In memory of my great friend Des O'Dell

I must pay tribute to the memory of my great friend Des O'Dell, who sadly passed away earlier today after a brave battle against cancer.

Having started out in the great days of motoring with Aston Martin, Des enjoyed an exceptional career as competitions manager for Rootes, Chrysler, Talbot and Peugeot. Des led his teams to considerable success on the international stage and was personally responsible for helping kick-start the careers of such great names as Henri Toivonen, Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Jonny Milner to name but a few.

My respects and condolences to Des's family. He is already sadly missed.

Andy Walters - 15th March 1999

Des O'Dell
(Desmond Frank O'Dell)
21 Jan 1927 - 15 March 1999

"Some people think I'm a pain, while others think I'm wonderful. I don't know how I'd prefer to be remembered, but I think I managed to get a bit done."

The following collection of remeniscences and tributes is presented in appreciation and celebration of Des O'Dell's remarkable career in motorsport.
DesODell.com is a strictly non-profit making web-based exhibition. My thanks to those who have taken the time to contribute.
If you have any items worthy of inclusion and would like to see them displayed here, please send them to the address at the foot of the page.
Thank you.

If you knew Des, then you would know how he cherished the memory of his team's triumphant victory on the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon.
Follow it again here, immortalised by Keith Oswin in one of the excellent series of 'RACE OF MY LIFE' interviews, featuring personal remeniscences by major names in motorsport.
This was published on page 51 of Autosport, June 20 1991.

Cowan / Malkin / Coyle
London-Sydney Marathon, Nov 24 - Dec 17, 1968
Hillman Hunter

There were many issues at stake when I tried to get the London-Sydney entry off the ground, especially as no-one took the competition department too seriously.

The event would eventually cost £32,000, so I knew that proper pre-event planning would be essential. I still have the service schedules we devised. They were probably unheard of in those days, but when everyone was tired, I wanted to make sure that we all knew what spares were available at each point and who was responsible for each task.

The company was not sure that we could do well, but I believed otherwise. In fact I guaranteed we would finish in the top three!

Ford was supposed to be the biggest threat, but we had already seen that halfshafts and axles were its weak point. The organisation wasn't too good either. So we had to plan everything carefully.

It was obvious that there would be times when we wouldn't see the cars for 300 to 1000 miles, so everything had to be designed for reliability and ease of service.

We actually ran two cars, one for some RAF lads and one for Andrew Cowan. But I made it absolutely clear in the schedule that Cowan's car was the number one priority and whatever was being done to the RAF Hunter, when Cowan came in everything had to switch to him. There was to be no argument over this issue.

We were the only car running on Shell and that caused a problem as we couldn't get the right octane fuel on the route. The next 100 cars were all with different oil companies, so they helped us out with 100 octane fuel.

Cowan only recced as far as Bombay, which was a worry. It was impossible to do more because of the money and the political arguments in the company which nearly stopped us going at all.

He took a questionnaire with him so that we knew what to expect and the problems that we might have to overcome. Wynn Mitchell devised the questions so that we could link with the engineering department afterwards.

I got my way on most things, but not on one. I wanted to put Colin Malkin in an Imp and let him race to Bombay. It wouldn't go any further, but I knew that, with a long trip from Bombay to Australia, people would be talking for some time about the leader at Bombay, so I wanted to make sure that we got all the publicity.

Anyway, everything went well and despite our fears, Cowan (with Malkin and Brian Coyle as his other two drivers in the car, three up to keep everyone awake during the 200-mile stage across Europe) reached Australia.

The event crossed the mountains and reached Broken Hill, about 100 miles from Sydney. We had our first wash and decent food for four days and then went to the final control to wait for the crews to come out of the stage.

Three mechanics from Chrysler Australia were there, one of which was an aborigine with the nickname 'Singlet'. He was dying to see a rally car and got really excited about this.

Lucien Bianchi was first out of the stage and was clearly the winner. He stopped and I congratulated him on the win. Cowan was going to be out next as Simo Lampinen (who had been second) had crashed so we were second.

Bianchi got into the passenger seat to sleep on the run back to Sydney, leaving Jean Ogier at the wheel.

As he drove off, 'Singlet' asked if I wanted him to stop Bianchi winning. After such a long event, we were all tired and I did not quite realise what he was saying. Eventually I pointed out that, yes, I would love Cowan to win but there was now no opportunity, the event was effectively over.

"Have you ever heard of pointing the bones?" he asked. With that he pointed his fingers together and, as the Citroën drove away, muttered something in aborigine. Ten miles up the road, the car was hit by a Mini driven by two off-duty policemen. Bianchi had to be cut out of the wreckage and, because of that, Cowan went on to win...

We were all heroes afterwards. Mike Kranefuss from Ford said that they had got all the right ingredients for their team bar the one that mattered. Des O'Dell! My salary was doubled as I stepped off the plane but, 10 months later, the department was closed down and we were all out of a job.

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Press release issued by Des's successor Mick Linford of Peugeot Sport, posted on Peugeot Sport UK website on March 17 1999

Des O'Dell 1927-1999

Founder of the Peugeot Rally Club

We at Peugeot Sport take this opportunity to pay a tribute to Des O'Dell, who died peacefully on Monday 15th March.

Former competitions manager of Rootes, Chrysler, Talbot and Peugeot, Des led his teams to considerable success on the international stage. He was personally responsible for helping kick-start the careers of such great names as Henri Toivonen, Colin McRae and Richard Burns, amongst many others. One great legacy which he leaves is the Peugeot Rally Club and Peugeot Challenge, the stepping stone for many young drivers in the current stage rallying arena.

To his family and many friends, we express our condolences.

We request that you join with us in a One Minute Silence at 3pm on Sunday 21st March 1999 as a token of our respect.

Mick Linford
Peugeot Motorsport Manager

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Obituary by David Williams, as published in Motoring News, March 17 1999 :

Des O'Dell : The rally boss who helped a generation

Look around a modern World Rally Championship service area and it seems an eon away from the world that Des O'Dell knew, as different as a Hillman Hunter from a Focus World Rally Car. Yet the influence of the former Chrysler/Talbot competitions director, who died on Monday at the age of 72, runs far deeper than one might imagine.

A host of leading figures, from Prodrive's David Lapworth to Ford and Boreham engineer Philip Dunabin worked for him and men who passed through the Coventry workshops have also played their part at Ralliart and Motorsport Developments.

We will not see his like again. Des was an eccentric's eccentric. A garrulous, exasperating yet dedicated engineer who was gratifyingly indiscreet (he used to say that he always knew when Rootes/Chrysler was about to sack him, because someone would redecorate the office) and invariably willing to reminisce about Le Mans-winning Aston Martin DBR1s or the London-Sydney Hunter. he learned his trade with John Wyer and Aston Martins, worked on GT40s, then switched to the Rootes Group, as it was known at the time, in 1965. The Imp was becoming its principal rally car, but although Colin Malkin became 1968 British Champion in a car that never quite matched the Mini, O'Dell's best-known exploit of the Sixties was Andrew Cowan's epic London-Sydney win against the might of British Leyland, Ford and Citroën.

It was a characteristic feat of wringing the most from limited resources. O'Dell made the Avenger a formidable club rally car without having an engine to beat the Escort, then persuaded a sceptical management and workforce to build Sunbeams with Lotus engines.

The results - an RAC Rally win and the 1981 World title - might put Talbot on par with Fiat or Audi, yet the team was so stretched it contested Corsica with just 14 spare wheels.

