Sunday, 10 March 2013

Lord Brocket’s butchered beauties

The Ferraris 340 America, 250 Europa GT, 195 Sport and the Maserati Tipo 61 ‘Birdcage’. What do these cars all have in common? The short answer is that one example of each of them did not fair too well in the hands of one Charles Nall-Cain, better known as Lord Brocket, who until being rumbled for insurance fraud in the mid-nineties was a well-known collector of Ferraris and Maseratis. After the crash of the classic car market in 1990 and facing mounting debt, Brocket attempted to defraud his insurers for around £4,500,000, alleging that these cars had been stolen from his collection. Despite later withdrawing his claim, Brocket ended up spending a few years in prison because of it. 
But what happened to the cars in the meantime is a sad tale. 
195 Sport 0123S as it appeared on Kidston.com

A quick breakdown of the cars, if you’ll pardon the pun (which you’ll only get later). Just 23 340 Americas were built, and Brocket’s 1951 specimen was one of only 11 of these that had the beautiful Vignale body made up of one gracefully sweeping arc from front to back when seen in profile (other bodies were built by Ghia and Touring). Since it has been restored it looks nothing like the original, but is simply made up: it has lost its windscreen to become a faux-Spyder, and has missing bumpers, different air intakes and outlets and so on. The 340 America was the first of the now famous Ferrari Americas, and also the first to use the naturally aspirated Lampredi 4.1 litre V12 that had been initially developed for the Ferrari F1 arm; it was no slouch. While the 250 Europa was another grand tourer style Ferrari to use the puissant Lampredi V12, the later 250 Europa GT shortened its wheelbase from 2,800 to 2,600 mm and opted for a Colombo 3 litre V12 based on that of the 250 Mille Miglia. It was the 250 Europa GT that Brocket had. With coachwork by Pininfarina and Vignale, it represents another important milestone in the history of Ferrari, being that it was the first to have the ‘GT’ monicker. 28 were built, of which Brocket’s model was the penultimate example to roll off the production line. Just to gauge how rare these cars are, fewer 250 Europa GTs (and 340 Americas for that matter) were built than 250 GTOs. This exact model was originally owned in succession by two Dutchmen, and raced once at Zandvoort, even taking part in a couple of hill climbs before Brocket became its sixth owner in 1980.
Gregor Fisken with  2456 at Laguna Seca in 2000

Brocket’s 1950 berlinetta chassis 195 Sport, one of only three to be bodied by Touring, also had an interesting life before he owned it, racing for example at Silverstone, the RAC International Rally and the Tour de France in 1951, while one of the other Touring 195s led at Le Mans and won the 1950 Mille Miglia. The 195 Sport concerned here was actually in need of total restoration when Brocket purchased it, having allegedly been found in the USA rusting in an avocado grove, but this doesn’t excuse what happened to it. Then there is the 1960 Maserati Tipo 61 ‘Birdcage’, a hugely important car. A chro-moly frame of about two-hundred tubes welded together gave this car its nickname as well as a much lighter but more rigid chassis than most of its contemporaries. A Camoradi Birdcage in white and blue team colours won the Nürburgring 1000km in 1960 with Stirling Moss behind the wheel, and again in 1961. Other drivers to throw around a 2.9 litre, 250 bhp, 177 mph Birdcage included the greats Jim Hall, Carroll Shelby and Lloyd ‘Lucky’ Casner himself, who originally founded Camoradi specifically to race the Birdcage. The Birdcage that Brocket owned was raced in 1960 and 1961 but was then partially destroyed in a garage fire and later dismantled. Brocket bought the bits and gave it a new frame, body and engine. The Tipo 61 and its ancestors (Tipos 63, 64 and 65) are crucially significant in the history of Maserati racing, being the last we saw of the marque in racing until the 21st century. Designed by Giulio Alfieri, three Tipo 61s in Camoradi colours were also entered at Le Mans in 1960, but despite being thrillingly quick all had to retire suffering from various problems including starter motor trouble for instance, a great shame. 
340 America is 0138 AM at Elkhart  Lake in 1985. Courtesy of Marcel Massini.

What happened to the examples that Brocket owned is a horrifying story to say the least. Afflicted by the aforementioned financial troubles, Brocket hatched a plan to defraud his insurers by staging a ‘theft’, even suggesting at one point that there had been interest from ‘Japanese buyers’ in the models. What he in fact did was have two employees dismantle the cars, cut up their bodies, scatter them across his large estate and bury them. Several engine parts and an OSCA 2000 also met an unfortunate end, although unfortunately little is known about what happened to it. His estranged wife at the time happened to be caught attempting to forge a prescription to quench her drug addiction, and ended up spilling the beans to the police. Brocket was duly tried and convicted. The 250 Europa GT has happily been accurately restored to its former glory, but during its restoration the body and many of the parts have had to be built again from scratch. The same is true of the 340 America which was virtually destroyed and is now residing in the USA, but the reconstruction is not at all true to the original as far as looks are concerned, and it has a different engine altogether. The Tipo 61 has been restored extensively and raced again in dark red at Laguna Seca in 2000. The 195 S however has not been fully restored yet; all that remains of the original body is the boot lid and badges. It remains for sale in its current state. Brocket also had time added on to his prison sentence when it emerged that he had been involved in further fraud, this time passing off a fake Ferrari 250 SWB that he had had built on the base of the much less valuable 250 GTE 2+2, giving it the serial number of a real short wheelbase 250 that had been missing for a long time. He may have got away with it had the real 250 SWB not been found, but that’s another story for another time.



T. Sherriff

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