Written by Daniel James Parry
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Foxley Docket talks to Malcolm Page, driver of the Sunbeam Tiger at the recent Southport Festival of Speed.
Fresh off his mile stretch circuit of Ainsdale Beach at the Southport Festival of Speed, The Foxley Media Group had the opportunity to sit down with the man behind the wheel of the majestic pièce de résistance, the Sunbeam Tiger, Malcolm Page, a man well versed in the motor industry whose passion has taken him from continent to continent working with the finest vintage cars ever crafted. Today, Malcolm Page is the curator of the Tierra Blanca Collection. Eager to find out what revs his engine, we spoke to Malcolm about his passion and how he found himself in the driver’s seat of a piece of Lancashire history.
The Foxley Docket:To begin with, introduce yourself and give us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
Malcolm Page: My name is Malcolm Page, I’ve worked for the Tierra Blanca Collection for 23 years.
TFD:You said you’ve just returned from Goodwood (an iconic venue in the history of British motor sports which plays host to both motorcycle and car races), presumably for the 74th Members Meeting Race. How was it? Can you tell us a bit about this?
MP: Cold. Very cold. Unfortunately there was quite a few accidents, which wasn’t good. Luckily, I was able to attend the auction and members meeting all in one go. There’s a lot of people there that I’ve known for many years, so it’s a great opportunity to meet up and keep friendships alive.
TFD:How did your passion for motoring and classic cars begin? Was there a ‘Eureka’ moment where you realised this is the path you wanted to take?
MP: I was born in Chichester, West Sussex, which is less than a mile from the Goodwood Circuit. My dad took me there in 1954 as a five year old. It’s very early on for someone – Jaguar were doing a press release for the D Type Jaguar, and for me, that looked like the most beautiful car I’ve ever seen. (A sports racing car produced between 1954 and 1957 which won the LeMans 24 hour race for three consecutive years between 1955 and 1957)
TFD:Your passion and dedication to the motor industry has taken you all over the world (Australia, Asia, USA). In your time spent in these parts of the world, have you had any particularly unforgettable experiences?
MP: I’ve had a lot of experiences that are unforgettable. I’ve had a great life I think. I’ve worked for Schuppan and Porsche, particularly on the Schuppan 1962 CR Project.
TFD:During your time in the UK, you headed up development on the Schuppan 962CR super car project, where you managed over 60 technicians and had a budget of 11 million dollars. How did you approach this? What did you have in mind initially and how did it differ from the final project?
MP: It was a joint thing, several people were involved. Schuppan and Ray Borrat – Ray was brought in to oversee the project, and Mike Simcoe (Australian design director), who was brought in to oversee the shape of the car, particularly the design and exterior design of it. Unlike building a general car where you design it then build it, we were taking a 1962 LeMans car and adapting it to make it road legal and make it a different shape with the aim of it being more road usable, friendly, and more appealing aesthetically. Basically we took a LeMans car – the body that had been designed – and treated everything in between; this was all done in the workshops as opposed to during the design phase.
TFD: You’re currently the Curator for the Tierra Blanca Collection. This must’ve been a lifelong goal – you even created a Car Museum. Can you tell us a bit about your experience here? How has it been working in that environment?
MP: It is a passion, I’ve been lucky that I’ve enjoyed my time in motor racing. As I get towards the end of my career, I wanted to give back to school and education through the Museum; it’s previously been used to raise money for the Make a Wish foundation, we have car clubs coming in and out of museum, giving donations to the charity. Make a Wish themselves would raise money by bringing in caterers and holding galas – we’d move cars around to fit tables in the museum. At these events, people could have dinner and look at the various cars.
TFD: And finally, let’s talk the recent Southport Festival of Speed. How did you come to be a part of it? What does it mean to you?
MP: It means an awful lot because the cars we have are all usable; we keep them and use them in vintage motor racing. They’re used excessively at shows and various track events – Goodwood, Festival of Speed for The Goodwood Revival etc. We use cars at Pebble Beach (California) for displays – things go on fairly extensively in that way. I was first approached by Michael Tomlin, he approached me some time ago, when they first started to organize this event – I think August 2015? He wrote to me inquiring whether there was any possibility that the Sunbeam Tiger could be shown at the festival. I discussed it with the owner, and since the car is back here now in the UK, it’d be a good opportunity to show the car, as it had not been seen for a long time. (The Sunbeam Tiger was last seen in public in 2007) He agreed, we said the car could be on display, and then some time after, I was approached and asked if the car was in a running condition – they asked if there was any chance it could be driven on the sand, which we agreed to.
TFD: You drove the Sunbeam Tiger a mile stretch along Ainsdale Beach in a re-enactment of Sir Henry Segrave’s achievement. How was the experience? Were you far off the original?
MP: The original land speed record was done over a mile in each direction. My run was quite a way off the original; they advised we should keep it to 50mph for environmental reasons, although they said it wouldn’t hold because there was no speedometer on the car, only a rev counter. In the initial path of the course, during the first quarter of a mile, there was so many people there, which made it quite dangerous. The sand made it more difficult because it’s moving around all the time, you’re not on solid ground like when you’re driving on a track, so as you’re driving, with each gear change, you feel the rear wheel slip and move. The front wheels throw sand back at you – afterwards, as much as I was smiling and laughing, I was rinsing my mouth out because I had a mouth full of sand.
TFD: What’s for the future of Malcolm Page?
MP: I’m going back home to America for a bit, then I’ll probably be back in June because we’re going to run the car again at the Goodwood Festival of Speed (23rd – 25th June). We thought the original run was done on 18 inch wheels, but on further inspection, it was actually on 21 inch wheels, so we had a set of 21 inch wheels put on the hubs to look more in period for the run – the Tiger had been used excessively for the past 25/30 years, so we re-did the body and paintwork to make it look in period. About 5 years ago, we also rebuilt the engine.
TFD: Anything you’d like to add?
MP: I’m still waiting to receive confirmation; the official form. I discussed with the owner yesterday that for a lot of these hill climbs, it’d need twin rear wheels. I suggested having made the 21 inch run at Southport, I wondered whether we should think about the 18 inch wheels. From the time Malcolm Campbell owned the car in the early 30s, he did a lot of work on the car – he changed the axle and wheels and did extensive work to the chassey, the breaks, and changed the wheels. The Tiger had very narrow tyres, which have very little grip. To resolve this, they decided to change to Twin wheels which had spokes going to a single hub. This meant they could fit two tyres on one hub, so they were wider, giving more grip on the road.