Nadeau Bourgeault

  I read a message on the Vintage Race web from Simon Favre which that noted he owned a 1958 Bourgeault Formula Jr., "the oldest car trying to run in CSRG's open wheel group".  I wrote to him that I have a Frazer Nash web site for the postwar models of these cars. One of the Frazer Nash's brought into the US was a Le Mans Replica owned by Jim Lowe, listed in the Frazer Nash records with the following history:

"Bolt on wheels. Spare wheel in boot. Wire wheel conversion in August 1953. Exported to USA. Rebodied in mid-50's by Nadeau Bouregault (sic)."

Noting the "similarity" of these names, I'm asked if he knew any of the  history of his Formula Jr.'s  constructor.  Mr. Nadeau Bourgeault, I've been told,  worked in San Francisco doing custom bodies.  Further, I noted my inquiry to him was "a very long shot..."

Mr. Favre replied:

"Not a long shot at all. There was exactly one Bourgeault in the race car business, and Nadeau was the one. He was a body and fender man by trade. He was an absolute artist in aluminum. He rebodied several cars  as far as I know, but I don't know what happened to them. My car was his first purpose-built race car, and his only Junior. His shop was  actually in Sausalito, CA, north of San Francisco in Marin County. The first shop he had was at Bob Cornish Motors, then he moved elsewhere. Nick Reynolds of the Kingston Trio drove my car, and later went on to take 2nd honors nationally in another Bourgeault running in Formula C.

Bourgeault also worked with Joe Huffaker on the first BMC Juniors, then went off on his own after a falling out. One of the local BMC drivers bought the original body molds from Huffaker. He swears he can see the impressions of rivet heads in the molds. He figures Bourgeault must have done a prototype in Aluminum that Huffaker took the molds off of.

There is a strong similarity in the shape of the hole in the nose. Nadeau passed away in 1974, after a heart attack. 2 or 3 of his other cars and some of the original plans burned up in the Oakland Hills fire some years back. The only other Bourgeaults extant that I know of are one Formula B car that was in Reno for a long time, and a sports racer currently being restored. The B is about ready to make an appearance according to its current owner.  For a picture of the Bourgeault Formula Junior, see:

FYI, one of the Bourgeault sports racers was fitted by its owner with a BRM F1 engine! The car was subsequently destroyed. I don't know if the driver survived.

Cheers, Simon"

I thanked Simon for this great slice of history! I corrected the spelling of the special-bodied Lowe Frazer Nash to "Bourgeault" on the Frazer Nash web pages. I can't recall the exact source of my misspelling, but the name appears as "Bourebault" in an old anthology, "Sportscar Specials".

In December 2006, I received further information on this sports racer from Edwin Marshall:

On your website you wrote, "FYI, one of the Bourgeault sports racers was fitted by its owner with a BRM F1 engine! The car was subsequently destroyed. I don't know if the driver survived."
Yes, the driver survived just fine.  His name was Alan Ladder (sp?)  That particular car was possibly the most beautiful late 60's under 2 liter sports racing car every built.  Absolutely stunningly gorgeous.
The F-1 motor was built up by the factory as a 2 liter.  At the time they had taken the 1.5 liter F-1 V-8 engine out to 2.2 liter for the Tasman series (off season down under races, 2.5 limit- Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Bruce McLaren, Brabham and locals etc).  The 2 liter version was the under 2 liter sports racing class offshoot.  No, the owner did not fit the engine. 

The car was designed by Bourgeault around the engine using a Hewland F-1 (Gurney type) gearbox.  As I remember it had McLaren wheels.

It only raced a few times before being written off in a crash.  I do remember at its weight (approx. 950lbs empty?) and with the BRM, it would hold the  Can Am cars of the time in a straight line up to well over the 150mph range.  It was REALLY FAST, REALLY BEAUTIFUL and unfortunately, really short lived.

Then more in February, 2007 in response to my inquiry about the Bourgeault cars:

Not really a story about the car(s), more about the characters involved in the early days of SCCA racing in the SF Bay Area.

