Rochdale Olympic PH1 lightweight










A very rare beast this one. This is one of only four cars built by Rochdale Motor Panels. Keith Hamer's car as featured below was first built for John Anstice-brown, a name you may be familiar with as he was one of the journalists working for Motor in the 1960's. The car was ordered in lightweight form to compete in Sports and GT races, and was built around components from a Lola Rejo. I guess in part as a result of John Anstice-brown having a Mk6 Rejo at the same time as the lightweight.


As for the other 3 cars there fate is somewhat cloudy, we do know that one was built by Derek Bennett of Chevron cars, and was based around an Elva, unfortunately the car was a little lively and during initial testing at Oulton Park was written off. This incident happened just after Clay Hill and finally finished apparently on the entry into Druids.

Having met Richard Parker who is commonly accepted to be the Olympic's designer and worked at Rochdale Motor Panels when these cars were made, I know that a fully built lightweight went to Belgium and was raced there for several years. The fate of this car again is a little unsure but it is accepted within the Rochdale Owners Club that it was written off too.

There is talk that the fourth car was burned out and is also therefore 'gone'. One of these two cars was raced by an American serviceman, and it is believed that two of the cars were raced at Nurburgring, though how true this is remains a matter of speculation.

Any information about these lightweight Rochdale Olympics would be gratefully received.


Back to Keith's car which is pictured to the left, the picture was taken at Oulton Park some time in the cars fairly successful racing career in the hands of John Anstice-brown. Here pictured on the front row alongside some serious opposition.

Keith Hamer has owned this car for some time now, always with the intention of re-building it and racing it in historic GT racing, possibly with the HSCC or CSCC.

Like anyone who runs there own business will confirm time is always at a premium, and the customer must come first. It is therefore with some regret that the car is still sitting in Keith's workshop largely unfinished.

 The specification of the car is quite interesting in that the front suspension is a combination of standard Rochdale Olympic (Riley 1.5) uprights onto which have been grafted the hubs, discs, callipers etc from a Mk6 Rejo, the front wheels also are Lola magnesium alloy, the rears being Brabham magnesium alloy, unfortunately as with any 40 year old magnesium wheels they are only good for rolling the car round on.


The above picture shows the basis of the body preparation before the final finish coats are applied.

Right is the finished body with its final paint finish.

Below the painted car complete as a rolling shell prior to final assembly.



As can be seen from the pictures above we are getting to the interesting bit, final assembly. After 15 years of trying Keith can now start to look forward to finally finishing the rebuild of this car. The intention is to return the car to circuit racing in historic GT form, although we currently have no home for it as such, they have been told verbally that it may be accepted into the HSCC. The biggest problem appears to be one of proven international race history, and the fact that this is effectively a 1 off special, lightweight version of a very rare make, which makes the car ineligable even for FIA apendix 'K'.

Keith has all its history from order book to current day. This includes results from 1963, '64 and '65 when it was  campaigned all over the UK by John Anstic brown.


 The following is an extract from Motor 1963 which was written by John Anstice brown who owned the lightweight Olympic having built it from a shell supplied by the factory.

Spectator: 'How long did it take you to build the Lola?' 

Eric Broadley: 'About nine months, same time as it takes to have a baby.' 

          If Broadley was right my Rochdale Olympic and Rejo Mk6 were both very much overdue. However, I did follow nature more closely inasmuch as having suffered the agony of building one car, I proceeded to produce another.

          Readers of motor may remember our test of a road going Rochdale on June 7, 1961. It was after driving the test car and the works prototype that, with a certain amount of persuasion from Frank Butterworth of Rochdale Motor Panels, I ordered a body/chassis unit. On placing the order I explained that I was very poor, I should be obliged if they would build me one exercising the greatest possible economy in the use of glass fibre. This resulted in a shell that came out of the mould at 176 lb. Further economies in materials finally produced a car that weighs just on 10 cwt. in full running trim compared with a weight of 13 3/4 cwt. for the car that motor tested. The only immediate disadvantage that was apparent was the way in which the sun shone straight through the roof in a rather disconcerting manner, but a trim of black flock spray removed this annoyance. 

