In "Spritely Years", Tom Coulthard writes:
"An alloy coupé of individual design similar to the Speedwell GT, but with an Alexander bonnet, with which Squadron Leader Gaston enjoyed a good deal of success. Originally a Downton team car, it competed from 1960 onwards using Sebring Sprite homologation. Throughout the 1962 season this car was fitted with a supercharger and carried a glass fibre Sebring bonnet. It was subsequently owned by John Britten, who wrote it off in a spectacular racing accident".
John H. (Paddy) Gaston had a garage and tuning business at Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey. His first outing in the Sprite was in October 1958 in the 1 Hour race at Snetterton, and he entered the car in another 22 events over the next three seasons, mostly in the UK but with one trip to Zandvoort in Holland in 1960 where he failed to finish. He won his class with the car on several occasions including the Snetterton 3 Hours in 1960.
John Baggott, in his book "Mighty Midgets & Special Sprites" describes Britten's accident in RAM 35 at Mallory Park:
"The car hit the banking hard, bounced back on to the track and was tapped by another car, sending it into a multiple roll. He remembers being in the cockpit, counting to himself the number of times it went over: 'One, two, three'. The Sprite came to rest in the middle of the track and burst into flames, which were quickly extinguished by the marshals. The driver emerged from the wreck very shaken, but otherwise unharmed".
Following the accident the car was dismantled and some of the mechanical components were used in the building of a new Lenham GT on the bodyshell of another Midget to which was transferred the registration SS1800 from a third car. The new race car would go on to be very successful in John's hands. I had bought an MG Midget from John the previous year and he sold me the wire wheels and Girling brakes from RAM 35 to put on mine.
Keith Hopwood's Re-Creation of RAM 35
One day back in the mid-1990s I was at Mallory Park with the late Brian Archer, Andy Actman and others, track testing JJO and Andy's Sebring, when we were joined by Keith Hopwood. He was keen to tell us how he had acquired the ex-John Britten Arkley SS racer which he had the firm belief was built on the chassis of the original Paddy Gaston RAM 35. While we were aware that John's Lenham GT had evolved into his silhouette Midget and then into his race Arkley we were sceptical about John having re-used the twisted RAM 35 chassis after its monumental accident. John later confirmed that he had indeed scrapped that chassis, ~ this verified by Oliver Ball, who built all John's race cars.
Keith was obviously keen to re-create RAM 35 and, from his article in Rev Counter in 2010, it would appear that he set about doing so in 2002 and completed the task in time for the Sprite 50th celebrations at Goodwood in 2008, where it first appeared. I presume that the new car is based on the bodyshell of Britten's Arkley though he doesn't actually say so in the article. It appears to have a fibreglass replica top (copied from a Speedwell GT?) ~ there is another similar top in the background of one of his photos.
[I have since learned (Nov 2011) that Ian McRae of Omnibob Ltd produced moulds for a top and bonnet for Keith and supplied him with two units from each]
The new car certainly looks the part although the original RAM 35 had a rather different windscreen shape for better aerodynamics ~ the sides and top of the screen being an almost continuous curve.
As you may have seen in the 'Newsletter' section Keith sadly died in June 2011
Paddy Gaston Review
Paddy leads Hedges at Snetterton in the 3 Hours
With its Alexander front
Paddy at Mallory Park, Oct 62
At John Britten's Garage..
John Britten's Lenham GT
Hopwood's new RAM 35
at Goodwood in 2008