Coachwork/Panelling By: Specialist Historic Panels, Don Standhaft with Steve Bodrog, Dave Crump and Nigel Philips
A colleague from my Emblem days contacted me with a view of building two Ferrari’s for musician and songwriter Chris Rea.
Chris wanted two cars built for the film he was writing and producing called La Passione, a single seater “Wolfgang von Trips” Ferrari 156 F1 and a Ferrari Le Mans 250 TRI61 both with the distinctive sharknose front end. The TRI61 was the first in the pipeline.
Chris asked me to make a sharknose panel to offer up on his Ferrari 330 to give him an impression for this new project. The 330 was going to be the donor car. It was explained to me that it being a front engine vehicle it was the closest in wheelbase, chassis and engine position to the Le Mans TRI61, thus a suitable donor.
The TRI61 was the first to be built because at that time a suitable chassis/or donor car wasn’t ready for the F1 156 single seater.
Chris was already a fan of a red Ferrari BB512 ‘Boxer’ I had styled when I was at Emblem after seeing the actual car at Maranello, Egham. Having learned that I had re-styled the boxer he commissioned me for the frame and panelling on the new Le Mans TRI61 build.
The project was not to produce an exact replica of the Le Mans car, Chris never wanted that he thought the original was too beautiful to replicate, rather, the new build had to be a close resemblance but never an exact replica.
I was going to produce the frame, tank and panelling with others dealing with the mechanics, engine, running gear and overseeing the whole project as well as communicating with Chris directly because he was often on tour and busy with the preparations for the film. Nigel Mansell Sports Cars in Pimperne as it was known then were to do the paintwork.
Chris’s 330 arrived and after we stripped it down we began constructing the frame. As you can see from some of the photographs it does not replicate the look of the original. We were guided by a number of fundamental differences in respect to the original 1961 Le Mans car.
There was to be a roll cage, Recaro racing seats rather than period bucket seats you can see in the original photos, the exhaust was to be piped underneath and not down the side of the car, I was also told to build the framework around the wheels and wheelbase of the 330 which meant the flatter looking sides amongst other things.
All parties were enthusiastic, who wouldn’t be, but looking back now there were too many intermediaries which made my side of the build harder than necessary. Decisions and information filtered through a chain of people can often behave like Chinese whispers. Unfortunately I encountered this far too often which was extremely frustrating at times. As a result I’d often have to change or re-make things which greatly increased the build time and created unnecessary pressures that were avoidable. Having said that the car was built to the instructions and brief I was given.
During the tail end of the project my son Mark was diagnosed with Leukaemia he was extremely ill and only 14 at the time. There was no doubt it was a stressful period for me but I did have a great deal of help from Dave Crump, Steve Bodrog and Nigel Philips who were all integral to the project.
I am very proud of the work we produced and problems we overcame, the car was impressive.
I did later hear of faint rumours from some quarters that people were expecting an exact Le Mans 250 TRI61 replica it clearly wasn’t ever indented to be.
Chris for his part has to be highly commended. Taking on one car was a big enough project but to do two and get a film off the ground at the same time on top of his already busy schedule was a mighty undertaking. Chris was a really nice enthusiastic chap and I hope he had some proper fun with the cars after the filming.
For all subsequent jobs I always made sure we dealt with clients directly especially when discussing important changes and design aspects. It’s much better that way and gives you peace of mind. As a direct result of this job we beefed up our terms of trade to address this.
Unfortunately I had to turn down the Ferrari F1 156 sharknose build because I didn’t have the resources to complete both projects in time for the film after this lengthy build but most notably my son Mark, at that time, had just begun his chemotherapy treatment.