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Michael ‘Spike’ Milligan bought the car – one of just 10 A-Types built – 27 years ago at a Coys auction, but had been following the car closely since it was built 63 years ago. During his childhood, Spike lived just outside Guildford, close to the Connaught garage in Send. On a rainy afternoon when he was just eight years old, Spike and his father were given access to the factory by one of the mechanics and watched as A7 rolled off the production line. Spike had his eye firmly on the Connaught ever since, following its historic racing career avidly before eventually snapping the car up.
Connaught Engineering was a small Grand Prix racing team that was active in the World Championship of Drivers throughout the 1950s. They wanted to develop a fast, light car that could stand up to the Maseratis and Ferraris of the day and constructed the A-Type – a speedy single-seater race car that boasted a number of innovative features. From its magnesium alloy wheels, which were stronger and lighter than the wire wheels of its competitors, to the adjustable suspension that could improve the car’s handling for different circuits, the Connaught A-Type would prove to be far ahead of its time and an inspiration to race teams from across the continent.
The team first rose to prominence towards the end of the 1950 season when Ken McAlpine, one of the partners in Connaught, entered the A1 prototype into a Formula Two race at Castle Combe. McAlpine finished second to Stirling Moss – an outstanding result for a first race, and one that got the racing community talking. Soon enough, numerous privateers would come to Connaught in the hope of acquiring their very own A-Type.
Roy Salvadori, an aspiring Formula One driver from Essex, began to compete for Connaught Engineering in 1953. At the time, the Formula One regulations were extended to existing Formula Two cars, and the Connaughts competed against some of the most noted cars and drivers of the day, including Juan Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari. During 1953, the Connaught team would attract other emerging racing talent, including Prince Bira and Stirling Moss, who competed alongside Salvadori at the Zandvoort Grand Prix. Moss and Salvadori would go on to compete alongside each other at numerous non-Grand Prix races as well, including the Ulster Trophy at Dundrod.
Spike often met Salvadori at the Goodwood Revival, and he always had stories to share about the Connaught: “At Dundrod, Stirling Moss was convinced that Roy had a faster car so he practiced in it but the authorities said he couldn’t start in it,” said Spike. “They were actually wrong, he could have started in it, but for whatever reason, they said no. So Stirling practiced in it but never actually raced in it!”
In total, Salvadori and the A7 competed in five different Grand Prix events – Zandvoort, Reims, Silverstone, Nurburgring and Monza – but retired from all of them. Despite not achieving any major wins for the team, Salvadori stayed with Connaught for the entire 1953 season before moving to Gilby Engineering Ltd, where he would race in a Maserati 250F, and would later get a taste of worldwide fame in 1959 for his victory at Le Mans with Carroll Shelby in an Aston Martin DBR1/300.
Following the 1953 season, the Connaught A7 was campaigned for a few more years before Connaught switched to the B-Type in 1955. A7 changed hands a number of times within the historic racing community before appearing at auction in 1989, where Spike was determined to take it home.
Spike has been interested in motorsport for most of his life, having been inspired by the Goodwood meetings that took place during his youth. He began competing in 1978, taking part in events all over the world including the Monaco Historic Grand Prix and VSCC meetings, but has only recently started competing in hill climbs again – and is looking forward to adding Chateau Impney to the Connaught’s impressive race history.
“Nowadays, I only enter the things that I’m interested in, and I decided that Chateau Impney looked quite interesting,” said Spike. “I’ve taken the Connaught’s round all the races with the Historic Grand Prix Car Association and got pole last year. It handles very well on street circuits, but I’m excited to see how we’ll get on at the Chateau.”
Images provided courtesy of Wouter Melissen at Ultimate Car Page.