Bangers and Smash

I want to talk about banger racers. Cue a sharp intake of breath, several people making the sign of the cross, and O Fortuna playing in the background.

No. Not at all. Because banger racers are not the antichrist that many perceive, and I think that seeing them as such is dangerous for our hobby. Yes, there are some racers who engage in nefarious practices, but the classic car movement has its malcontents too.

A timely example is that of Jerry Ansell. A classic car enthusiast who is also a banger racer – because yes, such people exist. He has bought a collection of Austin Three Litres from the widow of an enthusiast; project cars which are beyond realistic repair. And better still, they’re rare – the only surviving limousine, a hearse, and an ambulance. Cars that, if the predominant view within the classic car world were to be believed, he would be keen to race for a thrill.

But fortune, like the moon, is changeable. He’s offering them to the classic car world, having bought them so that the widow isn’t swamped with offers from fellow racers waxing lyrical about their on-track potential. Monstrous and empty, these cars sit on the back of flatbed lorries waiting for the right people to take them on. He’s happy to listen to offers, and as long as his own costs are covered he’ll sell them to restorers. Hell, he might even take a small loss to see them live on.

He’s the sort of enthusiasts that the rest of us would brand a hero – were it not for his penchant for seeing end of life examples go out on a high. As a result, the keyboard warriors, shadowed and veiled by the anonymity of a computer screen, are out in full force. He’s being accused of profiteering and of asking high prices to justify his secret desires to see them raced.

The fact of the matter is that Jerry’s not a charity. And if the enthusiasts won’t pay up and the racers will, there’s only one way this is going to go. And here’s the thing. It Will Be The Fault Of The Classic Car Community, Not The Banger Racers. We have been given a chance – an olive branch, if you like, has been extended. And if we reject it, we have only ourselves to blame.

There should be far stronger lines of communication between banger racers and the relevant car clubs. Because, after all, both have what the other community needs, and yet because of blinkered attitudes nobody ends up the winner. Banger racers occasionally buy saveable cars – and even the rough ones have saveable and often rare items of trim which can be reused on worthier projects. Clubs have members who have cars that won’t see the road without a Herculean restoration – cars that go through the crusher because there is no other outcome. Banger racers would take these cars, make them safe, and give them one final hurrah before a flatter fate awaits. By working together, everybody wins.

So at this hour – without delay – pluck the salvageable things. Let Fate strike down the weaker and more common cars – and remember that if these Three Litres get raced, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.


This article was originally published by Classic Car Mart in its December 2018 issue