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(posted 23 September 2007)

Stan the REDeX man

A long time friend from my days in the music business asked if I could take the Elva Engineering transporter along to a very local, but extremely popular classic car show near Chichester. As requested I turned up relatively early and within minutes had a small crowd around the van, but immediately people were nudged out of the way with "Hey, I know this van, I knew Frank Nichols ... I am Stan the REDeX man!".

'Stan' (really Vernon Peckham) seemed genuinely delighted to see the van and he certainly made my day with wonderful stories of all his trips to all the famous circuits around the world, how he raced whenever permitted but hated being 'only' 4th or 5th, how he encourage Jack Brabham to come to the UK, how he worked alongside all the teams with REDeX support or sponsorship, how he stood in for a missing sidecar passenger at the I.O.Man T.T. to help the outfit qualify and was petrified to the point of experiencing an unpleasant incident in his pants, how he watched helplessly as fencing restricted access to the track when Dennis Manwaring perished under the upturned Elva-Climax at Dundrod in 1955... the stories were nostalgic and sincere.

I had not realised that the works van supplied by REDeX for Stan to drive to the circuits etc., was a Ford E83W (Thames) complete with the Elva IOE conversion and I have managed to track down one picture of the Ford E83W site www.e83w.co.uk together with another photo showing the Buckler team van which I strongly suspect had the Elva conversion too.

Stan was visiting the UK for a few days as he is now living in Florida, but he kindly wrote some words expanding on his career with the REDeX Company which makes great and thought provoking reading. Enjoy ...

Where would they be without the Trades?

I am a British Racing Mechanic (number 181) and very proud of that fact. One of the old boys from the fifties and sixties, when, as far as I am concerned, motor racing was a sport of kings with very little or no money. Supported only by the Trades people. I was also the motor racing Representative of the oil additive company REDeX, or Stan the REDeX man, as I was known for twelve years. As such, I was at most of the Grand Prix and rallies of the period but of all car and motor bike racing, I really loved the Isle of Man meetings, and my company sponsored as many of the drivers and competitors that the advertising budget would allow. For me it was an occupation that only a chosen few could be privileged to partake in. It was here I got to know and like, Frank Nichols of the Elva Engineering Company of Bexhill, and we became great friends. I actually met Frank at Brands Hatch, and as a result I had the fastest Ford Thames van in the country. The Elva overhead conversion was a winner!
These were the days of the 'would be, wanna be', and where some of the greatest drivers and constructors of the motor racing world had their apprenticeship. Such companies as the Cooper Car Co., Walker racing, Owen (BRM), Elva, Keift, Dellow ,Jaguar, Lotus and a whole host more.

Now we have lifesize scalextrics motor racing, but so much is owed to the 'The Trade' who produced automotive products, such as Lucus, Castrol, Shell, Esso, Girling, KLG Plugs, Champion Plugs, S.U., Ferodo, Silver Knight, Dunlop, REDeX and yes and even Lucozade. But sadly they are not even remembered in any articles that I have read in a long long while. I spent a lot of money coming over from America for the first Festival of Speed at Goodwood, hoping that we, (meaning The Trades), would be remembered, but we were not, and the Goodwood people were to say the least, rather disinterested. A great shame because that is not how it was, but perhaps the Revival better represents proper motor racing and the wonderful times we enjoyed.

Let me mention but a few of the drivers that we were involved with .. Stirling Moss, Fangio, Salvadori , Graham Hill, Don Parker, Stuart Lewis Evens, Gordon Jones, Innes Ireland, Paddy Hopkirk, Bruce Halford, Ron Flockhart, Oliver Gendebien, Jack Fairman, John Cooper, Gregor Grant, Duncan Hamilton, Bob Gerard, Jack Brabham, Bruce Mclaren, Hill Climb Champion Tony Marsh and if I haven’t got your attention by now you need not read on. I suddenly realize I am over eighty now, and like Murray Walker, I am retired, but sometimes it seems thant it is only me that remembers these people and what they did, burning the midnight oil to make motor racing what it is today. Changing a clutch, working on brakes and brake drums, testing and fitting disc brakes, tuning carburettors etc in the paddock before and sometimes during a race. All the services were free, and stipends given. One of the saddest times was when I witnessed the crash of Manwaring in the Elva during the last Dundrod TT race in Ireland, a sight that kept me from a good nights sleep for a long long time.

I was the first of the trades people in the sixties to have been given the 'elbow' as my company did a naughty, having put undiluted REDeX in the Cooper Bristol of Mike Hawthorn He had a major problem in that if he didn’t win he wasn’t sure of a drive for the next season. however HE WON, and my company advertised the fact he had been using our product, when he was signed up with one of the Petrol companies, the naughty boy! That fuel company promptly came out with a new product as a low viscosity, high film strength oil, rendering my REDeX product less necessary.

However, back to my recent visit to the UK, my friend in Brighton has a Ginnetta which he shows, and he was invited to the Witterings to a local car show. I was on vacation to celebrate my eightieth birthday as my two children had given me a ticket to fly home from Florida back to the UK and it was here I met Roger with the Elva van. To say my holiday was made is no exaggeration. Nostalgia really hit home, to see a BSA scout with the old type indicators, an Austin A40 (I had several), as I had my own driving school in Hove for a few years, although my favorite car I would love to have owned was a Morgan. However, it was amazing to see the Elva van and the long talk with Roger made this trip extra special. Motor racing has changed beyond recognition but I hope it is never forgotten that so many of the motor-trade people and their respective companies contributed a huge amount over the years.
Not a bad effort at a 1d a squirt!

Vernon Peckham aka 'Stan the REDeX Man!



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