          A much bigger snag was revealed after I had brought home the shell, perched on top of a small pick-up truck. I am allergic in the biggest possible way to glass fibre. Thus it was virtually impossible for me to tackle the larger jobs that would have brought me in continuous contact with this useful but irritating material, and thanks and credit must go to my driving partner Bryn Wyatt and sundry other helpers who were inveigled into giving assistance, whilst I had the easy task of getting together all the necessary bits and pieces. Or so I thought.

          I was lucky enough to get a 997cc Ford engine from Lola cars; somehow they had forgotten to kick it out when all the formula junior boys went to 1,100cc. A 1-litre engine was chosen to keep the price down and because at this juncture hardly anyone had raced an Olympic and I felt it wise not to overpower a car whose behaviour on the circuit. The power unit was coupled to a Ford gearbox with Hewland five speed conversion. 

          Running gear for this, the earlier Mk.1 model, is taken from the Riley 1.5 and the normal torsion bars are used at the front. At the rear, the axle is located by radius rods and inclined Panhard rod, the coil spring damper units replace the leaf springs. Rochdale Motor Panels supplied the special parts and I tried, with the help of several job-like storemen to get hold of the B.M.C. bits. I had to use several agents as, if I had stuck to one, he would undoubtedly have gone mad. 

          One of the advantages of racing a car that is built in quantity, rather than being a complete one off, is that although modifications are usually required the car is basically drivable. When I took the Olympic to Silverstone to drive it for the very first time I was thrilled to find that its circuit behaviour was remarkably good. It understeers less than I had feared and the light tail can be brought round to line things up merely by applying power. A front/rear kerb weight distribution of 59/41 does not compare well with the 56/44 of the road test car but you have to take weight off where you can for racing and engines are difficult to lighten. However I do blame this for the somewhat unforgiving nature of the car which will spin if the tail is hung out too far and the modest 85 odd B.H.P. applied recklessly at the same time. Despite this, cornering power is if anything better than most of the car's competitors. 

          Initially brakes were the only bother. Replacing the linings did not help and I then discovered that the master cylinder was mounted on too flexible a section of glass fibre. Reinforcement alone would, I believe, have cured our troubles but I began to think in terms of discs at the front and after helpful but unfruitful efforts by a racing acquaintance who is in the brake business I happened to glance one day at the brakes on the Rejo, which, by this time, I had started building. Surely the brakes from this car could be fitted. A simple grinding operation on the stub axles, some co-operative searching for bearings that would fit, by yet another helpful storeman, and modification of the calliper mounting brackets gave the car a combination of discs and drums by different famous brake manufacturers. The unholy union works well, and has incidentally allowed me to use 13" alloy wheels, 1" less in diameter than those normally used on the Olympic, and having a considerably wider rim width. I also fancy that my car has a slightly wider track, particularly at the front, than normal, but I have never measured this. 

          Today with a considerable number of racing miles behind it and finishes in places as varied as first and last, it has been neither a circuit-shaking success nor by any means a failure. Perhaps the most creditable thing is the fact that although the hull was built far lighter than standard, at my own risk, we have had no trouble at all with the glass fibre breaking up. This, coupled with the fact that the car has cost far more to build than I could hope to realize for it (accurate costings are confidential due to matrimony), has decided me, at any rate at the moment, that if and when it is retired from the circuits I shall insert a quieter engine and gearbox and use it occasionally for setting light to the road.




          Below is a piece which was written by me which tells the story of how 'JJ' came to be in my possession and the trauma I have been through to try to get it to where we are now.


          In the early 1960's during the production of the Rochdale Olympic a number of people saw that the Rochdale Olympic was not just a pleasing shape but also that it looked as though it could be made to compete successfully as a GT racing car. Rochdale Motor Panels decided with some pressure from a number of prospective customers to offer a lightweight Olympic body shell as an option. As far as I am aware (and the consensus of opinion will bear this out) Rochdale Motor Panels made four of these lightweight Olympics. Just like the other Olympics the lightweight was a glass fibre mono-coque, the only real difference was that the lightweight cars were produced with a thinner shell, this was achieved simply by using less layers of fibreglass in the production of the body. The owner / customer could still to some extent choose what combination of engine / gearbox and running gear to use. 

