'the ex-Gerry Marshall 'Baby Bertha' Firenza
BUILT : During the winter of 1974/75 by Gerry Johnstone, Dick Waldock + Geoff Hall at DTV
CLASSIFICATION : SuperSaloon
ENGINE : Repco-Holden 4949cc V8 cylinder 476 bhp ( 1975 ), Chevy V8 5735cc ( 400 bhp ) today
WEIGHT : 1018kgs
0-60MPH : 4.2 seconds as tested by 'Motor'
RACED BY : Gerry Marshall ( 1975-77 ), Paul Hayward-Halfpenny ( 1978 ), Doug Emms ( 1979 ), DB Motors ( 1980 ), Phil Barak ( 1981-83 ), Joe Ward ( to date ).
CURRENTLY : alive and well in the East Midlands
NOTES : The king of the Supersaloons driven in period by the superstar of Supersaloons Gerry Marshall and without doubt both '70's motorsport icons. The pairing of car and driver was perfect and the two are the first names used when referencing special saloons in conversation.
Under the leadership of Bill Blydenstein at DTV the team built Baby Bertha out of the crashed Big Bertha Ventora that only raced 6 times in 1974. Big Bertha was fast but too bulky but the new 'baby' was a unique Firenza with styling by John Taylor and weighing 350kgs less than Big Bertha, it was a perfect package.
Gerry raced throughout 1975+1976 winning 20 of 24 races in '75 and 10 of 13 in '76 winning the '75 Supersaloons and BARC championships retaining the Supersaloons in '76 by which time he held the special saloon lap records at Brands club, Combe, Lydden, Mallory, Oulton, Silverstone GP, Snetterton and Thruxton ! 3 wins in 3 races towards the end of the '77 completed the impressive record.
Thereafter the next few are largely forgotten but next owner Paul Haywood-Halfpenny did place 2nd overall in the very first Donington GT race in her ( October 1978 ) in an otherwise forgettable and expensive season. Doug Emms had her in 1979 still painted in its awful brown 1978 livery ! Then DB Motors of Leicester owned her in 1980 but it wasnt until Phil Barak gave the car some regular races from May 1981 ( car #3 ) in the BRSCC-N series mostly at Croft returning in 1983 ( car #15 ) with dark blue livery to win the poorly-supported big class of the BRSCC Northern plus 3 rounds in the Donington GT.
Then the trail goes cold until Marshall bought the car back in the '90s and appeared at the Goodwood FoS in 2001,02 + 03 plus other demos before selling the BB to the current owner. Sadly Gerry passed away in April 2005.
Baby Bertha remains in very good hands today with current custodian Joe Ward and ive had the pleasure of seeing her raced in anger in CSCC Special Saloon races a few times. The car always draws positive reactions wherever it goes from enthusiasts who recall seeing Marshall throwing it around back in the heyday of special saloons. Long may it continue.
'the ex-Gerry Marshall 'Old Nail' Firenza
May 1975 - Gerry Marshall at Silverstone in 'Old Nail`s last DTV outing prior to the arrival of Baby Bertha - photo Geoff Werran
BUILT : During the summer of 1971 by DTV
CLASSIFICATION : Special Saloon
ENGINE : Lotus 2.3 slant 4 cylinder
WEIGHT : 789kgs BHP : 230+ ( 1973 )
RACED BY : Gerry Marshall ( 1971-75 ), Bill Dryden ( 1975 )
CURRENTLY : alive and well in the South
NOTES : 'Old Nail' is the Firenza that served Gerry Marshall so well from its debut in September 1971 until 'Baby Bertha' took over as DTVs main weapon in May 1975. It has a remarkable record of 62 wins from 87 races given it was racing against increasingly more expensive machinery.
Gerry soon had the car dancing on the limit and in 1972 he won the BARC Forward Trust championship with 16 wins in an 18 race season. For 1973 the car gained the 230+bhp Lotus slant 16-valve unit which required a huge bonnet bulge to accommodate the induction trumpets. The rear wheels grew from 10s to 12s and the BARC Forward Trust class was won again 21 wins in 27 in all.
For 1974 'O.N' gained a droop snoot over the grill and the BARC title outright was won again with 13 wins in 25 .
Old Nail was due to be replaced mid-1974 by the V8 'Big Bertha' Ventora but its demise after just 6 races prolonged Old Nail`s race career in Marshall`s hands up to its eventual last DTV race in May 1975 when 'Baby Bertha' was ready to take on the increasing exotic cars of the Super Saloon era. 3 wins in 7 helped prior to 'BB' helped Marshall retain the Forward Trust and win the Supersaloon titles.
Old Nail finished the 1975 season in Scotland taking Bill Dryden to a class win in the Scottish Saloon Championship.
Gerry was awarded the car in late 1977 by the DTV for services given and the family had the car until it was sold to the current owner a few years ago. During the many years inbetween Old Nail resided in both the Vauxhall Heritage Museum ( 1999-07 ) and the Donington Museum ( 2009+ ).
The car made a rare but welcome race outing with the CSCC at Silverstone 2015 following a comprehensive engine rebuild after so long in retirement.