In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021

| 29 Dec 2021
Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021

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As 2021 comes to an end, it’s time to reflect on the year and celebrate those who gave so much to the classic car community, but who passed away in the past 12 months.

And as well as our memories shared here, please click the links throughout for more comprehensive tributes.

Back on 10 January, gentleman sports car racer Peter Blond died after contracting COVID-19, aged 91. A frontrunner in British races, he was almost entirely loyal to Jaguar-powered cars, first with an XK120, then a C-type, and from 1957 a D-type. He also raced for Aston Martin, and after John Heath’s death he became a semi-works driver for HWM, and campaigned Tojeiros and Listers at Le Mans.

Later a director of Sotheby’s, he owned a fine collection of pre-war Rolls-Royces and Bentleys that he drove through the thick traffic around his homes in central London and in France. In America he kept a V12 Lincoln and a Morris 1000 Traveller.

Just a few days later, on 15 January, Gerald ‘Jerry’ Wiegert, the elusive founder of the Vector marque, died at the age of 76. The big-thinking American was still developing ideas into his 70s, supposedly aiming to produce a 3000bhp, 300mph, $3m concept car.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Michael J Worthington-Williams MBE 1938-2021

With the death of Michael J Worthington-Williams MBE at the age of 83 on 8 February, the old-car movement has lost a great campaigner, historian and writer. He first wrote for Lord Montagu’s then relatively new magazine Veteran and Vintage when he was a teenager and became a leading journalist and author in the field, preferring to write about pre-1940 machines rather than classics; in the ’80s he wrote for Classic & Sports Car.

He never retired, just slowed down, and was an avid collector of the rare and unusual. The historic vehicle world has a lot to thank Worthington-Williams for, particularly his work with the DVLC regaining lost registration marks for cars that had reappeared, or getting age-related numbers for imports, and in 2018 he was awarded an MBE in recognition of his services to recording motoring history.

Also on 8 February, top rally navigator Johnstone Syer died. A former miner, he was born in 1933 and started competing in club events, before partnering Bobby Crawford on the 1959 RAC International Rally. He went on to sit alongside Roger Clark, Tony Pond, Andrew Cowan and Brian Culcheth in a career that spanned 40 years.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Dorothy Caldwell 1918-2021, pictured with her son Alastair

On 10 February, aged 103, Dorothy Caldwell passed away. She began rallying in her 90s and entered the Guinness World Records as the oldest rally co-driver/navigator.

She competed with Alastair, her youngest son and 1970s McLaren Formula One team manager, their first event being the 13,000km Trans-America Challenge 2012 in a 1963 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III, which crossed North America from New York to Alaska.

Then on 19 February 2021, the granddaddy of the beach buggy and a key instigator of desert racing along the Baja Peninsula, Bruce Meyers, died at his home in California, aged 94.

He was a remarkable polymath with a wide range of talents and achievements way beyond the cult off-roader.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Chris Craft 1939-2021

Just the next day, on 20 February, former tin-top hero, Le Mans ace and specialist car manufacturer Chris Craft passed away, following a lengthy illness.

In more than two decades of racing, he drove some 44 different makes and models in a wide variety of formulae, including 14 appearances at Le Mans and victory in the 1973 European Sports Car Championship, and he worked with Gordon Murray on the Light Car Company Rocket.

We were saddened to hear of the passing of one of the greatest rally drivers there has ever been when, on 25 February, Hannu Mikkola succumbed to cancer, at the age of 78.

He claimed rallying’s top prize in 1983 and across his 20-year career won 18 World Championship rounds.

His final victory came in 1987, 19 years after his debut on the world stage, when he drove the cumbersome Audi 200 saloon to an unexpected success on the East African Safari Rally. He was, quite simply, a legend of the sport.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Hannu Mikkola 1942-2021

Motorsport suffered another huge loss when, on 13 March 2021, Murray Walker OBE died, aged 97.

The voice of Formula One for 25 years, his unique style brought the sport to a new, global audience, and he generated an affection among his audience which always mystified him.

His F1 commentaries saw him partnered with 1976 champion James Hunt, about which Walker was initially sceptical, then with Jonathan Palmer and Martin Brundle. He continued to cover every F1 race until he was almost 78, signing off at the end of the 2001 season.

