No 1 Replica

The idea of building a copy of Old Number One was a dream for Jim Bruce. Jim was an Australian boy, born in 1929, and a great lover of old cars, mainly from England.

The garage at his home in Canberra was always full of “projects”. Perhaps his favourite was a Bullnose Morris that he restored himself and that he and his wife Judith used on local and interstate rallies. 

Through his knowledge of the Bullnose Morris, Jim became aware of Kimber’s Old Number One, and when Jim’s own son, Mark, began to take an interest in his dad’s projects, the idea of a copy was born.

“Dad and I would spend hours looking at pictures of Old Number One, trying to work out how it differed from a standard Bullnose,” remembers Mark.  “Of course we had plenty of standard stuff in the garage, left-overs from dad’s Bullnose restoration, but if we were going to build as close a copy as we could, then we wanted to find out what Kimber actually did to create the car.”

So, they set about finding out as much as they could about the slim two-seater body, the repositioned steering box, revised engine specifications, the special rear-mounted fuel tank (primed by a hand pump in the cockpit), a separate rear brake control lever located outside the car, a foot brake pedal modified to operate the front brakes only and a host of smaller modifications. 

They realised their copy was going to be quite a challenge. But rise to the challenge Jim and Mark did and gradually the car began to take shape. Jim even managed to have a close look at the genuine Old Number One when he and Judith visited England in 1990, and he returned even more inspired to finish the project.

To relocate the steering box from its original position below the chassis to a new position above the chassis, Jim had to make a new bracket as well as modify the drop arm so it would attach to the steering link.

“Unfortunately, Dad became unwell and died before the car could be finished properly,” says Mark. “But with the help of a group of his old car mates, we did manage to get it completed just before he died and I know he was thrilled.”

The car was on display at Jim’s funeral in April 2003, and since then Mark and his brother-in-law Malcolm Noad, also a Bullnose Morris owner, have jointly kept the dream alive.  

“I’m more interested in the technical side of things so I look after the mechanics,” says Malcolm with a smile. “Mark is our architect and so we leave him in charge of aesthetics and making sure we finish things off properly.”

Some of the work done on the car to get it ready before Jim died has since been re-done; this time taking more care and paying more attention to detail. All those little finishing-off jobs that often never get done are now well on the way to being completed.  

The end result is technically as accurate as possible to the original car, and very pleasing on the eye.  

“In the family we call the car the Kimber,” says Mark, “and I think even Cecil himself would be pleased with the result.”

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The BMC Experience Issue 12. Jan-Mar 2015 Magazine

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