I worked on Mr. Bean’s Plymouth Barracuda brakes at Goodwood Revival (and it didn’t die)

At this year’s Goodwood Revival, the blue and white 1965 Plymouth Barracuda on the grid blasted Talladega riffs from its side pipes and looked as menacing as any car could do as it sat at the second-to-last starting point. At the wheel was The Blackadder himself, perhaps the most ridiculous Mr. Rowan Atkinson, known as the Bean, was a mudguard I helped install to try to get the car through the race with the rear brakes intact, while hidden inside the rear brake drum. Did Atkinson know his life was about to rely on a borrowed throttle return spring, an airplane safety cable, and the ring on a delivery van key fob? Mmm – don’t think like that.

Sometimes you get pulled into things. Or, in my case, you stand around long enough and get into something, trying not to look like a complete idiot. At this year’s Goodwood Revival, I stood around Duncan Pittaway’s Barracuda, the flashback race reunion and vintage dress-up premiere that lasted so long that I was kind of a part of the crew.

How much is your car insurance? Find out in four easy steps.
get a quote

I got to know Pittaway for exactly four days, having previously stopped at his workshop in Bristol, England, where besides the Barracuda there were numerous vintage cars, the most famous of which was the Turin Monster. This is a 28-liter four-cylinder flame-throwing 1910 Fiat land speed record car with sledgehammer-sized connecting rods. The 120 mph car is famous on YouTube and I was there hopefully to get a ride and a story. But Pittaway was too busy preparing the Barracuda for Goodwood and his star co-driver Atkinson, he didn’t have time to blaze, so this story will have to wait.


I immediately liked Pittaway. He came out of the workshop with oil on his sleeves and a tie around his neck. I admire anyone who wears a tie in your shop. He said that his grandfather told him never to leave the house and he always followed this rule. At the same time, she’s amused hysterically, like when she tells a man she’s known for ten minutes, “You know, you’re so much better than everybody says.”

It wasn’t hard to find him in Revival. Amidst mustachioed men in all 1940s suits, fedora hats, and RAF group captain uniforms, both Barracuda and Pittaway appeared to be dressed in a white suit (a nod to the late Andy Granatelli) covered with STP logos from ankles to shoulders. The In-N-Out burger was planted in the center of London’s Berkley Square. I told Pittaway, as an American, that Granatelli’s straight up got me into a knot. He said I was the only one who got the reference so far. Then he invited me for a cup of tea, that’s all. I stood around Barracuda to be useful for the next few days.

Essentially I helped push the cart and carried the tools to the pit wall. I also cleaned a lot of dirty teacups. Atkinson reported transmission noise and soft brakes after driving the Cuda on the first day of the race. It was decided that the transmission was probably fine, so attention was turned to the brakes. Pittaway’s longtime friend, Jon Payne, who joined McLaren as a composites specialist in the 1990s and still builds the famous F1 road car, was Barracuda’s sole mechanic and I became his semi-skilled sidekick.

When the drums were disassembled, one thing became obvious. The shoe linings were worn down to paper in places. Pittaway Racing, never to be confused with Red Bull Racing (I don’t think he’d be angry if I said it), had accidentally left spare brake shoes in Bristol. So the problem was how to get the rear brakes over the weekend.

Fixing brake drums

Another related issue was that the bottom spring on one side had been replaced on part of the three factory brake-return springs that were fitted to the Mopar’s drums. It was a scrawny little bow, probably from Morris Minor, and it looked completely inadequate for big Cuda’s shoes. As such, they weren’t fully retracting from the drums when the brake pedal was released, which may help explain why the pads tumbled to near zero.

A few guys in our class were racing big Ford Galaxie 500s, but they didn’t have spare springs to replace them. While any NAPA auto parts store in America probably has these or something similar, Mopar drum brake springs from the 1960s are a pretty hard thing to come by in southern England. Payne and I started walking the paddock and didn’t get far before we spotted someone he knew, a team mechanic operating a 1965 Lola-Chevrolet T70. That gentleman took two solid throttle return springs out of his box and we went with them.

The springs had double helix loops at the end, so you attach them the same way you attach a key to a key ring, by picking up one end of the wire with your fingernail and sliding it around until they join what you want to attach. . This won’t work for attaching it to Mopar’s brake shoe. So Payne came up with the idea to use a very bulky and multi-ring key chain made of steel as the shoe attachment point for his Mercedes van. At the other end, it would securely tie the spring to the opposite shoe, so that once the shoes were put on, it would be possible to pull and twist the wire, drawing tension on the spring.

I have to say, it looked pretty good as we wiped the brake soot off our hands. Atkinson would drive. Okay, so maybe his life wasn’t exactly in danger, but the worst-case scenario can be imagined at full speed where one piece of the pad fails and then turns inside the drum to cut off what’s left of the other brake pad. The critical moment caused the Barracuda to come off the track. I’ve seen drum brakes fail like this, even though the car didn’t crash, it started making an obnoxious metal-to-metal noise from behind. We tried not to think about it as Atkinson roared off the line.

As it happened, the Cuda worked well, although slow, the light-running 318 (5.2-liter) V8 just didn’t have enough ponies to match the Plymouth’s weight and wind scoop profile with faster and lighter Alfas and Ford Cortinas. class. Atkinson, a Goodwood veteran, finished near the back where he started. But while drinking tea and with a large crowd gathered around Cuda for photos and autographs (Mr. Bean is obviously a much bigger deal in England than in America), he said the car was good and fun and he had a good time.

He then turned to Pittaway and whispered, “Who is this strange man?”

via Hagerty USA

Read more

Auction report: Bonhams Goodwood Revival
Champions at Goodwood Revival: “If it has an engine and four wheels, we’ll race it!”
The last 16 new old Land Rover Defenders are for sale