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Svenharry Åkesson


ELVA .. She Goes .. ICE RACING!


It may have been noticed that while of course I have an intense involvement with the cars carrying the ELVA logo, often of even greater interest are stories from amazingly dedicated owners. So many talented and innovative people have made contact over the years. I was therefore delighted to recently hear from Swedish born (1940) Svenharry Åkesson who has a fascinating background involving the design and construction of many successful competition and high performance cars.

Svenharry tells ...

I have built up many cars over a long period of time, starting as a hobby in the early 1960's when I was working as a teacher at my former school specialising in motor and mechanical engineering. I soon moved on to become technical manager at a SAAB dealership before starting my own business in 1964. I also enjoyed being an artist working in oil and watercolour.

However, back in 1959 and following a brief episode as a speedway rider I turned my attention to four wheels and became interested in the new Formula Junior cars that were being introduced in Sweden. A fellow in Stockholm, Axel Johansson, had made a few space frames similar to the 500cc F3 Cooper Mk.12, but bigger, and I ended up with one of these chassis frames. It was designed to have transverse leaf springs with swing axles, but I did not progress with building up the car as it was rather old technology and was going to be too heavy. However, this did prompt me to travel to the 1960 Racing Car Show in London to see what was being offered and I went home with lots of ideas of how to put together my own design. The result was the Spider Mk.1.

Svenharry and the part built Spider Mk.1 and spare chassis with Sven-Åke Anderson.

It was aluminium bodied, BMC 'A' series powered with a VW gearbox and I was delighted as the car had exceptional road holding but unfortunately suffered with gearbox issues. That was a problem I was unable to resolve at the time as everything worked fine when the car was run up on stands, but on the track the 2nd gear was impossible to engage. I now put this down to tight bushes on the gear linkage and some twist in the frame which tightened up the movement even more.

I then bought the ELVA Formula Junior. I had been invited to drive in ice racing events, and purchased the ELVA from Peo Ericsson a well known motor sport photographer. He had bought the car from the UK a year earlier but had only raced it four times. I often substituted the engine from the Spider as it was producing more power than the Rytune unit, the car working well for me despite the rather outdated front engine configuration and I achieved several near podium finishes. To date the car has still only run in about ten races.

(1) The ELVA F/J nearly hidden behind other interesting completion cars having just been bought by Peo Ericsson. (2) A new owner and Svenharry prepares the ELVA for its next outing on the ice!

During the winter of 1961-2, I designed the new Spider Mk.2 Formula Junior as a very low and narrow car, and it was outstanding! I built this car on the school premises where I was working, using the Rytune engine from the ELVA plus many brake parts and master cylinders. What remained of the ELVA was sold, although I received no payment as the new owner claimed that the car had been stolen!! The new Spider again had superb road holding, and I had some memorable races with people like Peter Arundell, which probably prompted Colin Chapman to find me in the paddock to look at my car. He did not believe that I had built it myself, and after a long discussion he invited me to visit the Lotus workshop. Regretfully I did not follow that up ... I was just 22!

I ran the second Spider with Honda power through 1962, perhaps into 1963, however the Formula Junior era was being overtaken by Formula 3, and so I concentrated on building the next generation of Spider to be even lower and narrower than before. In hindsight I should have gone for Ford power, but I had bought a Speedwell tuned BMC 'A' series engine with a promised 90bhp, but the engine was a disaster. The gearbox was the VW casing modified with a kit from Hewland plus brake parts from a 1275 Mini Cooper. Once again parts from the earlier Spider were used during the build of the Mk.3, however my business was now repairing older damaged vehicles which was keeping me busy enough to curtail my racing.

So the Spider Mk.3 was sold. However it was to return to me some years later! Far more recently I intended to enter the Mk.3 in the many high profile historic races, but this did not happen as it went to the UK to be raced by ELVA driver Mark Woodhouse and the car was also driven by another successful ELVA pilot Chris Drake. The Spider Mk.3 now had Holbay Ford power, a Hewland Mk.6 gearbox and ran on Brabham wheels.

I managed to find and buy back the Spider Mk.2, and having undertaken some restoration it was sold to David VonSchinkel, for team TIDO to race it at the Copenhagen GP in 2013 although without second gear! The Mk.1 is currently under restoration by Frank Thrusholm in Denmark and hopefully the car will be back racing soon.

Returning to the late 1960's, I was asked to design a car for the Formula VW series and this car became the Spider Mk.4, and this lead to an involvement with Bertils Motor based in Sweden who provided tuned VW engines. This developed to the production of Formula Vees, also as a kit version, the cars selling well to many customers included Jo Bonnier. These Vees originated from the Spider design and several are still campaigned in current historic events.

