Cruisin’ on a Sunday afternoon
With the F1 season winding down with a decisive thud, I thought I’d approach the aftermath of the Brazilian GP a little differently. To wit, I’d ring my mate Rob Wilson and chat to him while we drove through London for a late Sunday lunch. Or brunch, as Rob likes to do it.
Of course, the Brazilian GP theme was just a ruse. As normal, the conversation quickly meandered a number of different ways, as often as not re-connecting as if by magic. It’s always like that when I chat to Rob: one minute we’re talking gentle-firm brake application; the next we’re analysing the difference in style between, say, Roly Levis and Max Stewart.
Thus we happened-upon the Nota story. I grew up with Nota Formula Vees at Warwick Farm, in Sydney, Australia. Geoff Sykes introduced FVee racing in general; and his club, the AARC, bought three Notas for Club member use. As a school kid who spent his holidays working at the AARC offices, my job was to maintain and manage the “Nota programme”. In the pictures above and below, I’m there on the right with my mate Colin Piper, sprucing-up the Notas by the famous Steindl Homestead (on the inside of the quick Homestead right-hand kink at Warwick Farm). Rob and I got to Nota by driving through the Elephant and Castle roundabout in London. That reminded Rob of the lock-up he used to use to house his Ralt; Ralt led to Ron Tauranac; Tauranac led to Geoff Brabham – and Geoff, for me, let to Nota, because it was in one of those Nota Vees that Geoff had his first single-seater drive.
Which opens the door nicely to Guy Buckingham, the talented engineer behind Nota. As it happened, Guy passed away only recently, so I thought it would be nice to reproduce here the words used by his son, Chris, at the funeral:
“My father, Guy Buckingham, passed away yesterday after a brief Illness. A number of his friends, Nota owners and business associates suggested I write a brief description of his involvement with motor racing.
“Guy was born in 1921 in England. During World War II he spent time with the RAF where he was involved with aeronautical engineering. On leaving Guy utilised those skills to build lightweight sports racing cars. In 1955 he moved to Australia and set up Nota Engineering in the former Ice Works behind the David Jones store in Parramatta. From there, he and Michael Martin introduced a tubular-steel space-framed car with lightweight aluminium cladding.
“Initially they built Clubman-format cars but when Guy employed Jack Wiffen, a former Rolls Royce craftsman, Nota started to build a number of alloy streamliner cars which Guy drove very successfully plus KM200 Notas for drivers like Spencer Martin.
“Notas also won the NSW Hill Climb Championship on a number of occasions with drivers like Barry Garner and Ralph Sach.
“Nota then decided Formula Junior racing cars were the way to go and built the first of these in Australia. Initially these were front-engined but they evolved into mid-engined ones using Reno and Ford componentry. Max Stewart ran a mid-engined Nota very successfully in Tasmania and this car is now being raced In England at Goodwood and other historic events.
“Guy lent his hand to other creations as well, designing the Oran Park circuit by driving round the empty fields with George Murray following behind him, pegging out the initial design.
“Warwick Farm Racing Circuit and its manager, Geoff Sykes, convinced Nota to make Clubman-style cars and to have their own series with cars like Lotus, Elfins, Notas etc rather than run with the likes of MGs and other production sports cars. Nota excelled in Geoff’s Clubman series, winning the championship seven times through the years.
“Geoff Sykes then asked Guy to make Formula Vees for the new category. Nota made three for the AARC and went on to build 38 in all, doing particularly well in the hands of Peter Finlay.
“Guy went on to build the very pretty Nota F3 and Formula Ford cars before returning to England. There he set up Teal engineering, producing Formula 3s, clubmans and Hillman Imp-based sports sedans. He then returned to his roots, getting involved with restoration of World War II aircraft – something he always loved.”
I’ve divided my chat with Rob into three videos; the reference to Nota is in the third. Enjoy.