ELVA 300

Note: This car is no longer with the Ecurie Scalpel Team.

Elva 300

This car was the result of a decision to try some circuit racing throughout the year instead of the occasional venture into historic racing. As a complete novice I really had no idea which car to go for. I read about the various Lotus models and there certainly seemed plenty about be they 18’s or 22’s. At this early stage I had very little idea about any form of Elva’s and had certainly never heard of a 300.

The ever reliable Don then suggested we tale a trip to see Rick Hall in Bourne. Late of Hall and Fowler and now of course Hall and Hall, Rick is a major player in the supply of old racing cars. Perhaps best known for a series of famous old BRM’s his “showroom” is like an Aladdin’s cave for a fan of 60’s and 70’s Grand Prix racing.

The news was that Rick had recently received two Elvas from the US. Owned by Bruce McCaw of Pac West Cart fame they were on the market to make extra space in his museum. The first was a 200 – rather tired looking and in need of some love and attention. It soon went to auction and ultimately returned to the tracks for the Goodwood Revival meeting in September driven by the “godfather” of the FJHRA, Duncan Rabagliati. The second car was the 300 you see here.

What about the Elva 300? This model was the last FJ made by the company before the bean counters took over. It was the lowest Junior of its time being only 24” tall. The car was never really competitive in its day coming with drums brakes and 15” wheels and was never developed due to lack of cash. Only six cars were made – the prototype supposedly being written off early on. 001 was the car in which Mark Donohue made his single seater debut being delivered new to the US in time for the Nassau Speed Week. Oddly, there were two chassis #003! One was the works car (see below) and the other was delivered new (as were all the others) to the US for Chuck Dietrich to race. His car was traditionally known as 003H (for Holbay) although it never actually has “H” on the plate. I spent a long time on the phone with him covering these details. A remarkable man, very helpful and thoroughly charming. Chuck raced it for many years with considerable success. He then sold it on, bought it again, fully restored it and then more recently sold it again.

The car in Rick’s showroom was the twin sister! The file with the car was very extensive including some very useful history research detailing some of its past life. Chassis #003 was the original works car driven by Chris Ashmore. Delivered from the factory with a Cosworth engine, drum brakes all round and petrol tank positioned between the front wheels the car was not as good as it looked. Recent discussions with Chris revealed he thought it a ****box that the late Frank Nicholls refused to change due to cash shortages. Because of this he had only kept the car for a year or so before removing the engine (the best bit) and selling it on. The car then passed through several owners and was once driven briefly by Bernie Ecclestone who remembers it as being “a bit of a dog” having seen the photos. The car then went to the US and passed through many hands and underwent many changes including at one stage having an Alfa Romeo engine. Bought by well known Junior campaigner John Streets he raced it a lot and by now it was described as a “sweet and very forgiving driver”! Some change from Chris Ashmore’s experience. A few more owner changes before being bought and heavily restored by Bruce McCaw and resting in his museum for several years.

By now the car had period front disc brakes and a petrol tank under the seat and was described as “on the button and ready to race”. Foolish boy!! Remarkably, Rick offered to loan the car to us to try. Now why are all dealers not more like that – a good man is Rick! The car was duly collected and taken to Yorkshire. Onto the local airfield and off we went – literally as it would not stop! The rear brakes were seized and the front ones were just useless. Nonetheless, the file of bills was staggering and this car clearly was basically sound – even more foolish boy!

A deal was struck and Don set to work. The four corners were stripped and new shocks and springs joined new rubber provided for the wheels. Mallory Park beckoned for its and my debut for a season of fun and grief (see 2001 Season)!

Overall though the car has been a great success (more so than me I think). It is rare, distinctive, looks good and by now goes quite well. It is back to original specification and I hope we may gain an entry to Monaco 2002. They can be assured that it will be the only one on the grid if that matters. What changes are needed? Given the money (which nobody has yet) it needs a 5 speed box (as some did on delivery), dry sumping and a bigger petrol tank (only 10 litres at present). I also need two spare wheels as currently we are in trouble if I ever get a puncture! The gearbox (and maybe the petrol tank) will have to wait another year but I hope the engine and wheels will be sorted over the winter.

Final question – when were the 300’s first released by the factory? Nobody really knows for sure. The factory records are not clear and some photos suggest that it might have been as early as Boxing Day 1960. This only matters as the car is not really a winner in the later class as it is really an early rear engined runner in terms of original spec. Bankruptcy clearly prevented development of the car as it should have been – such is life!


Elva 300 Picture Gallery

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