It is a measure of the man's enthusiasm that he even in his final days, he found time to telephone Peugeot's current driver Justin Dale and offer his best wishes for the Rally of Wales; faith that the 106 driver repaid by scoring the car's first class victory on gravel.

But then, O'Dell never complained, never lost his zest for looking forwards as well as backwards. Peugeot's enduring pre-eminence on the British club scene and its nurturing of drivers like Colin McRae and Richard Burns will be remembered as much part of his legacy as London-Sydney or the world championship.

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Quote from Peugeot GTI Rally Challenge Winner Richard Burns - published in Motoring News, March 17 1999

"It's really sad. Des started the Challenge that allowed me to make a name for myself in Britain, but he did much more than that. When we were really struggling to get together the package to do the RAC in a Peugeot 309, it was Des who stepped in and put his faith in us."

"He wasn't really one for pep talks or giving advice. Instead he just offered the opportunity and his opinion that if you were good enough, you'd make full use of it. He had the resources to give people a chance and I think he enjoyed that. Des took satisfaction from offering young drivers a stepping stone and then watching them go further."

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Quote from London-Sydney Winner Andrew Cowan - published in Motoring News, March 17 1999

"Des was a great friend and I've no doubt that his influence and support allowed me to do what I did in motorsport. We won the London-Sydney together in 1968 and worked well as a team, doing all the testing and living down in Bagshot at the time."

"Des was dedicated to his staff in particular. The way he kept his department going against all odds was a credit to the man. I'd just say that he was highly regarded by everybody who worked for and with him."

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Quote from Ford Rally boss Malcolm Wilson - published in Motoring News, March 17 1999 :

"All I can say is he was a team manager with his finger on the pulse. The thing that stuck in my mind was the Scottish Rally when Louise (Aitken-Walker) retired with a distributor problem and the same thing could have happened to my car. It was some bobweight or bracket and he supervised getting the car out of the stage, examined it and worked out that they could fix it with Araldite or whatever."

"So he supervised repairs and I believe he even had Brian Rainbow driving through the night to make sure it was reliable before they fitted it to my car. He wasn't a young man then, but he orchestrated all that."

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From Autosport, March 18 1999

Peugeot GTI Club founder dies at 72

Des O'Dell, founder of the Peugeot GTI Rally Club, died on Monday morning after a short battle against liver cancer. O'Dell, 72,was a legendary figure who was involved in many famous successes in motorsport history.

"He will be missed," said Ford boss Malcolm Wilson, a former Peugeot driver. "His attention to detail was incredible. He'd work all night to fix even the smallest problem for any of his drivers.".

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From the Coventry Evening Telegraph, March 16, 1999

Rallying world mourns a master

An engineer who ran rallying and racing teams for Coventry car manufacturers has died after a long illness.

The rallying world was in mourning today for Des O'Dell, who was competitions manager for Rootes, Chrysler, Talbot and Peugeot.

As well as leading his teams to success on the international stage, Mr O'Dell helped kick-start the careers of current favourites such as Colin MacRae and Richard Burns.

Mr O'Dell, who lived in Whitnash, near Leamington, died yesterday after losing a long battle against cancer. He was 72.

Brian Rainbow, co-driver in the Peugeot rally team in 1983, paid tribute to his former boss.

Mr Rainbow, who was also a team co-ordinator for Peugeot when Mr O'Dell retired in 1992, said: "All of the top engineers in rallying today were trained by Des."

He added that Ferrari grand prix team boss Jean Todt also came to prominence under Mr O'Dell as a Talbot co-driver in the world championship-winning team in 1981.

He said: "Des was a great guy to work with. He was a very competent and practical engineer. He would have been the first to admit that he didn't know the theory side but on the practical side he was first rate."

In 1991, Peugeot made their first foray back into racing in the Esso Superlube Championship under Mr O'Dell's leadership and won with driver Patrick Watts in a 309 GTI.

The farmer's son had shunned a life in agriculture to become involved in the motor world.

After a career in the army, where he helped run transport in an artillery regiment in occupied Germany, he became a mechanic with Aston Martin's racing division. He made his mark with his part in designing the DB4 series.

He led a Rootes team to victory in the 1968 London-to-Sydney rally months before the motor sports division was scrapped in cut-backs.

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Obituary by Keith Oswin, as published in Autosport March 18 1999 :

An eccentric Englishman
Rallying legend Des O'Dell died of liver cancer on Monday, aged 72, ending what he called a "fantastic life".

When Peugeot pulled the plug on its GTI Rally Challenge at the close of 1997, the end-of-year prizegiving was a strange affair. The young blades who had fought out the final championship enjoyed their moment of fame, but many of them were lost when a silvery-haired chap regaled the room with tales of events and drivers long past.

I felt a moment of sadness that they were too young to understand the significance of the old man's reminiscences. Without Des O'Dell they would not have been sitting in that room with a realistic chance of following Colin McRae and Richard Burns onto the World Rally Championship stage.Cialis dangers

Des died on Monday, aged 72, after a mercifully short battle against liver cancer. He is survived by his second wife Gail. His lifelong legacy to motorsport in general and rallying in particular should never be underestimated.

Such was his abundant enthusiasm for his "fantastic life" (as he always used to say) that you could be forgiven for believing that he had single-handedly won the '59 Le Mans Race, the '68 London-Sydney marathon, the '81 World Rally Championship, designed Peugeot's 205T16 Group B masterpiece and fathered Henri Toivonen - who he felt was the greatest rally driver that ever lived. The truth was not so far away.

He was a dreamer, passionate in his wish to make things happen, but also a practical man who gathered people around him to make his dreams come true. Shortly after World War II, he found himself sharing garage space with Ron Flockhart, and here started a relationship that would lead to Des being part of the team that took Aston Martin to a Le Mans win in '59.

His rally exploits included long hours at Bagshot, testing and fine-tuning the Hillman Hunter that would take Andrew Cowan to victory on the first London-Sydney Marathon. he was also at the head of the Talbot team when Henri Toivonen became the youngest winner of the RAC Rally in '80. As a knock-on effect of that success, he was drafted into the factory campaign when it moved up to Group B with the 205T16. you couldn't imagine anyone more different from the team boss of the time, but Jean Todt and 'Mr Des', the eccentric Englishman, proved a highly-effective partnership.

Toivonen's passion for driving mirrored Des's own fire. Every year, his Peugeot Rally Challenge drivers fought for the 'Henri Toivonen Grand Attack Trophy', which was awarded subjectively to the driver who most embodied the spirit shown by the young Finn.

Des's biggest dream was to nurture a driver to win the world championship, and when McRae won the '95 RAC, his dream came true. The Scot had been one of the original 'Young Lions', the precursor to the GTI Rally Challenge, won twice by Burns.

Too many people saw Des as someone to be tolerated for his ramblings. To have done so was to miss his essential character. he was a nightmare to interview unless you had tape to spare and time to unravel it afterwards, and handing him a microphone in front of a captive audience was folly in the extreme. Even so, you couldn't help loving him for all his idiosyncrasies. he is also fondly remembered for his attention to detail and willingness to give equal commitment to superstars and clubmen alike.

He knew his own faults only too well. On the day he retired after 27 years at Peugeot, he said: "Some people think I'm a pain, while others think I'm wonderful. I don't know how I'd prefer to be remembered, but I think I managed to get a bit done." Such honesty will be sadly missed.

