Aston Martin World - Chapter 2 – Preparations Under Way - Driving Ambition by Barry Weir

Once I’d made my decision and paid the deposit, I was committed. My experience in life has been that, if you’re going to do anything, you have to give it all you’ve got; there can be no half measures. As far as I was concerned, I had entered the rally and I was going to win it.

The long haul

I decided I must keep a diary, a log of everything that happened along the way, and of the event itself. After all, this was going to be the biggest challenge of my life, so I really should record it for posterity, or at the very least for my future grandchildren, so they would know that grandad once had a big adventure.

(My first entry was, perhaps unsurprisingly, both enthusiastic and naive. I now look back on my simplistic optimism an older and wiser man, having learnt from sometimes-bitter experience that nothing is ever as simple as it seems. The best laid plans...)

I now had three things I needed to do. First was to arrange for a co-driver, then to decide on the best people to undertake the work needed to ensure the car would complete the journey in the best possible condition. I then had to arrange for sponsorship.

Naive or what?

I contacted a public relations company who would handle sponsorship for me. An advert in the AMOC newsletter would provide me with a co-driver. I already knew of an Aston Martin specialist - Wren Classics - and arranged a meeting to discuss what actions and modifications were needed for the DB 2/4.

Overall I was quite pleased with my ideas. Handing the fundraising and promotion side of things over to experts seemed the ideal solution, as I was then able to put it out of my mind and concentrate on the more immediate task of getting the car ready. I was also confident that a ‘wanted’ ad was the most efficient way to get a co-driver, and the following appeared in the June issue of the AMOC newsletter:


Around the World in 80 Days
April 2000
Wanted: Driver - Navigator - Mechanic

I have a 1954 DB 2/4 Mk1 purchased at auction. Fully restored to concours condition with the engine having already had a major overhaul, arrangements are now being made to prepare the car for this event.

I am now looking for a co-driver - navigator - mechanic for this historic event, which is being organised by the Classic Rally Association, organisers of the Peking to Paris Rally. This is not a race but an endurance challenge. If you would like to take part in the trip of a lifetime and have a sense of humour please contact:
Rt. Hon. Barry J.E. Weir of Dunderave.


I sat back and waited for the replies to roll in.

Every possible disaster

My confidence received its first sharp knock only a few days later as I spoke to Wren Classics. We discussed engines, water pumps, oil pumps, tyres, shock absorbers, fuel tanks and more. I was bombarded with questions and presented with seemingly endless disaster scenarios, all of whicI left feeling very confused, but fortunately help was at hand. Soon after buying the DB 2/4, AMOC put me in touch with Major Tom May; a man who knew as much about Aston Martins, and DB2s in particular, as there is to know. Tom calmed me down and then agreed to be my senior consultant for the project. He even said he would be delighted. This reassured me greatly; after all he wouldn’t have wanted to help with something that didn’t have a hope of coming to fruition, would he?

Nursemaid and punch bag

Tom was a long-term Aston enthusiast, having owned his first back in 1935. Now 84 years old, he still maintained an active interest in the marque and his knowledge, advice and friendship proved invaluable. He now looks back on the role of senior consultant as being engineer, nursemaid, father figure and punch bag, and I can’t really argue with his choice of words. After he retired in 1985, Tom bought a beaten up DB2 from Ireland to restore in his spare time. The whole job took him seven years to complete and by the end of it he knew every nut and bolt of the model. In May 1995 he used the car to create a unique 80-80-80 record, averaging 80 mph for 80 minutes in his 80th year, around the two mile circuit at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedford. He’s now planning a 90-90-90 attempt for 2005. Tom always maintained that my success, or lack of it, in the Around the World Challenge would depend 25 per cent on the car, 25 per cent on me and 50 per cent on luck. So the best I could do was deal with the bits I had some control over, and then drive as quickly - but as carefully - as I could, to try and make my own luck.

I have more chance of seeing a dinosaur than a sponsor

Even at this early stage I was aware that costs were rising, and I decided to put work on the car on hold while I checked out various specialists familiar with the DB 2/4. I was also disappointed by the lack of response from prospective sponsors. I had somehow expected things to move quickly on this front, but despite throwing out many lines we had not had any bites. Some companies would only sponsor large events and many had a policy of not sponsoring individuals. Even product placement was drawing a blank. But I was determined to persevere.

