20th September, 2023 10:00
1958 Bristol Wingfield Special
Built by the very highly regarded engineer Bryan Wingfield
£75, 000 - £95, 000
Registration No: FHI 747
Chassis No: 406/ 5154
Racing Special manufactured by renowned engineer Bryan Wingfield
Extensively competed in period at hill climbs, sprints, and on track being driven by Jill Hutchinson, Bryan Wingfield, and Tony Densham
Comprehensively overhauled mechanically by Spencer Lane-Jones a few years previous including full engine overhaul and lightening
Subsequently competed in numerous FISCAR and BDC events
Entered from the collection of the late Bristol aficionado Brian May, in which it has resided since 1985
What a golden age the 1950s were for fans of sporting machinery. Besides the mainstream models from MG, Triumph, Austin-Healey, et al, there were a plethora of companies offering stylish bodies with which to upcycle a humble Austin Seven or Ford Eight. While those with deeper pockets were served by a whole cottage industry of up-and-coming racing car constructors. It was an exciting time peppered with names that would enter into motoring folklore: Lotus and Cooper, Costin and Lola, and plenty more. Back-street cars that could give the big boys a run for their money, with Bryan Wingfield interested in testing his chances in the Special building world. Producing his first Ford Special at the age of 17, he followed with the Bristol Special offered here (which later became known as the Bristol Wingfield Special) while still living in Glasgow, which he described as his first ‘modern car’. It was here that he was introduced to the famous Ecurie Ecosse racing team and their D-Type Jaguar. Leaving Scotland in 1960 having completed his college studies and engineering apprenticeship with Albion Motors, he joined the Ford Motor Company, forging a name for himself with Ford and the development of the GT40 in particular, learning greatly about race car design. Later very highly regarded and known for his exceptional quality of his work, reverse engineering, and creating incredibly accurate recreations of the lightweight E-Type, XJ13, C-Type, and D-Type.
Acquiring a Bristol Sports engine and gearbox in 1958 with a view to building his second competitive Special, the starting point of the Wingfield Special was originally registered ‘XGA 876’. With styling inspired by the Connaught B-Type Grand Prix car (widened out to a two-seater), the Wingfield was based around a part monocoque, space frame chassis with a stressed skin bodywork utilsing pop-riveted aluminium panelling and cycle wings. Originally running the Bristol racing engine, it was fed by triple Solex carburettors allied to a close ratio gearbox with 405 gearshift, and a ZF ally limited-slip differential, all of which were purchased from Frank Elliot of Middlesborough who was running a 1955 Lister Bristol sports racing car at the time (‘4 CNO’) and would tragically lose his life testing a Lister-Jaguar in 1960. De Dion rear coil suspension with telescopic dampers and wishbone front suspension that was also acquired from Frank Elliot was fitted, with Rack and Pinion steering providing direction. Initially using Dunlop ex-Connaught calipers, these were quickly changed for Girling iron calipers from a TR2/ 3 and then Girling aluminium BR units.
Weighing in at 640 kilos and with an alleged 140bhp on tap, the Wingfield Special was quick in period and soon became a regular competitor on Scottish events in the late 1950s and early 1960s at events such as Charterhall, Bo’ness, Rest & Be Thankful, Crimond, and Turnbury. Mostly competing in the hands of Bryan Wingfield himself in the early competition days, Wingfield remembered competing at Rest & Be Thankful against future Formula One legend, Jim Clark (very early in his racing history), who was at the wheel of a TR2. In 1960, a meeting between Bryan Wingfield and Jill Hutchinson at Charterhall (who was racing a Lotus VI at the time) led to Jill competing in the Wingfield Special alongside Bryan Wingfield. Racing at Prescott, Leighton Hall, and RAF Ouston events, achievements included a 3rd in Class at Leighton Hall (May 1960), Best Performance on Handicap and 1st in Class at Catterick (1960), Fastest Lady Driver in a Sports Car at Prescott (May 1961), 2nd in Class at Bo’ness (June 1960), and 3rd in Class at Charterhall (July 1961). An interesting Autosport magazine article from 1961 about a Silverstone handicap race reports ‘B Wingfield (Bristol), 15 secs down on the winner, went like blazes but couldn’t quite catch the Morgan – even though he did cross the line in second place backwards!’.
Upon joining Ford, the relationship became more difficult, with Bryan Wingfield having to change his allegiance to his employer's brand, and in his own words: 'had decided he was no good as a driver'. He produced a Terrier Mk2 for Hutchinson who competed this for several seasons and arranged for the experienced Tony Densham to race the Bristol Special, regularly competed the car at events such as Silverstone, Snetterton, and Hillclimb events. Known successes at events included 1st in Class at Snetterton (1961), 1st in Class at Silverstone (1961), and 1st in Class at West Essex Speed Trials (1963). Becoming non-competitive against the 2-litre Climax Cooper and similarly engined Lotus’, Bryan Wingfield was offered a swap for a D-Type Jaguar but declined with the D-Type owner wanting £50 towards the deal.