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From Rick Smith of Wallington, UK - published in Autosport March 25 1999 :

'The boys' miss you, Des

I was saddened to hear of the death of Des O'Dell. Having been "one of his boys" (his phrase not mine) when I co-drove in a Sunbeam Talbot in the early 1980s, I know how he nurtured British talent, young and old.

He was probably the last of the old-style team managers, a benefactor rather than a boss. Benevolent when he felt you had done very well, but very difficult to phone to say you had crashed one of his cars.

Having hosted may evenings when Des was a guest, I know too well that you only needed to ask one question to fill up the rest of the night. He was an MC's dream.

I know I speak for all 'the boys' when I say we will never see the likes of Des again. The sport missed him the moment he retired, and will miss him even more in retrospect.

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Transcribed from page 3 of the Peugeot Times, the in-house publication of the UK-based Peugeot Motor Company plc, as published April 1999

Des O Dell : rally boss who helped a generation to new successes

Des O'Dell, former head of motorsport with the company, and one of the best known in his field for three decades, has died at 72 from cancer. A true enthusiast and dedicated engineer, he was part of the team that took Aston Martin to their Le Mans win in 1959, and worked on GT40s before in 1965 moving to Rootes, as the company was then known.

Highlights of the 60s for the company included the British Rally Champinship title with Colin Malkin and Andrew Cowan's victory in the epic London-Sydney Marathon. The team took Henri Toivonen to become the youngest winner of the RAC Rally in 1980 and in 1981 the team won the World Rally Championship.

Des founded the Peugeot Rally Challenge that became the most important series in the whole of Europe for training and developing the rally stars of the future. That dream was fulfilled when Colin McRae won the 1995 RAC Rally.

Mick Linford, motorsport manager, said :

"I was very sorry to hear about the death of Des, who was always going to be a difficult act to follow. He led some wonderful successes for Peugeot Motor Sport in the UK and I shall try and continue, based on the same principles that Des worked to. Des's biggest achievement was bringing youngsters into the sport and trying to bring them up to world champion level, which he did most recently with Colin McRae and British champion Richard Burns, also the winner of world championship events."

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From Grant Hart of Christchurch, New Zealand - received September 3 1999

Having owned more Hillman Hunters than I have had hot dinners, 8 years ago, I finally purchased what is a really rare car in New Zealand, a Hunter GLS, which I set up for classic racing. Still having the track test of one of the championship winning GLS's of 1973 and articles on the famous London to Sydney Hunter, it was logical to contact the fount of all knowledge on Hunters, one Des O'Dell. What Des must have thought, being tracked down on his home phone by this Kiwi Nut Case, I cannot imagine! Despite any misgivings he might have had, from that point there followed a series of lengthy, horrendously expensive, but oh so entertaining and informative toll calls, the memory of which I greatly treasure.

Des enthralled me with all sorts of motor sports stories and in particular some relating to The 1976 Radio New Zealand Heatway International Motor Rally in which he masterminded the "against all odds" win by Andrew Cowan and Jim Scott, in a Hillman Avenger. This was particularly fascinating as I had been a course marshal on that rally and had followed the progress of the Avenger with great interest. Des asked me why I had not chosen an Escort to classic race and my reply that I liked doing things the hard way seemed to appeal to him.

Obviously I don't expect you to post a note like this on the web site but I wanted you to be aware that Des was truly appreciated and respected about as far from home as he could possibly get. It is easy to understand why the tributes have poured in.

Yours sincerely,
Grant Hart
Proprietor, Kelford Camtech Ltd.
Camshaft and Valve Train Specialists.
Christchurch, New Zealand.

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From David Vizard, received October 21 1999 :

I would like to add my own fond memories of Des O'Dell to your web site.

I worked with Des from about 1970 to 1975 and Des gave me the opportunity to show that I could do more than just push a pen around a sheet of paper. This at a time when I was well known for my work with mini's which it appears Leyland's (as it was then) competition dept. studiously avoided giving me any credit for. Des was something else. He would take a chance on people, give them the benefit of the doubt, go the extra mile if he believed in that person, reach out and help. I could write many pages on Des's attributes and though there may be others who disagree (I can't believe there could be many) I cannot, over a 30 year period of knowing Des, come up with a single negative comment. Des put real-world meaning into the word 'outstanding' not only at his chosen career but also as a person. Well-used though the words may be, this world will be poorer as a consequence of his passing.

David Vizard

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From Kevin Furber, Peugeot Talbot Sport works driver 1990-1992 - received December 4 2000 :

As Gerry Marshal pointed out to me at Des's funeral, everyone has a Des O'Dell story, my story has been imprinted in my mind from the time we met - I was invited to Ryton to be considered for a factory drive as part of the PTS junior rally team, Des took all the young hopefuls to see the production line, from the main track a new 309 came off the production line every 4 minutes.

As we looked on, bewildered as to why Des had brought us to this location, he said "every 4 minutes, a new car, you know what that means?" none of us could see his logic, so we replied with comments like, you want us to look after them, the company is successful, "No" he replayed "that means that we can build them faster than you can crash them, so I don't want to hear anything about you not driving to your full potential!".

From that moment on I could see that cars are simply the tool that drivers uses to implement their skills and that I should pay attention to the words of this man!

His influence on me and other junior drivers of the time was immeasurable, I can't remember him without smiling, so wherever he is now, I know I'm going to the same place one day and must tell you Des that I look forward to listening you again mate!

Kevin Furber
The Studio, 11 Boatswain Croft, Hull, HU1 2EJ
Tel 01482 635350 M - 0850 732867

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From an article by Jamie Edwards on Rally of Wales winner and PBRC Championship leader Jonny Milner - published by BritishRally.co.uk in July 2002

...One final point to consider is that 13 years ago, the young Milner was still charging around the Rally Cross tracks in the UK, until former Peugeot legend the late Des O'Dell spotted the young driver in his Peugeot 205 1.6, and an interesting conversation took place

"At the time, I really wanted to get into Touring Cars, and I felt that was the best way forward. Des took me to one side and told me that if I wanted to get somewhere in motorsport, I should go into rallying, which is exactly what I did. Its funny now looking back, especially having Team Dynamics as our sponsor. They're best known for their support of Matt Neal, so I'm still hopeful that I'll get to have a go in Touring Car later this year. On the pre-championship shakedown at Sweet Lamb Forest, I took Matt around in the Corolla and I think he was quite impressed. It would be fun to see "what might have been" by driving a touring car"

Whilst Milner chuckles away at that prospect, many rally fans around the UK will breathe a sigh of relief that one of the most popular and talented drivers in the Pirelli Rally Championship was talked into rallying by Des O'Dell, who obviously knew a talent when he saw one. Thanks Des.

Jonny Milner was talking to BritishRally.co.uk.

webmaster's note : Des, armed with a box of VHS tapes he'd collected, dropped in to see me from his Humber Road headquarters way back when I was running the Video unit at Peugeot's Ryton manufacturing plant. He asked me to put together a short promo compilation to attract sponsors for this fabulous young talent he'd discovered. The footage was mightily impressive, and true to Des's impeccable talent-spotting record, it's great to see Jonny finally making his mark.

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From Sunbeam Lotus afficionado Gabriel 'Gaby' Legros, - received July 17 2002

"Merci de m'avoir indique ce site, je ferai un lien avec grand plaisir. Ce monsieur nous a fait une voiture (parmi tant d'autres) exceptionnelle et tellement pleine de sensations !"

