Sometimes the classic car bug can bite hard. For Mark Bevington, who spent 15 years working for a corporate hospitality service at Goodwood, he was closer than most people, to the classic car fanfare surrounding the Goodwood Revival Festival. After all these years, he wanted in; more specifically, he hoped to gain entry into the exclusive Goodwood Members’ Meeting – a two-day event inspired by the BARC (British Automobile Racing Club ) meetings that were held at Goodwood in the ‘50s and ‘60s; featuring races and demonstrations from cars, both historic and modern.
To gain entry, Mark needed a car with historic significance, which turned up one fine day when a friend called about a classic British Saloon Car Championship (BSCC) Toyota Celica for sale in Belfast, Ireland.
And incredibly, despite being more than four decades old, this second-generation 1978 model was still wearing some of the original, hand-painted sponsorship liveries that it ran in the 1979 and 1980 seasons.
Apparently, this Toyota was one of two TA40 Celica XT models, commissioned by Toyota dealer “Hughes of Beaconsfield” and racecar specialist Arden Engineering to compete in the ‘Group 1.5’ specification in order to compete in the BSCC, predecessor of today’s British Touring Car Championship.
More researched showed, the Celica started its racing career as understudy to the identical TA40 legends Win Percy and Chris Hodgetts campaigned in 1979 and 1980 respectively. Even more remarkable, on two outings of the 1979-80 seasons respectively, the Celica would be piloted a young Martin Brundle, who would go on to be a successful Formula 1 driver in the mid-80s.
After it’s BSCC stints, it was sold to a female rally driver, Sandy Lawson who later sold it to a Toyota collector in 1988 where it sat for the better part of 30 years.
With so much history hidden within its paint – Mark pulled the trigger and went about a comprehensive restoration to bring back this forgotten beast, in hopes of it tearing down the Goodwood track once again. Work, therefore, began in earnest to recommission the Celica with a rebuild of the 2T-G engine and a complete re-think of the suspension and final drive ratio.
Impressively, the ultra-light magnesium alloy wheels – fitted all those years ago – were still on the car and still perfectly true.
But that was only half the challenge – due to some discrepancies between the BSCC’s “Group 1.5” and FIA regulations of the day the Celica still could not be granted its Historic Technical Passport (HTP) needed for the car to take part in a Goodwood Members’ Meeting.
This started a laborious process of sieving through the car’s well-documented history, which fortuitously turned up the original test and race data sheets of the Celica, along with a small 40-year-old sales invoice from Hughes to Sandy Lawson, which included the Celica’s unique Vehicle Identification Number – the final piece of the puzzle Mark needed to secure its HTP.
But, alas, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Goodwood Member’s Meeting has been postponed so we’ll have to wait a bit longer to see this Celica roar amongst its contemporaries after 40-years!