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1969 T91 Cooper: The Formula 1 car that was never built

Submitted by on November 9, 2014

1969 T91 Cooper Formula One Car

In 1969, before the dissolution of their Formula 1 program, Cooper was working on two cars – the T86C and T91 Cooper. Neither car was finished, and that’s where their story begins.

Although it never hit the track in anger as a Formula 1 car, the T86C did evolve into a Formula 5000 machine, receiving a five-litre Ford V8 and racing in the Guards Formula 5000 championship in 1970.

The T91 Cooper, however, has more of a mystery behind it. One which Motorsports writer Colene Evans-Allen unravels here in her article Suspended in Time: An Unusual Piece of Motorsport History.

Thanks to Colene Evans-Allen.

1969 T91 Cooper Formula One Car

Suspended in Time:  An Unusual Piece of Motorsport History

The only living Steward from the most controversial race in Formula One history also owns one of the most unusual and rare pieces of motorsport memorabilia in the world.

Ron Evans was the Assistant Chief Steward of the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix – a race that ended with a protest and a question as to who the correct winner of the race was.  Evans was involved in the decision that Peter Revson was the winner, which was the last Formula One victory by Revson before his untimely death in March of 1974.  By sheer luck, Evans has another claim to fame.  He is the owner of a set of wooden patterns for suspension pieces for a race car.  The question is which race car do they belong to?

1969 T91 Cooper Formula One Car

The wooden patterns are stored in a pair of cardboard boxes in Evans’ garage outside of Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, and they aren’t incredibly impressive looking.  In fact, they’re a rather dull orange colour and fairly unremarkable except for the markings on them.  Each pattern is marked with the words “Cooper Cars” and a part number.  All the markings are handwritten in permanent marker, and the patterns are for rear uprights and related suspension pieces.

“I knew they were for a Cooper race car, but I had no idea which one,” says Evans. 

Despite having sold the Cooper Car Company to Chipstead Motor Group in 1965, John Cooper remained involved in the company’s Formula One program until it was disbanded in 1969.  At that time, the Formula One program was working on two different models of car – the T91 and the T86C.  Neither model of car was completed, although the T86C was converted into a Formula 5000 car.  The T91 components and intellectual property were sold, and the Fejer brothers in Ontario, Canada purchased a significant number of the assets, including the patterns for the suspension components of the T91.

The Fejers were known for their willingness to use components designed by others in the race cars they built, the most well known of those being the Chinooks.  The brothers had the idea that they would have a set of the T91 uprights cast from the patterns and use those uprights on the 1970 Formula 5000 Chinook currently being raced in vintage events by American Mike Knittel.  They sent the patterns to one of only three foundries in Canada at the time that was casting magnesium – Preston Magnesium Products in Cambridge, Ontario.  Evans was a customer of the foundry, where he was getting his own magnesium wheels cast. 

For reasons that aren’t clear, the foundry retained possession of the patterns for the T91 suspension pieces and they were never returned to the Fejers.  Steve Maiter, the foundry owner, stored the patterns away for several years.  In the mid-1970’s, the patterns were put out to be tossed in the garbage when Evans noticed them and asked Maiter if he could keep them.  With neither man realizing what they actually were, Maiter gave Evans the wooden patterns.  They have been in Evans’ possession ever since.  Ironically, the Fejer brothers believed the foundry had burned down and the patterns had been destroyed.  While the foundry didn’t burn down, it did close. 

The trail to figuring out what race car the patterns were for began with an email to Lord March in the United Kingdom.  He forwarded Evans to Mike Cooper – John Cooper’s son.  Mike Cooper put Evans in touch with the Cooper Car Club in the United States.  The members of that club compared the upright patterns against all existing Cooper Cars, and by process of elimination concluded that the patterns were likely for the 1969 T91 Formula One Car.  While not a definitive answer, it brought Evans to the realization that he had a very unique and rare piece of motorsport history. 

Two years ago, Evans’ daughter had a discussion with Ed Butt, who is a former employee of the Fejer brothers during the time that they purchased the assets from Cooper Car Company.  Butt was initially shocked to learn that the patterns had survived, given he had believed they had been destroyed long ago.  Butt was able to confirm that the patterns are the suspension pieces for the 1969 Cooper T91 Formula One Car.  This past summer Rudy Fejer also confirmed that the patterns were for “that Formula One car” when asked about them at the Canadian Historic Grand Prix 2014.

These patterns may be the only remaining pieces of the 1969 T91 Cooper anywhere in the world.  Evans has made several attempts over the years to get the patterns put in an appropriate museum, including the Formula One Museum in Donington, England.  None of these attempts have been successful, so the patterns continue to sit in their cardboard boxes in the attic of Evans’ garage.  Evans has no idea what he will do with the patterns, but he knows they’re a valuable piece of motorsport history.

After all, not many people in the world can say they may own the only pieces of a Formula One race car that was never built.

Colene Evans-Allen is a freelance motorsport writer in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.  She writes for the Toronto Star and is the Canadian Motorsport Correspondent for In The Pits Racing Radio on the CBS Sports Radio Network.  Evans-Allen is also a Race Official with 15 years as a flag marshal, pit marshal, grid marshal, and scrutineer for SCCA(Detroit Region).

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