Tony Fowkes

The history, the legend: Tony Fowkes

“ I suppose you could say I was one of the original Ace Cafe motorcycle racers of the 1950s. We used to race from The Ace to Neasden Circle and back again, to try and beat the song on the juke box! Those were heady and dangerous days – fatalities were not unknown. I soon realised if I didn't mend my ways, my number would soon be up. So I turned to motor sport, competing in motorcycle scrambles and trials in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was great – very demanding and you had to be super fit. I remember taking part in the first 50-mile scramble at Pirbright… it was so exhausting, it took me a week to recover! I became an expert rider (licence holder) and won a few races. After a short break in the mid 1960s, I turned my attention to motor rallies...

A friend of mine took me to watch the RAC Rally in 1965. After seeing Timo Mäkinen drive an Austin Healey 3000 through the forests at great speed, sliding round the bends, I was hooked – I had to have a go. I purchased a written-off Ford Cortina and re-built it from scratch, fitting it with a Lotus twin cam engine.

At that time, I was in business partnership with a friend of mine, Keith Thompson, and we had started up a garage in Stonebridge, north-west London, repairing cars. The evenings were always spent preparing my own car, and I was soon taking part in international events with moderate success. Other people started bringing me their cars to prepare them for events like these too.

We split the partnership in 1972 and I started my own garage in Park Royal.

By now, I was spending most of my time in motorsport, either competing in events or preparing cars. In 1975, I became a European Graded Driver after finishing third on The Lombard RAC Rally of Great Britain. In 1977, with Peter O’Gorman, I finished second on The London to Sydney Singapore Airlines Rally driving a factory Mercedes 280E. After that, I went on to do five Paris–Dakar Rallies – two of which were on motorcycles.

It would be fair to say that back then the garage was run around my rally activities, and my car was always in the workshop having its bodywork repaired or engine tuned. I loved motorsport, its characters, and the challenge of the international events. But without the garage business and loyal support of service crews, I doubt if I would have been so successful.”

—Tony Fowkes, founder of Tony Fowkes Automobiles

You can find out more about Tony in MotorSport magazine’s archive here: