By Peter MacKay
On the 29th of August 2019, a gathering of invited guests, congregated to celebrate the opening of the brand new, Jim Clark Motor Museum in Duns. A star studded guest list of Scottish motor racing stars from past and present, led by Sir Jackie Stewart, made the pilgrimage for the opening of the new museum. Three time Le mans winner Allan McNish, World Rally champion team principal Andrew Cowan, World Rally champion co driver Robbie Reid, multiple British Touring Car champions Gordon Shedden and John Cleland amongst others were all present for the occasion. The a-list attendance, was a fine tribute to one of the greatest of all time, Jim Clark. To be present on such a milestone day, was a real privilege.
On the morning of the event, driving my Lotus down through the glorious Scottish borders, on the roads that Jim would have dashed back and forth to young farmer’s dances, was truly special. As we swept down towards Duns, I enjoyed my own Jim Clark moment, with my imagination taking me back to the late 1950’s when Jim started his journey to superstardom, racing with friends in Ecurie Agricole and Jock McBain’s Border Reivers at Charterhall and Winfield.
Around 7 years ago, The Jim Clark Trust, quietly discussed the possibility of upgrading the existing Jim Clark room, into a state of the art museum. Such a project, was highly ambitious, given the multi million pound sum required to break ground. Many voluntary organisations might have shied away from such a financially arduous and time consuming endeavour. But, not the Jim Clark Trust. Led by Jim’s cousin, Doug Niven, Doug’s son in law Ben Smith and a band of volunteers, set to work on making their dream a reality. In 2015, the trust hosted an event in Duns to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Jim’s greatest season, where he claimed victory in the World Championship and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year. A feat, in the context of modern motor racing, that will never be repeated. All the stops were pulled out for this celebratory event. Clive Chapman, son of Jim’s boss Colin, towed a number of Jim’s priceless racing cars all the way from the Classic Team Lotus workshop in Norfolk. Members of the public were encouraged to rub shoulders with these priceless pieces of motor racing history, flanked by two of Jim’s own Lotus Elan road cars. Sir Jackie Stewart, as he has done so many times of the years, spared time from his whirlwind schedule to support his great friends legacy, demonstrating one of Jim’s cars, roaring up and down Duns high street. Looking back, it was an event that will take some beating!
With a captive audience in place, high on adrenaline from the spectacular display that had been pulled together, the Jim Clark Trust seized the opportunity to publicly announce their ambitious plans for the new museum. As ever, Doug Niven, spoke so proudly, passionately and yet with great humility about his late cousin and was met with rapturous applause after laying out the plans for the new museum.
Gathering funds to the tune of £1.6million, is no easy feat for any charitable venture but the bountiful generosity shown by fans all over the world, half a century since his tragic death at Hockenheim in 1968, gave firm justification for such a sophisticated museum to be built in Jim’s memory. A forward thinking, online “crowdfunding” initiative, was launched to gather extra funds, in supplement to the more traditional local council and lottery funding. Donors would be rewarded with a gift, depending on the size of their donation. One such gift was an enamel Jim Clark pin badge, keep an eye out at your next meeting and I would wager that you will spot one! The campaign was a roaring success, with £100,000 being gathered in total. Undoubtedly, this support went far beyond financial gain for the cause. Jim Clark Trust volunteers never gave up, confident in the knowledge that so many people worldwide yearned for this dream to become a reality.
In 2018, a year prior to the museum opening, the Jim Clark Trust refused to lift off the fundraising throttle, anticipating the financial headache that lay ahead to get the museum build over the finish line. The Duke of Richmond, a Jim Clark trustee himself, kindly invited the trust to attend the world famous Goodwood Festival of Speed, to boost their charitable efforts. Between bucket collections, sales of commemorative malt whisky and raffle tickets to win a one off, Jim Clark Lotus Evora, the trust raised £53,000 over the 4 days of the Goodwood event. Fittingly, the Jim Clark Evora would be the 100,000th Lotus produced.
It is pertinent to consider that if it weren’t for Jim and his dominant success behind the wheel of the Hethel built machines, a strong argument could be made that Lotus cars would be a long defunct concern. Colin Chapman, the enigmatic designer and frontman of Lotus, persistently lobbied to secure the services of a young Jim Clark but was constantly rebuffed as the humble farmer remained fiercely loyal to his beloved Border Reivers team and those who had backed him from the beginning. But, in the end, Chapman got his man and they forged a partnership that delivered bountiful success and secured Lotus car’s place in the hearts of motor racing enthusiasts, for generations to come.
Since a “soft” opening in July, to the official opening at the end of August, the new museum has already welcomed over 5,000 guests. With plentiful parking and even a Jim Clark bistro in the town square, the new museum has already become a popular haunt for car clubs all over Scotland wishing to make their pilgrimage to Jim’s home borough.