And you can read our second tribute to Walker here.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Murray Walker OBE 1923-2021

Peter Browning, a stalwart of the BMC and British Leyland motorsport scene for so long, died on 14 March at the age of 84.

Originally an organ scholar, he took up motor-racing timekeeping and then edited club magazines, before moving to Abingdon to set up The Austin-Healey Club.

Later a motoring journalist and author, he became executive director at the British Racing & Sports Car Club, organised the Tour of Britain three times, and spent years running a photographic and publicity operation for Marlboro.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Johnny Dumfries 1958-2021

2021 was also the year Le Mans winner and Grand Prix driver Johnny Dumfries died, on 22 March, after a short illness.

Officially the 7th Marquess of Bute and born John Crichton-Stuart, Earl of Dumfries, he was part of the Tom Walkinshaw Racing Jaguar squad that wrestled the famous Le Mans trophy back from Porsche in 1988, ending a near decade of dominance while partnering Jan Lammers and Andy Wallace.

Two years earlier he had been Ayrton Senna’s teammate in Formula One at Lotus, having raced against the Brazilian in F3 in 1983 and dominating the series the following year.

Dumfries, known to friends as Johnny Bute, retired from racing in 1991 and inherited his father’s title in ’93, focusing on the family estate.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Robert Opron 1932-2021

The classic car world lost a design great when Robert Opron died on 29 March; he was 89.

He became the head of design at Citroën in 1964, and under his direction the marque’s cars gained, with the GS and the CX, a new and contemporary look for the ’70s – as well as an ill-fated ‘Super Citroën’ in the shape of the SM.

Opron had previously worked at Simca, as a junior in the styling department, but was made redundant in 1960 and joined Citroën in 1962 until a move to Renault, where he ran the design department from 1975 until ’85. He joined Fiat in 1986 and retired in 1992.

Enjoy our second tribute to him here.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Monte Hellman 1929-2021 (left); Dennis Priddle 1945-2021

The man behind Ari Vatanen and David Richards’ 1981 World Rally Championship win, David Sutton, passed away at the age of 81 on 6 April.

His eponymous squad fully took over the Ford Escorts when the factory departed the sport, and with Rothmans colours went on to top the world, becoming the first privateer team to take the title.

Having run Escorts since the late 1960s and built cars for Boreham in the late ’70s, he switched to Audi and its new quattro in the UK until the factory pulled out in 1986. As late as 2003, a Sutton-prepared Subaru Impreza won the Group N crown.

A few days later, on 11 April, Kas Kastner died, aged 92. He was the go-to man for hot Triumphs in the USA, having driven a TR3A to a national title in the SCCA and a class championship in the California Sports Car Club in the late 1950s.

And film director Monte Hellman passed on 20 April; he was 91. His career encompassed Roger Corman B-films and Reservoir Dogs, but his cinematic legacy will always be Two-Lane Blacktop.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Bob Unser 1934-2021

World-renowned drag racer Dennis Priddle died at the age of 75 on 27 April.

Known as ‘Mr Six’, in 1972 Priddle became the first drag racer to break the seven-second barrier outside North America, achieving the 6.995 secs milestone at Santa Pod just five years after his first taste of the ’strip. He retired in 1985, but remained a prominent and popular character in the category.

American racing legend Bobby Unser died at the age of 87, on 2 May 2021, at home in New Mexico, one of 10 drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 three times, having crossed the famous bricks first in 1968, 1975 and 1981.

The longevity of his success is matched only by Rick Mears who, like Unser, won the Indy 500 in three different decades.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Max Mosley 1940-2021

On 23 May, John Sprinzel passed away at the age of 90 at his home in Hawaii. He made his rally debut on the 1955 RAC in his mother’s Austin A30, which he’d secretly borrowed for the occasion. He was soon spotted by BMC and gave the Austin-Healey Sprite a class win on its maiden works outing (the ’58 Alpine), then in 1959 he was crowned British Rally Champion.

As well as being a talented competitor, as co-founder of Speedwell, an employee of Donald Healey and an independent tuner, he was instrumental in the Sprite-based Speedwell GT and Sebring coupé racers, he helped organise the 1970 World Cup Rally and also worked as a writer and TV commentator.

Former racing driver and FIA president Max Mosley died on 24 May of cancer at the age of 81. A close ally of Bernie Ecclestone, he served three terms as president from 1993 to 2009 and oversaw huge change in Formula One, not least in safety improvements.

