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  Tojeiro Bristol Special
 

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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1953
Numbers built:one-off
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:January 19, 2009
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Click here to download printer friendly versionThere is no denying that Carroll Shelby is the father of the Cobra but little known British engineer John Tojeiro made a major contribution as well. He had designed the rolling chassis where Shelby dropped the Ford small-block V8 in. This story starts in the early 1950s when amateur racer and engineer Tojeiro, 'Toj' for friends, decided to build a racing car of his own. At the time he worked in a small accident repair shop and used his spare time and a shed behind the shop to lay out a state of the art racing car chassis.

Word got out and even before he completed the car, Tojeiro was approached by another racer who was interested in acquiring the car. The car was sold and proved immediately successful throughout 1952. Tojeiro had no time to race now as more customers appeared including one Brian Lister. He would also play a major part in English racing history, it was however another customer who commissioned the important fifth Tojeiro Special. This was Cliff Davis who had previously campaigned a Cooper-MG in the 1500cc sports racing class and now looked for something to race in the 2 litre class. Impressed by the first exceptional performance of the first special, he asked Tojeiro to build him a Bristol engined example.

The first batch of Tojeiro specials all featured a similar chassis. It was constructed from two tubular side member with a single cross-member. On both ends sheet steel boxes were welded to support the suspension. This consisted on both ends of double wishbones combined with a transverse leaf spring. As per Davis' request his car was fitted with the latest version of the BMW based Bristol straight six engine. Breathing through three Carburetors, it produced a commendable 145 bhp. A four speed gearbox was also sourced from Bristol. Davis also provided the finishing touch; an aluminium body in the style of the Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchettas. His old Cooper-MG had worn a similar body. The new Tojeiro Bristol received the registration plates 'LOY 500' as opposed to 'JOY 500' used on Davis' Cooper-MG.

The car was ready in time for the 1953 Goodwood Easter meeting, which was the traditional start of the British racing season. The sports car race was divided in two heats; Davis finished fourth in the first one and took victory in the second. It was only the beginning of a very impressive year for Davis and his Tojeiro. Together they regularly beat many of the big names and on several occasions were able to keep up with the much larger engined competition. In all his modesty John Tojeiro expressed that it was all down to the driver. British manufacturer AC did not believe this at all and eventually bought the rights of the Bristol engined Tojeiro. And towards the end of 1953 they launched the virtually identical AC Ace at Earls Court Motorshow.

Davis continued to successfully campaign 'LOY 500' well into the 1954 season. Eventually he replaced it with a Lotus IX, which sported the license plate 'NOY 500.' John Tojeiro briefly worked for AC as a consultant and then developed a second generation of Tojeiro racing cars, which were powered by Jaguar and Climax engines. The fruits of these two talented men's labour, the AC Ace, remained in production for almost a decade. When the supply of Bristol engines dried up, the company decided to axed the model. This is where Carroll Shelby came in. He revived the ten year old chassis and by fitting the Ford V8 he turned it into a legendary racing car. That the chassis could handle all this additional power is a true testament of the quality of Tojeiro's original design.

Few would argue that the Tojeiro Bristol Special is one of the most important 'backyard specials' of the 1950s. And despite its long racing career, it is still with us today. In fact the ex-Cliff Davis machine has been restored to full running order and is regularly raced in all the major events. For many years it was in the collection of British historic racer Jeremy Agace. Since 2000 it has been in the very capable hands of the current owner. He is pictured in action at various historic meeting at Goodwood, Silverstone and on the Nürburgring.

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