BMH Combining Classic Motorsport with University Training

For the last 10 years, British Motor Heritage (BMH) MD, John Yea, has ably campaigned an FIA-compliant MGB in a variety of classic motorsport formulae. What’s particularly noteworthy about the car is that it was created around one of BMH’s authentic replacement bodyshells and that its build team included an undergraduate student from Oxford Brookes University.

From granny’s shopper to fire-breathing classic racer – the British Motor Heritage Austin A40 - BMH British Motor Heritage Austin A4

Racer No.2

The precedent of procuring student involvement with the assistance of the Oxford Universities Motorsport Foundation (OUMF) worked well for all parties, so when BMH recently decided to create a Farina Austin A40 racer to contest the HRDC Touring Greats series, OUMF was once again contacted. This resulted in Oxford Brookes undergraduates Dominic Norman and Jimmy Allen devoting their ‘year in industry’ to help turn an unsuspecting 55-year old family saloon into a fire-breathing motorsport contender.

No cushy option

This may seem like a dream gig from the student’s point of view, but the work had to satisfy the stringent demands of their degree course and they were involved in every aspect of the programme from day one. A40 Before Conversion - BMH British Motor Heritage Austin A40Whilst stripping ‘318 YUP’ to its component parts, they simultaneously began researching the race series and, with the help of classic racing’s top gurus, establishing exactly what it takes to make an A40 competitive within it. A ‘bill of material’ was drawn up, outline costings totalled, weight-saving list prepared, suspension specification calculated, and these and all their other findings combined into an overall project document.

Once the bodyshell had been acid-dipped, it was clear the unpretentious maroon paintwork had been hiding a myriad of bodged repairs and a higher than expected level of corrosion; findings that inevitably put the programme behind schedule. As demands on them increased, the students found themselves liaising with an ever-growing list of suppliers from Pitstop over the Mini Miglia specification c.130bhp A Series engine to Concept Racing regarding the creation of an alloy radiator and fuel tank, and Rae Davis Racing about suspension components to Radford Panels concerning the replacement body parts. The lads’ own extensive range of handiwork included the creation of a new wiring loom from scratch.

The proof of the pudding

When all the major hurdles had been jumped, it was time for the much-anticipated shake-down run at Brands Hatch. However, John Yea’s initial findings were not encouraging: “It felt dreadful and really slow and all I could think was – what have I done?!” But, one by one the demons were eradicated and the mighty Austin subsequently completed its maiden race without problem.

With the best part of a season under its fibre-glass replica bumpers, the smartly-presented A40 is now fully competitive and a tribute to all those involved – not least the two Oxford Brookes students who played such a major role in its creation. ‘318 YUP’ is a fine example of industry and academia working hand-in-hand towards complementary goals.

Note: Press release courtesy British Motor Heritage, Ltd