Monterey | Lot 136

1961 Cooper T-56 Mark II Formula Junior Racing Car

$198,000 USD | Sold

United States | Monterey, California

17 August 2012

Chassis No.

105 hp, 1,098 cc OHV four-cylinder engine, with twin SU carburetors, five-speed Citroen-ERSA transaxle, independent suspension by wishbones and coil springs up front and transverse leaf spring and wishbones at the rear, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 89"

Please note that this vehicle will be sold on a Bill of Sale only.

• Team Tyrell’s 1961 Formula Junior European Championship winner

• Raced successfully by Steve McQueen in California in 1962

• Won three SCCA Championships, driven by Buster Brizzard

• Fully restored by Hardy Hall in England to race-ready condition

• Eligible for BRDC, Goodwood Revival, Monterey Reunion, and VSCC events

This Cooper T-56 Formula Junior is one of only two Works cars campaigned by Team Tyrell for Cooper in 1961, and it won the European Formula Junior Championship, driven by South African Tony Maggs. Maggs won eight races: Goodwood, Magny-Cours, Monza, Kalskoga, Rouen, Zandvoort, Oulton Park, and Montlhery, finishing on the podium on several other occasions. Maggs tied for the championship with Jo Siffert, who went on to a very successful F1 and endurance racing career.

At the end of 1961, Tyrell gave the car back to Cooper, who sold it to up-and-coming actor Steve McQueen, the legendary actor, car collector, and racing driver. McQueen also bought a Mini-Cooper and attended Cooper’s race school. McQueen took both cars back to California and began racing FJ-2-62 in California, scoring a number of victories, including the Santa Barbara street races. Cooper invited McQueen to come and drive for him in England, but McQueen’s work intruded.

McQueen’s Hollywood bosses learned that he was about to race at Laguna Seca and gave him a choice: racing or movies. McQueen had finished his TV series Wanted: Dead or Alive, but he had movie projects backed up. In the next few years, he would make The Great Escape (1963), The Sand Pebbles (1966), and The Thomas Crown Affair and Bullitt (both in 1968). But he wouldn’t forget racing, and Le Mans (1971) was his own project.

The ultimatum worked and McQueen’s mechanic, Stanley Peterson, sold the Cooper to Al “Buster” Brizzard. Brizzard was extremely competitive in SCCA: he ran the car with the BMC engine in 1963, a Cosworth engine in 1964, and finally an Alfa-Romeo 1600 cc engine in 1965, winning the Pacific Coast Championship and becoming one of six National Formula B Champions that year.

Brizzard sold the Cooper to Robert Badilla in 1966 but reportedly bought it back again in 1977, still racing, but now with wings and wide tires. Skip McLaughlin, McQueen’s original mechanic, was rebuilding the car, perhaps to its original configuration, when a house fire put an end to the project. Donald Sandy is noted as an owner in 2000, and the present owner acquired the car in October 2003, after its discovery was reported in Classic and Sports Car Magazine’s Lost and Found section.

The present owner commenced a profound restoration and engaged Hardy Hall Restorations, of Herefordshire, to return FJ-2-62 to its 1961 configuration of dark green with white roundels and stripes. It was restored from the ground up to race-ready condition. Any parts which were not up to that standard were replaced, rebuilt, or simply re-fabricated. An original and correct five-speed ERSA gearbox was found, and the car is fitted with the appropriate 1098 cc BMC engine.

The documentation file contains not only extensive photographic restoration documentation but also period photographs, including some with the “King of Cool,” news clippings, invoices, ownership records, and correspondence with both Ken Tyrrell and John Cooper.

This T-56 is eligible for the Goodwood Revival, the Monterey Motorsports Reunion, and celebrated classic series in Europe, America, Australia, and New Zealand. With its successful, storied past that makes it unique among a mere 30-odd survivors and a race-ready restoration, the new owner can be assured that FJ-2-62 is as right now as it was 50 years ago.

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