Manual transmissions were once the default in the auto industry. Today, so few people drive stick that they’re often jokingly referred to as an anti-theft device. That was very much the case, however, when thieves recently attempted to steal a rare Brabham race car and failed miserably in the process.
As reported by CarExpert, the theft took place in Toorak, a wealthy suburb in Melbourne, Australia. The vintage Brabham BT21 open-wheeled race car, belonging to a private owner, was due to compete in the Phillip Island Classic last weekend, but that was not to be. At some point between last Wednesday night and Thursday morning, thieves broke in and stole the formula racing car from the owner’s home.
However, they weren’t to get far. The thieves were unable to properly drive the race car, and abandoned it after a short period. It was recovered only a few streets away from the owner’s home with a damaged clutch. “I don’t think they knew how to turn on all the switches to be able to start it properly,” owner Peter Williams told listeners of ABC Radio Melbourne on Friday.
It’s not surprising that the thieves had trouble driving the car away. Thanks to the racing gearbox which lacks syncros, finesse and careful rev-matching are required to shift gears successfully. And, as stated by the owner, getting all the switches in the right position to provide fuel and ignition requires some knowledge to get right.
Of 110 examples originally built, just six BT21 race cars remain in existence today according to ABC News. According to the owner, the car in question was once raced by Formula 1 legend Sir Jack Brabham himself. Manufactured in the 1960s, most BT21s were built for Formula 3 competition, though some were also built to compete in US Formula B.
Given the rarity of the vehicle, it’s suspected the theft was an organized hit rather than a crime of opportunity. At the same time, it seems suspicious that professional thieves would try to escape by driving an open-wheeled formula car on public roads. Many questions remain, and detectives from Victoria Police have appealed for any witnesses of the theft to come forward.
While it’s a shame to see a race car abused in such a way, Williams feels “very lucky” that his car was found so quickly. For now, the car is out of action, but he hopes to get it up and running again soon.
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