Dampierre, France
pages personnelles

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From Graeme Lawton, Chairman, Sunbeam Lotus Owners' Club, received April 26 2003 :

Des O'Dell created the Sunbeam Lotus - not a committee of designers or product planners, but this remarkable man and his small team at the Competitions Department in Coventry. He had long held a vision of a rally car to beat the Escorts, and when the opportunity arose he built a prototype in secret and then used it to convince the Chrysler management to put the Sunbeam Lotus into full-scale production in order to give him a winning machine.

Their faith was repaid with interest with Talbot's domination and outright victory on the Lombard RAC Rally in 1980 and then by securing the World Rally Championship in 1981, winning Group 2 in every event entered that year. This was a remarkable achievement for a team in its first - and only - attempt at this level, even more so considering the meagre budget on which his department operated. Much of the Sunbeam's success was due to its strength and quality of engineering, where Des's experience with Aston Martins and GT40s was in evidence. But the whole thing would not have been possible were it not for his strong character and his ability to get the maximum from his highly-skilled team of mechanics, engineers, driving crews and support staff. That many of the people that he employed have moved on to leading positions in motor sport is testament to the influence that he bore on them.

In later years, Des was our club President, and remained highly enthusiastic about 'his' cars, being keen to be involved even when he was ill. His talks at club National Days will be remembered fondly by all who were fortunate enough to have witnessed them. The club is full of people who are still enjoying the legacy of his desire to win rallies, and our lives would be duller without inspiration of Desmond Frank O'Dell.

Graeme Lawton
Chairman, Sunbeam Lotus Owners' Club - www.sunbeamlotus.com.

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From ex-works co-driver, ex-205 T16 project manager, Ferrari F1 team manager, Jean Todt
(as published in the Spring 1999 issue of Sunbeam Lotus Owners Club magazine, kindly forwarded by Graeme Lawton on April 26 2003)

Warm, enthusiastic, passionate and yet extraordinarily pragmatic; this was my friend Des O'Dell. A persuasive, loquacious man, a visionary who relished competition without ever forgetting a phrase that I repeat to myself every day; 'The name of the game is the win'.

Des arrived at a key moment in my life. In Great Britain, in his workshops in Coventry - which were about to become part of the P.S.A. group - he had pictured a simple little car, a Talbot Sunbeam, fitted with a large twin cam Lotus engine. Ingeniously he succeeded in getting this efficient, sturdy performance machine into motion; the Talbot-Lotus. Des was like that; a man bubbling over with ideas, trained at the old school of the Aston Martin team and John Wyer. I spent my final years as a competitor and co-driver in this Talbot-Lotus. It was 1981 and we won the World Rally Championship.

So I was part of this small group of exceptional people, with Henri Toivonen and Guy Fréquelin as our drivers, competing against much stronger teams, before I embarked on another adventure that was the creation of the Peugeot-Talbot Sport team. Des O'Dell was one of my supporters, and I will never forget that.

Often, at a crossroads in life, men who hold themselves in high regard will head off in their own direction. This wasn't the case with Des: the creation of Peugeot-Talbot Sport was inevitably going to confine the gallant little Talbot-Lotus team to the background of the sporting concerns of P.S.A., but Des didn't abandon me, for all that. Exactly the opposite; he came and joined our team. Historically speaking, he was the first technical director of Peugeot-Talbot Sport, right there at the inception of the 205 Turbo 16. Unfortunately, the death of his wife compelled him to return to Britain. He nevertheless remained my dependable and understanding friend, whom I always took great pleasure in seeing again. He was still the same Des O'Dell that I had always known, but he had become one of the fervent supporter of Scuderia Ferrari. He would visit me regularly at Silverstone during the Formula 1 Grand Prix, and of course at Maranello. Today he is no longer here, and I mourn him along with his family and friends. He will forever remain part of one of the most outstanding periods of my life.

Jean Todt

Chaleureux, enthousiaste, passionné et pourtant extraordinairement pragmatique, tel était mon ami Des O'Dell. Un homme volubile, visionnaire, persuasif, qui prenait la compétition à bras le corps sans jamais oublier une formule que je me répète chaque jour : 'The name of the game is the win'.

Des est arrivé à un moment-clef de ma vie. En Grande Bretagne, dans ses ateliers de Coventry, qui allaient appartenir au groupe P.S.A., il avait imaginé une petite voiture simple, une Talbot Sunbeam, dans laquelle il avait installé un gros moteur Lotus double arbre. A force d'ingéniosités, il avait réussi à mettre sur ses roues cet engin efficace, solide et performant : la Talbot Lotus. Des était comme cela : un homme bouillonnant d'idées et formé a la vieille école de l'équipe Aston Martin et de John Wyer. J'ai passé dans cette Talbot-Lotus mes dernières années de compétiteur et de coéquipier. C'était en 1981 et nous avons gagné le championnat du monde des rallyes.

Je faisais donc partie, contre des équipes beaucoup plus puissantes, de ce petit groupe de francs-tireurs dont les pilotes étaient Henri Toivonen et Guy Fréquelin, cela avant de me lancer dans une autre aventure qui fut la création de l'équipe Peugeot-Talbot Sport. Des O'Dell fut l'un des mes supporters, je ne l'ai jamais oublié.

Souvent, lorsque l'on arrive à la croisée des chemins, les choses de la vie séparent des hommes qui pourtant s'estimaient, Ce ne fut pas le cas avec Des : la création de Peugeot-Talbot Sport allait évidemment faire passer à l'arrière-plan des préoccupations sportives de P.S.A. la vaillante petite équipe Talbot-Lotus. Je n'en délaissais pas Des pour autant. Bien au contraire : il vint rejoindre notre équipe. Historiquement parlant, il fut le premier directeur technique de Peugeot-Talbot Sport, l'un des premiers à se pencher sur le berceau de la 205 Turbo 16. Malheureusement, la mort de sa femme le contraignit à regagner la Grande Bretagne. Il resta néanmoins cet ami indéfectible et indulgent que je pris toujours plaisir à revoir. Il était ce même Des O'Dell que je connaissais, mais il était devenu l'un des fervents amateurs de la Scuderia Ferrari. Il me rendait régulièrement visite à Silverstone lors du grand prix de Formule 1, et bien sûr à Maranello. Aujourd'hui, il n'est plus là, et comme son entourage, je le pleure. Mais il restera présent à jamais dans l' une des périodes Ies plus marquantes de ma vie.

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An article by "JW", published in the January 1979 issue of Motorsport magazine (UK) - retrieved 29 September 2015

Chrysler Competitive

All set to add another chapter to Sunbeam's sporting history with help from the 16-valve Lotus engine.

"Last year nobody wanted to know about, or talk to, or drive for Chrysler. Now the World and his wife are beating on the door ... ringing on the telephone .... writing. They all want to drive a Sunbeam, and our job - after we have shown that we can produce an outright winning works car for Tony Pond - is to see that they all get one. I literally want to supply a Sunbeam for all sporting seasons!" The shock of grey hair is a little less thickly swept back, but the twinkle in the eyes of Chrysler Motorsport Director Des O'Dell is as strong as it was when he first arrived at Gate 5, Humber Road to take on the competitions managership of Rootes in 1966.

