Posted on 8 May 2014
The Mille Miglia was an open-road endurance race between Brescia and Rome. First run in 1927, it continued for 30 years. Only cars manufactured before 1958 which either took part (or were registered for) the original Mille Miglia are eligible to enter this iconic race which has enthralled car enthusiasts for decades and attracts some of the best know names in historic car racing. Still departing from Brescia, the route continues on to Padova and then Rome via San Marino and L'Aquila and back to Brescia via Bologna.
Thornley Kelham are pleased to have supported a Lancia Aurelia B20 GT Series 1, on which we have carried out work, both body and mechanical to take the car back to its original specification. The car had previously undergone work at TK, including a respray, clucth and brake rebuild and other car detailing to correct specification. The car was driven by Richard Hope and co-driven by Austen Wells on behalf of the car's owner.
Simon talked to the owner about how he came to buy this particular car and how he decided to enter the Mille Miglia this year. Duncan has around half a century of experience of a wide range of cars.
“I do like cars that are the first of a new model, that are the start of a concept. For example, I have an alloy-bodied Jaguar XK120, an early Austin Healey 100 and a very early Tatra. Also I am not that keen on the obvious ‘mainstream’ classic and vintage cars - I would never buy a Ferrari. The Series 1 Aurelia appealed for all these reasons and also because it was a genuinely revolutionary car, with its V6 engine and so on.
I have known Christophe Grohe for some time, and so I contacted him about four years ago, and asked him to look out for an early B20GT. I had half a mind on the Mille Miglia even then. Christophe eventually found me a car, but I am afraid I then had a bad experience with a Swiss restorer who did mediocre work, charged robustly and then went bust. To make matters worse I then entrusted the car to a UK company who didn’t know Lancias, which led to more bad work.
I was getting pretty fed up by this stage and was even thinking of selling the car, because I couldn’t believe that an Aurelia could really be so bad. But I talked to a UK Lancia restorer which gave me second thoughts. The problem was that I knew I had to start all over again; but I always want my cars to be right, with the priority on the mechanical side. Anyway, browsing the internet I came across your website (Thornley Kelham) and got in touch. I liked your approach and attitude so I thought I would give you a try. The work involved was frustrating (for both of us!) because I knew you were redoing other people’s work and correcting their mistakes. I must admit I wasn’t sure whether you would get it right either, but when I first drove the car after you had finished I was converted – it finally felt like I had hoped it would be. Today I think it’s a fantastic car, it feels like a real driver's car, I can sense that V6 engine and the engineering in the transaxle. That gave me the confidence to enter last years Le Mans support race (which Thornley Kelham supported), which I really enjoyed. Apparently we were the slowest car on the Mulsanne straight!
A few years ago I did the Nuvolari event in my Invicta. This is essentially the Mille Miglia done the other way round and I really enjoyed driving to the Vatican and into the main square in Siena. So I wanted to do the Mille Miglia as a once-in-a-life-time thing, enjoy the crowds and be a part of the scene. Although they have increased the number of cars allowed on this year’s event (to 600) I was told that there were several Aurelia applications. I think we got in because mine is such an early car and it is largely original with matching numbers (not a bad restoration either…). So I am really looking forward to the event and I am already thinking of other rallies we can do – particularly the Targa Florio next year. If we do that one my car will have completed three of the big events in which these cars competed originally.”
The car performed extremely well and drew much attention from both the other drivers and spectators. It ran without a hitch, being followed by our support team all the way. The owner was very pleased with its excellent showing and is looking forward to racing it in its next event.
See a video of the Lancia Aurelia Series 1 driving onto the podium at the end of the race.