Peerless GT Phase 1&2
The picture to the right shows the two Le Mans
cars being prepared for the arduous test ahead
of them. In the foreground Bernie Roger
(the car's designer) makes some last minute
adjustments. This picture is courtesy of
The Autocar magazine 1958. If you have any
Peerless factory pictures, we would very much
appreciate a copy.
Peerless into the pits at night original
In May of 1958, with Standard Triumph's support , The board at Peerless Motors decided to enter one of their cars
(with a second in reserve) in the 2 litre GT class at the Le Mans 24 hour race that July. Triumph were extremely generous and
sent two of their engineers to help prepare the engines. As far as I am aware, the aim of the exerciyse was to demonstrate
to the car buying public that an almost standard/showroom Peerless was capable of 'x' number of laps, at one
of the most rigorous tests of stamina and endurance in the world. I don't believe that they ever dreamed that not only would the
car finish the race but actually win it's class with an overall position of 16th completing an astonishing 259 laps.
This fact is all the more astonishing when you realise that this poor under funded 'enthusiasts' motorcar was competing against
the likes of the mighty Ferrari empire with it's 3 litre monsters. Another astonishingf fact was that the car made only scheduled
pitstops which in total only amounted to a mere 7 minutes (this remained an unbroken record for several years).
Peter Jopp and Percy Crabb were signed up to race the lead Peerless with Ian Bailey and Dick Gibson available to drive the
reserve car.The two cars prepared for the race were actually only the fourth and fifth cars off the production line and consequently some
of the modifications made to these cars were carried through for the rest of production as a standard features.
The racecars had oversized petrol tanks in the sills as well as a third tank in the boot. As far as I am aware the boot tank fed the
sill tanks under gravity and had it's filler pipe protruding through the parcel shelf and the rear windscreen (which was Perspex).
In fact even the rear quaterlights were replaced with Perspex, presumably to reduce weight. With the boot tank feeding the sill tanks,
there was no need for the two side filler caps and these were dully removed and the holes plated over. Other modifications included the use
of four petrol pumps instead of the usual two, a similar tactic being used with the ignition where two coils were fitted just in case.
Dual circuit braking was added and steel wheels were utilised instead of the more glamorous wire variety. The engines, which were
very carefully hand built, were left completely standard with the exception of an increase in the compression ratio from 8.5 to 9.0:1. Finally,
the suspension was lowered slightly, a luxury which is only really practical on a nice smooth race circuit.
The Peerless covered its 259 laps in almost 24 hours of continuous rain. Averaging 84 mph it reached well over 120 mph down the famous
Mulsanne Straight which I am sure you will agree says something about the sheer skill of the drivers as well as the calibre of the car.
When news of Peerless' achievement reached the papers, the factory was inundated with orders. The Le Mans car returned home victorious
and was immediately put on display in the Slough showroom.
The Le Mans car is still in everyday use and can often be seen growling its way through the glorious Cumbrian countryside. In 1998 it,
along with seven other Peerless and Warwicks, made a return visit to Le Mans to celebrate the 40th anniversary.
The current owner (Ken Wilsom) was able to drive the car around the circuit as part of a classic parade.
This may be added to the gallery when I get a moment.
This photograph was taken at the 40th anniversary of the 1958 Le Mans entry and the car has since
been returned to its original Phase 1 state. (That’s a slight change to the headlighs for the observant
amoung you !)