On December 1 Bonhams will sell two of charismatic British racing team patron John Coombs' personal favourite sports cars - a 1938 BMW 328 (estimate £400,000 - 500,000); and a 1952 Frazer Nash Targa Florio (estimate £250,000 - 300,000).
Born the son of a pioneering British automotive coachbuilder based at St Catherine's south of Guildford in Surrey, John Coombs built the family firm into the best known and most respected Jaguar dealership in the country. He built a considerable reputation for himself as a fearless and capable racing driver during the 1950s, competing most notably in 500cc motorcycle-engined Formula 3 cars before graduating to Lotus sports-racing machines. He was always noted for the immaculate preparation and development invested in his cars, and when he retired from driving to concentrate upon building his motor business he retained his close involvement with the racing world by running cars for some of the greatest racing drivers of the era. His John Coombs racing team thrived in saloon, GT and Formula 2 racing through the 1960s and early '70s, and many years later returned to competition at Historic level.
Such world-famous Formula 1 drivers as Sir Jackie Stewart, Sir Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, Dan Gurney and Graham Hill all raced for top honours in Coombs' Jaguar and Ferrari saloon and GT cars. A one-off drive in the famous Coombs 'Lighweight' Jaguar E-Type propelled young Jackie Stewart towards Formula 1 - Sir Jackie commenting how: "That formed the beginning of a very close relationship that we maintained ever since."
In 1968 when Ken Tyrrell moved into Formula 1 it was Coombs who took over his near-neighbour and friendly rival's Formula 2 niche. This operation continued to provide cars for such illustrious Formula 1 star drivers as Sir Jackie Stewart, Piers Courage, Sir Jack Brabham and Francois Cevert to drive for it. And it was Coombs who suggested his Formula 2 driver Patrick Depailler to Tyrrell for Formula 1 – ultimately to win the Monaco Grand Prix for the Ockham-based team.
John Coombs was the owner of Coombs of Guildford, a Jaguar dealership. As Jaguar's leading dealer and race entrant he had tremendous influence upon the manufacturer having the respect and full attention both of Chairman Sir William Lyons and the company's celebrated Competitions Manager, Lofty England. It was this relationship that led – after a threat to run a Ferrari instead – to the development of the 170mph 'Lightweight' E-Type Jaguar.
In 1981 John Coombs married and retired to Monaco, selling his business in 1989.
Two other cars from his estate will also be sold by Bonhams, a 1980s Mini Cooper (estimate £3,000 – 5,000) that he used as a runabout during his retirement in Monaco, and a 1960s Jaguar MkII 3.8 Saloon (estimate £5,000 – 8,000) that was bought as a candidate to revive the famous 'Coombs MKII'.
James Knight, Group Motoring Director at Bonhams commented, "Over the past 30 years, I came to count John a friend as well as a client. It is a privilege for us all at Bonhams to handle his motor cars. The BMW 328 is in stunning condition and the Frazer Nash comes with wonderful provenance having been purchased new by Briggs Cunningham and raced at Sebring."
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com