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Arrows FA1 '78

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The story of Arrows, particularly the FA1, is a fascinating piece of Formula 1 history. The company was founded by several expatriates from the Shadow Formula 1 team in late 1977: Alan Reese, Jackie Oliver, Dave Wass, and Tony Southgate (all of whose last initials formed part of the “Arrows” name). It is no surprise then, that the first Arrows, the 1978 FA1, bore striking similarity to the Shadow DN-9, which Southgate had also designed. FA1-1 was built in just 53 days, because in order to qualify as a manufacturer and gain commercial benefits such as subsidized air freight for the 1978 season, the company could miss only one non-European round in the season. The car’s first outing was at the Brazilian GP in Rio de Janeiro, where it placed 10th, and it was having a particularly impressive showing at the South African GP, when Ricardo Patrese stormed from 7th place to take the lead from Jody Scheckter before the 3.0 liter Cosworth DFV engine in the Arrows blew up with ten laps remaining. FA1-1 was then driven by Rolf Stommelen in Long Beach, finishing 9th before racing at Monaco, although the car did not finish due to driver illness. The was used as the spare car at the Belgian, Spanish, Swedish, French and British Grand Prix before a legal ruling prevented the car from being raced further.

When the FA1 first appeared in Brazil in January of 1978, the owner of the Shadow team, Don Nichols, was shocked by the similarities between the cars and subsequently filed suit in the English high court, claiming that the FA1 was a copy of the DN-9. The court ruled in July of 1978 that the cars were substantially similar, with 40% of the FA1 effectively the same as the DN-9, and the FA1 was banned from racing. The court also ordered that the offending components, specifically the four chassis and suspension, be handed over to Shadow, although the body was not since it was of a different design. Shadow reportedly used the chassis at the end of 1978. Interestingly, having seen the writing on the wall, Arrows began work on a new car called the A1 in June of 1978, which was unveiled the day after the court’s ruling in favor of Shadow. As a result, the Arrows team did not miss a single race. 

Consequently, FA1-1 was not a complete car again until 2000, when the chassis was reunited with Arrows FA1-1 bodywork which was discovered in a particularly unlikely location. Nichols had kept the suspension and tubs from the Arrows cars when he retired from racing, but never had bodywork and could not reconstitute the car until an old employee mentioned that a set of FA1 bodywork was hanging from the ceiling of a pub in Northhampton, England. The Arrows team had given the bodywork to their favorite pub following the 1978 ruling against Arrows, and over two decades later, a trade for a set of Clay Reggazzoni Shadow bodywork was orchestrated, which allowed FA1-1 to become a complete car once again. A complete restoration was performed on the car, and some of the parts came from ex-Arrows employees who had squirreled them away. Pete Racely, the car’s then owner, collaborated with Dave Luckett, who had originally assembled the car in 1978, to return FA1-1 to its current state. Given the difficulty of assembly just one FA1, it is believed that no other FA1s were restored to complete operating condition and that this car remains the only complete and running FA1 in existence.

Since the restoration, the car has been campaigned in vintage events, and maintained without regard to cost by its enthusiastic and seasoned vintage racer owner. The car has been maintained by Phil Reilly and Co. as well as Dave Vegher’s Veloce Motors West, ensuring that it has been capably looked after and prepared to the highest possible standards. The engine was built by Phil Reilly and Co. and has two weekends on it, likely about 1.5 to 2 hours of run time. Recent work at Veloce Motors West has included rebuilding the brake calipers, refurbishing the oil tank, remanufacturing the front radiator, redoing the suspension with revised spring rates, redone shift linkage, tidied wiring, rebuilt CVs as necessary, a new starter, and refitting the nose to ensure proper airflow to the radiator.

The car is in excellent condition and the exceptional level of preparation that the car has received is clear. The chassis, suspension, and brakes are extremely clean and well-detailed, as is the engine. The bodywork is in excellent shape and faithfully replicates the Warsteiner livery that the car wore during the 1978 Grand Prix season. The hand painted graphics are a work of art and have been recently redone. 

The car comes with a spare set of wheels, a spare nose, a nose mold, engine oil heater, and a set of team jackets, as well as extensive documentation. The car has FIA papers, as well as magazine articles about the car, many period photos of the car racing as well as set up sheet and various other car set up data.

This is an extraordinarily rare opportunity to acquire a genuinely irreplaceable car. The very first Arrows built, this car was raced in period and played an integral part of Arrows’ early tumultuous history. It is visually striking and has been beautifully restored and prepared by some of the best in the business. Additionally, as a 1978 car, it is from the last year of eligible cars for the Monaco Historic Grand Prix, which should ensure that it is among the most competitive cars on the grid for the event. Finally, this car is believed to be the only surviving FA1, ensuring that the car should be accepted to just about any event into which it is entered.

Track photographs courtesy of Dennis Gray.

race 1978 model FA1-1
Brazil - Patrese 
South Africa - Patrese 
USA West - Stommelen 
Monaco - Stommelen 
Belgium - (T-car)
Spain - (T-car)
Sweden - (T-car)
France - (T-car)
Great Britain - (T-car)
Germany - (T-car)

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