John Morrison’s HARDDRIVERS….

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WELCOME to this, my extreme auto-enthusiast’s blog site …

Saturday 21st October – Goodwood Motor Circuit, another wonderful Peter & Margaret Saywell Circuit Driving & Charities Day coming up, so generous – but a special one for a bunch of us …

First off, we’re taking our new Steve Nichols/John J Minett designed NICHOLS N1a Chevrolet, still very much in the middle of its test & shakedown programme, a tad prematurely maybe, to show to Peter and a few special guests, just where we’ve got too …

If you’ve not kept up, a moment … the N1a is born of Steve & John’s ambition to make an open super-dynamic sports car as a pure Analogue Age piece but to current lightweight & strength combo of construction. It’s mid 70s Can-Am race car inspired, and a pure pure unadulterated driver’s sports driving machine. Got it? A supremely visceral device … ok, around 630 bhp in under 900 kg for starters, open air two-seater, yet finished to the highest standards … a rare thing. And very very fast.

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McLAREN’S FIRST FRONT ROW

In fact, one of the first big bells to ring on this visit to Goodwood, is the one that marks Bruce McLarens first outing with the new breed of sports racers that developed into these ground shakers that Can-Am became. He called it the M1a; any rate, that was born ’63 and sat on the front row at Goodwood a year later in an ‘Unlimited Sports Car’ race, with Jim Clark’s Lotus 30 sitting between Bruce and one G Hill sat outside of him. Both the V8s dnf-ed but the die was cast with English manufacturers supplying so many Can Am racers through Lola, March & McLaren from then on.

Our Steve Nichols is a proper ex-McLaren man was so taken by the simplicity and brutal performance on hand with the M1a Can-Am prototype & with John J’s association, they built their own but as a road car. Then they built this one at Goodwood today; one that we can all enjoy on the road …

It will also be bought to your attention that Steve Nichols was responsible for Ayrton Senna & Alain Prost’s near World Championship whitewash of victories in 1988 in his Marlboro McLaren Honda MP4/4. Nope, he can’t stop himself …

A word on some guests expected to show today. We have a previous F1 point scorer cum TV pundit; a leading national race mag corner stone editor-man and some mates from Camberley’s wonderful Scuderia Prestige’s dealership we’re hoping to cut a distributor deal with. Stakes are suitably stacked …! Welcome to them all, and so many others. Hope you all have a super day.

So, it was Dad who took me in my school jacket & tie & short trousers to watch the big sports car back then (’64) around the time I was getting to understand the sporting pull of motor racing. Feathers were ruffled when Astons, Ferraris, Jaguars were blown away by the big new US-engined brigade. My obsession with racing just deteriorated till in the ranks of junior single seat formulae, I won my first UK Championship. That was 50 years ago this autumn, 1973.

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GOODWOOD HOME

While we missed racing at Goodwood which closed ’65 I think, I did have a workshop by the chicane there 1970-76. I ran my own sort of race driver academy/race prep/hire business with Formula Fords & Supernova race cars from there early seventies, so became used to watching teams like JW Automotive, Frank Williams, Rondel Racing, Team Surtees, with stars like Siffert, Amon, Derek of course, Pecarolo, Hill, Denny Hulme & Bruce, and so many others as Goodwood hosted them as a significant test track. Competing too over the circuit café’s last helpings of rhubarb crumble I recall with remorse. Alan Langridge set up Image race cars in the Shell building, mid Woodcote and is also celebrating 50 years this weekend, in Tangmere village hall; Tangmere once a satellite of Goodwood airfield.

So, returning this week for me is heavily nostalgic with a car based upon those that we saw back then. Lord March gave us permish to scatter Dad’s ashes on our favourite spot, the exit of tricky triple apex Madgwick. While there, a Spitfire took off (Dad was a radio fitter on them) and waved it’s wings at him saluting his location. Time has intervened usefully as I continued racing for many years, couple more Championships, time in the US & European Grand Circuits. Showroom years were likewise so memorable with some of the world’s greatest marques, RSRs, Clubsports, GT1, SVs, F1 and 1000 bhp W16s to date on road & 262 mph track to boot. Like I say, the book’s written and BRDC Membership achieved …

JUST THE CAR

I can show you proof; all this time particularly after racing a useful 2 litre sports racer which produced such great well-balanced race cars and close close racing; I too always thought ‘let’s get this on the road’. Big bikers will likewise understand good balance and the thrill of romping down a clear & maybe moonlit road in the open air, the sensuous manual responses, noises rhythmically blending bends with contours through sensitive steering, throttle & brake control … and of course, felt through your proprioceptors, the seat of your pants, all at a light G-Force pace. A pure adrenalin high if there ever was one. So many more should ‘feel’ this, absolutely yes!

Well Steve & John J have done it, the N1a, a wonderful achievement. A pure performance-bred machine that demands Analogue Age drivers & physically driving. Sure, you want to go on a track with it, a second home to the N1a, but there’ll never be a trip so memorable as those you take in the Nichols V8 …

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OPPORTUNITY

I’ve taken too much of your attention already, but I must add that John J has given the N1a a ripping send-off offer. You can buy one of the first celebratory cars though an ‘ICON  88’ offer. In 1988, Steve Nichols’ Marlboro McLaren Honda MP 4/4 in the hands of Ayrton Senna & Alain Prost posted a near 100% clean sweep to win the F1 GP World Championship by a mile, an extraordinary achievement. Just the first 15 cars (11 left as I write) are being produced at a maxed-out spec with every last feature included as standard. I did the maths the other day and it’s a saving of approx. £80,000 on the standard car’s list price and that before any price adjustments bound to take place next year.

The N1a at Goodwood today is the final production prototype so take a real close look and tell us what you think. Come the day you want to put your name down for one, we’ll spend time with you, digging a little deeper into the usage you intend for it, and much of the personal slant you can add to suit. Then we’ll accompany you for it’s first shake down proofing & hand over if you like, ensuring your comfort and possible techniques for maximum safe conducting.

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There’s a series of images on & around what’s taking place here. Hope you can see them.