The late ‘King of the Hills’, Tony Marsh, recently featured on the popular Illicit Snowboarding blog: The Ridiculous World of Massive Vintage GoPros.
Tony Marsh, who passed away in 2009, is the father of TD’s Managing Director and founder Peter Marsh.
Tony Marsh was a highly coveted racing driver and was recognised by the Independent’s journalist, Phil Davidson, as being “one of the best all-round motor racing drivers”. The late professional won the British Hill Climb Championship a record six times, competed in a handful of Formula 1 Grand Prix events and also co-designed the famous Gurston Hill Climb Race Course.
In the black and white image Marsh can be seen driving his notorious self-made ‘Marsh Special’ race car, (the first 4WD race car of its kind!), with not only a camera mounted on his bonnet, but an actual CAMERA MAN! The still is taken from a TV advert for a drinks company the late racing legend featured in in the 60’s.
An obituary made by the Independent in his honour read, “long before the days of miniature cameras, he [Tony Marsh] recalled driving his own Marsh Special at Goodwood for an orange squash commercial in 1967 with a terrified cameraman strapped to the bonnet”.
Although today we do love using our nifty little GoPro around the workshop, maybe it’s time we take things back to basics… any volunteers!?…We thought not!
Tony Marsh 1931 – 2009
Tony Marsh, one of the most versatile motor sports competitors of our day.
Tony was best known, loved and respected for his versatility and adaptability in a motorsport career which spanned over half a century. Although, best known as the six times British Hillclimb Champion, he also competed in Sporting Trials, Autotests, Rally, Sprints, GT Sports Car Racing, Le Mans, was a Formula 2 Champion as well as a Formula 1 Grand Prix driver.
He raced an F2 Cooper in 1957 and won the Autocar F2 championship. His first Grand Prix was the combined F1/F2 1957 German GP at the Nurburgring, in which he competed alongside Fangio, Hawthorn & Collins. Tony described this event as being the, “race of his life!” He also competed in the 1958 German GP in which Collins sadly died, just two weeks after winning the 1958 British Grand Prix.
Tony had always commented that he was delighted to have won at Le Mans on his first race there. He famously won the index of energy class at Le Mans, with John Wagstaff driving a Lotus Elite in the 1959 race. This was a formula designed for a French car to win and the locals were somewhat disgruntled! The formula was introduced after Colin Chapman had won the earlier index of performance class in 1956, driving a 750cc Lotus Climax, beating the specially built French DB Panhards. So they created a formula that only they could win but the Team Elite, with Tony at the wheel, did it again! During the 24 hour race the Elite had to change the starter motor but managed the whole thing on one set of tyres and one set of brake pads! The French were somewhat annoyed, but Chapman was delighted!
Tony competed in Formula 1 with greats such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Sterling Moss, Graham Hill, Mike Hawthorn, Peter Collins, Roy Salvadori, Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren, he and came third to the latter two in the Brussels Grand Prix in 1961. In his BRM Tony finished in 1st place in the 1961 Formula 1 race at Brands Hatch.
He led the non-championship Grand Prix de Bruxelles in 1962 driving his privateer BRM, but was passed and finished fourth in heat one and was black flagged in heat two for a push start, along with Graham Hill. Tony also competed in many GT and Sports Car Races, and was a regular contender at Goodwood, competing in the last 9 hour race held there in a Cooper-Jaguar sports car.
However, Hillclimbing was Tony’s first real passion and he was the first ever man to win the British Hillclimb Championship three consecutive years running, from 1955-1957, and then again ten years later he repeated this achievement in 1965, 1966 and 1967. Tony’s six British Hillclimb Championship wins is a record which is still untouched today. The second hat-trick was completed in the famous ‘Marsh Special,’ which was his own self-made construction – one with an ingenious self-developed four-wheel-drive system. You could still see Tony competing on the hills well into his seventies in more modern machinery, right up until the age of 77 before he sadly passed away after being admitted to hospital with breathing complications.
Tony Marsh Memorial Meeting At Gurston Down
On Sunday 19th July 2009, an Inaugural Tony Marsh Memorial meet took place at Gurston Down Hillclimb.
The meet gave spectators and long standing fans of the ‘King of the Hills’ the opportunity to see four of his prized cars in action on the Hillclimb, which Tony himself had co-designed in 1967.
The cavalcade was headed up with Tony’s first competition car, LWP 757, a Mk2 Dellow fitted with the Ford 100E side valve engine with Marshall J75 supercharger, which was built as a special lighweight version of the standard design for 1953. The car was delivered originally to Tony Marsh on 28th July 1953 and became his trials car for a number of years before he disposed of it. Tony was re-united with the car in the 1980s and carried out a painstaking restoration bringing it back to its original specification in which it remains to this day. The car was driven at the memorial event by his nephew, Richard Hollingworth, both up and down the hill to applauds from the marshals lined at the edge of the track.
The second car to be shows was Tony’s infamous self built ‘Marsh Special’, a 4WD racing car fitted with a 4.2 V8 Buick engine that he used to claim his 6th Hillclimb Championship in 1967. The ingenious 4WD system worked in a straight line but reverting back to RWD around the corners. This car was driven up the hill by his middle son, Managing Director of Turbo Dynamics Peter Marsh, and back down the hill by his third son Paul Marsh.
The third car was the replica Ford GT40 that Tony built using the engine from his fated Rovercraft, a March 782 F2 chassis with a monsterous 4.5lt V8 twin turbocharged engine. This engine and Hewland gearbox was shoehorned into the GTD, a fiercesome car to drive with 625 BHP and 585 lbft of torque on tap at full boost. The turbochargers were developed and supplied by Turbo Dynamics Paul Marsh took to the wheel on the demonstration run with Peter driving the car back to the paddock.
The last car to be showcased at the event was the Gould GR55, running a 2.5lt V6 Opel Cosworth engine, this was Tony’s last competition car. At the healm both up the hill and back down was Tony’s oldest son Simon Marsh. The car was also being driven competitively at the same event by both Simon and Peter Marsh.