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‘HBC 1’ – Among the most historically significant Frazer Nash Le Mans Replicas of them all
Boasting a stunning period competition history, with entries in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 12 Hours of Reims, Goodwood 9 Hours and RAC TT
One of just 34 examples built
Extraordinarily eligible – a golden ticket to the world’s greatest events including the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Le Mans Classic, Goodwood Revival, Grand Prix de Monaco Historique and the Mille Miglia
Chassis no. 421/100/119
The Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica
Just as intrepid climbers have a bucket list of mountain peaks they wish to summit and avid foodies seek to dine at the world’s greatest restaurants, serious historic racing drivers yearn to compete at history-steeped theatres of speed and follow in the tyre tracks of motorsport’s most famous faces of yore.
As a result, provenance and eligibility are key factors in determining a historic car’s desirability and value nowadays – what a car did in period and, accordingly, which events it’s eligible for today are often the first questions our clients ask us.
On that note, allow us to introduce the Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica, not only one of England’s most significant 1950s sports-racing cars, but also a golden ticket to the world’s greatest events. The Goodwood Revival, the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique, Le Mans Classic, the Mille Miglia and even the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – the pool of cars with which you can be a part of all the aforementioned events is tiny. The Le Mans Replica is in that pool.
Firstly, let’s clear up any confusion with that name. Replica. Facsimile. Toolroom copy. In recent years, there’s been much debate in the classic car world regarding the legitimacy and morality of recreation. But this car is different.
In 1949, Frazer Nash entered the first post-War 24 Hours of Le Mans with a prototype ‘High Speed’ version of its Competition Model. Powered by a two-litre Bristol six-cylinder engine producing around 120HP, featuring shaft-drive as opposed to the chain-driven Nashes of old, fitted with an endurance-spec fuel tank and close-ratio four-speed gearbox, and adorned with a dainty open body with cycle mudguards at each corner.
The car’s owner, an English wool manufacturer by the name of Norman Culpan, was paired with H.J. Aldington, the principle of A.F.N. Limited (the manufacturer of Frazer Nash cars), for the driving.
Despite their modest expectations, they finished an incredible third place overall, covering 3,033km over the course of the 24 hours at an average speed of 126.4mph. So strong was the boost in sales and publicity following Aldington and Culpan’s feat in the world’s most challenging motor race that the model was officially christened the Le Mans Replica.
Only some 34 Le Mans Replicas were built by A.F.N. Limited at its Isleworth factory between 1948 and 1953, and they were successful. Really successful. Driven by the likes of Stirling Moss, Roy Salvadori and Tony Brooks, they amassed a wealth of victories, including at Sebring and the Targa Florio. In fact, the Le Mans Replica remains the only British car to have ever won the Sicilian road race.
It was an evocative and romantic era, in which the emergence of the plucky British ‘Garagistas’ brought an end to the dominance of the international ‘old guard’: Ferrari, Maserati, Bugatti et al.
Today, as in the period, the Le Mans Replicas are known for their impressive versatility, which has garnered the brand a devoted band of disciples. Whether you’re attacking the Mulsanne Straight in the dead of night during the Le Mans Classic, explaining the car’s intricacies to the esteemed jurors at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Monterey, or simply heading out for a spirited summer Sunday morning drive on your favourite stretch of road, the Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica is the bluest of blue-chip collector cars, thoroughly rewarding to own and ripe for today’s discerning collector.
The Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica we’re honoured to be offering was assigned the internal factory number FN19 and stamped with the chassis number 421/100/119, though it’s more commonly known by its registration number ‘HBC 1’. The car was sold new by the Works for the grand sum of £1,986 to Frederick Roberts ‘Bob’ Gerard, a name which, along with Dickie Stoop, Roy Salvadori and Sir Stirling Moss, is intrinsically linked with the Frazer Nash marque.
Gerard was the archetypal British gentleman driver – a hardcore enthusiast with the wherewithal to take his hobby to the highest rungs on the motorsport ladder. He’d made his name racing Rileys before the War and became the most eminent British ERA driver, with victories in the British Empire Trophy from 1947–49.