Selling the original Bristol racing engine and close ratio gearbox privately (which went on to be used in a Bristol 400 for sprint events), the rolling chassis was sold to a couple of medical students for the agreed sum of £150. The students paid £50 up front, taking the car, with Bryan never hearing from them again. Subsequently known to have been offered in the Exchange & Mart as a project in 1978, the Wingfield was purchased by Peter Williams, who re-assembled the Special and pressed it back into competition across the next three seasons with the HSCC, usually being incorrectly entered as 'The Lister Bristol'. It was then advertised under this name in Thoroughbred & Classic Magazine in 1981 for the sum of £6, 800 and acquired by Bristol exponent John Bradburn who had a use for the engine that was fitted at the time, before moving the rolling chassis to a gentleman residing in Glasgow.
Meanwhile, well-renowned Bristol aficionado, Brian May was actively looking to find the location of the Bristol Wingfield Special to acquire into his ownership. By coincidence, the gentleman of Glasgow called Brian May to enquire about the cost of purchasing the correct type running gear for the Wingfield, with the telephone call concluding so the gentleman could consider the cost quoted. Deeming it too expensive, Mr. May received a call a few weeks later asking if he wished to purchase the car requiring running gear, at which point, Brian May realised said car was the Wingfield Special and a deal was struck in 1985. Fitted with a 100B type engine (reputedly running a ‘hot camshaft’ by Brian May, the Wingfield was soon turning its wheels in anger, taking part in a Curborough sprint event in 1988 with Brian May at the helm (photograph on file) and further BDC events, with the car pictured at the 1988 BOC Concours. During the following years, Brian is known to have researched the Wingfield Special's credentials and racing history to allow its participation again in on-track events.
Following several years residing in the Bristol filled polytunnel at Brian May’s home/ premises, in 2012 he decided to loan the Special to Peter Campbell (of Spencer Lane-Jones Ltd; SL-J) for the Wingfield to see competitive use again. A full recommissioning was supplied to the Wingfield Special with the 100B2 engine and gearbox provided full services with new starting equipment, overhauled carburettors with new jets, all hoses replaced, most of the wiring renewed, and fuel pump refreshed; radiator flushed; brakes overhauled; refurbished steering column; suspension serviced; silencing incorporated into the exhaust system; and a new set of tyres fitted with the cost of work completed surpassing £5, 100. Performing very well at its first event at the AC Sprint at Goodwood in November 2013, ‘FHI 747’ took home the SL-J Trophy.
For the 2013 season, the ‘May’ engine (as it was referred to on the work summaries) was removed for preservation for future use, and replaced by a restored SL-J engine, allied to crank, flywheel, and clutch from Basset Down Engineering. Next was the removal of all the Special’s paintwork to the bare aluminium presentation as it is now. The cooling system was refreshed with a new aluminium radiator with electric fan and alloy coolant pipework remade with work completed reaching approximately £2, 000. Subsequently competing in the Fifties Sports Car Racing Club (FISCAR) race meeting at Castle Coombe in October 2013, a 7th overall and Best in Class was achieved, as well as participation in a sprint competition at Goodwood.
Further work completed by SL-J in October 2013 comprised re-faced drum mounting surfaces, with new front discs, re-shimming the front suspension uprights and lubrication to the suspension, and new Dunlop racing tyres, with improvements surpassing £2, 600. Well raced and achieving a number of successes, some of the race participations including VSCC at Silverstone in April 2014; FISCAR Castle Coombe race at the 50s Inter-Marque in October 2014 achieving 3rd in Class; Bentley Drivers Club race meet at Silverstone in August 2015; FISCAR Castle Coombe October 2015; FISCAR Tom Cole Trophy at Silverstone achieving Best in Class and 7th overall in April 2016; FISCAR Tom Cole Trophy at Silverstone achieving 3rd in Class; and Bentley Drivers Club race meeting in August 2017 at 3rd in Class and 8th overall.
With Peter Campbell feeling that the Bristol Special needed improvements to increase its competitivity having been running mostly mid-grid in 2017, the Bristol was supplied with a mechanical overhaul by Spencer Lane-Jones. Lee Keller, SL-J engine builder used a 100-series block, a NOS Arnolt crank, lightweight titanium rods, and modified Cosworth pistons, with Healey Engineering undertaking extensive flow work to the head (no. 1877) and overhauled carburettors fitted. Attention was focused on reducing the weight of the whole engine (with lightning studs etc.) taking more than 25kgs out of the standard unit, before the weight loss programme carried through to the bell housings. Large valves were fitted along with copies of the Bristol 400 Le Mans car rockers. Carefully set up on a rolling road, it produced 140+bhp with a lovely power delivery. The gearbox is a BW unit with a McPherson high ratio gear set (a direct copy of the Bob Gerard Cooper Bristol gear set) and the diff is from a later 411 which is thought to be a 4. 1:1 in a 3HA aluminium bodied axle (super rare).
The large accompanying history file comprises documentation and images relating to the early racing history; a letter from Bryan Wingfield about the car; numerous invoices including the SL-J ones relating to the race preparation; race programmes and documentation for the 2010s; technical literature; an original specification summary; a few original style MOTs; sundry paperwork; and a current V5C document. A historic and well-known Bristol that is highly capable on track and was race prepared by Spencer Lane-Jones in 2018, this is a fantastic opportunity to get out on track at prestigious racing circuits in historical car.
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