Blades Begins – the first chapter of the Clan Crusader Mod Sports story.

December 13th , 1972.

“Thoughts, John?”

Three men stand in a dimly-lit room at the Clan Motor Company factory unit on the Crowther Industrial Estate, Washington. Two of them in business suits with flared trouser legs.

The third man is dressed in corduroy slacks and a Parka jacket. He considers the question, scanning around the room. Through the door, the Clan Crusader assembly line is visible still, silent.

“I’ll do it Blades, but you both need to let me play. It’s not right as it is, like” says John Burn, race mechanic for Formula 2 racing driver, the flamboyant tailor Johnny Blades.

Burn kneels down beside the translucent lightweight Clan Crusader, the storeroom light glinting through the floor of the car. He anchors his hand on the top of the rear wing, swinging himself slowly under the car for a closer look.

“We need to do something about the suspension. Make the most of how light this shell is. I’ve been working up some designs based on the ’69 – see?”

Burns ducks back out from under the car, reaching into the pocket of his coat. He unfolds a piece of lined paper and hands it to Johnny Blades. The mechanic doesn’t make eye contact with his driver, his gaze still concentrated on the car in front of him. The Clan is sitting on its fat racing tyres, a loose-fitting covering sheet half pulled back to reveal the shape of the car with its striking black wheel arches.

Blades studies the scribbled drawings on the sheet in his hand, annotated to indicate that the numbers are that of the rear suspension geometry of a Lotus 69 Formula 2 car, the ex. Fittipaldi car the driver will race in 1973.

He glances at the third man and grins, running his hand over his head in a ‘whoosh’ movement to indicate to Clan boss, Paul Haussauer that he has no idea what the drawings mean.

Haussauer, who has been quiet until now takes the paper and considers the drawings thoughtfully.

“See it as a starting point, gentlemen,” he says. “We’ll prepare the shell, what you do from there is up to you. But I want Lotus.” He’s still looking at the paper, studying the numbers with an engineer’s eye. “I want us to send a message.”

Haussauer looks up from the unfolded paper in his hand and searches Blades’ eyes for an answer. The Whitley Bay man in turn raises an eyebrow questioningly in the direction of his mechanic. Burn chuckles and knocks his knuckles on the roof of the Clan flippantly. It was already a done deal, he knew that.

He’d realised it on the drive to the factory. Blades had been full of nervous energy, tapping his finger on the top of the ball-shaped gear knob in the Ferrari Dino and saying very little.

It was an energy Burn had felt before from his friend. Just like the year they’d decided to scrap the GTs and pile everything into the F2 programme. Now here they were returning to sports cars. In this – a one-off works entry for Clan. “If we do this John, we’re all in” says Blades, cutting through the mechanic’s thoughts. His tone sincere, voice echoing in the empty factory unit, Blades continues “One season, then that’s it. I’m out.”

John Burns stands, straightening up and dusting off his knees, eyeing the two charismatic men with their shoulder length hair and their sharp suits. Noting their questioning expressions, he nods slowly.

“Aye, we’ll do it. Blaze of glory, like.”

The mechanic takes one last look at the Clan, nods at Haussauer and pats Blades’ shoulder as he brushes past, leaving the room.

“We’ll announce it in morning, Johnny. Thanks for doing this,” says the Clan man, offering his hand to the racing driver.

The two men shake hands, Blades smiles warmly then walks away – his brogues clacking on the factory floor.

“John will be back to collect the car on Monday, Paul” the racing driver calls back over his shoulder.

Paul Haussauer watches the tailor walk past the production line and out of sight, the sharp lines of the half-assembled Clan Crusaders casting odd shadows across the dark unit.

The businessman runs his hand over the roof of the racing car, satisfied. He pulls the cover back over the Mod Sports Clan in a deliberate manner, tucking his prized machine back up, and turns off the light.

Watch the feature-length documentary Blades of Glory, telling the story of Johnny Blades and the works Mod Sports Clan Crusader, here…

John Burn (R) checks out the works racing Clan at the Washington factory.