And as president of the FIA he helped introduce the NCAP test and the HANS device among many other safety innovations.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Carlos Reutemann 1942-2021

On 14 June, Tonia Bern-Campbell, widow of record-breaker Donald, died at her home in California. She was born in Belgium, but there is much mystery over in which year – despite 1937 on her passport, it is believed 1927.  As per her wishes, her ashes were scattered on Coniston Water, near where her first husband is buried.

F1 driver and politician Carlos Reutemann died on 7 July 2021; he was 79. Bernie Ecclestone signed him to drive for the Brabham Formula One team in 1972 – Reutemann responded in style by qualifying on pole position for his debut.

In 1974, Reutemann took his first victory at the South African Grand Prix in the BT44, also winning that year in Austria and the US. He raced with Ferrari, Lotus and Williams, too.

In all, Reutemann won 12 Grands Prix. In the right frame of mind, he was near-unbeatable. On other days, his presence in a race could almost go unnoticed.

He occasionally returned to motorsport and finished third on the World Rally Championship’s 1985 Rally of Argentina in a Peugeot 205 T16

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Graham Robson 1936-2021

Double Le Mans winner Jean-Pierre Jaussaud died at the age of 84 on 22 July.

He was 40 by the time he took to the top step at La Sarthe – but he’d been on the podium twice before, claiming third with Matra in 1973 and again two years later in a Gulf-Mirage GR8. His 13th and final appearance came in 1983.

And then the world of motoring and motorsport lost a good friend on 5 August. Graham Robson’s busy professional life ended shortly before his passing, during which he wrote nearly 170 books and countless newspaper and magazine features including five years of Anorak’s corner for C&SC.

But quantity did not affect quality – his work was always meticulously researched and well written.

He was president of the TR Register, vice president of Club Triumph and an honorary life member of several other clubs, as well as a prolific writer, researcher and author.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Robert Brooks 1956-2021

Aston Martin authority Richard Stewart Williams died, aged 76, on 12 August, having contracted pneumonia. He was an apprentice at Aston when he was 16, and later established Richard Stewart Williams Ltd, preparing racing Aston Martins before taking on Le Mans, including running the AMR1 Group C project.

Ford cancelled the programme in 1989, but Williams continued working with Aston, contributing to the firm’s Continuation projects.

Classic car dealer Adrian Hamilton passed away at the age of 74 this August, following a stroke. After training as an officer in the merchant navy, ‘Hammy’ returned in 1968 to work for his father, 1953 Le Mans-winner Duncan, cleaning cars before making his first sale – a 1956 Jaguar MkVII.

As well as running cars at Le Mans, Hamilton campaigned an ex-Girling GT40 and took part in historic rallies in a Le Mans C-type. His achievements in selling historic cars are the stuff of legend, with nine 250GTOs and countless GT40 and 917 sales to his credit. He was also instrumental in assembling the 42-strong ROFGO Collection of Gulf-liveried race cars after sourcing a GT40 for German oil magnate Roald Goethe.

And Robert Brooks, former owner of auctioneer Bonhams, died on 23 August aged 64, from cancer. Brooks’ first passion was motorsport, but he ended his racing career at the age of 19 to become Christie’s youngest-ever auctioneer.

By 30 he was a member of the board, before founding Brooks Auctioneers in 1989. A decade later the firm merged with Bonhams, and he built it into one of the great collector-car auction houses. He sold the business in 2018, retiring to his Exmoor farm.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Gordon Spice 1940-2021

Also succumbing to cancer, Gordon Spice, the most successful Ford Capri racer of all time, died on 10 September at the age of 81.

He took class honours in the British Saloon Car Championship for six consecutive seasons from 1975, with 26 wins from ’75 to ’82 (although one was later chalked off for what he described as “post-race hassles”).

Spice won his class four times at Le Mans and, with Teddy Pilette, triumphed at 1978’s Spa 24 Hours in, of course, a Capri.

You can read our interview with him, from 2019, here. “I’m just very lucky that I can look back on quite a successful time,” he told us. “I’m happy with that, I’ve made a lot of good friends on the way.”

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Nino Vaccarella 1933-2021

Targa Florio legend Nino Vaccarella died at the age of 88 on 23 September.

