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Aston Martin repeats history at Hotel de France

7 June, 2015

For a period spanning a decade — between 1953 and 1963 — the Aston Martin race team for the 24 Hours of Le Mans would set up shop at Hotel de France at La Chartre-sur-le-Loir. What did this entail? Well, in the more relaxed days of yesteryear, the team’s drivers and mechanics would prepare their cars in the hotel courtyard before driving them — on public roads, no less — to the circuit.

Image: Drew Gibson

Following Aston Martin’s final days in the town, it remained a mecca for those with petrol in their veins. Unfortunately, the Aston Martin team didn’t return — until now. It is 52 years on, and history is repeating itself.

Image: Drew Gibson

After two days of testing at Le Mans, Aston Martin have returned to recreate some of the 1950’s most famous photo and film footage of their cars being prepared at the hotel — the 2015 effort stars the team drivers, Kiwi racer Richie Stanaway, Darren Turner, and Mathias Lauda, along with three of Aston Martin Racing’s Vantage GTEs.

Image: Drew Gibson 

Chairman of Aston Martin Racing David Richards says, “The Hotel de France is an important part of Aston martin’s motorsport heritage.

“This year, we wanted to recreate the nostalgia of those days, when the racing cars had their final preparations alongside the hotel before being driven some 40km to the circuit, along public roads.”

Taipan – surpassing interest

“It’s merely a passing interest,” insists Selby — despite owning three variants of the classic VW Beetle, including an unusual VW van that was sold as a body kit for a Subaru. In his defence he points to a 1961 Ford Thunderbird, a car that he converted to right-hand drive. However, on the VW side of the ledger, since he opened Allison Autos in Whanganui 27 years ago, Selby has built 15 VW-powered Formula First cars, followed by a beach buggy, restored a derelict Karmann Ghia, and hot-rodded a common or garden Beetle into something that has to be seen to be believed. As speed is not something generally associated with classic VWs, though, Selby is still waiting for this particular modification to catch on amongst the hot rod faithful.

Travelling companion

It’s easy to see why the Morris Minor Traveller was one of the best-loved variants of the Morris Minor. Introduced in 1953, it was equipped with the same independent torsion bar front suspension, drum brakes, and rack and pinion steering as its saloon sibling but, with their foldable rear seat increasing versatility, many Travellers were used as trade vehicles, says Derek Goddard. Derek and Gail Goddard, the owners of this superbly restored example, have run Morris Minors since before they were married in 1974.
“Our honeymoon vehicle was a blue Morris Minor van — it was a rust bucket,” says Derek.