          One of these lightweight Olympics was bought in the early 1960's by John Anstice-brown, and was subsequently raced throughout the early to mid 1060's, in 1968 the car was sold by John and was subsequently road registered JJH 20G. Sometime between 1968 and 1978 the car passed on to Brian Classic, who them sold the car onto an old school friend of Keith's, it then went through a complete re-build which Keith was involved with. Derek used the car for some time on the road but soon decided that it was far too thin to survive the rigors of daily use. The car was subsequently sold to a chap in Wales. 

          By the time the car was sold Keith had well and truly fallen for it, unfortunately at that time he was not in a position to buy it and the car disappeared. Initially he had kept track of it, thinking that he may one day buy it back, but time and other projects meant that he lost track of it, until that is a friend saw an advert for a Rochdale Olympic with an interesting history, a quick phone call soon established that this was the lightweight that Keith had helped with some 20 years earlier. The car now resided in Birmingham and had sat in a garage partly dismantled for about 5 years. This time Keith could buy it, arrangements were made and the following weekend saw Simon, Keith's son, a good friend, and Keith himself travelling down to Birmingham to reclaim the car. 

          It is believed that the lightweight Olympic is the only remaining example of these fascinating cars. Progress to date on the nut and bolt rebuild has been outstripped by the research done on the racing history so far by another friend. The whole aim of the research is to enable Keith to get Historic and FIA papers on the car; this will ultimately allow the car to be raced both here in the UK and abroad. The signs aren't looking good but he is very hopeful that they will be able to get FIA papers for the car when its rebuild is complete. 

          Originally the car was built using the rear suspension set which was supplied with the kit; this consisted of three rear radius arms and an axle location arm. These were attached directly to the fibreglass body. Each of the radius arms has a thread on one end and a large washer to form a shoulder. Two rubber bushes sandwich the body and are held in place by another large washer and a locknut. The axle location is by means of spherical bearings, which are attached to fabricated mountings on the axle. The axle is then located laterally by a fourth arm which goes from the differential to the lower offside radius arm. Lightweight Magnesium 13" Brabham wheels were used on the rear axle. Subsequently some time during its racing career the inner rubber donut mountings were replaced by spherical joints. 

          The front suspension on this car is quite unique; it uses Riley 1.5 torsion bars and bottom wishbones, Riley 1.5 top lever arm shock absorbers, and Riley 1.5 uprights. The original Riley 1.5 hubs and drum brakes were replaced with Lola Rejo hubs and disc brakes. The brake callipers look as though they are from an early Mini Cooper; these were fitted to the uprights using a fabricated bracket. Lightweight Magnesium alloy 13" Lola wheels were used on the front. 

          The original engine fitted to this car was, I believe a 997cc Holbay Ford unit, which was later replaced by an 1100cc Ford Cosworth blackhead engine, we believe both engines were mated to a Hewland 5 speed converted Ford gearbox. 

          The history of the car in its first few years is quite interesting. The lightweight was ordered from Rochdale Motor Panels by John Anstice-brown in late December 1961 the intention being to race it, the car was picked up at the end of January 1962, the order number was 1717. John built the car using some components from a Lola Rejo and by 1963 it was ready for the circuit. By late 1963 the car was starting to produce some reasonable results, Keith has been able to trace some of the more competitive runs from the car. These are as follows:-



Oulton Park       07/09/63            GT Cars up to 1,000cc   10 laps              3rd     

Brands Hatch    08/09/63                                                Sprint                Class win         

Debden             14/09/63            Sports and Saloons        10 laps              1st plus fastest lap

Silverstone        28/09/63            Closed and Sports Cars  7 laps               3rd



Silverstone        16/05/64            Closed & GT Cars final   10 laps              3rd

Oulton Park       22/08/64            Closed Cars to 1,100cc  7 laps               3rd

Oulton Park       29/08/64            GT Cars                        10 laps              Class win         

Silverstone        26/09/64            Closed Cars to 1,000cc  7 laps               2nd


I also have a reference from the 750 bulletin November 1963 as follows:- 

          'The sports and saloon race, a ten lap affair, was a shade processional in that the first five places remained the same throughout. J Anstice-brown in his 109E Olympic thrashed everything in sight and was lapping at half distance.' 

