Chris Towers

Figaro competing on a National Classic Car Rally – Tour Britannia in 2009

My wife and I bought this Figaro as a present for our elder daughter in 2005. It had just been imported by a company in North Yorkshire. When she got married and moved abroad, she wanted to sell the car so we bought the car back from her – the only car I have bought twice in my life. It then got used by my wife on sunny days.

My main hobby is restoring and rallying classic cars.  Consequently I look after this car myself – even have a car lift in my workshop to make things a lot easier. In 2009, a friend I do quite a few classic car rallies with, Tom  Callanan, asked if I fancied doing the Tour Britannia with him in a 1967 Vauxhall Viva GT that he had just acquired. The Tour Britannia is an event that takes all competitors around race tracks and stately homes over a three day period. Sounded like great fun as we would be competing against Porsches, Astons, Jags, Ferraris, etc.

The event was to start at Silverstone Race Circuit and finish in Harrogate. Tom, living in Dublin, had to bring the Viva over on a trailer to the start. He had arranged for some friends to transport his tow car and trailer to Harrogate. Because I had to get myself to and from the event by car, I thought it would make sense to get my car transported from the start to the finish as well so I decided to take the Figaro as it was the smallest car I had that would fit on his trailer.

The first circuits on the event were the Silverstone Race Track and the new (then) Porsche Test Track. Sadly, the Viva’s engine blew up on the Porsche Test Track. We got towed back to the pits then put the car on the trailer and drove back to the overnight hotel in the Figaro, where we parked it alongside all the other competitors. These events are not cheap to do, and we didn’t really want to do just give up and go home, so over a beer or two in the bar, I came up with this crazy idea of continuing to do the event in the Figaro. We managed to convince the organisers of this, so got a new set of rally plates and stickers and put them on the car – they didn’t actually know what a Figaro was. So, on the next morning Tom drove the car to the start control, with me as co-driver, to everyone’s absolute amazement! Following a run round the tracks of Cornbury Park, we then set off to Rockingham Speed Circuit. The marshals at Rockingham all cheered when we started buzzing round there in the company of all the other fast competitors. Tom and I had smiles on our faces all the way round – we just couldn’t believe we were actually doing it.

We then went to other venues such as Belvoir Castle and Cadwell Park. At the end of the Figaro’s first day out, all our fellow competitors dragged us into the bar to exchange stories of us hairing round with them during the day especially when we had the roof down for most of the time.

The last day took us to places like Olivers Mount in Scarborough, Castle Howard and finally Harewood Hill Climb near Harrogate. At the Finish and the Awards Presentation, we found out we had actually won our class, but had to be excluded because the organisers now realised what a Figaro was, and decided it was too young for the class they had put us in! Still the applause and cheers made it all worthwhile. The Figaro never missed a beat on the whole event. It ran beautifully. It still gets used regularly and has just had a new roof from European Trimming as the old one was beginning to shrink at the sides. Otherwise, it has only needed normal service related items like suspension bushes, brakes pads and shoes, oil, filters, plugs, belts, etc.

Lovely car! Chris