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From Jo-Burg to La Sarthe
Janos Wimpffen Visits Bailey Sports Racing Cars

If Peter and Greg Bailey have their way, then the field of LM P2 cars at Le Mans and elsewhere will soon see a new constructor in their midst. Bailey Sports Racing Cars has been a fixture on the South African scene for about ten years and the father & son company is currently working on their second full P2 compliant car. The first one turned heads at Le Mans last year when it was placed on display in the paddock area and also out on the circuit under the Dunlop Bridge. It was never raced and intended to be sold to a French team, which subsequently backed out of the deal for financial reasons. This first Bailey is now on display at the firm’s offices and shops, located a stone’s throw from the Johannesburg International Airport. The handsome monocoque is no mere show car as it is powered by a South African tuned Ford V8.

A second Bailey P2 was in the late stages of assembly during Dailysportscar’s recent visit to the shop and is expected to be race tested later in March. The plan is to run it at several domestic open category events utilizing the services of well-known local drivers like Trevor Frost, as well as South African international stars such as Gary Formato.

The newest car uses the RHS-built Ford motor driving through a Ricardo transmission. It has a tube steel front with a carbon monocoque behind. Once the early testing and racing is done, the plan is to market the car extensively to existing and potential P2 teams, particularly those located in Europe and America.

None other than Jan Lammers is assisting the Baileys with technical and marketing advice. Besides the technical sophistication of the car, it is hoped that the current global situation will work to the Baileys’ benefit. The South African Rand trades at nearly 10 to the U.S. dollar, making cars from the Republic a good bargain elsewhere.

Unlike many other prototype manufacturers, Bailey does as much of the work as possible in-house. They have their own ovens and even do all the scale modeling on the premises. It helps that young Greg is a fully accredited graduate in mechanical engineering.

Peter watching, Greg in red shirt

Most of the other 6-7 craftsmen in the shop are busy with Bailey’s bread-and-butter operations, the creation of a series of very attractive and accurate historic replicas. Some forms of South African vintage racing (as well as in many other countries) allow for proper replicas and Bailey is a mainstay of the domestic market for this niche. Most of the products thus far have been Porsche 917 and Ford GT40 re-creations.

From body shapes (including the “Dan Gurney roof hump”) to lens covers and door handles, the designs are ingeniously close to the original. Of course, flat-12 Porsches are a bit of a scarce commodity, so the 917s typically use 3.8-liter Porsche sixes. However, at least one customer is enamored enough with the Bailey 917 to be searching for an original motor to mount inside.

For the GT40s it has proven a bit easier to find comparable Ford motors, although there too the search for originality has yielded interesting finds, such as Peter Bailey’s unearthing of a pristine Holman & Moody-built V8 motor for another customer.

Bailey has also met a new and unusual demand for construction of replicas of the newer Ford GTs—effectively continuing the work of the Swiss based company, Matech.

While the 917s and GT40s represented the largest volume of Bailey’s replica car construction, they have also built a fair number of Ferrari P4 look-alikes.

Bailey Cars’ repertoire extends to more modern cars as well. The one-make Shelby Can-Am cars are South Africa’s principal sports-racing series.

They were purchased en masse from the United States and have been used for over a decade in sprint events. The cars have metamorphosed from using Dodge to Nissan engines and from limited aero center-seat bodywork to two subsequent later generations of bodies with increased aero features. Both of the second and third generation bodies were penned by Greg Bailey, with the firm providing a variety of services to the Can-Am series customers. The third generation design borrows much of its look from contemporary open top P2 design and made its debut in domestic racing late this past February.

Last but not least, Bailey Cars assists with race servicing and restoration work on some genuine vintage vehicles. Although not the main part of the company’s work, it helps that Peter is a big enthusiast for that branch of the sport. He races a vintage Austin-Healey and hopes one day to also proudly display an exciting recent find. He had known of a very early Porsche 911S sitting abandoned out at a rural site. After much negotiating with the rather idiosyncratic elder owner, Bailey purchased the car.

Although rather rough in appearance (a family of snakes had to be shooed away before they could enter the car), the motor and most of the mechanics were intact. Indeed they were able to start it with little trouble. Upon arrival at the shop they began the disassembly and cleaning process. As the chassis plate was scrubbed free of grime it revealed the number “911 S 001”. A call to Stuttgart indicated that indeed the very first 911S could have easily ended up in South Africa—a barn find indeed!

From historic racing to replica building to Can-Am car design and service, Bailey Cars is very well-known in South Africa racing circles. Although already known internationally (many replicas are sold in the U.S.), the step into the P2 field catapults this fine cottage constructor onto the global scene. There is little doubt that once the world catches on to the fine quality and attention to detail coming from Peter and Greg Bailey, that the order ledgers will grow quite fast.

Janos Wimpffen