Derbyshire based restoration firm Fifteen Eleven Design have restored the 1980 Williams FW07/04 Formula 1 car that Alan Jones used in his World Championship title-winning season.
The project involved extensive recommissioning of the iconic racer, which was shipped from its home in Saudi Arabian to the firms base in Bakewell in Derbyshire. On arrival the F1 racer was dismantled and the firms team of experts embarked on a painstaking eight-week restoration, which had to be completed just in time for the final race of the Formula 1 Season in Saudia Arabia.
The raucous Williams FW07/04 was first used by Australian F1 star Alan Jones in 1979 and would be the car that propelled him to the prestigious Drivers title and Williams to the Constructors title in 1980. Jones would pilot “04” in the Argentinian Grand Prix in January of 1980, taking pole position and subsequent the race win, laying the foundations for a stellar season in the World Championship.
Fifteen Eleven Designs first steps on the restoration journey of FW07 involved stripping the car down to its aluminium monocoque chassis, to enable transport to its premises in the UK.
The painstaking process would then begin of restoring the Williams to its original glory which included 3D scans and modelling to ensure a faithful re-creation of unavailable parts. A total strip-down and rebuild of all components began, from the wiring loom to the iconic green leather steering wheel often associated with the FW07/04. A brand new 3-litre V8 Cosworth DFV engine was commissioned and built by Geoff Richardson Racing Engines, coupled with a full transmission overhaul by specialists Mark Bailey Racing.
Over one thousand hours were spent bringing this legendary Formula 1 car back to life, before being returned to the Middle East ahead of the much-hyped Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. There, it would showcase the brand-new circuit, with a host of A-list motorsport legends taking to the track in the Williams.
They would include Formula 1 World Champion and Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, winner of 13 Grand Prix’s David Coulthard and 1996 World Champion Damon Hill. In a special feature for Sky Sports, Hill would go head-to-head with pundit Martin Brundle in the sister 1979 Williams FW07/01 around the newly built circuit with the stands echoing to the sound of the glorious Cosworth unit.
With Sir Frank Williams CBE, founder of Williams Racing’s sad passing at the end of November, Formula 1 would also call on the FW07/04 to complete a lap of the circuit ahead of the race on Sunday with Hill at the wheel as a mark of remembrance of the inspirational mastermind and car builder.
Managing Director of Fifteen Eleven Design Chris Mellors was honoured to work on such a prestigious and high-profile project.
“The Williams FW07/04 project has undoubtedly been one of the biggest tasks Fifteen Eleven Design has undertaken and we certainly faced many challenges along the way, but it’s been simply magical to be able to return this iconic machine to its former glory,” he says.
“Whilst we had an idea of the amount of work required when we arrived at Saudi to analyse the state of the car it was pretty clear it would be a big ask to get it ready for the Formula 1 race at the start of December. The owner had given us just eight weeks and we quickly realised the full extent of the work required. But when you oversee something like this, you know you simply cannot cut corners in any way; you just make it happen.”
“We ensured we had a superb team around us and were equipped with all the experts we could find from both the ’70s and ’80s and immersed ourselves in that world for two months solid. Of course, there were modern elements that came into play such as 3D modelling, but that further reinforced the desire to ensure it took to the Saudi track in as original condition as possible”.
“Of course, seeing F1 legends take to the track after all our hard work was the icing on the cake and we are proud to have played our part in making a little history that weekend. It was made even more poignant with Frank Williams’ passing last month, of course, it was certainly a `lump in the throat` occasion for many. Seeing Alan Jones at the circuit and having the opportunity for him to be reunited with his winning Williams was a fantastic moment.”