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My 1971 Elfin 600 Formula Ford

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    His pride and joy is his 1971 Elfin 600 Formula Ford which cost $6500 when it was new. Photo Gallery

While people might slow down when they turn 50, Elfin sports cars just get faster.

The most famous and enduring name in the manufacture of sports and racing cars in Australia was founded in South Australia by racing driver Garrie Cooper and produced its first car in 1959, the front-engined Streamliner.

Today, Elfin Sports Cars is owned by former British racing driver Tom Walkinshaw, whose Walkinshaw Performance company also owns Holden Special Vehicles. The company now builds three sports cars at Braeside, near Sandown race track in Melbourne.

They are the two Chevrolet V8-powered MS8 Streamliner and MS8 Clubman and the recently introduced entry-level, turbocharged, two-litre, four-cylinder T5 Clubman. (Elfin is not listing prices because of new laws regarding advertised prices.) The original company produced 248 racing and sports racing cars in 27 different models which have been driven by Formula One champion James Hunt and French Formula One driver Didier Pironi, and such well-known Australian racers as Vern Schuppan, Larry Perkins, John Bowe, Frank Matich, Bob Jane, John Harvey, Allan Grice and Peter Manton.

Elfin have won 29 championships and major titles including two Australian Drivers' Championships, four Australian Sports Car Championships, three Australian Tourist Trophies and four Formula Ford titles, the Singapore Grand Prix (1968) and twice won the Malaysian Grand Prix.

And they are still going strong in various championships for modern and historic race cars. One of those still racing Elfins is 65-year-old race car builder Ian Peters of Tarome, southwest of Brisbane.

His pride and joy is his 1971 Elfin 600 Formula Ford which cost $6500 when it was new. "I've had it virtually all its life," he said. Peters bought the car from Jack Bono in 1973 for $6500 after it had competed in the 1971 Australian Grand Prix as a Formula 2 with a twin-cam engine. He converted it back to a Formula Ford with a 1600cc Kent engine used in the Escort Ghia and Cortina GT.

Peters also owns three Formula 2 Elfins. "They are Australian made and appeal to my patriotism, plus they are practical," Peters said. "When they started building them, they were styled on the European lines so you could buy an Australian model that was cheaper, but had the latest technology. "They were well built structurally so they were good and safe and they performed admirably. "I've never had any troubles with them and if you believe that you believe in the tooth fairy; after all it's a race car. "But for a race car it's very reliable." Reliability is one thing, but "racing incidents" are another.

Peters recalls his biggest shunt was at Lakeside. "It was one of those typical first-lap incidents; the two drivers in front of me knocked wheels and I drove straight over the top and launched into the air," he said. "It was rebuildable, but the running gear was destroyed."

Elfin owners are celebrating the marque's 50th anniversary this year with several race and displays events around the country including a display of cars at Speed on Tweed on September 5/6.

Queensland will celebrate the anniversary with a lunch on July 18 at the refurbished Lakeside International Raceway in northern Brisbane. Several vehicles will be on display along with photos and memorabilia which guests are asked to bring.

Members of the Elfin Owners and Drivers Club are inviting past and present owners and racers to attend the function. Cost is $35 and bookings are essential.

Contact Vern Hamilton on 38932438 or vprojects@uq.net.au.

 

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