Upon entering the museum, guests are met with a 5 star welcome and given a brief introduction to the path around the museum. Turning right from the front desk, visitors are immediately met with a plethora of memorabilia and artefacts that have been gathered from generous donors, who all play their own part in this continuation of Jim Clark’s rich legacy. In the early stages of the museum tour, casual observers and Jim Clark fanatics alike, will quickly understand who Jim Clark really was, as a human being. All the F1 wins and motor racing glory can be found and digested within 15 minutes on any internet search engine but telling the story of Jim’s farming roots and his quiet yet endearing personality, is a tale in which the museum exhibits so comprehensively. Guests can listen to various audio recordings from Jim’s friends, who all contribute their own part to the encapsulating story of a one of a kind hero. On one of the recordings, Jim’s best friend and number one fan, Ian Scott Watson, recalls the tale of Jim’s stunning feat of a 100mph average lap in a Jaguar D Type sports car. The beaming pride expressed by the man who always pushed Jim on to progress up the motor racing ladder, is a joy to listen to. In another of the recordings, World Rally Champion team principal and fellow member of the motorsport elite in the Scottish borders, Andrew Cowan, recounts how it was not uncommon for him and Jim to end up dating the same girlfriends! Regardless of how well read you are on this Scottish sporting icon, I guarantee you will learn something new about Jim.
Guests can take a seat and enjoy three 15 minute films, created especially for the museum. In these insightful films, the late champion is brought to life via stories from his closest friends and family, who all speak so fondly of “Jimmy”. Doug Niven, a very accomplished racing driver in his own right, stars in the film too, driving a Border Reivers Lotus Elite at Charterhall, an old airfield where Jim stunned onlookers with his raw speed at the wheel of Ian Scott Watson’s Porsche Super 90. This beautifully produced, high definition film would be a perfect fit for broadcasting to a worldwide audience via a streaming service like Netflix, for those unable to take in a Sunday drive to Duns to pay a visit to the museum.
Before reaching the trophy cabinet, complete with interactive tablet screens giving context to each piece of silverware, visitors understand exactly what made Jim so special, before he even stepped into a racing car. The trust should be very proud indeed for how this narrative has been delivered in such an entertaining and heart-warming way to guests of the museum.
“The cars are the stars” has been a motto for the Jim Clark Trust when upgrading from a humble trophy room, to a state of the art museum. Parked in a pristine area, are two of Jim’s race cars which brought him plentiful success. A priceless, Lotus 25 Formula 1 car, diminutive in stature but so beautifully formed, graces the back of the museum. Not an aerodynamic wing in sight, this piece of grand prix history, designed by the pioneering Colin Chapman, is exquisite.
Walking in the front gate of the museum, a white with green and gold stripe Lotus Cortina sits proudly for all to see through a beautiful glass frontage. This particular example, BJH 417B, plays its own special part in preserving the Jim Clark legend. In 1964, whilst valiantly fighting to defend his 1963 F1 crown, Jim dovetailed a programme in the British Saloon Car Championship, at the wheel of this particular Lotus Cortina. Period photographs of Jim driving an 1960’s F1 car just ooze finesse and style, usually with the double world champion gently coaxing his featherweight Lotus in an effortless slide, around a track lined with trees and concrete walls. Images of Jim driving the Lotus Cortina, show the Scotsman driving this family saloon car ‘absolutely on the door handles’ as he appears to drive the entire race on three wheels, such were the unique handling characteristics of this now iconic car. Jim would go on to dominate the championship in BJH 417B, confirming this particular car’s rock star status forever.
Today, BJH 417B is owned by Jim’s most famous fan, Dario Franchitti. A 4 times Indy car champion and 3 times Indy 500 winner, Franchitti is a self-proclaimed Jim Clark fanatic. At his home, Franchitti treasures all kinds of Jim Clark artefacts that he has accumulated over the years and neatly displays them in his very own Jim Clark Room. Although, I strongly suspect that Lotus Cortina, BJH 417B is the most treasured of all of his hero’s memorabilia. Despite this, Franchitti has generously lent his beloved car to the museum, so it can be included in the tales told of Jim Clark in the new state of the art facility.
It is important to note that Franchitti never witnessed Jim Clark race and yet he remains the definitive fan of the winner of 25 grand prix from 72 starts. Upon returning home to Scotland from his first Indy 500 win, Franchitti made the point to go and visit the then Jim Clark room and pay his respects to his hero and the last Scot before him to win the Borg Warner trophy. Having enjoyed such an illustrious career in his own right, Franchitti’s infectious enthusiasm and admiration for Jim Clark undoubtedly rubs off on others. Allowing such a significant piece of Jim’s career to be housed in the museum, will stimulate others to understand just how special Jim Clark was too. Franchitti has certainly gone above and beyond in his duty as a patron of the Jim Clark trust.
I sincerely hope that those visiting the new Jim Clark museum will, at the very least, be proud of arguably Scotland’s greatest ever sportsmen. Consider that since Jim Clark ruled the motor racing world, a lineage of Scottish motor racing drivers, succeeding at the very highest level, have followed him. Nearly all of these drivers, remain patrons of the Jim Clark Trust.
The Jim Clark motor museum is a must visit for any motor racing fan and is now open and welcoming visitors. The museum will be open from March-November and can also be booked for private viewings with some of the trusts expert hosts. Admission is only £5 and grants unlimited entry for 12 months.
For more details visit www.jimclarktrust.com