Back home he and Angelo got to work tweaking the borrowed Dauphine, which had its suspension lowered and the location of the rear drive shafts beefed up with a set of custom radius rods. The steering rack got the pinion from Autobleu, which reduced the turns from lock to lock from five to just two. John recalls that mod as being essential. “With a rear-engined car on a track you’re either going straight ahead or you’re on full lock, and with five turns it was never going to make it.”
Under the bonnet, things got even more radical: “Angelo blanked off the side inlet ports on the cylinder head and drilled down through the top so the carb could sit on top of the rocker cover. That meant the bonnet wouldn’t shut – so we wedged it up with stays. Then the armchair experts all said: ‘Oh look they’re using the Kamm effect!’”
All the various tweaks were only finished the day before the 9-Hour, with no time to run the car in. “Arnold Chatz and I decided to drive it around all night to ease the car up before we raced the next day.” The pair came home third in their class and 12th on index. Although the car was listed as a Dauphine 1093, the nomenclature was a misnomer as it was a Renault number relating to performance and didn’t reflect capacity, which was standard at 845cc.
The Dauphine was back for the ’63 9-Hour – this time in the hands of Chatz and Scamp Porter – and it had been a subject of ongoing development in between. “By that stage I’d joined Angelo in business and we used to work from dawn for a few hours before the rush of customers. We had bought a rolling road and we used to test out various changes as we made them.” Some of those were quite involved, such as modifying the valve gear to avoid pushrod bounce, of all things. “We welded flat washers on the pushrods to allow them to run with springs. These were narrow items taken off an old Buick engine.”