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“For 1969 the B15 was introduced, it was a further development of the B9B… a sheet-stressed fuel tank centre section was added (fitted with bag tanks) which gave the car the extra rigidity it needed… Once some early season problems had been sorted out, such as incorrect dampers, the B15 was soon flying. The car required a certain driving style as it had inherent understeer but for drivers like Reine Wisell who mastered it, it was arguably the fastest car of the season…” Classic F3 Association
Ever since one man decided he wanted to go faster than the next man ‘wheel to wheel’, Motor Racing has had some sort of a ‘feeder’ system in place, be it Voiturettes in the 1920s, 500cc machines of the ‘40s or Formula Juniors towards the end of the 1950s. Unlike today, there was no meaningful karting scene where four year old kids could obliterate their future inheritance’ and fathers vicariously live out their Grand Prix driver ambitions through their children and by the mid-1960s Formula 3 was the first international rung on the ladder to Formula 1. However, the window of opportunity to prove one’s self was relatively small with most wanabes who ultimately succeeded spending just one season in the white heat of Formula 3 competition before stepping up to Formula 2 or if particularly talented, straight to Formula 1. It was very much a case of sink or swim and as a result it produced the next generation of Grand Prix drivers with the likes of Stewart, Fittipaldi, Lauda and Hunt all eventually going on to be crowned World Champion.
Though it is impossible to completely prevent money being a substitute for talent, class still shone and the Class of 1969 was arguably as strong as any season before or since with participants such as Fittipaldi, Peterson, Hunt, Depailler, Jabouille, Schenken and Wisell all successfully progressing to their ultimate goal of Formula 1.
Being truly international Formula 3 attracted constructors as well as drivers from many countries including Italy and France but the heartland was still the UK, more specifically almost exclusively the Home Counties. Bucking the trend and possibly the most Northern race car constructor was Chevron, rumoured to have been named after a road sign and based in an old Bolton mill building. Derek Bennet was a supremely talented engineer who built himself a Clubmans’ car which proved to be so successful that by 1965 he had numerous orders for customer versions and Chevron were on their way to commercial race car production. Though proper Northern race cars with the crusts on, they were also achingly beautiful, be they GT Sports Racers such as the B6, B8 and B16 or pencil-slim single seaters like the B9, B15 and B17.
By the mid to late 1960s, Formula 3 was a huge market with, by current standards, a mind-boggling array of races at National and International level meaning there was a very strong market for not only cars but also spares as the young bloods of the day cut their teeth, often on each other and/or the scenery. Chevron were keen to tap into this potential and their Formula 3 line started with the one off prototype B7 of 1967 which was given a sensational debut by Peter Gethin (a driver synonymous with Chevron and winner of the closest F1 race ever) in October 1967 at Brands Hatch when he broke the lap record and was only just beaten on the road by the well-established John Miles in a Works Lotus 41C. Gethin got his win the following season in a B9 (the production version of the B7) and the solid if fairly conventional machine established Chevron as a manufacturer of note, especially as the B9 morphed into the B9B with additional panelling for greater chassis rigidity. By the time the next evolution, the B15, arrived in 1969, Chevron was one of the marques to have, even up against such stellar competition from the likes of Lotus, Brabham and Techno and the Chevron factory produced some thirteen of fourteen examples - one chassis (Number F3-69-4) is thought to have perhaps been used to replace that of Reine Wisell’s Works car (Chassis Number F3-69-1) following a mid-season accident.
This car, Chassis Number F3-69-12, has been known to the current owner for some thirty odd years and it had until recently had a fairly unclear early history and was known simply as ‘the Adrian Hopkins’ car. Mr Hopkins was known to have bought it from “Grey Brothers” in 1979 to run with Lotus Twin Cam power in Hill Climbs, which he did before selling it on to Jonathan Bradburn in 1981. Mr Bradburn rebuilt the car to Formula 3 specification and had some success in Historic F3 races before detonating its engine at Castle Combe and selling the rolling chassis to Tony Mantle. At this point Chris Smith of Westfield fame and later to become the owner of Chevron Cars Ltd. ran and drove the car in the HSCC Historic F3 Championship, ultimately winning the Championship outright in 1986. The car’s current owner, an ex-aircraft engineer, renowned historic racing car conductor and preparation guru, purchased it directly from Mr Mantle in 2011 and has spent the last seven years meticulously rebuilding it to his impeccably high standards.
