Cooper Blooper

There is an old adage about ‘the best laid plans of mice and men…’ and it certainly applied to FMM consultant engineer Dickon Daggitt’s ex-Tony Fergusson Cooper 500. A plan was hatched to feature the Cooper at this year’s Knysna Motor Show followed by FMM curator Wayne Harley doing a demonstration run with the car during the following weekend’s Jaguar Simola Hillclimb, but old cars can be fickle at the best of times…

The car attracted a lot of attention at the show, which was attended by a record crowd. It’s small and simple construction belying how competitive the car was in its heyday in the 1950s. Tony was known as the ‘Ace From Africa’ and was a successful driver in a variety of cars both locally and in England, where he spent four months in the summer of 1955 racing against the likes of Stirling Moss. As well as being a prosperous businessman, when not racing Tony was a gifted organiser and was instrumental in establishing motor sport in South Africa in the early post-war years. Tony passed away in 1997 after a long illness, aged 76.

Dickon has had the famous car for 30 years but it has lain dormant for most of that time. Its original Norton Manx engine has been replaced with a Triumph Tiger 100 twin and when it came time to be prepared for the show at the FMM workshop, the motor would only run on one cylinder. After some fettling, the second cylinder took over before; finally, the two ran in harmony. Then just prior to being transported up the Garden Route, the gearbox broke. This was repaired by Stefen Klein in Knysna but the decision was taken not to risk this valuable car any further so, sadly, it only went on display in the pits during Classic Car Friday.

Tony Fergusson Cooper 500