Thursday, 25 August 2016

Celebrating the Unipower GT (2)

On the roads to Beaulieu, last weekend, there were some strange sightings. Ultra low Lamborghinis, revving McLarens and speeding Ferraris mostly. They were there for the first Supercar Weekend held on the lawns of the National Motor Museum. Driving my trusty old Killjoy 2.0i it was rather amusing to be let in to the driver's gate and quite a few people tried to make me rev my car (which I did, too, of course). Anyway: I went there as on one of the fields saw a gathering of Unipower-people. Gerry Hulford - who everyone who's ever had anything to do with Unipowers will have come across to - had dusted off the phone list of Unipower owners and had rung a few. Not many had managed to make it over (but then most of them would have had to come over from Japan), but the few that did, formed a nice little group of enthusiasts.

Gerry himself was there with his infamous ex-works racer that he owns since 1976. You know the car was used for testing at Le Mans in ’69 (here and here) and Gerry has campaigned it since he had it in an array of colours and incarnations, but fully restored it last year. He told it seemed at first impossible to get hold of the original UNC threaded rose-joints, which the car needed, but by sheer luck eventually managed to trace several new old stock sets. Gerry: “When I first got it on the track after the restoration at Goodwood I was expecting the opposite lock stuff I knew so well, but there was nothing of the sort. For the first time I drove the car like I felt it should be.”

And then there was Tim Carpenter. Tim owns his Unipower since 1982 and fully restored it in 1983. However, he hardly drove it after this and had it stored for decades. Tim: “I remember the last time I drove it my wife had serious troubles getting in, as this was two weeks before our son was born. He is 23 now.” The 50th anniversary, however, made Tim rebuild the car’s mechanicals all over again and it now comes with a fully blueprinted 1398cc engine, delivering 93bhp on the brake and a neatly balanced weight distribution of 52% at the back and 48% at the front. Tim got it MOT’d only two weeks prior to the event and bravely drove it over from London to Beaulieu. “It was such a revelation driving it out of the workshop when it was finished. I then came to the motorway and though – why not? When I then came to the point that virtually nobody passed me I knew I was doing about 80mph and it was running very sweetly. On the rolling road we’d revved it up to 6,000rpm, which makes up to about 100mph, but I stick to under 4,500rpm now as I am still running in. It’s done only 170 miles since the rebuilt.” Tim never the less took it to the parade at Beaulieu, showing the car being revved up to a thrilled audience.

Other Unipowers on show where Mark Glashier’s left hand driven Mk2, which was originally sold to the US but beautifully restored by Mark Butler in the UK some years ago. It's the car that's featured prominently in the original Maximum Mini book. Mark (Glashier) remembered the 1969 Motor Show, where the Unipower was on display and looked for one for many years until this car came up for sale only in 2010. He drove it over to Beaulieu in wet conditions, so he's not afraid to use it either.

And then there was a bit of a surprise in the shape of Thomas Jay's Mk1 GT. In fact it is the car seen here before, with some photographs from its first owner Peter Knowles. Thomas owns it since 1971, but unfortunately crashed it (or 'pranged it' as he says) in 1975, after which it hasn’t been seen in public. Thomas: “It bump steered and caught me out one day. But at the time I also had a 3-Litre Volvo, which was quite a bit more convenient for the girlfriends, if you see what I mean.” But it was great to see the car, as Thomas had trailered the wreck over to from of Herefordshire, too. He surprised those present with a newly made chassis as he really is planning to turn it back to its former glory – work is finally commencing!

Among the other Unipower owners who made it to Beaulieu without their cars was Nick Gerolomou of Kent who’d used his car as a daily driver up until 1977, when he parked it in his garage. Nick has recently started a rebuilt and tried hard to trailer over his car, but couldn’t make it after the straps to attach it to the trailer were stolen on the morning of the show. Bummer! Good luck with the restoration job, never the less Nick and thank you once more for the 'Unipower 50th' baseball hat you gave! Gary Marlow was another Unipower owner present. He bought his car after an 18-year long negotiation with the former owner and is hoping to finish it in another couple of years, too. Last but not least all three generations of the Hofmann-family – Paul, his son Oli and his grandson Robin, had come over from Zürich, Switzerland to celebrate 50 years of the Unipower GT. Paul and Oli have another restoration project at home (the red care here), while they have restored another Swiss car in the past (this one).

But the greatest surprise may have been the attendance of both Unipower GT instigator Ernie Unger as well the car’s designer Vale Dare-Bryan. The illustrious duo hadn’t caught up for decades and were excited to see interest in the car still hadn’t faded. Apart from some amusing tales, Dare-Bryan had brought over some photographs and his sketchbook of the mid-1960s, giving a fascinating sight to the GT’s origins.
Thanks everyone for making the celebration become what it was.

The Unipower GT display at the Supercar Weekend at Beaulieu. Mini Miuras anyone?
Picture Jeroen Booij

Wow! What was the last time you saw three shining Unipower GT's together?
Picture Jeroen Booij

Looking beefy from any angle: the ex-works GT. In fact it carries chassis number 2
Picture Jeroen Booij

Crowd puller. Gerry did a superb job in restoring the car. Not for the first time...
Picture Jeroen Booij

Ernie Unger with Tim's GT - the first production car made, back in the summer of '66
Picture Jeroen Booij

And again… From left to right: Tim Carpenter, Val Dare-Bryan and Ernie Unger
Picture via Tim Carpenter

Tim is happy with the result of his hard work. And he's right. The car is superb
Picture Jeroen Booij

Mark Glashier now owns this ex-US lhd Unipower, restored by Mark Butler
Picture Jeroen Booij

Pranged and parked since 1975: Thomas Jay's Mk1 GT will need lots of work
Picture Jeroen Booij

All the parts are there, but it's not going to be easy to get them together again  
Picture Jeroen Booij

Thomas' car was registered SJB 402G and was described here before (click)
Picture Jeroen Booij

Work has now started on the rebuild of the car and a brand new chassis is the first step
Picture Jeroen Booij

From the sketch book of Val Dare-Bryan. Over 50 years old, but as if he drew it yesterday!
Picture Jeroen Booij

1 comment:

  1. Very nice article about this event. I'm trying to contact Mr Val Dare-Bryan since some years now. I dream to heard that he still have a few draws about the Quasar Unipower Car in his sketch book...
    regards. Danny