Not only has a lot of water flowed under the bridge since then, a lot of merging and financial anguish has spiked the path of the ex-Aston Martin competitions engineer. He scaled the peaks of winning the London-Sydney Marathon with the Hunter, descending to the constant threat of closure at Chrysler's convoluted attempts to tackle their English offspring's problems. Troubles that eventually led to the present situation where Chrysler are 15% stake holders in a European organisation that is controlled by Peugeot-Citroen.

From a competition viewpoint the merger offers the promise of far wider European cooperation, O'Dell's directorship meaning that he also heads the Chrysler sporting activities of those in France, Belgium and Spain. It means that the market for sporting models like the 1600 Sunbeam Ti and the forthcoming Sunbeam-Lotus are far wider than what could - in the case of the Sunbeam - have been merely an homologation exercise for a potent 2.2-litre, 5-speed ZF gearbox equipped hatchback.

Although we were unexpected visitors O'Dell very kindly lifted the veil of discreet silence that has accompanied the development of such an effective rally car that Britain's most promising rally driver - 32-year-old Tony Pond - has forsaken not only the Leyland TR7+ 8 but also a firm offer from the coffers of Fiat. So, Pond will drive the Sunbeam works entry in ten 1979 events.

As we unravelled the story of the development it became obvious that the car had shown exceptional traction, handling and power delivery from the early days. Though it has only appeared in half a dozen events at the time of writing the performance has been more than enough to convince Chrysler to go ahead and manufacture the road-going cousin in sufficient numbers to ensure not only the planned homologation of the model into Group 4 next season (it has run only as a Group 5 prototype or club car to this point) but also for extended manufacture by Chrysler at Linwood and Lotus at Hethel (engine and gearbox installation for the rolling chassis prepared in Scotland), considerably beyond the legal requirements. Make no mistake, it has cost Chrysler a great deal of money to gear up for the limited production model, but that car and its competition cousins look capable of brightening a corporate image tarnished by the lethargic UK record of recent years.

Although it happened that we talked to Des O'Dell, I must point out the enormous contribution made to the car's success by competition manager Wynne Mitchell. He was away on holiday when this was written, but anyone who has seen him in consultation with Pond will know that a strong working relationship has been developed ... and Wynne's engineering expertise and contacts with Lotus (he was at technical college with Lotus managing director Mike Kimberley!), plus his determination to have an outright winner after years of class or divisional success with the Avengers made all the difference.

In the Humber Road workshops and offices seven of the staff are concerned with the profitable supply of parts to customers and another 11 are straightforward competitions employees, staff who have now changed their thinking and working patterns to the idea of a factory car and driver that can win outright. The Imps, Hunters and Avengers are history to them, though the Avenger in rally trim does supply the bulk of the income from competition parts sales.

In its life the Avenger has won both the national Rally Group 1 Championship and the RAC British Saloon Car Championship (three times in four years) but the BRM-engined version, which was intended to make the Avenger an overall winner, was a fiasco. There were initial troubles with the power plant, but the feeling at the factory now is that the real problem was that they simply could not attract drivers capable of giving the car front-running performance.

O'Dell recalls that the development of today's Sunbeam-Lotus was prompted by discussions amongst the competitions staff almost exactly two years ago. In December 1976 they felt demoralised by the Avenger-BRM's performance; knew that the company had a new small hatchback on the way coded 424 and it was also remembered that Lotus were interested commercially in dealing with Chrysler. In fact the first contacts had been made in 1971 when Chrysler had looked hard at giving the Avenger Tiger (a twin Weber-carburated 1600) more power still and the most famous name at Lotus made them an offer ... which they were able to refuse. The memory of that occasion encouraged Mitchell and O'Dell to approach Lotus again and see if the company would supply an engine which met Chrysler's needs: (1) they could not afford to go to Cosworth and have a special engine created à là BDA Escort RS1600; (2) thus the engine had to be an existing unit, possibly modified in a way unique to Chrysler. Both turbocharging and extra capacity were obvious ways of achieving such results from an existing high-performance power plant. At this stage O'Dell would have put the 5.4-litre Aston Martin V8 into a Chrysler, if he had thought it was commercially possible!

Of the car itself, the men of Humber Road knew some qualities the finished rally car must possess. The first was a ZF 5-speed gearbox; the second was 240 genuine horsepower (subsequently they acknowledged that an appropriate torque curve to go with that output was even more important); excellent traction. It was also felt that it was pointless doing anything else with the Avenger: it was time to whip up some enthusiasm amongst the senior management, and the new car was the obvious route.

Why put the car before the horse? Usually companies homologate what they wish to compete in advance, then go out and do the job. Sometimes the two happen together (or not at all if the manufacturer and national sporting club manage to slip the homologation past the FIA!) but to go out and run the car first is unusual today. I asked O'Dell the reasoning and he simply said, "We had to go out and show that this new car was capable of winning outright. To get the management bubbling with enthusiasm so that they would then back the manufacture of the road cars. They had to be right behind us and when they had seen what we could do with the car that is just what happened." Demonstrating that the car was fast first was also important to the team in order to attract the best driver. Pond had already said he was going to leave Leyland at the end of 1978 early in this season. Naturally Chrysler's people hotly deny any suggestion that Pond was approached while under contract to Leyland: in fact Pond's contract did allow hint to drive another brand of car if Leyland had no call for his services, and that is what happened. The only time Pond was not able to drive was right at the end of the year when Hitachi sponsored a rallysprint in Ireland and Leyland naturally did not want him out possibly beating his old car with the new. Derek Daly took over and proved sensationally good in the Sunbeam: more of that later.

So, in the early months of 1977 O'Dell and a party including one of the engine-building lads went up to Lotus, following a January meeting between Mitchell and Kimberley. They came back having ordered a 2-litre Lotus twin-cam 16-valve engine in road trim (output quoted as 155 b.h.p. at 6,500 r.p.m.) and a rally engine that Lotus offered to build for them.

By totally underhand means I discovered that this first rally engine (the only engine for the majority of the development and public appearance 1977-78, so it did a fantastic job!) actually gave 234 b.h.p. initially and just over 240 following a rebuild for an event in mid-1978. Using the same ruthless methods outside Chrysler I also found that the rally engines actually measure 2,173 c.c. from a bore and stroke of 95.2 mm. by 76.2 mm. This compares with 1,973 c.c. from a bore and stroke of 95.2 mm. by 69.2 mm. for the production alloy Lotus 907 unit.

The longer stroke comes from a new crankshaft, connecting rods and pistons (the gudgeon pin is relocated compared with a Lotus 2-litre), and the engineering side also includes a strengthened bottom end to the block and its five main bearings. The engines used so far tend to run around 11-to-1 cr. and 48 mm. choke Dell'Orto carburettors: the exhaust manifolding - tucked away under the slant engine and running from four branches into twin pipes the length of the car to exit on either side at the rear - is by Janspeed to Lotus and Chrysler design. The twin exhaust system is an unusual feature for a four-cylinder rally car, but it all tucks away neatly alongside the propeller shaft for much of its length and has survived the rigours of the rough French Mille Pistes rally.

Those with very sharp eyes will note that the 76.2 mm. stroke is the same as is used in a 2.3-litre Vauxhall (such as the Chevette HS2300). This would mean that an item like a DTV steel crankshaft could be modified to fit this engine. Remember that the rallying Chevette used a Lotus-headed version of the Vauxhall iron-block slant engine and that, in the past, engine engineering experiments between Lotus and Vauxhall were routine and you begin to see that quite a lot was already known about the Lotus engine in sporting use.

