CAR S.O.S returns for its ninth season

National Geographic’s car restoration series, Car S.O.S, returns for its ninth season on Thursday 11th March, opening with an extended special show dedicated to the MG Metro 6R4. 

Each new episode features a different story from owners who deserve the chance to have their treasured classic motor fully restored back to prime condition, with Tim and Fuzz joined in the series by guest stars, including Katie Piper, Jimmy White, and Philip Serrell.

The new season opener features the team’s restoration of an MG Metro 6R4. A true piece of automotive history as it is the actual British Rally winning vehicle once driven by champion David Gillanders. The Car S.O.S team battled through a series of setbacks to get the car back to its former glory, and the result of all their persistence and hard work will leave even the most hardened of petrolheads completely jaw-dropped.    

Featured elsewhere in the series is the story of successful businessman Andreas Christopheros who, alongside his parents used to oversee the Run to the Sun festival in Newquay. In 2015, his life tragically changed after he answered a knock at his front door and in a case of mistaken identity, a stranger threw a beaker of concentrated sulphuric acid in his face. After raising thousands for charity, his employees want to celebrate him and see his hot rodded VW Beetle Wizard brought to life from its current rusting shell.

In another episode, viewers will meet Ian Sayers, who was bitten by an insect whilst repairing his garage roof. As a result, he contracted the rare tropical infection, Necrotising Fasciitis – a flesh eating disease. It meant he had to undergo several rounds of extensive reconstructive surgery to his torso and has since lost his strength to continue working on his beloved 1980 XJ-S Jaguar.

The team has also been tasked with re-building – what has turned out to be the most expensive and time-consuming renovation in Car S.O.S history, of a Batman Vauxhall Viva ice cream van. The vehicle was one of the originals from a fleet owned by Roland Evans Senior, who began his family run business in 1958 from the back of a horse drawn cart with his son Roland Junior at his side.

Works MG Metro 6R4 1985-7

The MG Metro 6R4 (cylinder R rear engine 4 wheel drive) was a pure out and out competition car that retained a just a couple of panels from the original Metro body. Built with the help of the Williams F1 team the car was designed to achieve international success for Austin Rover on the notorious Group B world rally circuit.  The big difference the 6R4 had, compared to all others in this group, was the fact that it was the only one using a larger capacity naturally aspirated 3 litre V6 engine, where all the others were using smaller capacity turbo charged engines. This gave the 6R4 instant pedal power enabling it to achieve 0-60 in around 3 seconds, a similar acceleration to the F1 cars of the time. It was light, it was fast, and it was powerful.

Sadly, for Austin Group B fondly referred to as the golden age of rally was banned in 1987 for safety reasons following several fatal accidents and the 6R4 never got to compete on the stage it was designed for. Instead, a capped power version (385 bhp) was developed achieving limited success in competition. Driver Will Gollop developed his own turbo charged rally cross version which had 600plus BHP, it was unbeatable and so powerful it was virtually uncontrollable it sealed the 6R4’s destiny as one of the most powerful competition cars in Automotive history.  

The car

Amateur rally cross driver Brian (66) could not believe his luck when he spotted the engineless shell of a 6R4 in the attic of a scrap yard in Northern Ireland where it had been sitting for several years. What he didn’t realise at the time was that this was the shell of the  British rally winning car once driven by championship driver David Gillanders. This was an ultra-rare, mega valuable MG works race car. One of only 10 ever made. Brian and his son Gerard (44) negotiated a deal got the car home and began the task of tracking down all of the many missing parts. Their aim was to restore the car to its rally winning spec and take it to shows and automotive events. Brian’s job was to reassemble the car mechanically, however their ambitions came to a sudden halt when Brian was struck down with medical issues. 

Work needed

When the Car S.O.S team first encountered the car, it was a fibreglass shell on a space frame with a roll cage that had only been part restored. It had obviously suffered serious accident damage in a rally as the roof has been replaced and a new front end fitted, suggesting that during a race the car hit something and flipped over. For its restoration, the owners Brian and Gerard had sourced many original 6R4 parts, but all were in poor condition, and the original engine appeared to have been lost over the years. Brian and Gerard had bought a Peugeot rally car that has had an MG 6R4 Goodman’s engine/gearbox (correct for the car) installed and were planning to put it in their 6R4.

The owner

Former mechanic and recovery truck driver Brian spent his whole life devoted to his obsession of rally driving, as a fan, a spectator and as an amateur driver with his own Mk1 Escort GT. When his son Gerard came along, he brought him up to follow suit and as soon as he was old enough Gerard joined his dad rallying in his Sierra Cosworth. Brian spent all his spare time refitting their cars and travelling to races. About 8 years ago a knee injury meant Brian had to not only retire from work but also put paid to his competitive driving days, so he was over the moon when firstly he discovered an automotive treasure in the 6R4 and secondly when he got to work as mechanic in charge of getting it back to its glory days. However, 2 years ago fate decreed otherwise when Brian was struck down with a stroke. Fortunately, the stroke was not bad enough to incapacitate him, but it did rob him of his strength and his energy to continue with the 6R4 project. Brian’s daughter Libby wrote to Car SOS asking if we could pick up the pieces of the project and bring her Dad and brothers dream to fruition with this extraordinary piece of automotive history.

First 6 episodes of cars brought back to life in the new season are:

  • MG Works Metro 6R4 (1986)
  • Jensen Interceptor (1966-1976)
  • Fiat X1/9 (1972-1989)
  • VW Beetle Wizard Roadster 
  • Jaguar XJ-S (1975-1996)
  • Rolls Royce 20/25 Doctors Coupe (1929-1936)

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