Looking for a change of direction I decided that I would like to learn more about yacht design and the science of firefighting. I had investigated the use of a new firefighting system in racing cars. Having made contact with ICI in the UK, I started producing hand held extinguishers and soon the military in the Scandinavian countries asked for modified systems, to be followed by a very large TELE-company which meant that motor sport was pushed to the background yet again as my fire fighting design was becoming the biggest selling fixed fire system in the world. Soon the opportunity arose to sell this company and I was back at the drawing board designing cars! Sweden allows the use of home built vehicles on the road and after the distraction of my fire systems business, I decided to provide my eldest son a very special car that was to become the "Silver Hawk", made to suit a VW floor pan, but also adaptable to suit a special tubular space frame too. It featured a targa top and pop-up headlamps. In 1983 the car was exhibited at a kit car show in Uppsala and suddenly I had more than a hundred orders!

A red painted Silver Hawk and a rhd chassis being built for customer in Wales.

It was necessary to find a company (Plastinova) to reproduce the cars in kit form and some 225 were produced before I then decided to sell all the jigs and moulds to people in Finland. As always the tax authorities took an interest in my 'hobby' and I therefore ploughed the profits into another new project and made drawings for a new kit car which in 1987 became the Sethera Mk.1.

The car had 'butterfly' doors with flip up front and rear body sections but this time I also designed a unique windscreen which is expensive but helps to stop those who want to steal the work of others using copy body moulds but are deterred by being unable to find a donor screen.

Over 200 units of this car were sold, attracting the attention of a Frenchman who asked that I adapt the design to accept Ford production parts, thus the Mk.2 version was born and was exported to many countries, although the majority of sales were in Holland. The Sethera Mk.1 was also sold as fully built vehicle incorporating Audi components.

During 1993 I was contacted by an advertising agency who wanted a unique design to be built as a 'show-stopper' for a brewery company. It had to be the hottest and most spectacular design to be a real attention grabber, so this interesting challenge was my next project! The agency and sponsors would fund all the materials, but my skills and time would be provided free on the basis that the car would become mine after one year. However, after much work and injection of my own money, no funds had been received from the 'sponsors' and the project stagnated. Early in 1995, I was contacted by Christian Von Koenigsegg who had found my designs on the Internet and this resulted in a request that I design a special car for him. He came to my office and workshop where he saw the Sethera Falcon (after the Falcon brewery) and having contacted his father, it was quickly decided that they would fund the development and completion of that car which was to become the prototype Koenigsegg CC. The rest is history but I am no longer involved with the Koenigsegg company.

(1) The Falcon. (2) The semi-monocoque chassis for the first Koenigsegg with Audi V8 and using temporary wheels from the Sethera Mk.1. Now the midsection is carbon fibre. (3) The same chassis and team. From left: André, John, son Fredrik, Per-Gunnar and Svenharry.

I am now looking forward to focusing my attention towards the ELVA Formula Junior with chassis number 100/55A. Having sold the car many years ago, changed circumstances nudged me towards placing a 'help' advertisement in the major 'Classic' magazine here in Sweden in an attempt to find the car once again. This was January 2012 and I was amazed to receive a number of calls and I was able to recover many of the original parts amounting to around 70% of the car. However, the chassis frame had been chopped about and had rotted due to extreme neglect necessitating in the need to build a new frame. I have been fortunate in that a good friend owns 100/44 and I have been able to reproduce a replacement frame exactly as per the original and in top quality Swedish steel. Thus the car is now ready for reassembly apart from just a few missing parts such as the brake parts removed for the Spider Mk.2, and the radiator. Nothing to give me real concerns although the bodywork will need some further attention and I will repainted in the original red colour. I am really looking forward to seeing the car back in action soon.

Original bodywork gets some much needed tlc while the beautifully prepared chassis awaits.

Roger Dunbar adds ...

The ELVA factory build records show the 100/55A had the 9"cast drum brakes at each corner, the modified Morris steering rack, A35 gearbox, steel 'export' wheels, the Rytune A35 power unit with #9SH 1633 and was supplied to D.A. Nayler.

Unfortunately Svenharry now has a painful medical condition which makes walking difficult and he has been told by his doctors that he should not race again. Therefore 100/55A will need a new caretaker once the rebuild has been completed. My grateful thanks to Svenharry for sharing the details of his illustrious career and long held enthusiasm towards his ELVA Formula Junior ownership.

Roger Dunbar, February 2014