Chrysler themselves used a DTV bellhousing to connect up the ZF 5-speed gearbox with the standard road engine in a red Avenger, TAC 691R. This car was immaculately presented for the road and O'Dell used it for many thousands of miles after I was privileged to drive it following the July 1977 British GP meeting. This car excited the management, but O'Dell's next step, while the Lotus rally engine was being prepared, was to go and talk to the workers at Linwood in Scotland. He told them in a series of public addresses why he thought the car was important to Chrysler and came away with a 424 assigned to the department. This rolling chassis duly arrived and during the launch of the Sunbeam 424 series it sat on the sidelines as an example of what the company expected to do in motor sport with the new model.

However, that show car had the engine bay filled with the old BRM-Avenger 16-valve 2-litre motor! The Lotus engine did not arrive until after the launch of the Chrysler Sunbeam (a protracted affair in the spring of 1977) had been completed. That car became WRW 30S. It is still the development machine today having survived five rallies and one 30-stage mile "rallysprint". That car still drives beautifully, as I was able to find out briefly, and is presented attractively as is typical of this competition department. Not for them the development hack: neat presentation and preparation really is part of the routine of this under-rated équipe.

During the early months of summer 77, the department also completed a Sunbeam to show how a club customer sales vehicle would look and drive. While the BRM-rnotored Sunbeam was a non-runner the other machine (WRW 29S) was vigorously used by all and sundry, serving as a course car in the recent RAC rally. This car had an Avenger 1,600 c.c. pushrod engine and the well-proven running gear (Armstrong shock-absorbers and other cheaper but effective equipment for the privateer) but the 125 b.h.p. 1300 engine or the 2.0-litre Brazilian block engine of Avenger Group 1 ancestry can also be purchased. This allows 160 b.h.p. and Henri Toivenen used a similar car to finish a magnificent ninth overall on the RAC Rally. The gearbox had to be changed three times, but the department have now upgraded gearwheel metal specification. In these cases the pushrod, double Weber engines are mated to close ratio 4-speed gearboxes within the production Avenger casing.

A hectic Christmas and January period saw the department purposely steering away from open contact with old friends, customers pointed firmly at Tim Millington's department, and all the Avengers prepared and sold off. It was actually February 1st 1978 before they could get earnestly to grips with inserting the Lotus-built 2.2 engine into WRW 30S and preparing it ready for testing. Bernard Unett tested the car at a military establishment and MIRA circuit; the car was complete by March 14th, and it was out on the Bank of Scotland Rally right at the end of that month. So March 31st marked the competition debut of the new car with Andrew Cowan and Mike Broad as the crew. Cowan was not entranced by his new mount, reporting it to be quite twitchy along the straights, and there was a persistent misfire before the car was officially retired with a broken exhaust manifold.

The misfire was quickly solved by lowering the Dell'Ortos and sand cast alloy manifolding back to the production angle from the semi-downdraught position that had been adopted.

For the second event, the April 8th Raylor Rally, Cowan's complete honesty came across in a company report when he said that some youngster should be hired, for he was thrilled with the way the car was going. It actually finished sixth, but had been delayed after going off the road, though its stage speed on the loose was obvious to everyone. On April 22nd the Sunbeam was out on the Granite City Rally, again with the same crew, and again showing great speed. Once more the undergrowth lured them from the stony tracks, but the car was eventually released to finish well out of time. Cowan then left for South America and his Mercedes commitments, leaving Chrysler without a driver.

Pond was appraised of the situation (no, I do not know how!) and obtained permission from Leyland Comps manager John Davenport to test the Sunbeam at Esgai Daffyd in Wales with Bernard Unett for company.

On his second lap Pond reportedly knocked five seconds from his best Triumph time. Enthused he then set feverishly to work, tramping around 370 miles trying 17 different suspension layouts (the car is still rigged for a bewildering number of conventional rear suspension layouts). Such was Pond's obvious enjoyment and eagerness to improve the little Sunbeam that the mechanics were swept along too and it was obvious - to Chrysler's men at least - that this combination was the way to go.

Pond was able to do the Mille Piste rough road rally in the South of France for Chrysler in July. He flew in from a victory in South Africa, where he had used a GM product, with a touch of dysentery and generally feeling 10 degrees under. Not surprisingly, Pond's performance on the Mille Piste did not really catch fire until the second day, then he gobbled up Chris Sclater on one stage and was actually leading Therier's Toyota before a puncture. After 18 kms. with the deflated Dunlop Pond's final second place was 34 seconds behind the Toyota.

"This was the most important event we have ever done," says O'Dell with an expansive sweep of the hands. "The next day I had a meeting in Paris which would literally decide the future of Chrysler in the sport. It was such a good result that I was adding noughts onto my budget proposals in the corridor before the meeting ... and we got them all through after I presented the blasted great second place cup to one of the men that mattered!"

The Mitchell-Pond relationship was strengthened during some tarmac testing ready for the Peter Russek Manuals Epynt Rally. If Pond found that the Sunbeam handled as well on tarmac as it did on the loose, then he would almost certainly join the team for 1979. They ended up with a specification that deleted anti-roll bars front and rear (they are back on now) and lowered the car considerably. On the event Pond delivered a thrashing to the rest of a top-level club field over roads that he does not know particularly well until the engine blew up after 12 stages. This was not unexpected. In fact it was a credit to Lotus that the engine had lasted as long as it had: Chrysler had been warned not to use it again after the Mille Piste, for which event Phil Davidson had rebuilt it at Humber Road, but they had no alternative. Pond was impressed enough, for the car had pulled out 30 sec. over the nearest rival on one stage, and no Chrysler had ever been able to do that against the works specification Escorts before.

The car was not eligible to compete in the RAC Rally - though the Group 2. Sunbeam with 2-litre engine was - and its next and last appearance to date was in the Hitachi Tarmac Rallysprint held three days after the end of the RAC Rally.

Ensign's GP driver Derek Daly readily agreed to fill Pond's boots, and casually took the ribbing of the top Finns before the event. RAC Rally winner Hannu Mikkola had the shining black Escort RS prepared by David Sutton for just this sort of going and Pentti Airikkala had his RAC Rally-retired DTV Chevette. Daly had little practice in the mountains before tackling the event, but he produced a true competitor's set of times. On the first run around the 9.68 miles of tarmac he was just two seconds slower than Mikkola and five seconds slower than Airikkala. His next run was even more spectacular, including a trip backwards across a bridge! Spectators lifted him out the other side and he dropped little more than five seconds on his first run time. On the third run the Finns were swopped over onto racing slicks, but Chrysler were apprehensive that "Double D" would tip the car - their only car at the time - on its side. So they left him on 9in. wide wheels with Dunlop A2 stage tyres on: he was still only nine seconds slower than Airikkala on the fastest closing runs. The aggregate result was that Airikkala led Mikkola by to seconds, with Daly a fabulous 13 seconds behind after his first taste of rally terrain in competition. Daly certainly bubbled over with pleasure for the event and the car ... and he had the last word when the Finns requested him not to come back next year! Daly said, "Next time we'll do it at the British Grand Prix!" The point is a valid one; all these so-called deciders on racing versus rally ability are conducted in production-style cars. The spectacle of Hannu Mikkola in a Lotus Grand Prix car might drag in a few of the reputed three million Britons who attend the RAC Rally stages and provide a unique TV viewing spectacle.

