1959 Hagemann-Sutton Special
Metallic Blue with Black Interior
The Hagemann-Sutton Special is a fascinating study in 1950s sports racing cars and a wonderful example of what might have been. Its genesis was due to a man named Wally Taylor, who had successfully raced Austin-Healeys in Northern California and sought to move up to something faster. He visited Lance Reventlow’s Scarab facility in Southern California in 1958, but by that time, the organization had transitioned its focus to its Formula 1 effort and was not available to build customer cars.
So, Taylor turned to his friend Jack Hagemann, who was a well-known California body designer and car builder whose metal working skills were self-taught. He built bodies for midgets and sprint cars initially, and eventually worked on Indy cars, Bonneville streamliners, hot rods, sports racing cars, and even the occasional P51 Mustang.
His constructions were known for their beautiful styling and excellent craftsmanship, and made bodies fitted to MGs, the Tatum Special, a Chrysler, and a Jaguar XK-120. Taylor, not being able to get a Scarab, asked Hagemann to build a Scarab-type car. The chassis employed the same space frame construction, deDion rear suspension with Watts linkage, Halibrand quick change differential with Troutman and Barnes side covers, Jaguar XK150 brake rotors with Girling calipers on the front, and specially made Devin-supplied inboard rear disc brakes, also with Girling calipers. Halibrand magnesium knock-off wheels were also fitted, along with a Chevy 283 cid V8 with Hilborn fuel injection and Corvette 4-speed transmission. Hagemann was also supposed to build the body, but Taylor suffered a financial setback that prevented the car’s completion, and it was never made operable.
It eventually came into the possession of Butch Gilbert, the well-known Northern California vintage racer. He owned the car for over twenty years before finally embarking on a restoration in 2005. The body was also built in the 1950s, by Jack Sutton, who built bodies for a variety of important cars including Sir Malcom Campbell’s Bluebird land speed car. The body was originally fitted to a Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Prix car chassis (serial number 110054) that was reconfigured to run as a sports racing car(!) This car was known as the Orgeron Special and was raced in Southern California from 1958 to 1962. The car was sold to Peter Giddings in 1978, who opted to return it to its original Grand Prix configuration, and he sold the body to Wally Taylor in 1978. Taylor sold the chassis and body to Gilbert in 1982, who finally started the restoration in 2005.
This process was carefully engineered and executed. The body was shortened eight inches, and the rear fin retained. Air inlets were added to cool the inboard rear brakes, and certain areas of the chassis were reinforced and fittings to attach the body were designed and fabricated. Throughout the restoration, the decisions were made to build the car in a way that was as consistent as possible with how it would have originally been made in 1959. The engine is a 283 cid block (bored and stroked to 333 cid) with Bryant billet crankshaft, Eagle rods, and domed JE pistons (providing a 10.5:1 compression ratio). A Lehman front cross drive and timing cover drive the fuel pump, magneto, and water pump.
The car was completed in time for the Monterey Historics, where it raced in 2005. The car received the overall award for performance and preparation at the 2006 Wine Country Classic and is accepted by a variety of historic racing sanctioning bodies. It has been consistently enjoyed since then, and even placed second at the 2013 Monterey Historics.
The car has nice vintage racer cosmetics, with attractive paint, as well as clean and well-prepared chassis. There are a few areas of paint that have been touched up, as well as some light wear from being on the track. There are also a few superficial stress cracks, but the overall impression is strong. The interior is purposeful with Hurst shifter, vintage style black bucket seats, and Stewart Warner instrumentation. Like the remainder of the car, the interior is built in very much the way it would have been done in period. The story is the same in the engine compartment, where the Chevrolet small block is topped by Hilborn mechanical fuel injection.
The car has proven to be a successful and competitive vintage racer, winning against an illustrious run group that often includes automotive legends like the Ferrari 250TR, Maserati 450S, Birdcage, Jaguar D-Type, and Aston Martin DBR-1/2. the car was actively campaigned for the last 10 years and comes with an extensive binder documenting the car’s restoration, preparation and set up, vintage racing exploits, and fascinating history. The car also comes with some spares, including an extra Hilborn fuel injection system, Lehman cross drive unit, various suspension parts, transmission case, and one matching spare wheel in rough shape.
As completed, the car is just about what Wally Taylor had envisioned over 50 years ago. It is an attractive and competitive special that is very similar to the Scarabs and Chaparrals of the late 1950s, and is absolutely unique. Technically sophisticated and exotic, the car has fascinating history that involves an impressive number of distinguished and capable personalities from the golden age of sports car racing.