2011 Silverstone Classic Sale

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1961 Deep Sanderson 301 Prototype - Le Mans, Spa, Nurburgring Veteran

Lot No.: 160

Registration: DGN 804 H (WAS 2 ARX)
Chassis Number: DS/301/16
Engine Number: BMC Works Experimental
Number of cylinders: 4
CC: 1293cc
Year of Manufacture: 1961
Sold for (£): 36,000

Chris Lawrence had been making Formula Junior 101 single seaters, to the strict Lurani Formulae, since 1959. Their results were satisfactory but not great, winning a few minor UK races. He called them ‘Deep Sanderson' combining the title of a jazz record, 'Deep Henderson', that his Father's group recorded with the name of his Uncle, Tony Sanderson, who funded the project.

In 1959 Chris won the Freddy Dixon Trophy - the UK's domestic sports-car championship - in a Morgan +4. He went on to take the Morgan to Le Mans in 1962 and won the 2-litre GT class. In the meantime, his team at ‘LawrenceTune' had decided the vogue for inexpensive sports cars was worth getting involved with, so they developed the Deep Sanderson 301 Sports Coupe. This used the Mini Minor engine, but in the rear. Launched at the 1961/62 Sports Car Show at Olympia, the prototype car was made in metal, from which moulds were taken and a limited run of ‘production' fibre-glass bodied kits were sold. It is estimated that 17 were made in total, including the prototype ‘works' car - which is offered for sale here today.

Chris wanted to race a car of his own design at Le Mans and so the prototype was further developed to be a racer. At Le Mans in 1963 it ran for 20 hours, leading the Index of Performance, until it was disqualified on a spurious technicality - the reason later being admitted to Chris that the ACO could not bear to see an English Mini Based car taking the prestigious ‘Index' - as it turned out, no car was running in Chris' class at the end of the race!

The car ran in 1963 as a 998cc car, by 1964 it had been joined by an all fibre-glass team mate. Chris secured BMC Factory support and had a pair of experimental Abingdon workshop 1293cc engines for that years' Le Mans. In the meantime, the ‘Metal' 301 had competed at Spa and Nurburgring.

Le Mans 1964 was a bit of a disaster, as 2 ARX crashed in final practice - the rear engine cover blew open at over 150 mph, scaring the driver and he lost control forcing the car to retire. The second car lasted under three hours before a head gasket failure put them out of the race, before No2 Driver Gordon Spice was able to even get a chance behind the wheel, thus postponing his Le Mans debut! This put Chris off returning to Le Mans for four years until in 1968 a re-worked Deep Sanderson, the 302 was entered, this time powered by a 1500cc Ford Cortina engine, and featuring a lengthened wheel base but it lasted only a few hours.

The prototype 301 was sold by LawrenceTune in 1970. Since then it appears to have been used as a road car but still retains its Le Mans lights and the BMC experimental engine. Discovered in a shed in Leeds in the early 2000s. It had previously been restored and raced a little in the late 1980s and early 1990s but had been stored for a decade or more. The current owner took the car back to Chris Lawrence, who undertook a full restoration, before it appeared at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2009, where it climbed the hill in under one minute. It was then a featured part of the Mini 50th Parade at the Goodwood Revival that year and was one of the cars "cartoonised" in the programme as a Dinky Toy.

In 2010, the Deep Sanderson raced in the Fordwater Trophy with Simon Diffey behind the wheel. He qualified in a solid 13th place, coming home in 11th, after being baulked by a Sprite driver who was recovering from a pit stop and wouldn't let Simon pass; the Sprite came home 19th of 20 finishers, seven laps down! Simon's times were all comfortably in the top ten and he was reaching speeds in excess of 125mph on the Lavant Straight. Offered with its MOT and in a race-able state, all that would be needed is the proverbial "spanner check" and this "Pocket GT" would, subject to an entry, be ready to take to the track once again. We are informed that, as it ran at Le Mans "in the day", it would be guaranteed acceptance at Le Mans Classic in 2012.

The car comes with an extensive history file; two crates of spares; a set of 4 wheels and is also the basis for a "Bang" 1:43rd scale commercially available model. It has been a "star car" in articles and features in Mini World, Classic and Sportscar and Octane in the last couple of years.