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In the late eighties possibly early nineties I remember seeing an ex Trans Am Vitesse at Lydden Hill, Kent. There was an article about it in CCC magazine at around that time, think I have a copy up in the loft, quick search and there is a copy on eBay . https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/CCC-magazine-8-91-feat-F1-stock-car-Trans-Am-Vitesse-Astra-GTE-Bobby-Allison/383104790392?hash=item5932d32f78:g:bZgAAOSwy2tdVSss 

I remember it was imported by a Canadian journalist, and believe Kingston Sports cars built another engine for the car. I wondered if it was the 'Candy Box' Vitesse, but think it must have been another car. Can't find any info or pictures of it but from memory looked very similar to the Candy Box Vitesse, with the big flared arches. I did find some reference of the owner at that time, Graham Jones, sadly the article was in his memory, as he has passed away. Interested if anyone has any pictures or information on the car and if it's still in the UK. Wish I had taken some photos of it at the time.

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Mark,

As you may imagine, I was excited by this article when it appeared, and I still have a copy in my files.      I could find little more about it until the Age of the Internet, when I was able to contact Graham Jones in 2009, who kindly sent me this detailed reply, describing the cars origin and how it went back to the US:

Hi John,

Well done for tracking me down, as I have now received your original e-mail
via a couple of sources.

I can certainly provide you with details of the Vitesse while it was in my
ownership - such as I remember them - but you may also want to try and
contact Mike Rockett, for the story of the car's origins.  As far as I
know, Mike still lives in Washington state, not far from Seattle (he used to
work for Boeing), and can probably be tracked down via either the SCCA
Pacific Northwest Region or the International Conference of Sports Car Clubs
(ICSCC).  Unfortunately, I don't have any contact details for him.

First of all, the Kastner cars were quite separate from Rockett's, and
although the former may well have provided inspiration, Mike's car was very
much his own work.  The story, as told to me, was that Kastner built three
Vitesses to run in the 2-litre class of the original Trans-Am Series,
specifically to compete against the Alfas, BMWs, Datsuns and Porsches.  They
were apparently quick enough, but suffered from gearbox reliability issues.
One was written off in an accident (possibly at Lime Rock?), a second
appears to have dropped out of sight in the intervening years, while the
third was acquired by the same North Carolina-based historic racer who
eventually bought the Rockett car from me.  I can't confirm that the
gentleman's name was Ralph Thomas, as it was a good few years ago now, but
the name certainly rings a bell with me.  I subsequently heard that he had
sold the car on to another historic racer in the US.

The Rockett Vitesse was built very much to the SCCA rules of the time, and
was a heavyweight by UK modified saloon standards.  The body was all steel,
including the hand-formed wheel arch extensions, and was fitted with a
substantial rollcage, while all remaining windows, bar the windscreen, were
Perspex.  The car was substantially lowered and had Koni coilovers,
adjustable anti-roll bars front and rear and a Datsun diff and halfshafts.
From memory, the wheels were 8 x 13in.  I purchased the car from Bart
Spruyt, a fellow member of the Victoria Motor Sports Club in Victoria,
Brtitish Columbia, who in turn had bought it as a rolling shell from Mike
Rockett.  Bart fitted a pretty much standard, North American-specification
Triumph TR6 engine mated to a Toyota five-speed, and ran the car in this
form in a number of ICSCC novice events on the west coast of Canada and the
US in the mid-1970s.

The Vitesse was in this form when I imported it to the UK, in 1985, and
after upgrading the 2.5-litre engine slightly with the addition of triple
Webers, a rally spec cam and tubular exhaust manifold, it ran in a couple of
hillclimbs and a sprint.  My aim was to get back to circuit racing, however,
and specifically, to compete in Triumph Sports Six Club events.

To make a fairly long and involved story considerably shorter, I made
contact with Tony Lindsay-Dean, who ran the Kingston Sports Car Centre in
Hounslow at the time and was the scourge of Sports Six Club events in a very
lightweight, well-sorted Vitesse convertible.  Mindful of the fact I was in
possession of a rather unusual car with some history attached to it, I
decided I wanted to return it to as close to original specification as
possible. I therefore eventually did a deal with Tony to build a full-race
2-litre engine mated to the correct four-speed Triumph gearbox, but uprated
with TLD modifications to address the reliability issues Kastner experienced
with his cars.

The car was in this form when I entered it in what turned out to be its only
UK motor race, a TSSC event at Lydden, in September 1991.  I eventually
finished third, behind a pair of lightweight, V8-engined TR7s, at a circuit
I had never raced on before, so the Vitesse clearly had potential.  As a
result, I started to hatch plans to lighten the car and have a serious
assault on the championship the following year, but a new job, which took up
a great deal of time and required an ever-increasing amount of travel, put
paid to that.  The Triumph therefore sat for awhile before I received an
enquiry from our historic racer in the US.  We subsequently came to an
arrangement (sight unseen), money changed hands, and I shipped the car to
North Carolina.  I received a follow-up note from the buyer several months
later, thanking me for being straight with him in my description of the
Vitesse and saying how pleased he was with it.  That was the last I heard
from him.

I do have photos, mostly from the CCC archive, but these are all either in
the form of prints or on contact sheets.  I'll endeavour to have them
scanned in the next few weeks so I can e-mail a selection across to you.  I
also have an idea in the back of my mind that "Classic and Sports Car"
magazine may have recounted the story of the Kastner Vitesses in a feature a
number of years ago, but I couldn't swear to it.

Hope this helps a bit, and I would suggest the next step might well be to
try and locate Mike Rockett . . . .

Best regards,
Graham Jones  
Editor
Racecar Engineering

 

I was never able to trace Mike Rockett, or the US buyer.     I'll be at the Kastner Cup next year, maybe I can find more then.

JOhn

Edited by JohnD
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Very interesting. Tony Lindsay-Dean is still around and trading from his house outside Bury St Edmunds. 
He is also active on FB, and I have his phone number, if anyone wants to follow up on this and find out about the engine.

Mike


OT: Tony Lindsay-Dean is an interesting guy, bit like marmite... I have done some business  with him, some not good, but some good. The gearbox in my Herald was rebuilt by him. He messed up the reverse idle wheel position but apart from that (!) it is very good, its a 3 rail J type OD with GT6 ratios :) 

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Thanks John for posting that. I've wondered about the car from time to time, so thanks for clearing it up in my mind. It was an impressive looking car in the flesh, so hopefully it's still out there somewhere.

 

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1 hour ago, JohnD said:

I think that Butch Gilbert has sold it - do you know to who?

Again, I beliveit will be at Mid-Ohio for the Kastner Cup, so no doubt I'll find out then!

JOhn

 

It was purchased by my buddy and stout competitor Chuck Gee.  He was a member here at one time.  Lives right by Kastner...

BTW, that track Nick posted is the magnificent Thunderhill Raceway in Northern California 

 

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  • 11 months later...
31 minutes ago, Escadrille Ecosse said:

Candybox is one quick Vitesse!

The Thunderhill track looks beautiful though there aren't a lot of trees round there obviously :blink:

 

 

The few trees are the secret to a fast lap at Thunderhil..  Very few and those few are very important LOL

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