The Autosport Special
Car was built by Bob Hanna and Jack Wheeler of Auto
Sport Equipment Ltd of Cooksville, Ontario Canada in
A Mk XV frame designed to accept Morris Minor parts.
fitted with an Alta OHIV conversion and twin SU's. The
body was built by Bill Steadman.
The car was raced very successfully from '55 to '57
where in the hands of Bob and Jack she claimed two
consecutive Canada Class Championships. She was sold and
then had various owners until the 1960's Including Phil
Then it disappeared - until it was rediscovered by the
late Dick Baker in 1990. Dick's sons are continuing the
restoration started by their father and Al Pease.
This article appeared in the Canadian Publication 'Old
It is reproduced here with the kind permission of John
Wright and Old Autos.
THE AUTOSPORT SPECIAL BUILT BY BOB HANNA AND
RESTORED BY AL PEASE AND THE OTHER AUTOSPORT
by John R. Wright
wonder if Bob Hanna ever thought he would be reunited
with the Canada Class special he built forty-eight years
ago? Well on the weekend of June 28th and 29th the VARAC
weekend at Mosport, that's exactly what happened. After
a four and a half year long restoration, by former racer
Al Pease, the venerable Autosport Special reappeared.
In order to put the story of the car into the context of
the Canada Class Special, perhaps a short history lesson
of the type of car that a significant number of early
racer builders created is apropos.
Back in the early 1950s, members of the Canadian
Autosports Club of CASC thought it would be a good idea
to take a hand in the facilitation of an entry-level
race car. Thus, they reasoned potential Eric Broadleys,
Enzo Ferraris and Colin Chapmans would find their niche
in race car building. To make a long story shorter, here
are the bare bones of the specifications of the class,
which was named the Canada Class.
Cost: No more than $2500 could be spent on the car.
Parts: Had to be from production automobiles.
Engine: If an L-head or flathead engine were used as the
motive power for the race car, the displacement could be
1500 cc. If the engine had overhead valves, then the
displacement could only be 1000 cc. If the builder
specified overhead cams, then he or she was limited to
750 cc. The rest of the car was free. It could have an
envelope body covering the wheels or torpedo shaped body
with cycle fenders. There could be two seats or only
one. That was pretty much it.
As a result, there were grids for Canada Class cars only
with as many as 35 cars, judging from an old Edenvale
program. People were creating a variety of small bore
Canada Class Specials using just about any kind of
engine which powered the small imports of the day;
Renault engines, Austin engines, Morris engines - some
with stock heads, some with Alta conversion heads, as
well as two stroke DKW engines.
Then the interest in Canada Class Specials seemed to die
out. Perhaps the interest died as the result of the
advent of Formula Junior race cars. Perhaps another nail
was added to the death of the special through the coming
of the Formula Vee and Formula Ford classes. With these
cars, the owners had to do very little other than
maintain the car. He or she did not have to design the
car from scratch and then iron out the problems, which
inevitably arise in the creation of a homebuilt race
car. Whatever the reason, the Canada Class specials,
which had thronged grids around Ontario, gradually
In my research into Canadian built race cars, I came
across many people who assisted me in digging into the
past of Canadian road racing, the people and the cars.
Foremost among these people was the late Dick Baker, a
long time vintage race enthusiast and a motivator of
people. I first received the first clue of information
in a letter sent me by Dick a number of years ago. At
that time, he told me he had located, and purchased, the
bits and pieces of the original Autosport Special built
by Bob Hanna in 1955, and he told me he had a project
underway to recreate the old sports car. Then a few
years ago, I received an email from Bob Hanna and he
gave me some of the history of the car he built and
raced: "There were actually a number of them. The first
Canada Class car is now being restored by Dick Baker
(author's note: as mentioned above by Dick Baker, and
now the car has been completely restored). It had a
Buckler frame, Morris Minor running gear and an Alta
overhead valve conversion on Minor flathead engine. The
aluminum body was built by Autosport . . ."
"There was also a second Canada Class Special and here
are the specifications for that race car: it had a front
engine, with a modified Standard 10; close ratio Austin
A30 gearbox. The frame and independent rear suspension
were built by Bob Hanna. The car had an aluminum body
designed by Frank Duda and built at Autosport. The car
was completed in 1962 and we had some problems with the
transfer case at the rear axle. This was later removed,
but by this time it was outclassed by the rear engine
Formula Juniors. The car appeared later when the vintage
class was started and was owned by Bob Attrell (a Toyota
dealer in Brampton). Now the car is owned by Mike
McLaughlin of McLaughlin Motorworks, Kingston, Ontario.
