Classic Features

The Formula Ford prototype that started an empire

The Reynard name was synonymous with high-profile racing car design in the 1990s. Adrian Reynard’s company built chassis for CART, Indycar and Formula 3000, as well as a series of sports prototypes and even a test chassis for the BAR Formula One team. But it was Formula Ford in which Reynard began his design career.

At the BARC Classic Formula Ford championship’s Silverstone round on March 31st, he raced his original Reynard 73FF. This car is not just an early Reynard, it is the very first car that he built; the very beginning of a motorsport empire that lasted almost thirty years.

Reynard’s weekend did not go according to plan, racing-wise: he was disqualified from the first race for a technical infringement and then the car’s front suspension collapsed mid-way through the second. However, these days he races for fun and he was happy to talk to FF1600website, despite having to deal with technical problems at the same time.

“I think the throttle cable got pinched in part of its routing, and just as I was about to go out, there was no throttle. Somebody kindly gave us a new cable, and helped us get it on, so I got a few laps in for qualifying, which was enough,” said Reynard of his latest trial with the 45-year-old prototype. A little later, he casually joked that he thought he had put the transponder in the right way round.

Reynard knows the car inside and out, having built it himself while still a student.  

“I was at college at Oxford Polytechnic as it was then (now Oxford Brookes University), and I managed to get this car onto an end-of-year project, sort of unofficially. I was an apprentice at Morris Motors, which was before British Leyland times, so I managed to build some of it as a project as an apprentice, and some of it as a project at Oxford Polytechnic, so that’s how I found my time to get it done. It took me a whole year to build it, all of 1973, and I came here to Silverstone in I think October or November, and did a one-off non-championship race. Which I think I won.

“I did about ten races in ‘74, then ran out of money.”

Although it was an important part of his company’s history, Reynard’s attitude towards the car was pragmatic.

“I sold it to a chap called Jeremy Rossiter, who ran Spax shock absorbers, because I met him and I put Spax on the car.

“After that, I don’t really know where it went. I wasn’t that interested. I was just using the funds from selling this to fund my next cars, which were Formula Ford 2000 cars in ‘75.”

During one of FF1600’s periodic decline phases in the 1980s, somebody offered Reynard his car back.

“I said, ‘okay’. It wasn’t expensive, because I think it wasn’t competitive and Formula Ford was going out of fashion or something, temporarily, so I bought it back. It was a museum piece until last year.

“I decided to take it to New Zealand and have a few races out there. Of course that was an unreliable setting, but it was okay. It gave it a bit of running, and then I thought, the rear wheel bearing collapsed and then both driveshafts broke and the radiator fell apart because it was 45 years old.”

Again, we get a flash of Reynard’s self-deprecating humour.

“It was a long way to go to learn about unreliability.”

The 73FF, still painted its distinctive yellow and black colours, is remarkably original for a car so old. It was damaged in a crash while Rossiter owned it, but it still retains most of its 1970s parts.

“I replaced the nose section and the chassis sections. Everything from there back is original, but the nose is actually a ‘74 fabrication,” explained Reynard.

After the Silverstone meeting was over, he could be seen working on the 73FF’s broken suspension, so it is unlikely we have seen the last of this unique car.

“If the Walter Hayes meeting isn’t too cold and wet, I might have a go at that. I like Brands Hatch, and Silverstone’s the closest to me, so I’ll have a look and see.

“I might do the Festival, but that’s a bit ambitious again. That’s an awful lot of cars.

“As long as it’s not wet. I don’t really enjoy racing in the wet, and getting wet, because you do get wet, and it’s miserable.”

Photo courtesy of Andrew Ellis

1 comment on “The Formula Ford prototype that started an empire

  1. john nichols

    An interesting story @Steve Coen https://youtu.be/Y7vtUxRZdEc

    Like

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