The old war time adage was that walls had ears. This story is about a wall that had cars, or one of them anyway. I caught up with this car at the Scope meeting, told its present owner that I had not seen it since the 1960’s. And what a tale he told in return.
The car is a 1960 Cooper T52 Formula Junior. It was brought brand new into New Zealand by Denny Hulme’s manager, Feo Stanton, on their return from Denny’s 1960 Driver to Europe year. It was immediately on-sold to Roly Levis. It is the last Cooper model before the “lowline” style and the chassis is based on their older 500cc designs. It has coil spring front suspension but retains the traditional Cooper transverse leaf spring rear. More on this later.
Roly originally ran it with the 1,000 cc BMC engine that it arrived with, but eventually uprated it to a 1500 Ford unit. (The BMC FJ engine went to Kerry Grant’s A40 Farina). Over the years the T52 passed through a chain of drivers on its way to obsolescence (Dene Hollier, Bill Stone and Giggs Alexander amongst them). In the days before classic racing caught on old race cars reached a point where they became hard to sell at any price, and so it was with the T52. Kevin purchased it, pushed it into the garage and forgot about it. Indeed he had a 13 year stint where neither he nor anyone else saw the car at all. He was working overseas and rented out his house while he was gone. The Cooper was turned on its side and tied up to a wall in the garage with another false wall sealing it off. When Kevin came home he disinterred the old girl and set her up for historic racing. He has tracked down, but not yet secured the original engine (it turns out that two of them came into NZ with the car), and was thoroughly enjoying himself at Ruapuna.
This car had an interesting coincidence of incidents at Levin. Its first two owners both rolled the car on that track. Having had the machine trip over on him Dene Hollier added a set of radius arms to the rear suspension, stabilising the outer end of the leaf springs. This tweak tamed the handling of the car. (Interestingly this fix was first tried on leaf sprung Coopers by the Rob Walker team in 1958, but rarely used by others, not even the works cars. Strange that! The radius rods are clear to see in the photo below.). A shot of the car in Giggs Alexander’s hands in 1967 completes the set.