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F1 CAR IN A SHED


dreams B


The power of


How one English F1 enthusiast set out to do the impossible – to build a complete, running, driving F1 car in his garden shed


uilding a Formula 1 car is not a simple task. It requires significant outlay on staff, facilities and


the fabrication of thousands of bespoke parts. Even preparing a historic car for a series like Boss GP, which caters for high performance unlimited cars – often modified grand prix machines from the late 1990s – is a significant undertaking. It’s not the sort of thing you do in your garden shed… So to find a 2001 BAR003 under construction in the back garden of a very normal house in a very normal street in a small town near Brighton, England, is something of a surprise. None of the above seems to


have put off one English Formula 1 enthusiast, who is attempting to do exactly what everyone says is impossible, in a shed at the end of his garden. Kevin Thomas is a keen collector of motorsport memorabilia, especially car parts, though you would not know it if you paid a visit to his house. ‘It probably started 20-odd


years ago when, in the late ’80s, I was a quite a big Formula 1 fan. I went to the racing car show at Earls Court. One of the stands had some odd bits of old cars for sale, so I bought a Formula 1 car spark plug and a brake pedal. What was apparent was that it was all considered rubbish, nobody really wanted this stuff. You could buy a Tag McLaren engine for about £300 at the time,’ he explains. ‘With the internet, more and more parts appeared on more websites, and I started to collect things like tyres and bodywork.’


BY SAM COLLINS There the hobby would have


stayed, a typical memorabilia collection, and barely worth a passing mention in these pages, but Thomas chose to take things a step further. ‘A couple of years ago there


was a Formula 1 car on display in a Renault showroom near Brighton. I went along to see it and thought to myself, “I would love one of these.” A short while later, a company called Memento Exclusives, run by an ex-BAR mechanic, put a chassis on eBay. The listing ended and nobody had bid on it, so I sent the guy an email and he replied telling me he actually had three in stock. So I did a deal with him and, a


little while later, he turned up on my doorstep with a Reynard BAR-001 and a BAR003. I paid him cash for the pair.’ Thomas had no background in engineering, no connection with the motorsport industry and no specific knowledge of modern competition car construction. But he decided there and then to undertake a substantial project – he wanted to be able to drive one of his newly acquired chassis on the tracks he saw on television every other weekend, despite only having the tub. ‘I decided to sell the older of


the two tubs to a company called FMCG who sell a lot of parts for Force India. The 2001 car had a chassis plate so it was easy to identify, but the 1999 car did not. At the time teams would routinely remove chassis plates at the end of the year when the cars left their custodianship.’


TRACK PROVENANCE His tub, BAR-003/2, never actually raced in a grand prix, but was used as a T-Car at five rounds, so has some track provenance. As the project developed in Thomas’ mind, and his garage, it became obvious that there simply was not enough space to house the car. So he did what all Englishmen do when getting serious about a hobby – he built a new shed. ‘I slowly started to plan out


No high-tech workshop, no engineer, just a man and his shed


24 www.racecar-engineering.com • July 2012


what I could do with the car, and it quickly became clear that it was very difficult, or even impossible, to get the right parts. So I have to use what I can get. For example, the inboard suspension mounts on the car at the moment are from a Benetton.


Other parts I have not got I will have to be very patient and wait for, but if they do not come up for sale I will have to adapt something else.’ Looking around the shed, this


approach is clearly evident. A 2007 Spyker nosecone leans up against a Honda RA107 gearbox main case, and all around are an assortment of Formula 1 car components. Some are just parts of Thomas’ ever-growing collection, but others will be adapted to fit the car. Parts from the collection are traded with other collectors to obtain more suitable parts. For example, the floor from a Spyker was tried and found not to fit, so some trading with a memorabilia dealer turned up a BAR-004 floor, which did fit. ‘One of the things you have


to think about is that there’s no owner’s manual for this car. I don’t have the CAD files, or even an exploded view, so when you buy something like a cockpit leg protector you have to work out


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