‘HBC 1’ was delivered to Gerard in August of 1950 and is notable as being the first Le Mans Replica fitted with Newton telescopic shock absorbers on all four corners and a radiator grille with straight rather than tapered sides. Gerard’s view was to use his new Frazer Nash in long-distance endurance races, which boasted generous prize pots, and he promptly entered the one-hour Production Car Race at the Daily Express Meeting at Silverstone.
The prestigious Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy at Dundrod in Northern Ireland followed in September, where, in abysmally wet conditions, Gerard won the two-litre class and finished third overall on handicap. Gerard raced ‘HBC 1’ three times in 1951, and with much success. Two second-place finishes were scored, at the Daily Express May International meeting at Silverstone and the British Empire Trophy Sports Car Race in the Isle of Man (the Le Mans Replica of Stirling Moss was the winner), and amazingly, Gerard repeated his RAC TT feat from the previous year once again in Dundrod.
The most notable outing for this Le Mans Replica in 1952 came at the Goodwood Nine Hours in August. He was joined by the British amateur racer David Clark for the occasion, the pair finishing fourth overall, the highest-placed two-litre cars behind an Aston Martin DB3S and two twelve-cylinder Ferraris.
As the cars of Frazer Nash’s competitors, both in England and on the continent, became more technologically advanced and thus quicker heading into 1953, so the Le Mans Replicas became less competitive. As a result, greater emphasis was placed on reliability, which was always one of the cars’ trump cards. Gerard opted to focus on longer endurance events, more specifically the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 12 Hour Sports Car Race at Reims, the Goodwood Nine Hours and the RAC TT at Dundrod.
A Le Mans Replica MKII-specification engine and short exhaust were fitted along with an auxiliary fuel tank, a hand oil pump and a ZF limited-slip differential. As per the revised international motorsport regulations outlawing cycle-style mudguards, enclosed valances were also fitted at this time, in addition to a streamlined Perspex windscreen.
For Le Mans, Gerard was once again joined by David Clark, who recalled the experience in vivid detail in a later Classic & Sports Car article. It’s worth noting that Gerard’s car preparation and the professionalism of his outfit’s mechanics was highly regarded, and extra time and effort had been invested in getting the car ready for the French endurance classic.
“We considered ourselves extremely lucky to be accepted as an official Works Frazer Nash entry in a field composed of the elite from Europe and the USA,” Clark remembered. “In those days, we never thought of taking the Nash to any circuit except by driving it – it was naturally assumed that if a sports car was to be driven in a race of even 24 hours duration, it would always be in fit condition to drive home again.” And so, ‘HBC 1’ was driven to La Sarthe – how cool is that?
Alas, the race was not as straightforward as had been hoped – a loose crankshaft damper caused vibrations which worsened through the night, and Gerard was forced to retire the car at around six o’clock on Sunday morning.
The historic French circuit of Reims was the next stop for ‘HBC 1’. The 12 Hour Sports Car Race was a supporting act for the Formula 1 Grand Prix. And because Gerard was engaged racing his Cooper-Bristol in said Grand Prix, it was left to Clark and new recruit Peter Scott-Russell to pilot the Nash.
Problems including an early misfire and a lost fuel filler cap which required more regular refuelling stops plagued the pair, but they ended the race valiantly, finishing seventh overall and third in the two-litre class. In fact, in the closing stages, ‘HBC 1’ reduced a seven minute deficit to the Ferrari 166 MM ahead to just 45 seconds by the finish.
“The car performed beautifully after the early problems with misfiring and the fuel filler cap trouble, and another 15 minutes would have seen us into second place,” Clark later recalled. “Our brakes were in perfect condition, and we did not have to change wheels, only the nearside front tyre being fairly thin at the end of the race.”
Bob Gerard returned to the cockpit of this Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica for its next race, once again partnered with David Clark. The occasion was the Goodwood Nine Hours, which had attracted a bumper entry of Works Aston Martins, Jaguars and a lightweight Cooper-Bristol. After a magnificent battle with both the aforementioned Cooper-Bristol and a Le Mans Replica MKII, this Nash won the two-litre class and finished sixth overall.