          'Race 8 was nominally for sports and saloons. The latter consisted of M J Howe's 1500 Anglia and the Anstice-brown Olympic. Pre race favourite, John Miles, in the newly acquired Omega-Jaguar, blasted off pole grid position leaving the rest of the field following behind Anstice-brown. John took one turn smoothly, but behind came drama plus, when the Olympic spun like a top ending up partially on the infield of the exit of the corner'

          Keith has now removed all the bits off the body, including the front sub frame which has been re-made using as much of the original as possible and is due to be re-fitted to the car soon. Once this is done he is going to re-jig all the front suspension so that it all lines up correctly. Keith's experience with phase 1's is that they differ from side to side, a little time on the suspension computer can improve things no end, and some careful building can transfer those improvements to the car. The rear suspension is going to be re-built to the original specification, the FIA are keen to see the lightweight restored as close as possible to its original form. Some tidying up of angles and new spherical joints will improve the rear end. A file has been put together detailing the early history of the car and they intend to present this to the HSCC for consideration. Apparently to get full FIA papers they will need to show documentary evidence that Olympics were raced abroad. 

          Richard Parker assures me that Rochdale Motor Panels built one of these cars with a Coventry Climax 1100cc engine, which was sent ready to race to Belgium. If they can acquire any evidence of this car's racing history they should be in a position to get retrospective homologation for the car. 

          There is apparently a reference to a lightweight Olympic which was to be raced by Derek Alderson. The car was built by Derek Bennett (Chevron cars fame) using 'as much of the Elva as he could'. It is said that creating the Olympic took most of a year and when finished it was 'the most immaculate car he ever saw'. Having finished the Olympic it was taken to Oulton Park for testing. After a very short time Derek Alderson and Derek Bennett decided that it would require some time to solve the car's 'severe understeer and high speed instability'. Before they loaded the car onto the trailer for the trip home Paul Owens who had spent a lot of time on the car was allowed to take it out for a quick few laps. Paul found the car's handling quite frightening but he still tried to make the most of this opportunity. Unfortunately the Olympic proved too hot to handle, it got away from him as he turned into the left kink at the top of Clay Hill. The back of the car went onto the grass and the car rolled end over end, luckily Paul Owens was thrown clear and apart from being covered in bruises and being shaken he was OK. The Olympic however was not so lucky, having rolled a few times it was cut in two by a steel hawser holding a telegraph pole and finally hit a wall, which subsequently fell on the car. The remains of the car were loaded onto the trailer and taken off for scrap. 

          That accounts for two lightweights. Keith has one. one was written off at Oulton Park. We have been led to believe that there were four cars. By all accounts the other two lightweight cars have been destroyed too. we have been told that one was crashed abroad and the other burned out. 

          Keith wonders what really happened to them. 

          Can you help? 

          Any information about any of the lightweights would be welcome, please e/mail Keith on information about the Belgian car would be particularly useful.







Work on the lightweight (centre of picture) is taking some time as the pressure of customer restorations is relentless, but Keith now has what can be described as a rolling chassis, with all the doors etc fitted.













As you can see from the adjacent picture Keith has finally made some progress on the Lightweight.

Unfortunately the picture shows the car to be much more 'finished' than it actually is. It still needs an engine and gearbox building for it, these items alone will swallow a large proportion of any budget they may have had.

The pictures show the car on the Rochdale Owners Club stand at the 2012 Northern classic car show which was held in Manchester.

As you can see from the adjacent picture Keith has finally made some progress on the Lightweight.

After some considerable time on this rebuild Keith can now see the end of the tunnel, the picture below shows the rear section of the full roll cage which has been made for the car. On the grounds of safety and the fact that the fibreglass on the lightweight is so thin Keith has decided that a full roll cage would give the driver better protection in the event of a major shunt/roll rather than the more normal rear hoop.

        The colour scheme of the car when it raced in period was red and black, Keith has decided to return the car to its original paint colours which I think you will agree looks the part.

        The final engine specification has now been decided on, it will run the original pre crossflow format but due to the class structure used by CSCC the engine will be 1380cc. Initially Keith intends to shake the car down using a mildly modified 1500cc pre crossflow 'cooking' engine.

        The team are hoping to have the car ready for testing in early May, the initial shake downs will be done at Oulton Park, a circuit they are familiar with as it is only about 20 minutes from the workshop where the car has been built.

        The next few weeks will be very busy for Keith and Simon.


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