|"ELVA Jottings #2" (August 2006)|
Again the intrepid Elva rescue team explored the delights of the mini mountains with the Volvo struggling for grip as we dragged the trailer up the narrow track hoping that we were heading in the right direction, but lo and behold we came across what can only be termed a motoring graveyard a million miles from anywhere and in the midst of which was parked a large caravan and small wind turbine.
A torrent of yapping dogs encouraged a lady of mature years to emerge and greet us with a cheery if slightly suspicious What ya want? Having reminded her that we had come to see and hopefully collect the Elva, the grimace gave way to a toothy smile as she pointed to a massive pile of old railway sleepers on which perched the Courier. Ever had that 'Oh No' feeling?
Undaunted, John Playfoot and I scrambled under the car and realised that the deceased husband owner had built up the sleepers on the steep hillside so that he could work on the chassis while standing comfortably, but now that the car was disabled that there was no way to back it up the steep slope and off the pile.
Still ingenuity wins through and after much grunting and pushing a number of sleepers were knocked away until gravity took control and the whole lot crashed to the ground. By this time the tubular frame had heard enough about flexing and decided that the front end did not need the back end or perhaps visa versa but the surprisingly strong fibreglass body kept the car in one piece. It was unceremoniously dragged onto the trailer and we headed off down the never ending track only to find two of the dogs had secreted themselves in the Courier to emerge and continue yapping and snarling as I wrestled with the creaking farm gate.
I wondered if the little old lady survived any more long cold winter months in this remote area without piped water and only wind generated power, but more to the point, why did they have the Courier? But then another amazing lady had owned and raced my first Courier with notable success.
Beatrice Shilling (Mrs George Naylor) O.B.E., M.Sc.,D. Univ.(Surrey), C.Eng., M.I.Mech.E., M.W.E.S. was a brilliant but perhaps mildly eccentric engineer who had spent many years with the Farnborough based Royal Aircraft Establishment facility in Hampshire and together with her husband George Naylor D.F.C.,B.Sc.,C.Eng.,A.F.R.Ae.s., they became well known as regular customers to the Elva factory in the early Sixties.
I made contact and visited the couple a number of times, being a little shocked when the front door eased open to reveal a somewhat disheveled older lady, to discover a machine shop in their lounge and all sorts of goodies in the large garage.
We chatted about Courier '96 BCG' which I knew was the prototype irs Courier coupe built at Hastings to test the Lockheed braking system and the irs adapted for the tubular framed car with inboard rear drums etc. Oh yes she said, we raced the Courier and often used it to tow the Elva Formula Junior to races. Oh I replied, tell me about the Formula Junior? Hubby then piped up to relate the story of various 'incidents' at race tracks, the most serious of which meant that the '200' series Junior was returned to the factory in small boxes!
This was getting interesting... what happened to that car I asked again, oh well we had it back as a Mk.6 sports racer. It didn't take long to realise that this was feasible as the car needed a new chassis and all the running gear etc was virtually identical. The lovely couple thought they might have more success in the sports racer. So what happened to the Mk.6 ... oh we had an accident in that and it is in the garden. In the garden ... can I see?
Imagine my anticipation as I walked into the rear garden but Mk.6 ... where? Over there on the wood pile! Blimey ... there it was, well at least a rather tatty, rusty and less than straight chassis ... I gulped as I enquired about the rest. Oh the body was no good but most of the car is under the work bench together with the Brabham.
A Brabham? I tried a casual walk back to the garage but by now the pump in my chest was on the rev limiter and the bench curtain was swept back to reveal most of the Junior-cum-Mk.6 including the Rytune motor carefully wrapped and protected. Under another bench was stored the BT6. I should now explain that the boffin side of Shilling/Naylor family predominated and much of their delight in owning the various racing cars was to take them apart and make design improvements. There was a lovely little unused Ginetta which had received the full nut and bolt rebuild treatment because Mrs S did not like the fuel tank design and build quality.
However, I digress ... having chatted about the Mk.6, I persuaded them that even the poor old chassis had some worth and some time later the various items were rescued. And the Brabham ... it transpired that the couple had been up to MRD and they ended up with more or less a complete car which again had various drawings made by the couple intended to improve the design, in particular the suspension corners.
I still have the paperwork tucked away in the archives and it much later it transpired that this was an ex. works car. Sadly the couple never completed the Brabham as they had too many projects with too little time, but it was sold and rebuilt to race again. The Elva parts went full circle to complete the rebuild of a '200' series Junior and as far as I know, the yapping dogs managed to find their way back up the mountainside. Happy days!