The first of many re-thinks

Partly with cost in mind, I had a complete rethink about the way the car should be rebuilt, deciding that it should be as original as possible in design, with only a few modifications. I planned to use new front suspension struts, original but overhauled dampers and a second 15-gallon fuel tank, double skinned, sealed and placed in the boot. An expansion tank for the cooling system would ensure that we wouldn’t lose any water from the radiator. We would keep the original seats and full interior trim and everything else would be restored and repaired as necessary. I would have to consider in planning my modifications. My head was buzzing.

This is not simple. Do we fit solid metal wheels? It would save carrying a spare. We need a second fuel tank. Where do we put it? We’ll need a second fuel pump, where do we put that? What tyres should we use? Should we bore out the oil and water-ways? How can we improve the shock absorbers? What about airflow over the radiator and engine? What the hell is he talking about?

The more questions the more complicated it got. The mechanic suggested a new engine, more robust than the original, might be the way to go. Flint Engineering had just cast new blocks, redesigned to remove the problems of the original. Tougher con rods, low compression pistons, improved oil pump to give volume at low revs, solid cheeses and a new crank. Apparently this would create a bombproof bottom end and a solid engine. The suspension mounts could be redesigned to carry telescopic shock absorbers, gas filled with remote coolers. What the hell was he talking about?

Tom had already offered to contact his friends at Castrol for advice about oils for the trip, and he also knew a man called Graham in South Croydon who serviced shock absorbers.

They get hot and explode

Those shock absorbers on the DB and DB 2/4 were well known to Graham “They get hot and explode,” he said. Nothing like boosting my confidence. When worked hard the oil boils and becomes useless. The unit then seizes and explodes. “Oils that work at a higher temperature would help,” he said. That was Tom May’s department and he was duly informed. Then I had an idea - a larger reservoir could be the answer.’ We talked and decided that a larger reservoir could be mounted on top of the existing reservoir without too much trouble. Longer bolts to hold it on with. This would apply to both the rear and front units. It looked as if one problem was solved. In June I picked the car up from Aston Service Dorset where it had undergone an extensive overhaul. From the front headlamps to the rear boot lock, every mechanical, structural and electrical part of my car had had a thorough going over and was now in excellent health - or so I thought.

The first fire

When I arrived to collect the car, Eddy, the mechanic, was fitting the radio, purchased from a club member, as the original one was not refitted to the car after its restoration in 84/88. We switched it on. No sound except a crackle or two. While Eddy was admiring the wiring under the dash, I looked up through the windscreen and noticed clouds of white smoke arising from the valve box in the engine bay. It appeared that the old wireless was going into melt down. It was removed and sent for repairs. The car itself was going well and after a three hour drive home appeared in excellent health. How wrong could I have been?

The second fire

At home I enlisted the help of Roma to test all functions of the car. All went well until we tried the lights. Side lights all ok. Main beam ok, dipped all ok. Then Roma turned the black knob for the fog light. All lights dimmed almost to extinction. Most puzzling! Then I spotted that now familiar white smoke coming, this time from the front grill. All power was turned off and the bonnet lifted to release clouds of smoke. The wiring at the front had gone into melt down and we had a small fire - soon put out. I was amazed how quickly it happened. The hanging blobs of plastic and burnt wire would soon receive the appropriate attention. It appeared to have affected only the last six inches of wire but it would all be checked out. The problem with overhauling a car is that you move parts that would have gone on for years undisturbed, but once disturbed, get really upset. It’s a good job that Roma has a good sense of humour. You should have seen her face when I lifted the bonnet and the clouds of smoke poured out. I’d never seen her move so fast. The fire extinguisher was there before I could blink. Bless her.

Still looking for sponsors

The AMOC premier meeting at Silverstone on Sunday June 14th provided the first display of the car. It was entered in the Concours in the Feltham class and despite some very good cars won the class. During the following week there were several interviews for newspapers and magazines and a television interview for Meridian TV.

