1961 Morgan +4. A Le Mans Class Winner in 1962
The late Chris Lawrence built himself an enviable reputation racing his 1956 Morgan TOK 258. By 1961 he was ready to turn his attention to European races. At the news of this his Mother and Step-Father took fright, and took out a legally binding High-Court Injunction which prevented him from racing "The 1956 Morgan +4 motor vehicle registered TOK 258". Chris could not break this as his Mother and Step-Father had invested heavily in his company, Westerham Motors.
After some head scratching and discussion, it was realised that the ACTUAL wording of the injunction only stopped him from racing TOK 258. A new Morgan +4 was instantly ordered and chassis number 4840 was delivered in May of 1961, and registered XRX 1 with Chris' new "paid driver" Richard Shepherd-Baron as the owner. It was painted in a rather attractive pale blue, known at the factory as "Avian Blue". The car was instantly prepared for racing, as a "twin" to TOK and was taken to Le Mans the next month, where it was refused a run in the 24 hours at the last minute. The reason given was that the Morgan was an old fashioned, pre war car, to which had been bolted disc brakes and wire wheels. The real reason seems to have been pressure from Standard-Triumph who, having seen their TR3's trounced by the Lawrence Tune team all over the tracks of Britain, did not want to risk seeing the same thing happen to their team of TRS cars, equipped with their brand new "Sabrina" twin-cam engine. The disgruntled Lawrence team went off from Le Mans and appeared at Monza for the Coppa Inter Europa meeting. Chris minded the Injunction and entered himself in XRX 1 and two of his employees in TOK. Because of the long-range tank fitted for Le Mans, Chris was certain that he could run all through the race non-stop. Annoyingly, his preparation was not all he would have wished as the team had to race at Goodwood in the TT the very weekend before Monza. Because of this, they were unable to do the standard "inter-race" head-work and left for Italy, hoping for the best. In the race Chris worked his way into the lead and, having practiced pit-stops and refuelling drill, the Porsche team let him run off, as they were convinced he would have to refuel. When there was less than 30 minutes left, Van Hanstein woke up to what Chris was up to and sent his drivers the "FASTER" signal. Chris' TR engine had indeed burned a valve and was down on revs, a Porsche passed him and he had to settle for a class place rather than a class win. Still a great result.
For the 1962 season, Chris was determined to make it to Le Mans and so much work was put into the cars. The "old" TOK was sold on, with Chris retaining the number plate, and it was put onto chassis 4840. The car was re-bodied as a "low-line" Super Sports, painted in British Racing Green and given a white hard top, changing its colours from the previous blue. The entry was warmly received by the ACO at Le Mans and the car took the grid. It's success is legendary and was, as can be seen from the ACO scrutineering logs and confirmation letter in the history file, chassis number 4840, carrying the number plate TOK 258 that gave Morgan its 2-litre GT class victory, arguable Morgan's finest hour on the track. The Lawrence Tune team now expanded to 3 cars: TOK 258, a "new" XRX 1, owned and commissioned by Pip Arnold, and 170 GWP. These cars were campaigned across Europe, gaining class results in Belgium at Spa and Germany at The Nurburgring among many successes.
By late 1963 Chris' engineering mind was working on the ever increasing threat posed in class by the Porsches. He was already thinking of the SLR design as an answer. Into the ranks of the LawrenceTune team had come one Adrian Dence. He was younger than Chris, by 6 years, and had missed National Service and all the other problems of the post war years. Listing his profession as "Food Technologist", Adrian had talked his way into a race with the LawrenceTune +4 at Silverstone in 1962. During that season he did well, gaining 1st and 2nds at Goodwood, Snetterton, Silverstone and Brands Hatch in Handicaps, and class placings in GT events. Adrian approached Chris in early 1964 about buying TOK 258 from him. Chris was willing to do this, as Adrian was part of the "family", but insisted, again, upon retaining "his" number plate - TOK 258. Buoyed by his 17th over all and best Morgan performance in the 1963 TT, Adrian leaped and bought the car, chassis number 4840. He registered it for the road on 23rd July 1964 at a Middlesex licensing office. It was listed as a green and white, two seat Morgan coupe, still with its hard top, and registered JHX 142 B. Interestingly, it was licensed as a "new" car, this despite an easy check revealing that 4840 had left Malvern 3 years previously, and had carried 2 previous number plates.
Adrian continued to race the car for 4 seasons, winning for himself, in the process, the Freddie Dixon Trophy, which Chris Lawrence had secured in the original TOK 258 7 years previously in 1959. The Morgan was eventually sold to the Stapletons brothers who fielded a two car "Super sports" team in the late 1960's with JHX 142 B campaigning alongside ALT 42 B. JHX even travelled over to Italy once more and was raced at Missano amongst other places.
By the early 1970's historic racing cars were not regarded as being particularly valuable, and so JHX 142 B laid dormant for a season or two. Eventually in 1977 Chris Lawrence re-purchased 4840 and re-registered JHX for the road. He had already been racing the original 1956 +4 registered TOK to win an early version of a British Historic Sports Car Championship called The Spreckley Championship. This car passed to Gerry Marshall and then Partick Keen, gathering the "mystique" of its illustrious registration number, without the actual Le Mans class winning chassis beneath it. The original 1956 TOK carrying chassis number 3656. The much campaigned Morgan +4 with the TOK 258 registration bears that same 1956 chassis number to this day. Chris seems to have done little to JHX and sold it to up and coming Morgan racer, Grahame Bryant in 1980. He had the car restored by ex - LawrenceTune people and placed it for sale with Libra Motive, a Morgan dealer, as an "Historic Racing Morgan with Le Mans history" The car was bought by an American and moved to Cincinnati in Ohio, USA. It is offered for sale direct from that same Great American City. The car has been fully restored and is presented in "low line" Super Sports trim, with twin Webber engine and BRG body with hard top. This must be a unique opportunity. The Le Mans class winning Morgan, surely the World's Most Famous product of Malvern. Offered for the first time in the UK for over 25 years. We would urge prospective purchasers to view the fascinating history file that acompanies this historic motor car.
Estimate (£): 125,000 - 165,000