Gerry Marshall’s Son Reunites With His Legendary Father’s ‘Old Nail’ Vauxhall Firenza
For any British club-level motorsport enthusiast from the last generation or so, Gerry Marshall will likely have a special place in their affections. He won no fewer than 623 races over four decades, mainly in saloon cars though he was prepared to take part in a variety of categories, from rallying to historic Formula 1. Yet even the vast statistical success explains only a small part of Marshall’s legend. On the track he was always on the attack and had his car’s rear permanently in a slide it seemed. Off the track he was inimitably ebullient, charismatic and high-living. All this taken together gave him totemic status. And history has repeated itself as Marshall’s son Gregor has just driven his father’s famous and favorite 1971 Vauxhall Firenza saloon racer, known affectionately as “Old Nail”, before it goes under the hammer this Sunday in the Bonhams auction that is part of this weekend’s Goodwood Members’ Meeting.
Old Nail was Marshall’s first and most successful Dealer Team Vauxhall (DTV) Firenza and in it he was nearly unbeatable. The car can count 66 wins out of 101 races, as well as claimed several championships, over its four years of competition. “I have to think hard to remember it retiring from more than two races,” said Marshall some years ago. “A great credit to everyone at Shepreth, that car. I always point out that I never put a scratch on Old Nail—the boys did more damage dropping it off the trailer!” Old Nail is expected to sell this weekend for between £90,000 and £130,000. “My dad loved this car,” added Gregor. “Even after he officially retired Old Nail in ’75, he still used it to set a Fastest Time of the Day and achieved an overall win at a Brands Hatch Sprint three years later. DTV was so grateful for the publicity generated through its life that dad was presented with Old Nail in 1977.”
Vauxhall for the event also loaned Gregor a company Firenza HP “droopsnoot” from its heritage collection to get him to and from the Goodwood circuit, and this was another thing that reflected how things were in Gerry’s day. “Vauxhall gave dad a Firenza HP to use between races, and he registered it 666 DTV,” Gregor recalled. “This car is near-identical, and has been beautifully restored by Vauxhall Heritage. It’s still a great road car; you can see why it formed such a good base for Old Nail.” Old Nail remained in Marshall’s possession—as the only competition car that he chose to keep—until his death in 2005.
The car had spells on display at the Vauxhall Heritage and Donington Park museums before being sold to the current vendor by the Marshall family at Bonhams’ Goodwood Festival of Speed auction in July 2011. In the following year the car was faithfully restored to racing pitch, and since then it has competed four times. The car has its original Blydenstein-built 2.2-litre 16-valve engine, period-specific livery and even still features Marshall’s original Corbeau seat and steering wheel.
Images courtesy of Vauxhall