Today's Sunbeam

I was fortunate to find the original development 2.2 Sunbeam Lotus rally car at home and in working condition when paying my surprise visit. Still carrying Daly's name on one side I found it hard to believe that this was the one and only car ... until I looked underneath and saw the scars left by the Mille Piste! For Daly's outing a new Lotus engine had arrived, but everything else was much as described.

The blue and white car is closest in concept to the Chevette, but it would be hard to mistake one for the other in competition guise. Pond will have two more new Sunbeams to choose from, this car staying as the development vehicle - a French driver will also have a pair of such vehicles for French events. The two Pond vehicles were approaching completion when I called.

Meanwhile WRW 30S shows some interesting development ideas. With the bonnet open the tubular steel cross-bracing front turret to turret of the Bilstein gas-damped front suspension cab be seen, together with additional location back the front bulkhead. A 24-volt starting system with a single small battery on one inner valance is employed. The whole layout is especially neat with the Lotus engine's double overhead camshaft covers nestling cosily just within the engine bay: to make it fit 80 thou. has to be machined from the topside of the cylinder head.

Theoretically it was thought that the engine should sit with only the second cylinder bisected by a line drawn transversely between the turrett of the front suspension. In fact the engine projects nearly three cylinders beyond this line, yet handling and traction are particularly singled out for praise. Quite why the distribution of the 287 lb. Lotus engine should not make much difference to the car's handling is not known, but the 1-ton machine certainly does not feel nose heavy as theory suggests it should. To reduce weight where possible bodywork features which are likely to be retained include an aluminium skinned bonnet and the use of perspex for the entire rear hatch and all side-windows. The wheelarch extensions are aluminium items lot serious factory rallying only.

The interior features the driver's bucket seal in the normal position, but the navigator it seated in the latest mode: virtually on the floor, well into what was the rear passenger compartment with the HaIda distance recorder and massive drilled foot brace for company. I was told that this was not so much a traction feature (though lowering the mass of the car is worthwhile from a handling viewpoint) as to keep the navigator out of the driver's way. It feels quite odd at first, but after a few miles the driver gets used to the disembodied voice from the rear chundering away with the music of the limited slip differential ...!

Few supplementary gauges are fitted to rally cars nowadays. The prototype has small mechanical instruments to record oil pressure and water temperature, but otherwise the production dials suffice. The electronic tachometer has its pointer set at 8,500 r.p.m. (the engine should be safe to some 9,200 revs.) and the speedometer is set to cope with the 4.89-to-1 rear axle ratio.

The strut front suspension and ventilated disc brakes with massive Lockheed calipers are traditional rally car wear these days, as is the hydraulic handbrake, large Salisbury limited slip differential rear axle and rear disc brakes. O'Dell reckons that most of the competitive cars have 240 b.h.p. as well, whatever is said, and the ZF 5-speed gearbox is common too. The thorny homologation thicket means that only Ford are allowed to run triple-plate clutches where Group 4 is applied, but the Sunbeam prototype also has this feature. Another aspect that has received attention along time-honoured lines (Ford started all this common thinking with their comprehensive equipment for the Mk. 1 Escort) is the steering, which has faster action of under three turns lock to lock.

Spoilers are mandatory amongst the rallying the now, and the Sunbeam has its quota: one on the rear panel in rubber and a deep front foil.

I tried the car under very greasy and foggy conditions, but I had the advantage of a very enthusiastic and courageous "navigator" from the competitions workshops who ensured I explored the performance and handling a little more thoroughly than would be normal on nodding acquaintance.

The engine was already well warmed and, with the Willans 4-point safety harness pulling me further into the envelope of the bucket seat, I set off trying everything I knew to avoid the humiliation of stalling. The triple-plate clutch is surprisingly light in action which is a welcome change on a rally car, but the action was as sudden as ever. Beginner's luck took me through the first take-offs, but I did eventually stall.

The rear axle layout has been the subject of many changes, as can be seen from the bracketry attached to the axle and the floorpan. However it now follows production lines, though the actual components are newly fabricated. That means large lower arms with coil springs attaching to the bottom of the axle; inclined dampers behind the axle, and two shorter top location links from the differential splayed outward to the underbody.

The result is a good compromise between grip and handling on tarmac. When you want the car to break away at the rear it does so readily, even in third or fourth gear if the full torque of the engine is employed. However its outstanding characteristic is the acceleration from rest. This Sunbeam scuttles up to a full-blooded 8,500 r.p.m. in the gears about as fast as you want to change gear. I hear that Pond prefers to use little over 7,000 r.p.m. and I can understand that for the engine has such a nice torque delivery that this probably produces better results. How fast is It? Well the pre-production 155-b.h.p. cars have recorded 0-60 m.p.h. in the low six-second region with top speeds of 128 m.p.h. The rally car's lower gearing will obviously bring the acceleration times right down into the AC Cobra/exotic supercar bracket but top speed on stages is usually limited to 115-120 m.p.h.

As I said, I am sure Pond's methods are more scientific and faster than mine so far as r.p.m. are concerned, but the sheer fun of running through the first three gears as fast as I could change on that responsive gearbox was too tempting to resist. The car is quite noisy inside but one is constantly surprised how quickly the car gains speed: even 4th gear is quickly used up and exchanged for 5th, but on the tarmac course I used 5th gear was a luxury rather than a necessity.

The braking, even on such treacherous and slimy surfaces as I enjoyed, was first class. I think Mr. Dunlop's tyres take a great deal of credit for transmitting the retardation to the ground with no sign of wheel lock.

With such easily controllable power slides available and that relentless acceleration, driving this little Sunbeam is akin to being inside an energetically propelled squash ball. You bounce back from obstacle to obstacle at maximum speed. Even if you have to take second gear it is literally only a few seconds later that the car will be howling along with the driver stretching for fifth gear as it accelerates toward 100 m.p.h.

My memory was of a car that had achieved all the objectives set out for it. I particularly liked the combination of smooth revs and excellent torque. You can trickle the car through the rush hour once the clutch is mastered, and it pulls well from 3,000 r.p.m. in 3rd or 4th, which is more than we could ever have expected of competition engines a few years ago.

To complete an enjoyable day the department sent me out in one of their service vans a large, 6-litre, VS-engined Dodge B3000 Tradesman. This beast can cruise at 70 m.p.h. with 2 tons payload, such as trailer and rally car plus full range of spares and 30 wheels on the roof rack. That is its practical side, but the point is the comfort in which it does such tasks. Up front there are two large armchairs, complete with armrests and cloth centre sections. The driver surveys those below from the LHD position, mastering a small steering wheel that controls light power steering. Other comforts include 3-speed automatic transmission, radio/cassette player and air conditioning!

In a different way this was just as much fun and I could quite see why the team had ordered another such device, this time a LWB version.

I am convinced Chrysler have a car they can win with under modern rally conditions, but my personal feeling is that it was a shame that the management of Leyland Motorsport and Pond could not have got along sufficiently well to stay together. Pond really was the right man to drive the V8 Triumph. By contrast the Sunbeam's characteristics could be mastered by other drivers. I would have thought that Chrysler's programme of five European events and five in Britain was perhaps less than Pond could have expected at Leyland, who have every commercial reason for attacking both European tarmac events and British events. I would also repeat that at present the Sunbeam is not homologated in the form I have written about it. I am genuinely surprised that a driver of Pond's stature could be persuaded to change mounts prior to this basic requirement being fulfilled.

