The 1956 Chapman Mercury III (CMIII) was built by a self-taught mechanic almost 60 years ago. It will be taking its place on the start line at the Hill Climb on 11 and 12 July, driven by Oliver Tomlin, the grandson of its original creator and driver.
Oliver said: “I’m immensely proud to compete in a car that my grandfather built. He always conceived the Mercury III as a hill climb car, so it will be perfectly suited to the demands of the new Chateau Impney course. I’m looking forward to returning it to the scene of some of its previous successes and showing the competition what it can do.”
The CMIII was built by motor racing enthusiast Phil Chapman. He longed for a car he could both drive on the road and race at weekends, but as he couldn’t afford the price tag of a performance car, he decided to build his own.
Working with minimal tools and facilities, Phil designed and made the first incarnation of the Mercury – CMI – in a corrugated-iron shed in the late 1940s. CMIII was the third incarnation of Phil’s dream, designed from the inside out, starting with sketches of the chassis in chalk on the garage floor. From there, Phil cut and welded the tubing and built the fibreglass mould for the body, no mean feat in the early fifties!
The finished CMIII was a resounding success and allowed Phil to realise his dream of competing in hill climbs and sprints throughout the late fifties and early sixties. He won numerous awards and raced at the original Chateau Impney sprint events.
Phil ran CMIII until 1964, when he reluctantly sold it to fund his next project, having dreamed up a new car – the CMIV – with his own four-wheel-drive system.
Phil bought back the CMIII, in the late 1970s, rebuilt it and returned to hill climbing. This time he shared competitions with his daughter, Oliver’s mother, Sandra Tomlin, who had caught the hill climb bug from accompanying her father to events as a child. Sandra graduated to driving single-seater hill climb cars and held numerous ladies’ records, including at Wiscombe, Gurston, Prescott, Shelsley Walsh, Loton Park and Harewood, between 1999 and 2014.
As Phil grew older, he decided to withdraw from the sport altogether and loaned the car to the next generation of the family – his grandson, Oliver.
Phil died in 2011, but his competitive genes and the car have continued to thrive. Today his daughter Sandra, and her children Oliver, 39, and Amy, 36, regularly compete at hill climb events across the country, with Oliver proudly driving his grandfather’s Chapman Mercury III.
Sandra said: “It will be great to watch Oliver compete in my father’s car at the location of so many happy childhood memories. I distinctly remember playing in the bulrushes at the Chateau, when I was about 10 years old, but I plan to be a little more focused on the action this time around!”
We hope the Hill Climb will bring back some happy memories for the family and wish Oliver the very best of luck.