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‘The Beast’ returns to Silverstone

Published 15 July 2016

After an absence of more than 40 years, the muscle car once known as ‘The Beast’ is ready to make a racing return at this summer’s Silverstone Classic on 29-31 July.

Back in the early 1970s, the 6.4-litre AMC Javelin was a crowd favourite when competing in the British Saloon Car Championship (as the BTCC was known then) and Special Saloons series. But, after an impressive victory at Silverstone in August 1975, its owner/driver David Howes suffered a broken leg in a road accident. As a result, ‘The Beast’ never again turned a wheel on track.

For the following four decades, the Javelin remained spotless, sparkling and silent under wraps in Howes’ garage and was even declared as ‘lost’ or ‘missing’ across internet forums. It was, however, only biding its time until the moment Howes could let go, and that hour finally arrived at the end of 2015.

The iconic car’s new owner is well-known historic car collector and racer Marc Devis, and the Belgian fanatic is thrilled at the prospect of bringing the ‘big-banger’ back to life at the Silverstone Classic.

Beast (2)

Marc Devis (left) and David Howes (right) with The Beast

Devis said, ‘I have something of a reputation for special projects like this, and the fact the Javelin had been sitting with the same owner since the 1970s - and had lots of great period history - certainly appealed to me.

‘We collected the car together with a huge number of spares, original parts and documents,’ he said. ‘Having been laid up for so long, both the engine and mechanicals were in need of a full rebuild and overhaul, but I was adamant those now overseeing the project at WDK Motorsport were sympathetic and didn’t do anything to change the appearance of the original car – it must look exactly like it did before being parked in the garage in the mid-1970s.’

The Javelin will also be reunited with some of its old adversaries when Devis takes to the track for the packed Historic Touring Car Challenge race on Tin-Top Sunday. Several Capris and BMWs from the same era are among the 50-plus grid for what promises to be one of the weekend’s highlights.

It’s a 40-minute, two-driver, pit-stop race and Devis will be sharing the amazing Javelin’s hot-seat with former Formula Palmer Audi single-seater champion Jonathan Kennard.

Beast (1)

AMC Javelin racing at Silverstone in 1972

Introduced in the late 1960s, the two-door Javelin was AMC’s challenger in the US ‘ponycar’ sector as epitomised by the Mustangs and Camaros. This particular model was originally imported into the United Kingdom as a road car by John Burke, a US serviceman posted to these shores.

Seeing the huge success being enjoyed by big-engined American muscle cars in saloon car racing, experienced tin-top racer Howes bought the Javelin from Burke in early 1971 and set about rebuilding it to the Group 2 specifications then required to race in the premier British and European Championships. He spent the next 12 months painting it white (from its original yellow), fitting a bigger 6.4-litre engine plus a manual competition gearbox, adding racing suspension and making all the other upgrades needed to go racing.

Although perhaps lacking the development to challenge for outright BSCC victories, Howes did notch up several top ten finishes and win two Special Saloons races at Silverstone in 1972 – enough, it seems, to secure some factory support direct from American Motors in Detroit for the following season.

Reflecting this official backing, the Javelin reappeared in 1973 resplendent in AMC’s renowned red, white and blue racing livery as made famous by drivers such as George Follmer and Mark Donohue when lifting Trans-Am titles on the far side of the Atlantic. While always a stand-out favourite with the fans, results were mixed; a second place in the British Grand Prix support race to Frank Gardner’s Camaro was probably the highlight.

With the BSCC regulations replacing Group 2 with a new breed of less powerful Group 1 cars for 1974, Howes and the Javelin were thereafter restricted to limited appearances in various Special Saloons series before David’s accident in summer 1975.

Now, though, The Beast is back. And the revival of such an esteemed 1970s icon is certain to add yet more high-octane excitement to Tin Top Sunday at the Silverstone Classic.

Adult admission for Tin Top Sunday is priced at £54, with £6 admission for accompanied children aged between six and 16 years old. A wide range of weekend, camping, VIP hospitality and Family Tickets – all of which must be purchased in advance – are also available.

Tickets include free entrance to both racing paddocks and pit complexes, trackside grandstands and live music concerts on Friday and Saturday evenings. Full details can be found on the official www.silverstoneclassic.com website.

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