Words & photos - Daniel Bevis
The Standard Vanguard is an unlikely base for a race car. The first generation dates back to 1947, offering Americanised styling pinched from Plymouth, an engine that was markedly similar to the unit Standard were supplying for Ferguson tractors, and a general feeling of chunky dependability and family-friendly sturdiness. The Phase II Vanguard arrived in 1953, updating the formula with a notchback shape and a few chassis tweaks, although the tractor engine remained. The Phase III that followed in 1955, however, did shake up the model somewhat; the separate chassis was gone, with a new monocoque construction being augmented by less weight, independent front suspension, and the option of a four-on-the-floor 'box. It still had that same agricultural motor though, albeit tweaked here and there, with a raised compression ratio dialled in to work with the better quality of fuel that was available.
The model you're looking at here is the 1958 facelift of the Phase III, the Vanguard Vignale. You can probably guess why it's called that... the Italian coachbuilders reworked the Vanguard to a Michelotti-penned design, featuring deeper windows and crisper, more modern looks, while such racy features as a heater and windscreen washers were available. (Ooh!) And yet, even so, that tractor engine lumbered on...
Interestingly, though, that doesn't seem to matter. As this car proves, you can have a lot of fun by stripping out the interior and the soundproofing, bolting in a rollcage and bucket seat, and slapping on some race numbers. The engine is pretty much stock here, but the Vanguard Vignale makes for an entertaining steer in sprint events, with Duckspeed taking it all over the country to compete in timed competitions. The most endearing element of the car is that it's far from perfect; it's been owned by the same chap since the 1970s and he's been competing in it for a long time - each dent, scuff and scrape has been annotated with marker pen as a reminder. It's an unusual choice but it works, it looks great, and it acts as a rolling history record. Rather charming, isn't it?
Spotted at MATP 2015 - more photos here.