Once again, reliability by virtue of preparation and efficiency in the pit stops, which were plentiful because of an especially abrasive track surface, put ‘HBC 1’ higher up the results table than its age and size should have predicted.
“We practiced wheel changing and refuelling very carefully and eventually got down to an average pit-stop of changing wheels and putting in 10 gallons of fuel in 35 seconds, thanks to the special quick-lift jack we had manufactured, knock-on wheels and well-practiced mechanics,” remembered Clark. “This really paid off in the race, for the track had recently been resurfaced and we wore out 10 tyres. This, coupled with our more usual reliability, was the reason why we won the two-litre class by almost three laps from the Cooper-Bristol, which suffered from bolt-on wheels and consequently slow pit-stops.”
The penultimate competitive outing for ‘HBC 1’ in the possession of Bob Gerard came at the RAC TT at Dundrod, a challenging venue in which the Nash had performed very well in the previous years. And true to form, Gerard and Clark drove impeccably. They finished second in class and seventh on handicap, in spite of foggy conditions, a misfire, a puncture and a burst oil line.
The 1954 British Empire Trophy at the new Oulton Park circuit was Bob Gerard’s final race with ‘HBC 1’. Less than a year later, in February of 1955, This storied Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica was offered for sale in Autosport magazine, along with Gerard’s ERAs and Cooper 500. One Maurice Tew acquired the car and, throughout the summer of 1955, competed in a number of international and domestic events including the RAC TT at Dundrod in September, with moderate success.
Autosport was once again the chosen means of selling ‘HBC 1’ – a certain Mr Grant of Edenbridge in Kent was the car’s next custodian, who subsequently sold the car to Bill Wilks in 1957. Wilks successfully raced the Nash in a raft of club events in 1958, most notably finishing fourth in the Snetterton Three Hours in October.
‘HBC 1’ passed through the hands of several further enthusiastic owners in the United Kingdom, the majority of whom raced it at club level, until 1965, when it was exported to the United States. In 1971, by which point it had been painted white, ‘HBC 1’ was sold to the Arizona-based collector Ned Curtis. Curtis clearly cherished this historically significant Nash, keeping it for 27 years and competing with it at Laguna Seca and even entering the Mille Miglia Retrospective in 1986. When Curtis sadly died in 1998, ‘HBC 1’ was passed on to his family, who only sold the car in 2002.
Frank Sytner repatriated ‘HBC 1’ to its homeland that year. Following an appearance at the 2004 Goodwood Revival, the renowned Frazer Nash specialists at Blakeney Motorsport in the United Kingdom were entrusted with thoroughly inspecting and comprehensively rebuilding this Le Mans Replica in 2007. In addition to the suspension, the gearbox, differential and engine ancillaries such as the carburettors and distributor were all rebuilt to the highest and safest modern standards. A new aluminium fuel tank was also fabricated and fitted, along with four new wheels.
The work was completed in time for Sir Stirling Moss to take the wheel during the 2008 Grand Prix de Monaco Historique. In 2012, Bonhams offered ‘HBC 1’ at its Goodwood Revival auction and this is where the current custodian acquired the car. Since then, he has truly made the most of this Nash’s eligibility, enjoying the car at a number of the world’s most famous events. These have included both the Revival and the Members’ Meeting at Goodwood, the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique and the Le Mans Classic.
Today, ‘HBC 1’ is accompanied by an extraordinary wealth of documentation, the like of which we’ve never seen before. There are 14 leather-bound binders filled with everything from the original United Kingdom V5 registration document and period magazines featuring reports of races in which the car competed to entry forms and driver’s passes to the modern historic events ‘HBC 1’ contested and its current FIA Historic Technical Passport.
With a superb period competition history in the ownership of one of the marque’s stalwart supporters, an unbroken chain of ownership and eligibility to the world’s greatest historic motorsport events in spades, ‘HBC 1’, the ex-Bob Gerard 1950 Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica, is arguably among the most desirable post-War British sports-racing cars in existence. For today’s discerning collectors with a keen interest in historic motorsport, both on the circuit and on the road, this is an opportunity not to be missed.
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