John Tojeiro is known for his ingenious high-performance creations and recently, a lot of his sports cars have raced in the Copperstate 1000 Vintage Sports Car Rally. But one of his unfinished creations has recently made news that it has finally been completed and will be heading to the Russo and Steele auction.
Tojeiro was original an aviation engineer during the World War II. After the war, he became famous his lightweight race car designs including one of the earliest designs to incorporate a mid-engine setup. He was also the one who designed the AC car’s chassis that eventually became the base design for the Shelby Cobra.
Back in 1959, Tojeiro was designing the frame for the front engine California Spyder. The tube-frame design was very much similar to the Ecurie Ecosse Team’s Tojeiro Jaguar that raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Tojeiro built two chassis. The first one went to Ecurie Ecosse which replaced one of their cars that got wrecked in Nurburgring. The other one was fitted with a body designed by an aeronautical engineer, Cavendish Morton. The body was heavily based on the Ferrari California. But before the body designed by Morton was completely finished, Tojeiro started to work with other projects such as the mid-engine racer that were used by Stirling Moss. The designed was never completed and the chassis was literally left hanging on a ceiling for several years.
In the 60s, the chassis with the label TCAL 59 made its way to Gilbert Dickson who worked with the Tojeiro Registry and planned to finish the Barchetta but was not able to do so.
A few years later, John Muller who was an automotive archeologist discovered historic race cars that were almost forgotten. One of his finds was a Tojeiro Climax and he went to Dickson to know more about it, it was that time when he saw the California Spyder and purchased it in 1995.
Chuck Croteau who is an owner of a restoration and racing shop called Redline Service located in Tucson, Arizona heard about the California Spyder. Croteau worked with the Porsche racers that Muller used.
Muller wanted to finish the Tojiero, so he contacted Coachsmithing from west Wisconsin. The build started with only a chassis and wire outline for the body. Even with the sketch designs of the complete bodywork, there was still a lot of work left to do. But before the car was finished, Muller died 3 years ago. “There was a large bill left and his widow wouldn’t spend any more money on his cars”, said Croteau.
Croteau wanted to see the condition of the Tojiero and how much work Allen Buresh and his crew have finished. He then asked Allen to finish work and after it was completed, he purchased the California Spyder. Croteau then brought the car to his shop to add some final touches to make it road worthy. The Tojiero California Spyder was finally finished and Croteau has had several test drives on the track.
A classic GMC straight 6-cylinder engine that has been bored to 302 sits on the front hood and has been measured to reach 300 horsepower with a torque of 325 lb-ft. Russo and Steele have yet to announce their official estimated value but Croteau said that an East Coast restorer who has knowledge on the Tojeiro California has estimated that it could be worth between $600,000 and $750,000.
Tojeiro’s son, Robin is excited to know that his father’s car is finally complete. Before it was just a chassis hanging in his father’s workshop, now it is a completed race car that features an artistic body designed by Morton.
Robin Tojeiro cannot wait to see the California Spyder in person and plans to be at the Russo and Steele auction when it will hit the block.
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