People's Choice Award Winner Graham Alexander Explains...
"After a long search and total amazement at the high prices being asked for a circa 1950`s/ 1960`s 2-seater sports car I made some enquiries about building my own. So, in January 2017 after much research it led me to a company that had previously produced a fibre glass body shell called the Sammio Spyder that was designed to fit onto a Triumph Herald chassis and use a Herald engine.
My timing was perfect as they were just developing a new model called the Formosa GR120 which was similar to the Sammio in style but this one would have a completely redesigned shape plus making it 4 inches wider and 8 inches longer but still using the Herald chassis and engine, it was being made to look like a classic 2-seater racing car from the 1950`s -The pout on the front is very Maserati, the dash and windscreen are Porsche Spyder, the rear is Jaguar D Type and the sides and vents Ferrari, painted red it is a Ferrari, burgundy it is a Maserati, green a Jaguar and so on. It was agreed that although this was a development car mine would be registered as build number 1.
Fortunately, I was able to see the design taking shape and the entire body was made using body filler and tens of hours sanding down to get the finished result, the main designer (Glan) is a retired gent who worked for Sunseeker yachts forming the fibre glass moulds for many items, his eye and attention to detail is amazing.
This (buck) was then used to mould the body shell, as I wanted the Ferrari look the rear lights had to be inset into the body (all other marques had proud rear light clusters) The brake and rear lights would be one unit with the indicators alongside, all rear lights are from a Mk 1 Land Rover and the perfect diameter for the mould for these was a Pringle tube so the mould was made from one of those.
Rather than have proud indicator bulbs on the front of the car I set them into the headlight to keep a clean look to the front also on the rear number plate I put an LED each end rather than the usual cumbersome illumination light above which would have spoiled the look.
The first major job for me was to find a suitable donor car, Triumph Heralds were produced originally with 1 litre engines then a 1200 version (12/50) then introduced a 1300 (13/60) then a Vitesse was produced in 1967 with a 2.0L straight 6 engine with a whopping 106BHP and the MK2 in 1968 so my mind was made up that I was going to have to have a 2.0l straight 6 engine so the hunt began for a mk2 Vitesse.
Eventually I found a 1968 mk2 in poor condition for £1500 with a running engine but as luck would have it I was offered £600 plus a chassis from a 1962 herald in exchange for the rest of the car and I also got to keep all the gauges, so the deal was done I had a chassis, running gear, engine, gearbox and gauges for £900. The main reason for me doing this is that the registration of the car is from the chassis not the engine so I could use the registration number UXG 194 rather than NRW 328F from the donor, I preferred this as it ís an ageless plate and would look better on the car as I was trying to recreate something from the 50`s.
The advantage of using the chassis with just a new body on meant that there was no need for a VOSA / IVA test and the car was re-registered as a Triumph Formosa, the theory being is that you can take off the new body shell and put a Triumph one back on the chassis, running gear etc as is not changed.
Unfortunately, the chassis was in a terrible state so I had it fully refurbished along with having the engine re built with new clutch, pistons, rings, bearings, timing chains etc.
Thank goodness for the internet it was easy to source all the parts required, the seats came from Poland a stainless steel base plate for the clutch and brake master cylinders came from Australia, the wire wheels were off a Morgan (I had these chrome plated), rear lights from a Land Rover, the door catches off of a tractor a fuel tank from a Triumph spitfire plus many other items including handbrake, switches, wiring loom, badges the list goes on and on. I also had great fun at a few Autojumbles looking at various items that would suit the car, the only genuine Ferrari parts are the inner steering wheel badge and the bonnet badge.
Once the chassis was fully refurbished to a good as new standard it was time to start assembling the car, new brakes and braking system balanced 60% front and 40% rear, suspension springs and adjustable shock absorbers ñ on the Vitesse it has a rear transverse leaf spring but as the fibreglass body weighs next to nothing 4 leaf springs were removed to get a decent ride height, the total weight of the car is 650kilos. I had a stainless steel 6-3-2 double exhaust made to give it a decent noise but after dropping in the engine and setting it back 8 inches (to try and distribute the weight a bit) the exhaust fouled on the chassis so a bit of fettling was required to persuade it to fit.
