What is seen from the outside tells a story, but in the case of the 1959 Costin Jaguar, it's more what is not seen that is of even greater interest. Lot 112 at this year's auction is a Jaguar chassis fitted onto the frame of an ERA grand prix car dating back to 1939.
ERA had been a rather successful grand prix car throughout Europe, but especially Great Britain. Germany then backed Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union. These powerful machines were all but untouchable. In an effort to counter the German companies Peter Berthon set out to design an grand prix car capable of dethroning the powerful German cars. It was called the GP1. However, it was 1939 and the war loomed too large to really strike interest. A vain attempt was made to race the GP1 at Brooklands in 1939 but it could not achieve the pace needed, and therefore, was withdrawn.
The GP1, at another event, showed it could hit some rather impressive top speeds, but, problems would plague the car and it would end up sitting idle throughout the war-time years. After the war another chassis, the GP2, was made. However, the GP2 proved to be about as good as its predecessor. All of the problems led to the idea being scrapped. The basis, the foundation, would, however, get a second lease on life.
A spare chassis remained. After some experiments, the chassis was fitted with a C-Type Jaguar engine. Now, the car was much faster than it had been before. The car was then sold to J. Nichollson in Scotland. Nichollson then contacted the coachbuilders Williams and Pritchard to install a sleek Costin-styled body onto the chassis. This was not a cheap affair as Nichollson paid £1,250 for the aluminum body to be installed.
While the installation was seemingly straight-forward, the Costin-bodied racer was not all that straight-forward when it came to its transmission. The GP2 chassis already had a four-speed Jaguar transmission up front, but, had its original ERA transmission in the rear. This led to some challenges, especially when driving, but it did provide a usuable six-speed arrangement.
Nichollson sold the car after the changes were made. At this point the car caused some intrigue. Nichollson had sold the car to Stephen Lee, who then sold the car as a GP1. This caught the attention of Gordon Chapman. He knew it could not be a GP1 as he owned the only GP1. Chapman purchased the car, removed the Costin body and focused on restoring the GP2.
The GP2, by the mid-1970s had been driven and competed in several different guises. It was seen at a number of events and locations, such as Silverstone. This is where Honorable Patrick Lindsay noticed the car.
Lindsay, the founder of Christie's Motor Car Department, was very much a racing enthusiast, and he raced everything he owned. Lindsay wasn't just a car racer. He was known as an all-around sportsman. He was an aviator, auctioneer and head of Christie's Old-Masters Department. Often times he would be seen at Silverstone flying in on his own personal Supermarine Spitfire. He would then get out and go racing.
When Lindsay came across the GP2 during the late 1970s he immediately was drawn by it. He ended up purchasing the GP2, but also, the Costin body that had been on the car at one time. He owned the car up until the day he died. After Lindsay's death, his widow sold the car to a famous music industry producer and musician.
The British Racing Green Costin body had been put back on the chassis and will be offered at the auction in its lightweight roadster form. The car boasts a DOHC six-cylinder engine capable of producing 250 bhp. The engine has three SU carburetors and a four-speed manual gearbox. The car has an independent front suspension with coil springs. The suspension is comprised of double wishbones and anti-roll bar. The rear suspension has a rigid rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs. Braking for the 1959 Costin Jaguar is accomplished through four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes.
Overall, this Costin Jaguar is in superb condition. It would be a lovely and interesting piece in any collection and would be right at home in many historic racing events and shows. Every layer of this car is steeped in racing history and full of hidden memories.
'Buy: Feature Lots (Lot 112: 1959 Costin Jaguar)', (http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ11&CarID=r373). RM Auctions Arizona. http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ11&CarID=r373. Retrieved 3 January 2011.By Jeremy McMullen