CDL Chorlton

Following a 1st in class at VSCC Loton Park Hill Climb in Sept 2021, Tom Hardman Limited invites would-be-drivers to come take up very same, original seat in which Chorlton likely sat when he followed Stirling Moss over the line at Goodwood all those years ago.

In 1946, Michael Chorlton acquired the ex-Count Stansilaw Czaykowski Bugatti Type 51A from Jack Lemon Burton, having nurtured his love of motorsport in his youth at Brooklands, and as a member of the Junior Car Club. Chorlton was a film-editor and director by profession, working with big names of the day like David Niven and Phyllis Calvert. But his desire to drive was burning, and so post war, he took the well-campaigned Bugatti and developed it into the CDL Chorlton Special. CDL stood for Centaur Developments Limited and Chorlton’s ambition was to turn his enterprise into a successful racing marque.

The modifications made by CDL in the 1948 season were radical, with weight reduction and dynamics uppermost in mind. The front suspension was totally re-engineered and he devised an independent double wish-bone arrangement with coil springs. The front suspension was located laterally on the Bugatti chassis, incorporating a single leaf spring.

The two-seater Bugatti body was replaced with an aluminium monopost in GP-style, and the Bugatti rear axle was fitted with four dampened Girling coil springs. The T51 chassis narrowed, with siderails retained and new specially designed tubular and cruciform cross members installed. Rudge hubs and wire wheel were fitted, and the original clutch and Bugatti gearbox were used, as were as the original steering-box, mounted upside down.  The racing world congratulated him on his courage for building a car eligible to race alongside the big names and engines of the day as typified by Nye & Goddard’s Classic Racing Cars.

Chorlton went on to campaign the car – now known as the CDL Chorlton Special – at all the great events, including the Silverstone GP, the Isle of Man and at Goodwood for the first Members Meeting, regularly competing with Alfa’s, Alta’s, and ERA’s. At the 1950 Goodwood Members Meeting, the CDL was on the grid alongside Stirling Moss’ HWM 50-Alta and Prince Bira’s Maserati 4CLT/48, finishing 5th in 1950 after an exciting battle.

In November 1950, Chorlton sold the 1496cc Bugatti engine. He clearly intended to enter a new phase of development for the 1951 season but before this could begin, he died in a plane crash. His widow sold the car, and it was dismantled. In 1958, the new owner, a Mr Rigg fitted a prototype 2.5 Alta engine twin supercharged, an Aston Martin DB2 back axle and a preselect gearbox as part of the development programme. Rigg used the car competitively within VSCC events throughout the early 1960’s.

In subsequent years the car passed through multiple hands, until, it seems, Keith Butti dismantled the car in 1971.  At this point, the original chassis was removed, reputedly due to damage

More recent history


In 1994 the car was bought at auction by Roger Hart, minus chassis. A replacement Gino Hopkins T51 Replica Chassis to the CDL modified design was acquired. The Alta prototype engine fitted by Rigg was replaced with a Emeryson 2.5ltr Alta Engine.   


Hart restored the car over four years, incorporating many of the original parts which made the car so unique; the original 1948 CDL-engineered front axle is amongst them.


Once completed, Roger debuted the car in VSCC competition before selling to historic car enthusiast Nick Pellet to be his single seater racing car. The CDL was looked after by Gareth Burnett’s Pace Products, where significant sums were spent on the car’s development. The car was then acquired by the current vendor ‘off-market’ to compete in pre-61 racing as well as at the 2017 Members Meeting. Sadly, work commitments stymied the vendor’s desire for single-seater GP competition, so the car is reluctantly offered for sale.       

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