It’s funny when you come across something you didn’t know existed, isn’t it? It makes you wonder how you made it to that point in life without ever crossing paths with it. Last Saturday at Oulton Park, I did just that.
I’ve been attending events at the picturesque Cheshire circuit for as long as I can remember. I’ve my dad to thank for that. With that mind it’s safe to say I was a touch shocked when I turned a corner to see an entire grid of Legends Cars. Where have I been this whole time?
I consider myself to be pretty switched on when it comes to automotive happenings in the UK. This though, is proof that there’s always something new to be discovered. Even if it’s not techincally ‘new’…
At first glance you’d be forgiven for assuming that what you’re looking at is just a pre-war American coupe. I won’t lie – I did. Delve a little deeper however and you’ll start to notice some smaller details that hint towards what these cars actually are. That’s where it gets interesting.
The first thing you’ll notice is the oh-so-inconspicuous bash bars that adorn the front and rear of the car. Not a single car I saw didn’t have a myriad of dents and bends in the bar. If that doesn’t hint at the fun these guys have I don’t know what will. I spent a little time snooping around outside this particular garage trying my best not to get in the way, before Paul at Mickel Motorsport spotted me and invited me in for a look around the cars. Yes please. It’s only now that I’m sat at my desk writing this that I realise these guys are 3+ times National and World champions. I was literally in the company of legends.
It’s only when you get up close that you realise just how tiny the Legends cars are. The series is based on 5/8th scale replicas of Ford, Chevy and Dodge Coupes from the 1930s. These particular cars are Ford Coupe reps, from 1934. The main premise from our quick chat is that the real things are too big, heavy, rusty and expensive to have reliable fun in on UK soil. By building smaller replicas, they’re far more suited to the narrow twisting circuits we tend to build on this side of the Atlantic. Makes sense to me.
Smaller usually means lighter, too. Especially so when all of the cars in the championship are built on a space-framed chassis, of which there are eight in current production to chose between. With a weight of 660kg including driver and full tank, light is exactly what they are.
Of course when a car is made smaller, unnecessary components are removed and you’re left with only what needs to be there. The interior is as basic as they come, with little more than a place to sit, a gauge, a wheel and some pedals. You’ll notice I’m talking about the size a lot here. They’re tiny.
Inside the car is actually a rather comfy place to be. Sure, if you breathe in too far the sides of the seat let you know they’re there, and if you’re as short as I am you can’t see a damn thing over the top of the dash, but aside from that I could see myself having a lot of fun in one of these. The nod back to the original cars with the large steering wheel is a neat touch.
Continuing the theme of ‘if it’s not needed, we don’t want it’, there’s four switches on the dash. Four. I’ve seen more controls on a Japanese toilet seat.
If ever I’ve seen a purposeful spec series, this has to be it. The 13x7J period-correct wheels don’t even fit under the arches, and the deep tread tyres (for both wet and dry conditions – no slicks here) show that they mean business.
Powering the car is a 1200CC Yamaha motorcycle engine. Producing 122BHP and a top speed of around 125MPH, Paul assures me it’s more than enough.
Of course you’d expect a bike engine to be on the smaller side, but even in a Legends car they’re a snug fit. Revving beautifully all the way to 6,750RPM, it’s the perfect power plant for such a car. They’re plentiful and reasonably cheap to acquire, too. What more could you ask for?
Another thing that was instantly drawn to my attention was how friendly everyone in the paddock was. Having pointed my camera at cars and their drivers for years, I know how annoying photographers can be. Sometimes you read a situation wrong and you are in fact just in the way. Not once did I get this impression from these guys. Furthermore, every single person that noticed me stopped for a chat or invited me for a closer look.
See what I mean? We need more of this in motorsport.
The structure of the race meetings also represent the fun factor of the series. There’s no qualifying times to determine grid position. None of that. That would be boring. Instead, they use a ballot draw system. A the start of the day, each driver takes a ball from a bag. The number and colour of the ball decides where said driver starts in the first race. This is then reversed for the second of that driver’s race. So if you fraw the inside of row 1 in your first race, you’ll be on the outside of the final row for your second. It’s BTCC rules gone mad.
The races are short and hectic. Just how they should be in cars as manic as these. They’re no more than 12 laps depending on circuit length. Due to the grid system, the fast and not so fast are all bunched together making for more drama than a week’s worth of Eastenders.
The weather on this particular day was interesting to say the least. I’ve never seen a sky turn from sun to snow storm and back so quickly. The afternoon race began as a rather dry and quick affair, with drivers pushing harder and harder each lap. The rigidity of the little chassis is astounding. Combined with the low weight, the cornering speed is something that has to be seen to be believed.
Before long the clouds crept back in and the safety car came out due to an accident. Treaded tyres obviously perform better in wet conditions, but keeping the heat in them would prove to be a struggle. I love the frantic weaving the drivers have to do to try and keep them at a respectable temperature.
The moment the SC went back in, every single driver went hell for leather in the remaining few laps. The go-for-broke attitude these guys have towards their championship show just how passionate they all are about the crazy little coupes. I also never thought I’d see 40+ pre war American styled cars hammering around a circuit in the snow…
…And then again in bright sunshine not even ten minutes later. You’ve got to love British springtime!
I urge every single one of you to look into this series. It’s not often I find an entirely new discipline and car that I’ve never heard of. Even more rare is when it’s as exciting and captivating as this is. You won’t find a more inviting and fun group of people in one place anywhere else. That, coupled with the fact that there’s more overtaking per weekend than an entire season in F1 (that’s a fact) and you really can’t go wrong. Oh, and the sound they make…