In 1957 my father was at Aintree for that year’s British Grand Prix – a race won by Stirling Moss in the Vanwall with the following three places being taken by Ferraris. In third place was Mike Hawthorn, and the following year he would become the first Englishman to win the F1 World Championship. At the time Hawthorn’s achievement was somewhat controversial as he only scored one Grand Prix win (the French GP at Reims) during the 1958 season as opposed to Stirling Moss’ four wins. However, the scoring system employed at that time worked in Hawthorn’s favour. Ironically, the single point that eventually separated him from championship runner-up, Moss – earned for setting fastest lap at the Portuguese GP – was largely down to Moss interceding when race officials wanted to disqualify Hawthorn when he bump started his car in the wrong direction after stalling.
One F1 title was enough for Hawthorn and he announced his retirement from racing almost immediately. Sadly, a mere three months later, on January 22, 1959, Hawthorn died after crashing his Mk I Jaguar 3.4 on the A3 Guildford bypass, shortly after overtaking race team owner Rob Walker’s Mercedes-Benz 300SL. At the time there was some speculation that the two men had been racing each other, something that Walker initially denied.
My own interest in Mike Hawthorn came during the early-1960s when I received a copy of Hawthorn’s juvenile novel, Carlotti Takes the Wheel as a Christmas gift. In the book, a sequel to his earlier Carlotti Joins the Team, Hawthorn tells the story of a young mechanic who aspires to and eventually gets a drive in a racing car. The original plan for a series of books documenting Carlotti Smith’s subsequent motorsport progress would be curtailed following Hawthorn’s death.
I still have that copy of Carlotti Takes the Wheel, now a bit battered but a prized possession. Through this book, Mike Hawthorn played a small part in my early childhood, and in the early 1970s I found myself living in Hampshire not too far away from Farnham, the location of the Tourist Trophy Garage originally owned by Mike’s father and which he took over in 1954. During my years in that neck of the woods, I travelled down the A3 Guildford bypass many times, even stopping a few times at the fateful corner where Mike crashed. In later years the road was reconfigured, but as far as I know the corner remains, today marked by a footpath leading to the arboretum where you’ll find a tree planted in Mike’s memory.
With the above in mind, when I heard that Paul Halford was planning on re-creating Mike Hawthorn’s championship-winning Ferrari I was all ears, and when the finished car eventually arrived in Auckland I made a beeline to Paul’s lock-up to check out the car and to chat to him about the car’s construction by Rod Tempero and his team in Oamaru.
So why did Paul choose to reproduce this particular Ferrari? Paul briefly wondered why he did it at all, but his answer quickly followed.
“I wanted to build something from that period [the late 1950s] because of the romance of early Grand Prix driving and memories of all the drivers who lost their lives during that same era.”
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