Wednesday 23 August 2023

Tracing the DART's origins (1)

I was contacted by Nigel Fraser Ker a little while ago, and while things started out chatting about the Mini Marcos, we were soon directed towards the Marcos' origins: the DART as it was designed and built by Desmond 'Dizzy' Addicott. Nigel happened to know quite a lot more about Dizzy and an intriguing correspondence followed. Over to him:

"I would be happy to tell you a little bit more about Dizzy - at least the part that I know from personal experience. My father was a pilot, first of all with the Royal Air Force and then he got a job with De Havilland as a test pilot. They were keen to hire him because he managed to save an aircraft which was of a type which had been causing many deaths due to unexpected engine failures. He had one himself over the North Sea and managed to save it by gliding it into Schiphol airport. This meant that De Havilland were able to inspect it and find the fault. This was back in about 1956 and I think it was when he first met Dizzy who was himself a test pilot. In fact I think he was one of Britain's most experienced - he had flown very many different types of aircraft (I remember he once flew a Catalina back from South Africa as a delivery). My father moved into flying jets for commercial airlines and briefly had a job in South Africa so we all went with him."

"The job didn't work out so Dizzy managed to get him a job working at the British Aircraft Corporation, based in Weybridge (Surrey) and flying out of a nearby airfield called Wisley. I remember going there as a child and seeing them testing the BAC One-Eleven. Dizzy was a real character - very much old school and great fun and he visited us many times at our home in Bookham, Surrey. Incidentally, my father used to share an office at the Weybridge factory with Sir Barnes Wallace - I don't know if you've heard of him but he is the guy who designed the famous bouncing bomb which was used against the Germans in the raid against the dams. Anyway my father (who was a bit of a troublemaker like Dizzy) said that both he and Barnes, who was making a nuisance of himself by saying that Concorde would never be commercially successful, were put into an office together away from other people so they wouldn't cause any trouble!"

"When I was 17 my father persuaded me to buy a Mini Marcos kit. Unfortunately, I became so involved in motor racing (I used to work for Bernie Ecclestone at the Brabham F1 team in Chessington and then drove mainly rally cars) that I never got around to building it and so I sold it again, but I have always felt an affection for the design, tinged with a little guilt at not completing it! Anyway, the Weybridge BAC factory (which was located at the Brooklands racetrack) was mainly converted into an industrial estate, but with a museum to commemorate the racing and aircraft work that used to be carried out on the site. Accordingly, I decided to take the children along to see it. You will imagine my surprise when one of the racing cars on display had Dizzy's name written down the side of it! With such an unusual name it must have been the same man, so I did a little research and found out about his interest in cars and also that he had designed the Mini Marcos. At this point it all fell into place - I realized that the reason that my father had recommended the car to me was because it had been designed by his friend. Perhaps I knew this at the time, but I had certainly forgotten. 

Anyway, I'm sorry to say that Dizzy (along with my father) are now dead. Dizzy died on the A11 road heading towards Norwich. It was a stroke and I believe that he knew nothing about it. He really was an extraordinary character - someone should write a book about him, if they haven't already! When I decided that I was not fast enough to make sensible money out of motor racing I decided to get a proper job, so I settled down and started my own family with my wife Fenella. Now, my daughter Kate is 22 and the two of us are competing in the Mini 7 Championship (really to give her a chance to learn about motorsport). She is really enjoying it so we have been trying to decide what to race next year, and when I was searching around the forums, I found out about your car and was naturally excited to learn more about it."

Well, that was more than I expected!
But it wasn't even all. When I showed some historical photographs I had of Dizzy and his workshop, the detective in Nigel was awakened and a fascinating search followed. You'll read all about the result later this week. 

UPDATE 25 August 2023: in part 2 we find back the actual premises where Dizzy built his DART. Click here

The unique and fully rebuilt DART at Goodwood back in 2010
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This rare picture shows the car being built in the winter of 1963
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

"Dizzy was a real character - very much old school and great fun and he visited us many times"
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The DART shortly after being unveiled at Paul Emery's stand at the 1964 Racing Car Show
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Racing Car Show '64 again. Left to right: Paul Emery, Jim Clark? (I think) and Dizzy Addicott
UPDATE: Believed not to be Clark, but who is it then?
Picture via Giles Chapman

1 comment:

  1. If you compare the rebuilt Goodwood car to the original it is VERY different, possibly a different car? Compared just the door shape!