Another issue was the oil drain plug which on all Triumphs is on the side of the oil sump was tight against the chassis and would have been near on impossible to get to but after some research I found out that TR6`s have the drain at the bottom so a sump was found and was an identical fit so bolted straight on. With the engine in place next job was to create a tubular framework for the interior which would always be exposed to look like a classic racing car, the framework is only bolted to the chassis so it was easy to take it on and off to work on.
Framework was also made for the engine compartment to look as though it was a continuation of the cockpit framework, a new chrome radiator was attached.
I lowered the floor pans by 4 inches as being tall and a very small windscreen (from a Porsche Spyder) I wanted to sit as low as possible in the car. Once the body was on it was starting to look like a car so then it came to setting out the dashboard, I decided not to have any stalks on the steering wheel column so the indicators, lights and horn switches would all be set on the centre consul along with the push button start and fan switch. I had the centre section of the steering wheel made to accept the circular prancing horse badge and a gear shift follower circa 1950`s Ferrari style to keep the period look of the car.
The wiring loom installation was a pain in the arse a lot of work for what seemed like not a lot of end result, the dials were all fitted to the dash and wired in.
She was then ready for paint so everything that had gone on then had to be taken off, my original thoughts were to go with Ferrari Rossi red but when I took the car to be sprayed there was a replica SW250 Ferrari (Based on a BMW Z3) in Barchetta red on the forecourt which looked stunning and to me looked the perfect colour for the period of the car so I decided that this was the colour to go for.
During the paint prep it was found that the doors were quite heavy with the internal framework and the hinges were not sturdy enough they were dropping slightly and closing in a different place so the worry was that the door would drop and chip paint off, the solution was to make a stronger hinge mechanism with bearings and top hat adjustable sections resulting in a much stronger mechanism, another issue was when at rest the ride height was perfect but when I got in the rear wheels just touched the body so 2 of the rear suspension leaf springs had to be put back in. The paint looked stunning and a good touch was that I had the chrome side mirror bodies painted to match the body colour which really sets them off, it was time to put everything back on the car and wire it back up. I had some roundels made with number 64 on as my DOB was 1964 and lined the cockpit floor and foot wells with rubber matting.
With everything done it was time for its first MOT but no joy as a few small issues were found: one rear light intermittently working (it was working before the MOT!) the top radiator hose was rubbing on the underside of the bonnet and one brake pipe had a tiny leak.
Not bad considering it was a completely rebuilt car, the rear light was just a bad wiring connection, the top hose rubbing meant moving the radiator forward by 10mm and the brake pipe just needed tightening up so on Monday 9th October 2017 approximately 9 months to the day of starting I was the extremely proud owner of a replica 1952 Ferrari Monza 850.
It certainly drives like an old racing car it has a very low seating position and its raw driving not even the luxury of power steering, I use it as much as possible (weather permitting as rain drops really sting your face) I have been on a track day at Castle Combe race circuit which was brilliant fun, taken it to many shows and classic car tours and it always generates lots of interest and the majority cannot believe that it is not real but actually a humble Triumph Vitesse. At shows I let the kids get in (Sure most of their dads would like to get in as well but they are too embarrassed to ask) and have their photos taken with my goggles and cap on they love it and hopefully it might encourage some of them to take a career path in Engineering.
I was so pleased to win the Car Gods 54 People’s Choice Car Award at the Bowood Classic Car Show it came as a huge surprise with so many amazing cars of varying types and ages. A huge thanks to the public and especially to Car Gods 54 for supplying and presenting the trophy which is great (and now has pride of place in my garage). It's a really good idea to have a people's choice and it really makes all the hard work and effort worthwhile."