Monday 5 June 2023

Eccentricity – the Bulldog spirit

To those of us in the celtic (pronounced Keltic) nations, the anglo Saxons are an eccentric breed. Of course they also have their own opinions about us varying from wild, hairy and uncouth to downright insulting, but as long as these perceptions are all expressed in good humour then it’s all just part of good old British banter.

But there are some eccentrics who go the extra mile, or to be more precise, 200 miles. That’s the target set by a band of visitors from the deep south who are visiting Machrihanish airfield just outside Campbeltown on the Mull of Kintyre tomorrow (Tuesday 6th June).

This band has a serious purpose in mind, and they are not coming alone. They are bringing a Bulldog with them, but not the ankle snapping, slevvering, pug nosed variety. This one sits on four wheels rather than four legs. It also has a winged Aston Martin badge on its nose!

Over the past two and a half years, Bridgnorth based Classic Motor Cars have been restoring a one-off Aston Martin Bulldog concept car built in 1979. In fact it gained its name from the Scottish Aviation Bulldog, the aeroplane flown by the then-managing director, Alan Curtis. Work originally started on the Bulldog project in 1977 and it was designed to be the fastest production car on the road capable of reaching 200 mph.

Powered by a 5.3 litre 90-degree V8 with two Garrett AiResearch T04B turbochargers Bulldog recorded a top speed of 191 mph at MIRA (Motor Industry Research

Association) test track in 1979. Originally 15-25 Bulldogs were going to be produced, but the project was shelved on cost grounds.

Now, some 40 odd years later, CMC are planning to do what the works failed to achieve all those years ago – hit the 200 mph original target.

Machrihanish is a long way from Shropshire but it has the longest military runway in Europe, hence the long trek north. Although no longer a military base, the runway has been well maintained. Not least because it was selected as a suitable (emergency) landing site for Shuttles on this side of the Atlantic when the NASA space missions were underway.

More recently, the site has been used on an annual basis by Dunfermline CC and partner clubs as the location for the two-day Mach 1 Stages Rally (8th/9th July 2023) which is a counter in the Burnside Piling Scottish Tarmack Rally Championship, and both the Back to Roots Tarmack Rally and Scottish Single Venue Championships. In fact it’s one of the best venues in the country for a ‘single-venue’ rally as it offers a huge variety of roads on and off the runways. It can be tight and technical in some stretches whilst allowing full-bore, flat-out, top gear stuff on other sections. And given that it’s a two day event, the craic on Saturday evening/night can sometimes be epic – or perhaps best avoided!

Anyway, it’s altogether a more sensible and measured exercise which is planned for tomorrow and I’m sure we wish Tim Griffin, managing director of Classic Motor Cars, and technician Team Leader Brett Eggar and the team every success with their endeavours.

Apparently they were looking for a local driver to carry out the timed runs but my big pal Jaggy is unavailable at present so they have opted instead for a chap called Darren Turner – Aston Martin works GT team member and three times Le Mans winner. Besides, he’s previously tested the car at the Royal Naval Air Station at Yeovilton in 2021 and reached 176 mph - in poor weather conditions!

So he’ll do, eh?

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