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A Rather Special Christmas Surprise! 
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It was more years ago than I care to remember, that I first made contact with Michael Penn who has been the long time curator at the Haynes International Motor Museum, previously the Sparkford Motor Museum. We discussed 'ELVA' and he kindly agreed that we could have the use of a wall mounted display cabinet and show some Elva photographs, models and other related items. At around this time Elva Courier "27 ALO" was being exhibited alongside the Mk.VIIS (BMW) belonging to Sir Stirling Moss which I subsequently arranged to appear together with the owner for one weekend at a "Bexhill 100" event. So the years ticked by and I confess that the cabinet display received little attention from me as the museum is a fair distance away from Sussex, but this was resolved when the decision was made to restructure the museum which has steadily grown to house some 400 stunning vehicles.

Elva Courier '27 ALO' is a very early example being chassis number 100/4/R. It was first road registered (licensed) 23rd May 1958, coloured green and then carried the registration '528 GRB'. Chassis #4 was being regularly driven by Pat Fergusson and details with pictures appear in the Elva book pages 126-8. Tom Barnard and Peter Gammon were campaigning 'sister' cars; these earliest examples being supplied as 'built up' vehicles rather than the UK tax avoiding 'kits' supplied later. This fourth Courier spent time in the north of England in the care of a small number of owners until purchased in December 1963 by Flight Lieutenant J. H. Haynes of RAF South Cerney in Gloucestershire. While John Haynes was enjoying his time serving in the RAF, he was also increasing supplying workshop manuals for various vehicles with the help of his wife Annette, but still managed to find time for some motorsport in a MGA which he found was relatively heavy and uncompetitive. Luckily John spotted the ex Fergusson Courier for sale, bought the car and was immediately impressed with the far better handling and promptly improved on the performance by exchanging the MGA unit for a full-race 1798cc 'B' engine which was rebuilt on the kitchen table at RAF South Cerney. It was thought to produce 130bhp at the flywheel. However, John willing admits that he set up the ignition timing 180 degrees out and recalls "When we started it, the bloody thing nearly blew up - at night! There were flames leaping out of the back. Half the RAF station woke up, and turned up to see what on earth was happening, thinking we were being attacked!" After that initial hiccup, John enjoyed some circuit racing whenever possible, having re-registered the car with "27 ALO", and winning a race or two, but the demand for the hugely successful workshop manuals and lack of free time meant that in February 1965 he had little choice but to sell the Courier which would help finance the growth of the publishing business. The new owner was Maurice Gates who in turn sold the car in 1970 to Norman Cochrane, who shared ownership with Michael Bird, and they jointly campaigned the Courier in sprints, hill-climbs and some circuit racing.

Moving forward nearly twenty years, there was some scheming in the Sparkford Museum camp as Mike Penn and Annette Haynes set about tracking down "27 ALO" with the intention of reuniting John with the Courier. The car was found and bought from the Cochrane/Bird partnership, sneaked into a local workshop and prepared as a special 1988 Christmas present for an absolutely delighted John Haynes. He told me that he had wondered why the museum mechanics sometimes disappeared but was told they were collecting parts or similar, and thus John remained unaware of the plan until the somewhat tearful reunion on that Christmas Day.

Rolling on to 2014, I was privileged to be invited to the reopening of the Haynes International Motor Museum where some 2000 guests enjoyed a wonderful day. I returned last week to visit John in his office and he was gracious enough to spend time talking about his memories of the Elva and had organised that the Courier be taken from the motorsport display and put on show near the main entrance. He was very complimentary about the Elva book and despite a large collection of wonderful cars has remained very loyal to the Elva brand with fondest memories of his exploits in the Courier. An exceptionally nice man and a superb museum well worth visiting.
http://www.haynesmotormuseum.com

John Haynes O.B.E with "27 ALO" outside the fabulous museum 11th June 2014.


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Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:38 pm
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