I learned about Jim Lowe, and met him once, through my mentor and best friend, Nadeau Bourgeault.  I was a boy on a bike when I first met Nade, he was about 10 years older and 100 years more grown up.  Some people thought Nade was born grown up.  Heck, he was changing the oil and tuning his father's Packard by age 10!!! I learned the "Lowe" stories when I was a racer myself in the mid-late 60's and Nade and I became best friends.

Anyway, back in the early and mid 50's Bill Breeze owned the Sports Car Center.  It was located off of highway 101 just north of Sausalito in some WWII Quonset huts.  There were a full cast of characters there starting with Bill who raced Jaguar 120s and C types.  Bob Winkleman (Winkleman Formula Fords of the 70's)  was an apprentice mechanic fresh out of old England, perhaps 20 years of age.  Nadeau Bourgeault had just left his position running the Rolls Royce Body Shop for BMC Motor Car in SF.  (Someone had just invented bondo, Nade hated the stuff, "it diminished craftsmanship")  Anyway, across the dirt alley from the SCC was Nade's shop in another Quonset hut.  That early on he dealt with pretty exotic - for the time - stuff.  Nick Reynolds of the Kingston Trio had an old Ferrari sports car, a 166 Milla Miglia I think, that Nade took care of?  Nade's famous Fiat powered FJ was being built along with other "projects", including a little coupe he built as a road car and drove until his death in 1972 - it was built out of spare parts from his shop!  An MG chassis, Fiat Topolino body with some Bourgeault custom aluminum pieces and Volvo engine (MG at first, replaced by Volvo later). Gorgeous, quick and 30+mpg highway.

One day along comes Jim Lowe.  Nade did not know him and was a bit suspicious.  It seems Jim's car, which according to Nade "was concourses", had a bit of almost undetectable dust under the lens of the gauges. Jim wanted it removed.  Nade took a look and figured it was no small job, but a days work to get everything apart and then back together after a few minutes of dusting.  He quoted the daily rate for the time thinking this mad man would go away.  Without a blink Jim said "great, when can I pick it up." - and left.

Nade had an in and did a credit check on him thinking he was a bit mad.  Following the report he then did the work and thus a friendship was born.  Jim had two Frazer Nash's, one for himself and one for his wife of the time, Marian (sp?).  They both raced them.
Fast forward to Speed Week, Nassau the Bahamas.  I'm not sure exactly what year, but it was the year Colin Chapman first campaigned and offered for sale his 1,100 cc Climax powered Lotus 11.  Jim had paid Nadeau to tow both Frazer Nashs from CA to the Bahamas so he and his wife could participate.  While there Jim asked Nade "of all the cars here, what would you buy for yourself if you could?"  Nade responded he thought Chapman's Lotus 11 was the absolute coolest.  Jim and Nade then go over to meet Chapman.  They look his car over inside and out and talk for about 40 minutes at which time Lowe asked Chapman "how much"?  Chapman gave him a price - I don't remember the number now, I was told, but its just been too long- and then the most amazing thing happened.  Jim asked Nade to give Chapman a business card so he would know where to deliver the cars, reached into his pocket and pulled out a huge wad of cash and peeled off the price of one car and handed it to Chapman with the comment, "I'll pay for the second when you deliver them."  They shook hands and walked off, that was it!  Not a single piece of paper, just cash and a handshake.

So anyway, that's it for my Jim Lowe stories.  I could go on and on about Nadeau, but that's another chapter.

See Nadeau for more stories from Ed

The Lowe Frazer Nash (421/200/183) was sold to Jim Firestone.  The car was completely destroyed and Mr. Firestone was killed in a crash at a Paramount Ranch race in December, 1957, according to the history I have so far.

I also discussed Mr. Bourgeault with a San Diego-area auto historian.  He said the August 1961 issue of "Car & Driver" has a story about him.   I'll look for this issue.

Last Update: February 11, 2007