Ian was always a car enthusiast, superbly turned out, highly engineered fast cars were his passion. His first project, which took over ten years to complete, was the restoration and rebuilding of a Mk 1 Ford Zodiac. Sporting a finely tuned 6-cylinder motor, finished in red and running on wire wheels, it was quite a head-turning street racer in the sixties.
The sport of Drag Racing seemed to fit the bill for a young man who was keen to go faster in safety and when the owner of the garage where Ian worked asked him to work on his Vauxhall Ventora to bring it up to the standard of the one Ian had just sold, the opportunity arose for him to produce a race car. He fitted the car with a Rover VB and went on to win the PDRC Street Racer Championships with it. The car also became an early race car for Dave Warne when it was eventually sold.
The quest for quicker times had begun! It took Ian only 6 weeks to build the Rover V8 powered Dutton that was a real threat in both Super Comp at York Raceway and the Rover VB Challenge rounds. First outing for the car was a meet at the old US Air Force base at Burtonwood, organised by the newly formed PDRC, where he raced the red kit car against all comers, including Pip Higham on his bikes. Having broken the gearbox, he consoled himself by doing burnouts for the crowd……..in reverse!
It was 1968 that the birth of an idea to build a state-of-the-art Competition Altered saw Ian and a friend fly over to Detroit armed with a bundle of cash to buy the parts needed. Ian’s plan was that only the best would be good enough for what he intended would be a quick turn-around race car so he could achieve the maximum number of runs. Following a discussion with Fred Whittle about building a mid-8 second car on a box chassis, those plans changed. instead Fred built a Chrome-Moly tube frame chassis to go with the Pat Cuss fibreglass Fiat Topolino body. Power plant was to be a normally aspirated smallblock Chevrolet engine with the best of everything.
Gonzo the Great was debuted in 1981 and continues to be raced to this day by Ian’s son, Alan. An acknowledged masterpiece of engineering, besides running and competing successfully with the car at the tracks in UK Gonzo also toured Europe appearing at Hockenheim, The Osterreichring and twice at Le Mans’.
In the early 90’s the state of the track at Melboume, York Raceway, was of great concern if racing were to continue there, Ian was the first to back the ‘Mac the Track” campaign and commit money to the fund. From that point onward Ian took on the role of project foreman at York Raceway organising the work parties and material deliveries whilst other campaigners drummed up sponsors and support. Ian was on site each weekend from October through to the following April as work progressed and became an ambassador and spokesman for the project, working tirelessly over those eight months to ensure the track would be ready for the new season. Effectively “Mac the Track” gave racers a further 2O years of racing at York.
In more recent years Ian was contracted by Bentley Motors in an engineering role. He is very proud of his achievements with that company, in particular designing a Dyno-Tester for them to prepare their popular 6.7 litre V8 engine to meet current-day emissions regulations, thereby enabling them to continue to provide engines for the many restored Bentley cars still on the roads today.
As a footnote, 2018 saw Ian tune Gonzo to achieve a European best for a normally aspirated SBC of 7.879 @ 154.85 mph with Alan at the wheel.
Quite an achievement.
Profile By Graham Beckwith