Travel: Rallying A Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica Into Chantilly Is A Special Experience

Rallying A Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica Into Chantilly Is A Special Experience

Ted Gushue By Ted Gushue
September 5, 2016
1 comments

Photography by Ted Gushue

When my friend Guillaume Le Metayer, a recent father of two gorgeous twin girls (literally, one month old to the day) told me that his wife Camille had given him clearance to spend the day rallying around France in a 1954 Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica Racer, I was obviously excited for him. “Congratulations, dude! What an awesome experience that will be leading up to Chantilly!”

But when he said: “No, you don’t understand—I need a co-pilot,” my jaw dropped to the floor.

This is the type of car that you dream about someday seeing, in a photo someone took, on a lawn, somewhere. This is the kind of car you dream of hearing drive by you on a country road on a Saturday morning. This is a car that I was going to get to ride in for a whole day.

It reeked of petrol, it was a bear to shift, and it was bat out of hell fast. Absolutely perfect.

The car was to be part of the rally leading up to the Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille, and would be alongside some truly gorgeous machines. Notably a smattering of Lamborghini Miuras, a Toyota 2000 GT piloted by the coolest woman I’ve ever met, an Alfa Romeo TZ, a hulking Hispano Suiza, a Giulietta ZA, Fiat 8V Zagato, and many more.

The morning started out just after dawn in a hazy dew, with a brisk temperature keeping the idling classics quite happy. There’s something so romantic about a slightly chilly morning getting everyone in the mood for a long day of driving around the countryside.

As the cars were prepped, I poked around, snapping away at some of the world’s most beautiful cars about to go for a drive, it was then I met Gaby Von Oppenheim, driver of the 2000 GT. “I’ve owned it for over 10 years!” She exclaimed in a thick German accent.

I naturally stared back at the 6 foot tall stoic blonde beauty and scratched my head—where in the world did this woman come from? I’ve only ever seen 2-3 2000GTs in my life and here was one that had been driven all over Europe for ages.

“When I’m not racing on the Nurburgring, it’s easily my favorite car to drive—although today with these bumpy roads she is behaving a bit like a pregnant pigeon.” Apparently her collection is quite impressive, consisting of some exceptionally rare hardware from Stuttgart.

Needless to say, everyone in the world needs to be more like Gaby Von Oppenheim.

The drive took us only 80 miles all around the area surrounding Chantilly castle, leading up to a spectacular lunch at an Abbey not far from the grounds. While sitting there in a deeply international crowd, I had that feeling that I’ve had a lot lately—the passion that brings us all together is shared around the world so beautifully and efficiently, that even if you don’t speak the language…you still kind of speak the language.

In the parking lot, I had an entire conversation with an older gentleman without even speaking—just gesturing to the gorgeous nature of the Frazer Nash. Guillaume walked over to translate, at which point I started to understand the truly special nature of the Frazer Nash.

It’s not a replica in the sense that it is a replica, it’s title is derived from the cars wins at Le Mans, so it is in a factory produced replica of the winning race car. A replica of the this car would technically be a 1954 Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica Replica…if that makes sense.

A bit about the car from its owner: “Just to prove how wonderfully versatile this magnificent car really is, a few weeks ago we drove it from Belgium to Silverstone in the UK on the Thursday, practiced it on the Friday, raced it on the Saturday, and drove it back on the Sunday, a round trip of over 1200 km, plus a practice and race, no problems!” What more could you ask for?

“FN209 was constructed in 1954 as a standard 200-series parallel tube chassis, complete with the usual leaf-spring front suspension, Austin rear axle, adjustable rear torsion bars, steel-rimmed centre-lock wire wheels and cast iron brake drums,” the owner says. “It was fitted with Bristol engine number BS4/412, which was located well back in the chassis as per the Sebring models FN201 and FN207. The engine was subsequently removed by the factory and the rest of the rolling chassis stripped of its other components and the bare chassis stored at the factory until the late 1960s, AFN passed it over (along with all other remaining post war spares) to the famous lady racing driver Betty Haig, Grand niece of Field-Marshal the Earl Haig, K.G., G.C.B., O.M,  she was also a leading member of the Frazer Nash Club.”

Needless to say, it’s an absolute beast.

A very special thank you to Guillaume Le Metayer and the owner of the Frazer Nash. For more information on the car, please check out Historical Competition Services Belgium.

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