Originally a closed-cockpit racing car, this P4’s early race results included first place in the 1967 1000Km of Monza (driven by Bandini and Amon) and third overall at that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, in the hands of Willy Mairesse and Jean Beurlys. After Le Mans it was lightened by 40kg, partly thanks to the removal of the roof to produce the spider version – giving it further racing success. Its third incarnation was as a CanAm car, allowing the car a new lease of racing life in America and beyond.
The fact that – in its day – ‘0858’ enjoyed world-class competition in coupé, spider and CanAm configurations is just one of the many intriguing aspects to this tale. Aside from its remarkable race history, there’s the “millimetric precision” with which the world-class restoration is being undertaken.
The project started in October 2011 with the removal of the existing CanAm body that, according to John Collins of Talacrest, had “40 years of original dust and grease inside it”. Then began the painstaking recreation of the exquisite, aluminium spider bodywork, a task Talacrest entrusted to David Piper, a man with unrivalled knowledge of the model.
Piper wanted the new aluminium shape to be perfect, hence he used his own P4 (chassis 0860 – one of the original three) to create a wooden buck “so that no mistakes would be made” in precisely recreating the spider bodywork. He made sure, however, to retain as much of the original material as possible. Where new aluminium was used, the team even used the correct gauge to faithfully replicate the racer as it would have been in 1967.
When complete, the P4 will be prepared for competition, so – as with other historic racers – some minor modifications are required to conform to modern safety regulations. For example, while the fuel tanks sit in the original area, they are now foam-filled for safety.
No doubt dwelling on its possible future as a historic race car, Piper runs his fingers over the unpainted bodywork. “With a beautiful aluminium body like this,” he says thoughtfully, “we don’t want anybody running into it.” Certainly not. And to minimise that risk, the P4 – when finished – will no doubt be entrusted only to the most prudent drivers’ hands.
We will be returning to this delicate and thorough restoration at a later stage, when the reborn P4 spider is complete. We can’t tell you exactly when that will be, since, in David Piper’s words, “It’s not a quick job.” After all, perfection can’t be rushed.