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PHOTO BY KEITH LEWCOCK
March 14th 1971
Brian Tarrant and his unique Chevy V8 engined Austin A40 are still fondly remembered by race fans from Thruxton and Castle Combe as one of the true special saloon pioneers along with co-builder Ray Harris.
Brian a west country-based design draughtsman by trade had got into motorsport with a Mini Cooper in sprints ,hillclimbs and short circuit races .It's quite possible Brian was inspired to build his own special saloon monster after watching Doc Merfield in the Cortina V8. Mike Bennion was doing a similar thing with his Morris Minor.
Putting a small block Chevy V8 into a modest Austin A40 was an ambitious venture and the result made it quite a crowd favourite at Castle Combe and Thruxton the 2 circuits Brian frequented. One such enthuisiast Keith Lewcock described the car as 'fearsome' and that 'At full chat it sounded like a plane taking off, but went through corners like a coaster in a choppy sea'. Another enthusiast recalled seeing Tarrant race the car once without a windshield and wearing flying goggles ,almost the spirit of Brooklands stuff. First appearing in 1967 the car soon got noticed and appeared on the cover of Cars and Car Conversions magazine ,November 1967. After 3 seasons Brian tried his luck in F5000 in a car built by his preparations man Ray Harris. It wasnt competitive and Brian returned to saloon racing with A40 towards the end of that season. F5000 still had room for privateer racers and a few of the saloon boys had a dabble in these single seaters at that time.
After some development work with the 4.6 Chevy the A40 'was proving far more competitive' for 1971 and had a make over with the functional air scoop removed. The Harris-Chevy 4895cc may well have been fitted from the F5000 car by this point. Brian gained a class win at the March opener at Thruxton, Autosport desribing the car as 'incredible' in one report. Brian Cutting in the Martin V8-engined Escort was often a track rival namesake as Brian Tarrant returned to regular racing until that fateful day on June 6th. At the Jaguar Drivers club saloon race Brian crashed coming out of Kimpton at Thruxton and was rushed to hospital with serious injuries. Tragically he succumed to them the next day. 'This was a really bad day, as we lost one of our friends that day' recalls fellow racer Gerry Taylor as the special saloon car fraturnity and its enthusiats alike mourned the loss of one of the sports pioneers Brian Tarrant. He was 31 .
Right - Castle Combe - October 17th 1970 : Brian back in the A40 after his brief dabble in Formula 5000 in the Brian Harris Special. Here he chases that other Brian ( Cutting ) with the new V8 hybrid just behind ,the John Kent Sunbeam Rapier.
Below - chased by Escorts at the Thruxton chicane
PHOTO BY KEITH LEWCOCK
Above- From the front cover of Cars and Car Conversions magazine , November 1967