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Thursday, 3 December 2015
1959 AUSTIN-HEALEY 3000 MKI WORKS RALLY/MOD-SPORTS COUPE - BONHAMS
CLASSIC AUCTION PICK
6th DECEMBER 2015
NEW BOND STREET SALE
1959 AUSTIN-HEALEY 3000 MKI WORKS
'SMO 746' - The ex-Works Competitions Department, John Gott
1959 Austin-Healey 3000 MKI Works Rally/Modsports Coupe
REGISTRATION NO: SMO 746
BODY NO: 1360
CHASSIS NO: H-BN7/1342
ENGINE NO: XSP/18131/9/HC
SMO 746, the 1959 Austin-Healey 3000 offered here, is one of a very few sports cars where its fame is equally balanced between carrying the flag for the new 3000 model in International Rallying as a BMC works rally car and its highly successful and much loved club racer in the hands of Police Chief Constable, John Gott.
The Austin-Healey 3000 was announced in March 1959, the new model being based on the previous 100-Six chassis with minor body changes. Importantly it incorporated the new 'C' Type 2.9-litre engine with compression ratio of 9:1, a 10 Inch clutch, with Girling disc brakes up front completing the specification.
Following the potential shown by forays in International Rallying using Austin-Healey 100-Six Rally cars, a further three of the new 3000 BN7 Type, two seater chassis were allocated to the BMC Competitions Department for 1959. Registered SMO 744, SMO 745 and SMO 746, the build card for SMO 746 records it was built between 21-22 May that year; "For Alpine Rally per BMC Competitions". Curiously, SMO 746 was not despatched to the BMC Competitions Department at Abingdon until 20 July 1959, almost a month after the Alpine Rally. This tends to confirm the 3000 Team Cars on their first international event were running in largely standard tune, apart from side exhausts. So it was that SMO 746 received its baptism of fire, with its international event history as follows;
June 1959 - Alpine Rally. Jack Sears and Sam Moore driving SMO 746 retired following an incident on the Vivione Pass. When pushing on Jack Sears hit a gully and the fan holed the radiator. The Team Cars' were competitive though, on the first stage Jack Sears in SMO 746 and John Gott with SMO 745 were two of only three of the 33 entries to achieve the allocated time for the 800 miles from Marseilles to Cortina d'Amprezzo which included three laps of the Monza Circuit.
September 1959 - Liege Rome Liege. Jack Sears and Peter Garnier driving SMO 746 ran out of time. This year was exceptionally hard event with just 13 survivors of the 97 entries. 3000s were now running with the benefit of some modifications.
October 1959 - German Rally. Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom driving SMO 746, their first event in a 3000, achieved second overall, the highest placing by a ladies team. Pat narrowly missed the overall win from Carlsson's SAAB as event rules favoured smaller capacity entries.
November 1959 - RAC Rally. Jack Sears and Willy Cave driving SMO 746 in the last round of the 1959 European championship, finished 2nd in class.
February 1960 - Sestriere Rally. Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom again destined to drive SMO 746. Unfortunately government authorities cancelled the event only a few hours before the scheduled start due to significant adverse weather throughout the region.
March 1960 - Lyon-Charbonnieres Rally. Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom were to drive SMO 745, but this Healey was damaged prior to the start so SMO 746 was substituted. Pat had crashed heavily during a test at the Solitude Circuit outside Stuttgart.
June 1960 - Alpine Rally. John Gott and Bill Shepherd driving SMO 746, now with modified cylinder head, manifolds and three SU carburettors. They managed 8th place overall, with three of the four 3000s entered finishing 1-2-3 in the class and winning all five team and class prizes open to them. Pat and Ann Wisdom were second outright in URX 727.
September 1960 - Liege Rome Liege. John Gott and Reverend Rupert Jones driving SMO 746 in what was a typically tough event with only 13 entries finishing from 81 starters. SMO 746 suffered a puncture on the first stage in Yugoslavia and was unable to make up the time penalties. Unfortunately, these were carried through the event and they finished 10th overall. However, the 3000s again won the team prize and achieved a 1-2-3 in class. Importantly, Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom won the event outright in a Works Rally 3000.
At the end of the 1960 season with new works rally 3000s coming online, SMO 746 was sold to John Gott for his personal use.
In February 1961 Motor road tested SMO 746, "Official flywheel figure for the engine was 180 hp. It was tremendous fun to drive in a way which has almost vanished with the passing of the bigger sports-racing cars of the post-war decade. The exhaust, which has a deep bathplug gurgle at tickover, develops the most powerful hard and hollow ring as the revs start to rise, almost drowning the crescendo howl of the straight-cut gears......a clutch which is immensely positive..... a gearbox with very close ratios..... all combine to provide the most enjoyable gearchange we have encountered on a large-engined car and one we used far more than necessary just for the fun of it. The steering was remarkably light......"
In 1960 John Gott was appointed Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police Force and, with the season over, he purchased SMO 746 and retired as a Works driver from rallying to concentrate on his Police responsibilities. John was born in 1913 and was to join the Police in his early 20s. Part way through the war he transferred from the Police to Bomber Command as a navigator. It was during his courageous war service he was awarded both a George Medal and an MBE. His interest in motorsport began at an early age by attending Brooklands, but his first event as driver was the 1933 RAC Rally. From there he truly 'got the bug' and participated in rallies, hillclimbs, sprints and trials, finishing every Alpine Rally from 1948 to 1951, and winning a Coupe des Alpes in 1951. From the mid-fifties he was a member of the BMC works rally team, ultimately taking the role of Rally Captain. He took class wins on the Tulip, Liege and Geneva rallies, usually in Austin-Healeys.
