2013 is the centenary of the birth of the racing driver and team owner George Abecassis. This was recently celebrated with an exhibition by the Vintage Sports-Car Club at Silverstone. In the paddock was a jaw-dropping selection of cars that Abecassis had designed and/or raced over his career. Abecassis raced between 1935 and 1956 so there was a superb selection of cars for enthusiasts to enjoy.
HWM-Chevrolet – The Stovebolt Special, 1950
In the early 1950s Abecassis was the co-owner of HWM and entering cars in Grands Prix. This stunning car was crashed by Stirling Moss whilst leading the Naples Grand Prix in 1951. It was later sold to MGM and used in the movie The Racers starring Kirk Douglas.
HWM-Alta Tasman Grand Prix car
Driven by Lance Macklin in 1952 this front-engined monster came first in the Silverstone International Trophy. In 1954 it was supercharged by HWM, and Abecassis described it as ‘…undoubtedly the most exciting and fastest HWM that we ever made’. Still looking superb in Racing Green it must have been a thunderous sight when it first appeared sixty years ago.
Abecassis raced this 2.5 litre Riley-engined Healey Silverstone in 1950. It belonged to a friend named Charles Mortimer who also raced it and wrote about his experiences in a 1951 book, ‘Racing a Sports Car’. It has since spent much of its life in Australia, but is currently back in tip-top condition, lives in Germany and can be seen at events around Europe.
This 2-litre HW Alta was driven by Abecassis in the Madgwick Cup at Goodwood in 1949. It was the second car to be built by HWM at Walton-on-Thames and its success encouraged HWM to enter a full season of Formula B racing in 1950. Since then it has taken part in many classic events, including the Mille Miglia.
This Alta dates from 1937 when it had a 1.5-litre supercharged Alta engine. The original owner, Philip Jucker, was tragically killed in it, practising for the summer’s Isle of Man race. It was rebuilt over the following winter and gave Abecassis a superb 1938 season, winning nine times. After the war it was refurbished and in 1946 Abecassis took it to the Grand Prix des Nations in Geneva. There he made the final but was forced to retire. The car is currently being rebuilt and will be returned to racing when completed.
As well as the exhibition, Abecassis’ centenary was celebrated with a race for many of the classes of cars that he drove during his career. Entrance was by invitation only and included as many of the cars actually raced by Abecassis as could be found in current racing trim. The race would have no official winner – the emphasis being firmly on the machinery on display. With an entry list of twenty-seven cars, including Sports Altas, HW-Altas and HWMs, Aston Martins, Austin Healeys and Healey Silverstones this was forty minutes of action to savour.