupe Photo | 1962 Tojeiro EE Buick Coupe Article


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