Jim Dudley of Tiger Racing has been around Fords for 50 years, and he’s as enthusiastic about them as ever, especially if they’re Lotus-powered.
How did you get into cars?
My lightbulb moment was seeing the Lotus Seven of Graham Hill’s F1 driver, Tony Brise outside of his workshop when I was 12 or 13. I always promised myself I would have a Lotus Seven before I was 20! I left school and went straight into an apprenticeship for the City & Guilds at a local garage and it all snowballed from there. Anglias, Cortinas and Zephyrs were my bread-and-butter back then while the sit-up-and-beg Fords were considered classic, so I guess you could say I’ve come full circle. I did manage to buy my first Pre-Crossflow powered Lotus Seven before I was 20, and had the privilege of driving it around Brands Hatch back then.
What was your first Ford?
An Anglia 105E that I turned into a race car. It was bright yellow with a hot 1500 Pre-Crossflow. What happened to it? I raced it for a few years but then had to sell it, as work got busier. I’ve owned and built a lot of 105Es, Cortinas and other Fords since then.
What are you building for yourself at the moment?
I’ve 99 per cent finished the restoration of my 1968 Escort Twin Cam, which you saw back in April. It’s turned out really well, so I’d like to keep hold of this one! My son, Paul has finished his Zetec-powered Mk1 RS2000 tribute, too, and that’s also come out great.
It’s Tiger’s 30th anniversary, are you planning anything special?
Yes, we’ll be doing something big at the shows. We’ve also recently taken over the Alpha range of fuel-injection and throttle body kits from Webcon, so there’ll be a big push on that. It’s top stuff, and we can produce a complete, bolt-on kit for almost any Ford engine — all for under £2000 including new injectors in the kit.
What’s in the Tiger workshop at the moment?
Classic-wise, we’ve just finished doing some work on a customer’s Mk2 Escort, an XK120 and though also not a Ford, we’re about to start a full restoration on a Bond Bug, which is a first for us!
What’s your favourite Ford engine?
It has to be the Lotus twin-cam — I’ve built hundreds of them over the years. I like the way Lotus took a humdrum 1500 Ford block and added their own-designed twin-cam head and front cover/timing chain to make it miles better. We have just finished a new ERA30 (Lotus 23B Tiger tribute) fitted with a Lotus twin-cam. They can be a little bit temperamental, but they do sound lovely.
Care to admit to your most-embarrassing car-related moment?
OK, here goes… I’ve been around a few circuits and don’t think I’m too bad a driver, but many years ago I took a customer out for a test-drive in one of our Tiger sports cars, and the road was a bit wet and greasy. Coming out of a roundabout I lost it, and the car did a full 360 on the main road — thankfully, there was nothing coming the other way. Did he still buy a car? Yes, he did, actually!
Finally, what’s your favourite event?
Unquestionably, it’s the Goodwood Revival. If you’ve not been before, you really need to do it!
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