Affectionately nicknamed ‘The Flying Headmaster’ in reference to his day job at his family-owned school, Vaccarella was born in Sicily, home of the Targa, and became a specialist in the event, winning it three times, in 1965, 1971 and 1975.

He also won Le Mans in ’64 and the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1970, and made four World Championship Formula One starts.

Rally great Jack Tordoff passed away on 4 October after a long illness. A lifelong enthusiast, Tordoff campaigned everything from Ford Cortina GTs to Saab 96s, winning various events including the Seven Dales Rally, the Morecambe Rally and the Granite City Rally. His greatest sporting achievement came in 1973 with victory in the Circuit of Ireland in a Porsche 911. He was also a gifted businessman.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Bob Bondurant 1933-2021

Westfield founder, historic Grand Prix competitor and engineer Chris Smith passed away on 30 October after a long battle with cancer; he was 77.

After constructing a replica of the 1956 Lotus Eleven Le Mans car he much admired in 1982, Smith established Westfield a year later, naming his replica-building business after his home near Lichfield, Westfield House. Following the Eleven came the 7SE as the company continued to grow and in 1991 it relocated to Kingswinford, where it remains to this day.

Championship-winning racer, Le Mans class winner, nine-time F1 entrant and renowned driving instructor to the stars Bob Bondurant passed away on 12 November 2021, aged 88.

He began racing on four wheels aged 23 in a Morgan Plus 4. From 1963 he joined Carroll Shelby’s team and the following year, with co-driver Dan Gurney in a Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe, he scored a class win and finished fourth overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, arguably his most famous result.

However in 1967, driving a McLaren at Watkins Glen, a huge crash caused life-changing injuries. He worked hard to overcome these and went on to found the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving to improve driving standards – more than 500,000 students benefited from his skills, including several film stars, because he became Hollywood’s go-to person when an actor needed to learn how to drive.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Tony Dron 1946-2021

Tony Dron, who died aged 75 on 16 November after a long illness, was that rare beast: a motoring journalist who really did know how to race cars.

His racing career lasted from 1968 to 2011, and in those 43 seasons he scored victories in 41 different types of car.

He was sports editor of the weekly Motor and then editor of Classic Cars, and in addition he wrote for the Daily Telegraph and authored several books.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Sir Frank Williams CBE 1942-2021

F1 giant, Sir Frank Williams CBE, died on 28 November at the age of 79.

No other man has run his own F1 team for 43 years, from 1969 until he handed the day-to-day reins to his daughter, Claire, in 2012.

Between 1980 and 1997 Williams won seven Drivers’ World Championships and nine Constructors’ titles, and between 1979 and 2012 the team scored 114 Grand Prix wins.

Doctors gave him a decade to live following his life-changing car crash in France, back in 1986, that saw him wheelchair bound thereafter, but his determination, optimism and self-discipline meant he defied the odds.

He always credited any success to the talented team he gathered around him, but none of it could have happened without Williams’ inspiring leadership.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Al Unser Snr 1939-2021

Just seven months after the death of his brother, Bobby, Al Unser Snr died on 9 December, at the age of 82.

He’s one of only four drivers who have won the Indianapolis 500 four times, the others being Rick Mears, AJ Foyt and, joining this exclusive club earlier this year, Hélio Castroneves.

He first won at the Brickyard in 1970, and when he did so again in 1971 he became just the fourth-ever racer to win the great race back-to-back.

Unser took the spoils again in 1978 and when he did so for the final time in 1987, at the age of 47, he became the Indy 500’s oldest-ever winner.

Classic & Sports Car – In memoriam: paying tribute to those we lost in 2021
Hazel Chapman (1927-2021), pictured with her husband Colin

On 14 December 2021, Lotus shared the news that the marque’s co-founder, Hazel Chapman, had died; she was 94.

The other half to Colin Chapman as much as Lotus itself, Chapman (née Williams) was a former racer who became the business mind behind the marque.

She met Colin in 1944 and by 1952 she had helped build the MkI and MkII, funded the first Lotus company and then, in 1954, the two married.

On the board of Lotus Cars, Team Lotus and Lotus Components, she also championed the lucrative Lotus Seven kits.

Widowed in 1982, she stayed close to the marque as a director of Classic Team Lotus and inspecting each new Lotus road car since.

Images: Getty Images/Dominique Fontenat/Jakob Ebrey Photography/Newspress/Bondurant Racing School/Chapman Foundation


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