Classic Van Auction Talk

Saturday 6 April 2019

1971 Vauxhall Firenza Competition Saloon 'Old Nail' - BONHAMS AUCTIONS GOODWOOD MEMBERS MEETING Goodwood, Goodwood Estate, Chichester PO18 0PX Sunday 7th April 2019


Goodwood, Goodwood Estate, Chichester PO18 0PX
Sunday 7th April 2019

The ex-Gerry Marshall, Dealer Team Vauxhall, Forward Trust Special Saloon Car Championship-winning 

1971 Vauxhall Firenza Competition Saloon 'Old Nail'

Chassis no. WBB506
*One of the most successful racing saloons of its era

*Original engine
*Retained by the Marshall family until 2011
*Present ownership since 2011
*Expertly restored to racing capability in 2012
*Only four events (circa 100 miles) since restoration

  • In April 2005 the motor racing world lost one of its most unforgettable characters when the legendary Gerry Marshall passed away while in the process of testing a Chevrolet Camaro at Silverstone. No one who saw him drive will ever forget the experience, for although like all racing drivers Gerry wanted to win, he always did it in flamboyant style, hanging the tail out at every opportunity. In a 40-year career that took in all classes from rallying to historic Formula 1, Gerry racked up more than 600 victories, making him the most successful driver ever in British motorsports history. But it was a saloon car racer that Gerry excelled, proving virtually unbeatable during his time with Dealer Team Vauxhall in the 1970s.

    One of Gerry's most memorable races from this period formed part of the 1980s BBC Television series '100 Great Sporting Moments'. Featuring full-volume commentary by the irrepressible Murray Walker, this epic scrap is the Osram/BARC Trophy race run at Crystal Palace on 11th September 1971, which pitted Gerry in the DTV Viva GT against Martin Thomas (Chevrolet Camaro) and Mike Crabtree (Ford Escort). The trio swap places and paintwork for the entire race before Gerry is narrowly pipped for the win by Mike Crabtree, only for a 10-second jump-start penalty to relegate the Escort driver to 2nd place and elevate Gerry to 1st (Thomas's Camaro had crashed). Gerry had practised 'Old Nail' for the race, lapping 1 second slower than in the Viva, and decided the latter was the better bet.

    With the Viva now replaced, the focus of the DTV effort switched to the Firenza. Although not designed with competition in mind, the Firenza's 'slant four' engine would be transformed by renowned Vauxhall tuning specialist William 'Bill' Blydenstein, who managed to coax around 265bhp out the final 2.6-litre long-stroke derivative.

    Affectionately known as 'Old Nail', Gerry's first and most successful DTV Firenza – the car offered here – is one of the most successful racing saloons of its era, as evidenced by the accompanying results summary listing at least 59 overall victories and four class wins between September 1971 and February 1978. During this period 'Old Nail' won the Forward Trust Special Saloon Car Championship in 1972 (overall) and 1973 (over 1,300cc class), the Simoniz Saloon Car Championship in 1974 (over 1,300cc class) and the Scottish Saloon Car Championship in 1975 (over 1,300cc class, with Bill Dryden driving). 'Old Nail' was continuously developed over the years to keep it winning.

    In 1978 'Old Nail' was presented to Gerry by a grateful Dealer Team Vauxhall and remained in his possession until his death in 2005. Formerly on display at the Vauxhall Heritage and Donington Park museums, the Firenza was offered for sale by the Marshall family at Bonhams' Goodwood Festival of Speed auction in July 2011 (Lot 477) where it was purchased by the current vendor.

    The Firenza has since been re-commissioned and restored to racing capability by Coopersport, with any perished parts replaced. The car retains its original Blydenstein-built 2.2-litre LV240 16-valve dry-sump engine. Block number '001', it has been run for only some 100 miles since a full rebuild by Bob Dove, who worked on these special racing engines at Lotus in period when they were fitted to the Texaco Star F2 cars and Gold Leaf Europa sports cars. The fuel injection has been fully reconditioned by Brian Wills, who developed the system in period while working for Tecalemit Jackson and fitted it to the car at the DTV workshop in Shepreth.

    The gearbox is a rebuilt correct ZF five-speed direct-top racing unit, while the rear axle is a rebuilt correct Vauxhall unit (derived from the VX/490) with a limited-slip differential and polished drive shafts. The front brakes feature Group 2 AP Racing four-pot callipers with vented discs, while the rears are original Vauxhall drums. Competition pads and linings are fitted.

    The suspension is correct, with original Spax dampers restored at Spax's workshop, and the wheels are original Minilite magnesium (13x10" front/13x13" rear) shod with Avon slicks. The interior features Gerry Marshall's original Corbeau seat (Corbeau were period sponsors) and steering wheel.

    Since restoration in 2012 the Firenza has run three times: at the Donington Historic Festival in an invitation capacity; at the Goodwood Festival of Speed; and at Silverstone in a CSCC Special Saloons and Modsports event where it won its class.

    Offered with restoration invoices and copies of contemporary press cuttings and photographs, 'Old Nail' represents a wonderful opportunity to acquire a historic racing saloon associated with British motor sport's most successful driver, the late Gerry Marshall.


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