Still looking for a co-driver

I was still looking for a co-driver. There had been an enormous response to my adverts but choosing the right person was not so easy. 80 days together was going to put a strain on any friendship. There was so far a short list of three possible candidates - all with the right attitude. Deciding which one would not be easy.

Concours winner

It was not all bad news though. At the Silverstone race meeting my confidence was boosted no end when I met Timothy Stamper, an engineer who specialised in restoring Aston Martins. Essentially a one-man company, he also ran a world-wide parts service for the series. After several long discussions he agreed to take on responsibility for designing, preparing and testing the car for the rally.

I discovered that Timothy had grown up with the model, travelling in his grandfather’s 1953 DB 2/4 as soon as he was born, with DB4s a DB5 and a DB6 all forming part of his childhood memories. After leaving college he joined the family haulage firm, and during his spare time he began to restore his grandfather’s old DB 2/4. It was a ten-year labour of love, and when it was finished in 1989 he entered it in the Concours d’Elegance at AMOC’s St John HorsMy face didn’t fit.

The problem was competition - too many people chasing too few sponsors. The larger companies are always inundated with requests for funds and each has its own set of criteria that potential recipients have to match. My PR people had sent out hundreds of letters backed up with copies of newspaper and magazine articles, but at the end of the day my face, or the nature of my expedition, obviously didn’t fit the bill. I was getting plenty of publicity but not much else.

Life gets better

One small but very useful success came from Tom, whose efforts on my behalf got me an appointment at Castrol. After my presentation they offered me oils and greases for the trip and gave me T-shirts, jackets, umbrellas and a whole host of other goodies. Then things started to move. Motor Wheel Services Ltd agreed to donate 11 new wheels. A number of engineering companies and automobile suppliers gave enormous discounts on their products, and AMOC provided plenty of moral support featuring me in their newsletter and quarterly magazine. Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd also offered support and assistance at their factory in Newport Pagnell. It was good to know that I had some support, even if things weren’t working out quite the way I had planned.fall meeting. When a German enthusiast and 2/4 owner asked him to carry out a similar restoration on his car, his business in Penrith, Cumbria, was born.

So I now had a senior consultant and a project engineer. The titles probably sounded more impressive than they really were, but the most important thing was that I was establishing an experienced and very knowledgeable support team around me, and it was doing wonders for my confidence.

If I could just get sponsorship and a co-driver sorted out, everything in my garden would be rosy. But by August I was no closer to either of these important items and I was becoming more than just a little concerned, particularly about the sponsorship. I had already spent thousands restoring the car, in addition to the purchase price, and the second payment of £16,000 for the entrance fee was due any day

My face didn’t fit

The problem was competition - too many people chasing too few sponsors. The larger companies are always inundated with requests for funds and each has its own set of criteria that potential recipients have to match. My PR people had sent out hundreds of letters backed up with copies of newspaper and magazine articles, but at the end of the day my face, or the nature of my expedition, obviously didn’t fit the bill. I was getting plenty of publicity but not much else.

Life gets better

One small but very useful success came from Tom, whose efforts on my behalf got me an appointment at Castrol. After my presentation they offered me oils and greases for the trip and gave me T-shirts, jackets, umbrellas and a whole host of other goodies. Then things started to move. Motor Wheel Services Ltd agreed to donate 11 new wheels. A number of engineering companies and automobile suppliers gave enormous discounts on their products, and AMOC provided plenty of moral support featuring me in their newsletter and quarterly magazine. Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd also offered support and assistance at their factory in Newport Pagnell. It was good to know that I had some support, even if things weren’t working out quite the way I had planned.

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ASTON MARTIN JET 2+2 PRODUCTION CAR OF 1

This unique shooting-brake was designed and commissioned by the private British Aston Martin enthusiast and collector, Barry Weir and built by Bertone.

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Aston Martin Jet 2+2

BARRY WEIR: A First in Racing

Barry Weir got into the mobile homes business in the UK in 1978. He is now retired but offering consulting advice on Britain’s new Mobile Homes Act. Barry Weir is also a car enthusiast, a passion that didn’t begin until he was forty years old, and his family gave him a Mercedes SL for his birthday. He has since become the first person to race a DB7 in a track event anywhere in the world.

Find out more: barryweiruk.wordpress.com

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