So, what of the car pre-1979 and Mr Hopkins’ tenure? The early history of Chassis Number B15-F3-12 had also been known for some time and what the research department at Berlinetta discovered (when they weren’t making the tea) was that B15-F3-12 and ‘The Adrian Hopkins car’ were indeed one and the same. Despite the car having a chassis plate bearing those numbers, it had not been possible to definitively connect the two. It was known that Mr Hopkins bought the car from the ‘Grey Brothers’ in 1979 and that Chevron B15, Chassis number 12 had been advertised for sale in Autosport in September of that year but it had not been possible to establish an unimpeachable link. Of course the logical thing to do was phone the number in the nearly forty year old advert and this duly resulted in a very fruitful conversation with one of the Gray brothers. Kev and Bob Gray were able to confirm the car’s sale in 1979 and that they had run the car in Formula Libre powered by a 1600cc crossflow engine liberated from a Ford Capri residing in a local scrapyard.
As previously mentioned, the early history of the car was well known thanks not least to Mr Robert Bruce, son of the owner of ‘Concross Racing’ who retained numerous photographs and records from this period. Mr Bruce senior ran a variety of machines for customers from an AC Cobra to E-Type Jaguar and in a deal brokered by Peter Gethin, purchased B15-F3-12 brand new from the Chevron Factory for a Mr Terry McGrath on 12th August 1969. Copies of invoices for this transaction plus a repair to the car made by the factory after a testing shunt at Brands Hatch are on file. Mr McGrath raced the Chevron in a variety of Lombank Trophy Formula 3 events (taking on the likes of one Hunt. J.) and Formula Libre races and indeed won first time out at Castle Coombe on 1st September when the 997cc engined machine saw off 4,700cc of GT40. Robert Bruce recalls the B15 ended up in the lake at Malory Park at one time though we have not been able to find any reference to this in contemporary race reports. In the photo gallery the Concross team are shown at Silverstone with the car and though Mr McGrath cuts a dashing figure in his race suit, we can’t help but think the chap in the Fred Perry polo smoking a cigarette steals the show slightly!
Early in 1970 the Chevron was sold to a Mr Geoff Bremner who ran the car in 1000cc F3 and when the regulations changed for 1971, the car was upgraded to reflect this, running a 1600cc Lotus Twin Cam engine. From there the B15 passed to Mr Deryck Cook and was run in Formula Libre races in 1972 before being advertised for sale in October of that year. By 1976 it was for sale again, this time with well-known dealer George Dixon of Norton Disney Hall in Lincolnshire and it was through him that the Gray brothers purchased the Chevron in good, very original condition but disassembled and with no engine.
Acquired by the vendor in 2011 as a rolling chassis, F3-69-12 was totally stripped to a bare chassis which was found to be in excellent shape. Interestingly the sheet steel side panels in the cockpit showed evidence of having been ‘adjusted’ and Jon Bradburn was able to confirm they had been mildly reshaped to suit his physical dimensions (more prop forward than fly half in his words) and it was decided to leave these as they were, being part of the car’s history (please see photo gallery). The Chevron was then treated to a ‘nut and bolt’ restoration encompassing every aspect of the car. As well as sundry fabrication undertaken in house, a new set of wishbones and suspension links were commissioned from Roach Manufacturing and a new foam filled fuel tank was designed and fabricated. Crack testing of all critical components was carried out and the brake callipers rebuilt by BG Developments. The ‘low screen’ style bodywork evident from the Concross Racing days was restored and refinished to a very good standard. A fresh Historic F3 ‘screamer’ engine was built by Bob Yarwood while Pete Smith of PDS rebuilt the Hewland gearbox to correct Historic F3 specification. A state of the art exhaust courtesy of Edwards Motor Sport was fabricated and a Brise high torque starter motor fitted. Even without charging for his own time the owner estimates he has spent in the region of £35,000 on restoring the Chevron to date and it now requires just a few final odds and ends such as rear brakes and drive shafts fitting and life-limited components such as fire extinguisher (the one fitted is unfortunately not to the latest specification), harness’ and tyres to complete it. Though a CAD (Cardboard Aided Design) template for a seat has been produced, it was considered something best left to the new owner to complete to their own requirements, depending perhaps on recent mince pie intake.
A comprehensive file accompanies the B15 with numerous invoices for the work carried out along with its ownership history, technical drawings, set-up information and so on. Copies of various race reports and programs are also included. Various used parts are also included with the car from wishbones and other suspension components to the out of date bag fuel tank.
With multiple road cars, a Formula Junior and Lola Sports Racer to occupy him, the owner has reluctantly decided to reduce his collection and the Chevron is offered at what we consider to be the most realistic of reserves. With plenty of time remaining to put the finishing touches to the car before the Goodwood Members meeting when Historic Formula 3 cars will once again be welcome, this Chevron looks to be a very tempting proposition indeed.
Berlinetta would like to take this opportunity to thank Robert Bruce, the Gray brothers and Jon Bradburn for their help verifying the Chevron’s history along with Allen Brown of oldracingcars.com
Chassis Number: F3-69-12
Engine Number: 109E 12