Adrian Hamilton is the owner of Duncan Hamilton and Co, a company started by his late father, the legendary racing driver (and Le Mans winner) Duncan Hamilton in 1948. Duncan was one of the great characters in racing, back in the days when men were men and cars were... often lethal. He won Le Mans in 1953 in a C Type Jaguar (that Hammy still owns) and also raced Formula One. Impressive heritage indeed.
Adrian took over the company in 1975, having started working with his father nine years earlier. He was no stranger to the business end of a racing car himself - competing in touring cars and also the iconic GT40. His father, perhaps understandably given the era in which he raced, was not supportive of Adrian’s racing as he’d lost so many friends himself. Adrian is philosophical:
“It’s a pity, as I think I’d have been bloody good! However I now have the ability to support my son Archie in his racing. His ambition is to win the Le Mans 24 hour race and he's good enough to do it. He raced in the Porsche Carrera Cup support race at Le Mans in 2010 when conditions were awful, really wet, and he came 8th. It was incredibly moving – I must admit I shed a tear.”
Over the years Adrian has been responsible for the sale of some staggering cars, and in quite some number. How’s this for a list? Eight Ferrari 250 GTOs, 19 Ford GT40s, seven Porsche 917s, ‘endless’ Jaguar C and D Types, and the most expensive car of all time - the $20,000,000 Mercedes GP car, a 1955 W196. The car Fangio himself drove.
This goes some way to explaining how the Gulf car collection came into being. The owner is a fiercely private man who does not wish to be named (although doubtless he’ll be known to a few ATFULLCHAT readers) and the only public nod to his identity is hidden in the collection title - ROFGO. It all started when he bought a 1968 Ford GT40 in the Gulf colours in 2009. Why this car? Because he had a model of it when he was at school...
“When he bought it he asked my advice about collecting the others Gulf racing cars. I told him no one had done it before and why not. 22 cars later... here we are and it isn’t over yet.” recounts Adrian.
When Adrian gave ATFULLCHAT an exclusive tour of the collection, not all the cars were in the Duncan Hamilton garages on site. Some were away being restored, and the “Dirty Girl” - the 2008 GT1 Le Mans winning Aston Martin DBR9, complete with race track dirt - was in a cocoon just down the road, revelling in her grime. (No one is allowed to clean her. She is to remain in glorious post-victory filth for ever more. And why not? She earnt it!)
The cars are not just for show. They still race with often the owner himself, or with period drivers (such as Richard Attwood) at the wheel. Three are going to historic Le Mans in July; the Porsche 917, the Porsche 908/3 and the Mirage GR8. Yet more are off to the Monaco Historic GP, the most evocative circuit in the world – the Brabham BT26 and the McLaren M14.
Attention to detail is everything. Adrian even tracked down the original Porsche Gulf race transporter, a 1970 Mercedes, discovered in a sorry state and now away having a rather meticulous and no expense spared restoration in Yorkshire.
The collection is by no means mere extravagance. If the owner wished to down tools and walk away tomorrow, he’d make a return of between 25-30% by Adrian’s reckoning. That’s a testament to making wise choices - a return like that is no mean feat in any industry, not to mention during challenging economic times.*
During the tour, Adrian highlighted the most significant cars in the collection:
GT40: This car went to Spa-Francorchamps in May 1968 for the 1000 km race, and was driven by Paul Hawkins and David Hobbs to fourth place. It was then retired, being used for exhibition purposes in 1969 and then, in 1970, it was sold to Rodney Clarke who registered it as CPL 6H for road use.
Porsche 917: The FIA had never intended for cars like the 917 to exist. Porsche and Ferrari hoodwinked the FIA into leaving an enormous loophole in their regulations which both teams exploited fabulously.
This car was built in 1969 and went on to win at Imola and Zeltweg in 1970, and finished 2nd at Le Mans in 1971. The best result for a Gulf Porsche at Le Mans.
McLaren M20: In 1972 McLaren were up against Porsche, who had a $2,000,000 budget (vs. McLaren’s $500,000) and a 900bhp 917/10K. McLaren replied with a lighter, improved handling car with hip radiators (allowing an aerofoil to be built into the nose) and an 8.1 litre Chevrolet V8 (750bhp). Increasing the capacity to 9 litres meant multiple engine failures plagued the car. It was returned to 8.1 litres in 1974 and, now totally reliable, won the 300km race at the Nurburgring.
Brabham BT26: This car was built in 1969 to replace a car destroyed in testing at Silverstone. It then won the GP at the Nurburgring, 2nd at British GP with Jacky Ickx and came second in Canada with Jack Brabham. It was then sold and fitted with a 2.5 litre Cosworth engine and raced one more season (blowing up twice) before being retired at the end of 1970.
Gulf GR7: Originally built as Mirages M6s, in 1974 they were redesigned with less weight and improvements to the chassis and aerodynamics, and renamed Gulf GR7s. Finishing a creditable 2nd at Spa that May, the car then came 4th at Le Mans despite 23 pit stops due to innumerable failure of various components, and then finished second at the 1975 Nurburgring 1000km race before being retired.
The full 22 car collection:
Ford Mirage M1 c/n 10002 1967
Gulf Mirage c/n 704 1974
GT 40 C/n 1084 1968
Porsche 908/3 c/n 12 1970
Porsche 917 c/n 26 1970/71
Gulf McLaren M20 c/n 3 1973
Porsche Kremer K8 c/n 07 1994
McLaren GTR F1 c/n 52 1997
Aston Martin DBR9 007 2008
Aston Martin DBR9 009 2008
Audi R8 c/n 403 2000
McLaren F1 Race Car c/n 14A 1970
McLaren M8D Can Am c/n M8D4 1970
Gulf Courage c/n 10 2006
Gulf Mirage GR8 c/n 802 1975
Aston Martin LMP1 2009
Gulf Mercedes Benz Transporter 1970
Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 2010
Aston Martin Vantage GT2 2011
McLaren M20 1972
*Adrian’s career has had its fair share of amusing interludes. Many moons ago he worked with Led Zeppelin, and for the birthday of their manager Peter Grant’s son Warren,Hammy came up with a novel way to deliver the birthday present - a scramble bike. “Let’s deliver it by helicopter, underslung” said Adrian, to an enthusiastic reception by Peter.
And so the stage was set. Cue photographers disguised as bushes, cleverly concealed to record the rapture on young Warren’s face as the helicopter hove into view with the bike suspended below. As the helicopter circled into the garden, there was a rather obvious missing component. “Where’s the bike..?” asked Adrian of the pilot.
“It fell off at 500ft. Bounced a good 30ft back up in the air though! But it now looks like a paperclip...” Another bike had to be hastily arranged and delivered in a rather more conventional manner. By van.
For more information: www.duncanhamilton.com
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