Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Early Years

The Macau Spitfire's conception and actual construction is well documented with several excellent photographs in the Heritage archive showing the method used to turn a endurance coupe in to a single seater open short circuit screamer. Built for the November 1965 Macau Grand Prix and commissioned by Walter Sulke of Z.F. Garages the Standard Triumph distributors in Hong Kong. The basis of the car used the all aluminium tub of the 1965 Le Mans Spitfires, the coupe roof being substituted for a flat glass fibre deck with a raised hump behind the drivers head aping the Jaguar D type arrangement. A rigid strut linked the rear deck and the dash top from which a soft tonneau (not solid as some have stated) covered the redundant passenger compartment with not even a seat fitted. From the curved Perspex windscreen forward it was almost all standard Le Mans with fared headlamp aluminium and glass fibre bonnet, 70X engine producing 108bhp on twin 45 DCOE Webers, sitting on a lightweight chassis.

Always right hand drive there seems to be a deal of confusion by some authors about it having at some time being converted to left hand drive which it never was. Maybe this confusion arose due to the cars chassis number which is suffixed with an 'L' normally indicating an export car built left hand drive, or maybe its because pictures have appeared in print over the years (including one in a parts suppliers catalogue) where the negative has obviously been reversed giving the appearance of a left hand drive car! Critical examination of the unique bulkhead area of The Macau today reveals no alterations or repairs that would have been necessary in the conversion to LHD and the re conversion back to RHD. More critically the people who would have carried out the conversion and re-conversion all tell me they have no recollection of doing it, so it didn't happen!

At the end of October 1965 the car was shipped to Hong Kong, not much time to prepare for the race on November 28th! Walter Sulke managed a third place in the 30 lap Grand Prix against stiff competition including Jaguar E types, Lotus Sevens, and Formula Junior cars. Later at the same event Albert Poon drove the car to a second place in the Portuguese Trophy race.

Although raced successfully in further races in the far east The Macau's stay out there was short, returning to the Triumph competition department in Coventry early in 1966. Here it appears the car was fettled for a further period of racing this time in the United States for which it was despatched on the 13th April 1966 aboard the 'Moidancer'.

left: racing in the US in 1966
centre: original four cylinder engine developed 109bhp, with eight port head
right: rear hump and wings were fashioned from fibreglass

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