By Euan Ruddick
At Ayrshire Daily News we get a lot of contact and requests from all sorts of people and companies. One of the most unusual enquiries was received very recently when we were asked to help reunite a 92-year-old with a family in Ayrshire. We sent our Chief Reporter, Euan Ruddick, and our Transport Reporter, Doug Maclean, to a mysterious meeting in Belleisle Park.
There we met up with Steve Waddingham, a historian, and also genealogist, Martin Saul. They were working for the famous Aston Martin car manufacturer.
Steve told us the story of the 92-year-old who was only known as LM4.
LM4 was built in 1930 as a racing car for Aston Martin. It raced in the prestigious JCC ‘Double Twelve’ held at Brooklands in 1930, finishing 4th and 2nd in its class. A few months later it won its class in the RIAC Irish Grand Prix and came 7th overall.
The car has a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine and has been recently repainted in its original racing green colour by Aston Martin Works at Newport Pagnell.
LM4 was recently sold for one million pounds and the new owner wants to trace the history of this beautiful car. Steve and Martin had decided to bring LM4 ‘home’ to Ayrshire. When asked why Ayrshire was home they explained, “After its racing career with the Aston Martin factory, LM4 was sold to its first private owner, Henry Leeson, in 1931.
“Mr Leeson sold the car a few months later to Rolland Cookson, a young businessman from the North of England. For reasons still unknown, Mr Cookson gave his address as ‘Belleisle House, Ayr’ in October 1931. As to why he gave Belleisle House as his address, we are not sure.
“Theories range from, he was on an extended honeymoon trip with his new wife, to staying in the area to conduct business. We are hoping that returning the car to the house might stir up some memories amongst local people.”
The car is maintained and prepared for racing by marque experts Ecurie Bertelli Ltd and although it spends most of its time on the race track, it is also road registered too.
The new owners of the car have commissioned Aston Martin to uncover the car’s history. The team are taking the car back to places where it has ‘lived’ and raced, and from this, they hope to publish a book in the future that will tell the story both in words and with dramatic photographs. “We are hoping that returning the car to Belleisle might stir up some memories amongst local people,” said Steve Waddingham.
Ayrshire Daily News had publicised the story of LM4 and in the crowd of people surrounding the pristine racing car, we noticed one famous face. Doug Maclean took the opportunity to talk with Ayrshire-born Lee McKenzie. Lee is not only the host of Channel 4’s Grand Prix racing programme but she works for all the major sports broadcast companies on everything from women’s World Cup rugby to being the voice of BBC tennis doing on-court interviews with Wimbledon champions.
Lee was visiting her mother who lives in Ayr and couldn’t resist the chance to come and see this historic car. She said, “I am so impressed with the pristine condition of the car which is approaching 100 years of age. It is a real testimony to the people who built this car and now lovingly look after it that it still looks so good. But equally impressive is that it also continues to race at over 100mph at race tracks like the famous Brooklands circuit where it originally raced in 1930.”
Lee also gave an exclusive interview to Ayrshire Daily News where she reveals her early days as an Ayr Academy student who used to get a half day off on a Monday to write for newspapers and magazines. Someone in Ayr Academy spotted emerging talent in the teenage Lee and although she now travels the world covering sporting events she is more than happy to return to her native Ayr whenever she can. Look out for that exclusive interview on Ayrshire Daily News.
No two days are ever the same for our small team and we never know where we are off to each time the phone rings!