The view forwards is pure Fangio. A single pane of laminated glass set in an aluminium frame through which I can see a narrow bonnet and exposed wire wheels. My hands are on a wood-framed steering wheel with four alloy spokes and a stubby gearlever is to the right of my leg. White-faced instruments sit in an aluminium panel. It’s very simple.
Although I’m in a single-seater, there’s plenty of elbow room. I could do with the pedals being a bit closer, but unfortunately the seat isn’t adjustable because this car has been set up for its owner, not a guest driver.
I first saw this car last summer at a Vintage Sports Car Club meeting at Brands Hatch, where it was parked in a line of kit cars outside the shops near the Kentagon pub. From a distance, I thought it was an Alfa Romeo 159 Alfetta, because it had a very similar egg crate grille. But as I got nearer and saw numberplates and indicators, I didn’t know what it was. Whatever, it looked fantastic. Fortunately, in front of the car was a sheet of paper explaining all. A special, it transpired, built by a bloke called John Nash: a member of the Kent Kit Car Club, whose display it was part of.
I missed two races waiting for the owner to turn up. Why? First, because I wanted to congratulate him on his incredible workmanship. I’ve spent a lifetime peering at kit cars and specials and have never seen one so beautifully finished as this. Second, because I wanted to know what lay under the skin of the JNS Special. A Jaguar engine? An Alfa twin-cam? And, finally, I wanted to know how the hell Nash had managed to build such a wonderful-looking machine for less than six thousand quid.
Eventually he arrived, explained that he’d built it from scratch over five years and that it had been inspired by pre- and post-war grand prix cars. And that it had indeed cost only £5750 to build; 7000 man-hours had gone into it – and nearly one marriage.
Several months later, we’re examining the JNS in Nash’s garage in Hythe. It’s not the first car of his own design. “I built a three-wheeler that looked fairly similar,” he explains, “but quite a few of my friends said that it would look a lot better with four wheels. I first thought about modifying it but realised pretty quickly that it would be simpler to start from scratch.”
With the bonnet off, the powerplant is revealed, and it’s not what I’d expected. “A club member had a couple of ropey Renault 5s going begging, one of which was a Gordini Turbo. I managed to buy the pair for £200 and chop them up in his barn, taking away the bits I needed.