The car is still original, with the original engine,
body, etc. I have some photos taken in McLaughlin's
"The third car was called the Autosport Junior. It was
also called the Bill MacDonald Special. To create this
car we modified a Cooper Formula 3 chassis and fitted a
Mitter tuned DKW two stroke engine and gearbox. An
aluminum body was designed and built at Autosport. It
was a surprisingly fast car. In fact, I am ashamed to
say that Bill beat me at Mosport one day when I was
driving a Lotus 20. The bare frame is all that exits
today and is owned by Phil Lamont. I have photos of this
car as well."
"Finally, there was the Autosport Sports car, a Fiat
Special built for Lew Franco who opened the first
Porsche dealership in Canada on University Avenue. It
had a Buckler frame, and a Fiat 1100 engine and gearbox.
The aluminum sports car body was built at Autosport. I
don't know what became of this car."
Well, here is the story of the restoration or should I
say, the recreation of the original Autosport Special.
Al Pease undertook the project of the creation of the
old Autosport and in the restoration created pretty much
a brand new car. He built a new frame as well as a new
body in addition to new bits and pieces here and there
so the car would be safe to drive at speed. As is usual
in the creation of an old car, he ran into a number of
problems, culminating in one final problem a few days
before he was to leave for the VARAC weekend at Mosport.
He started the car and ran it up his driveway only to
hear clanking and breaking sounds inside the bellhousing
of the Morris engine. He immediately shut off the engine
and discovered that something had come adrift inside the
bellhousing, and that the clutch was pooched. He didn't
want to disassemble the entire engine and so he repaired
the drivetrain problem with the engine in place. Another
problem arose as he worked within the tight confines of
the engine and chassis. He kept getting his wrists and
hands pinched by the various springs and other nasty
objects whose only excuse for existing is to bruise and
otherwise damage human tissue. Thus, when Al showed up
at Mosport, his wrists and hands bore evidence of the
veritable mortal struggle he had had with the inanimate
objects of the driveline.
Al felt all the pain was worth it to see the look on Bob
Hanna's face. Bob walked around the old car and looked
and looked at it. He sat in it and looked at it. He took
the engine cover off the Autosport Special and looked at
the Alta modified engine. And, he talked to anyone who
should come near, and he talked to Al, but he kept on
getting interrupted by people who wanted to talk to him
and who wanted to ask, "Is that the car?" Finally, Al
and Bob trooped off to find a place where they could
talk without being interrupted.
On Sunday, Al started up the car, and my, was it noisy!
It sounded as if it wanted to compete on the track
against the other racers right then and there. However,
there were a few details which had to be put right
before it could do a demonstration lap let alone a lap
in full anger.
We will see more of the Autosport Special in future
vintage events no doubt. And in case anyone would like
to see the car compete, check off in your calendars
right now the end of June 2004. On that date, VARAC, or
the Vintage Racing Association of Canada, will host a
race meeting featuring Canadian race cars. No doubt that
Brad Baker, the current owner of the Autosport Special,
will have the car there in racing trim, and who knows?
Maybe Bob Hanna will drive the car again as he did at
Green Acre, Harewood and Mosport.
© John R. Wright
Date: 01 March 2001 14:56
Ken: Just to bring you up to date. Our MK 15 Buckler,
known as the Autosports Special in Canada, is moving
along slowly. Our panel beater, Mike Lewis, was off work
with some health problems and is just now getting back
at the project; however, we hope to have the body
finished by the end of April. Right now, the chassis is
all complete, other than wiring and plumbing, and the
engine has been built up ready to go into the chassis.
We have a dummy engine in the car in order to help Mike
shape the hood and the carburettor duct. Al Pease [who
is doing the restoration] mocked up the shape of the
body with 3/16" rods so Mike would have a good idea of
the shape since we have nothing but photos to work from.
In April the car will go back to Al for engine
installation and chassis finishing and be painted in
British racing green with a white stripe a la Canada
colours. With any luck, we hope to debut the car at
Mosport with the VARAC Vintage Festival on June 30/July