In addition to club motor racing in SMO 746, he was also Vice-Chairman of the RAC Competitions Committee and sat on the CSI International Court of Appeal. Being a very active participant with his ex-Works 'OLD SMO' it was natural for John, with his mechanic Jock Thin, to begin to develop the car over a decade or more. The introduction of Modsports racing was the specification in which SMO 746 was to finish its career and is the specification in which it presents today. Of the several Works Rally 3000s that evolved to race in this category, SMO 746 is the only one still in this livery.
John continued to develop SMO 746 into the 1970s and, against increasingly stiff competition, it was becoming difficult to keep the wins coming. However, by that time, SMO 746 with John at the wheel had achieved a start record from 184 competition events of 112 firsts, 42 seconds and 13 thirds. When it raced it almost always achieved a podium and, when on the podium, almost always won. It there a car with a better competition record from nearly 200 starts?
On 3rd September 1972 John entered SMO 746 for a 12 lap race at Lydden Hill, a small Kent circuit between Canterbury and Dover. A Modsports race, John was well placed at three laps and going quite quickly, when the Healey failed to take Devil's Elbow, a tight left hander. John appeared to take no evasive action and the Healey crashed into a grass bank with the impact on the driver's side. After receiving emergency treatment John was rushed to the nearby hospital but sadly passed away shortly after arriving. John's mechanic, Jock Thin subsequently went over the Healey but could not find any evidence of mechanical failure that may have contributed to the accident. It was thought that John may have suffered a heart attack but the Coroner was to make a finding of 'accidental death'.
A year after John Gott's death his wife took the decision to sell off his race team assets including SMO 746 and other motor cars, and spare parts at a disposal sale. The cars and parts were stored at Wooton Hall, the Northampton Police Headquarters. The full list of cars and spares provided to potential purchasers accompanies the documentation on file. Of John Gott's 'Team 3000' assets, Arthur Carter acquired SMO 746 and one other Works Rally car, both in a damaged state. Arthur was also fortunate to purchase the original Works engine for SMO 746 in the sale, which John had put aside.
Arthur decided to restore SMO 746 back into its final Modsports form as a tribute to celebrate John Gott's life. The subsequent work required straightening the chassis. The other panels were repaired with the exception of the front shroud, wings and guard which were replaced.
At the time of the sale Susan Gott had requested SMO 746 not be raced nor shown within her lifetime and it was a promise that Arthur Carter took seriously and respected. However, as a result of Arthur's silence regarding the restored SMO 746 being in his collection of Healeys and Austin-Healeys, rumours began to circulate that the car no longer existed. The 2003 biography of John Gott by Roy Ingleton titled "John Gott; A Life in the Fast Lane" suggested that SMO 746 was 'destroyed' although a qualifying footnote on the last page indicates "There is however, a suggestion that the car was later rebuilt, with Susan Gott's approval, provided it was never exhibited, but this has not been confirmed by any reliable source".
As a result of this seemingly ambiguity, SMO 746 has recently undergone the closest of inspections. The car has passed with flying colours with all original and correct 1959 BMC Competitions chassis and engine mounts, body and suspension strengthening, and bracing, evident and in place. Additionally, a number of people were to view the car in the 1970s under strict secrecy. One of these was Joe Jarick the author of this catalogue description who, during one of his visits to Arthur, was taken by a mechanic to see SMO 746 in its crashed state in a barn on Arthur's farm. This was mid-1974 shortly after Arthur had acquired the car. In recognition of John's racing achievements with the old war horse, Joe provided Arthur with a works 'Tulip' gearbox towards the restoration, one that had completed three events and this now installed in SMO 746.
On completion of the restoration SMO 746 was viewed by Paul Wood, a Northampton County Police mechanic from 1967 to 1973. From 1968 Paul assisted Jock Thin preparing SMO 746, regularly attending race meetings with John and Jock and at times personally taking the Healey to meetings if Jock was unavailable. Following his inspection of SMO 746, Paul provided an affidavit confirming the Healey's identity as SMO 746 "as there are various markings on the car that only I and Jock would have known". This affidavit is on file.
Additionally, the file with SMO 746 contains recent correspondence between Mike Garton and Jack Sears which confirms SMO 746's authenticity. There is no more ambiguity.
As restored, SMO 746 presents in its Modsports specification smartly finished in works colours, Colorado red with Old English white factory hardtop and correctly set up to carry two spare wheels. The Healey retains its side jacking points, 10 inch Minilites and racing tyres. Fitted with its original engine, works alloy cylinder head and triple 45 DCOE Weber carburettors and extractors in its most effective works setup that every Seventies Austin-Healey owner wished for under their bonnet!
In its present livery SMO 746 is the archetypical muscular "Big Healey" and on the race tracks would have filled out the rear view mirrors of only a few competitors very briefly! With careful recommissioning OLD SMO will give the purchaser enormous pleasure as the ultimate evolution of a Works Rally 3000. Alternatively, SMO 746 provides an opportunity to acquire and convert a genuine BMC Works Rally 3000 back into its original specification. In the pantheon of the Works Rally Healeys, SMO 746, is perhaps the most charismatic and actively raced. They rarely come to market and this is the first time in 43 years that SMO 746 effectively a two owner car from new has been offered for sale.