On the other hand both Chrysler and Pond are hungry for success. This little Sunbeam is the staple diet to assuage such an appetite. - J.W.

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The Sunbeam Talbot Lotus with Henri Toivonen on his way to win the RAC rally in 1980, with Des O'Dell (team manager) and Bernard Unett providing roadside support.
Source: youtube.com/watch?v=DhCDYEoJHaQ, added to this page October 31 2015

interview at 1m02s - REPorter, DES O'Dell, BERnard Unett

REP: "How's Henry doing Des?"
DES: "Fantastic isn't he. Going really well."
REP: "Is it true he's up to third now?"
DES: "Yes"
REP: "Is that definite or are you just saying that?"
DES: "No, no, we feel it's definite. The navigator's reporting it as definite and he's the lad that knows"
BER: "He's up to third and on the same minute as the leader, so we hope that er, still a long way to go yet."
REP: "You must be very pleased though Des"
DES: "Yes, very pleased with the three cars where the position they are, and a great credit to this lad, (Guy) Frequelin, who's first time in this country - he's now up to seventh. And Russell (Brookes) is going fantastic too, so at this moment in time, you know, but long awy to go and all that"
REP: "Where is Russell then?"
DES: "Sixth"
REP: "You seem to have got some reliability at last"
DES: "Well when you say at last, we've always had it with the works team. We cam third on the Portuguese, probably one of the hardest rallies in the world, even gone out to the San Remo and come fourth and fifth, and Corsico we was three parts of the way home when they fell apart, fell over the edge, so we don't doubt the reliability of our cars."
REP: "If he's now third, how far behind (Bjorn) Waldegaard is he?"
DES: "Some talk as it's forty seconds, others, my co-driver Paul White seems to thinks its one minute forty seconds"
REP: "Is he catching you up?"
DES: "On the longer stages we're told he's catching him up. It's very difficult getting information as you know but it looks good. Very happy man at this moment in time. But I could be crying tonight, but that's rallying."

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Some Go Quicker Than Others
source: youtube.com/watch?v=BJuYXO0wn4Q, and youtube.com/watch?v=be3T2AcjFN8, added to this page October 31 2015

This documentary on the Oulton Park round of the 1972 Castrol Saloon Car Series is one of the finest club racing films ever made.

The film follows the Chrysler Dealer Team run by Des O'Dell and their pair of Hillman Hunter GLS
- no 121 reg FWK 700L driven by Bernard Unett
- no 136 reg FWK 760L driven by John Harris

The video clips above were recorded from when it was featured on Speedvision channel's "Legends of Motorsport", presented by David Hobbs.

A few transcripts:

Part 1: 4m25s
DES: "Production Saloon Car Racing is run in priced car categories. The idea being that the motorsport committee of the RAC decided the man in the street could get a better value for money image if we ran in priced car categories other than in engine categories as we normally do. So we're up against all types of models, Firenzas, Escorts, Opels, everybody's here."
(Des then greets Nigel Stovin-Bradford who arrives in his race car with his wife and their child on her lap)
DES: "This is the Shellsport car, driven by Nigel Stovin-Bradford, and he always brings his family with him, every race meeting."

Part 1: 8m34s
DES: "Bernard's getting the fastest time of it's class so we're very happy - John Harris in the other Hunter's going very well too, he's coming up."

DES: "What's up?"
BER: "Struggling"
DES: "Why are you struggling?"
BER: "Pressing on a bit aren't we"
DES: "You've got a second up on him, you're alright"
BER: "Very good, car's good"

DES: "John Harris, who's driving the other Hillman Hunter has been laid off racing for quite a bit and of course he hasn't driven the Hunter before until today so what they've gone out to do now, Bernard has gone out to take him round the circuit - Bernard being the maestro of course he's leading John round, showing him the drill.

Part 2: 2m47s - some banter about qualifying times between Des, Bernard and John

Part 2: 3m36s
DES : "John's gone a lot better than we ever thought he would, first time out in an unknown car he hasn't driven before, and he's got up on the same row of the grid as Bernard. Bernard's biggest opposition, Tim Stock, is immediately behind Bernard, so somehow or other, John has got to get across from one side of the grid to the other to cover Bernard's tail."

Part 2: 7m19s
DES : "Bernard's leading his class with Tim right on his tail, Tim Stock in the Firenza, very good"

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The following photos were "lifted" from www.xrw302.com
All credit and thanks to John Willshire for helping keep the memories alive.

1971 Des O'Dell with Clive Trickey Competitions Department

1972 Mechanic Phil Davison with Des O'Dell Oulton Park

Des O'Dell MOPAR Team Manager - publicity shot

1972 Bernard Unett and Des O'Dell at Oulton Park

Roger Bell, Des O'Dell and Bernard Unett in the competition workshop

1975 Bernard Unett Des O'Dell Roger Bell with Avenger (1)

1975 Bernard Unett Des O'Dell Roger Bell with Avenger (2)

Des O'Dell in the competition workshop

1980 Paul White Des O'Dell and Henri Toivonen with RAC winning car

1981 Rootes Competition Department

Des O'Dell, Jean Todt and Geoffrey Whalen with the WRC winning car

Des O'Dell with the WRC winning car and the car given to him for the win

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From Christian Bailly, 'Responsable de la gestion sportive' at Talbot Lotus WRC 1980-81
received via e-mail, November 10 2003

I have been involved in TALBOT Lotus WRC Team for the years 80 and 81, and found (this) Des O'Dell site on the net while I was looking for some pictures on the TALBOT Lotus.

As 'Responsable de la gestion sportive' between the English team and the French Board, specially for the budget (!.......) and the PR, I spent two years of my professional life with that extraordinary Irish Des.

I have I think the most important collection of photos and dias of the team for that two years.

Let me pay tribute to Des by sending you one of my favorite photos of Des (Tour de Corse), meaning that Des was not always a pain, not always wonderful, but always human !!

From the "Des Bloody French" with regards

Christian Bailly

Below, more classic photos from the glorious archives of Christian Bailly.

Des and Christian Bailly, 20 years ago at a prizegiving, maybe December 1980.

Des talking with Michelin man Yves Boutte during the RAC.

Christian Bailly (with the camera) and Etienne CHAPAZ, the blind osteopath who followed Guy Frequelin at the Acropolis Rally in 1981.

Dinner party at the Sporting Club, Monte Carlo, 1981, after Guy Frequelin finished 2nd behind J Ragnotti. On the left, Colin Cook, Jean-Philippe Peugeot, Christian Bailly, Mrs ......, Guy Frequelin, Mrs .........., and on the right Des O'Dell, Jean Todt, Mr Bryan Llewellyn (PR)..........., Mrs Guy Frequelin , Mr .........

Corsica (recce) - September 1980 - Christian Bailly, Etienne CHAPAZ (ostheopath), Philippe JARRY, Jean Todt, Guy Frequelin, Paul White

Henri Toivonen and KDU 222V at the end of the Irish Rally 1980

Stig Blomqvist, RAC 1981

Bernard Unett in action in WRW 29S

Phil and the engine, Stoke workshop.

Des O'Dell, April 81.

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The above collection of remeniscences and tributes is presented in appreciation and celebration of Des O'Dell's remarkable career in motorsport.
DesODell.com is a strictly non-profit making web-based exhibition. My thanks to those who have taken the time to contribute.
If you have any items worthy of inclusion and would like to see them displayed here, please send them to .
Thank you.

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