Fifteen Eleven Design, the prestige car builders and restoration firm, based in Bakewell, Derbyshire, have fully recommissioned and restored the 1980 Williams FW07/04 Formula 1 car that Alan Jones drove in his World Championship title-winning season and in which he also secured Williams the Constructor’s title the same year. In fact, Jones put the car on pole and won the opening race of the 1980 season at the Argentinian Grand Prix, laying down the gauntlet for the rest of the field.
The Fifteen Eleven team flew to Saudi Arabia, where the car’s current owner lives, to fully inspect the FW07/04 and work out how much work would need to be undertaken. They then stripped the car down so it could be shipped over to the UK before undertaking an extensive ground-up painstaking restoration and rebuild that took eight weeks to complete, which translates into over one thousand hours being spent bringing this legendary Formula 1 car back to life and its former glory.
The restoration process involved taking 3D scans and modelling to ensure a true re-creation of any unavailable parts needed. Following a total strip-down, the team then embarked on a rebuild of all components, from the wiring loom to the eye-catching green leather steering wheel often associated with the FW07/04. Geoff Richardson Racing Engines built a brand new 3-litre V8 Cosworth DFV engine, while a full transmission overhaul was carried out by specialists Mark Bailey Racing.
Upon completion, the car was then shipped to Jeddah in time for the penultimate round of the 2021 F1 World Championship, where it was driven on the brand-new race circuit by a number of former F1 drivers that included David Coulthard, Damon Hill and Emerson Fittipaldi. The FW07/04 was also featured in a Sky Sports documentary where Hill went head-to-head with Martin Brundle in the sister 1979 Williams FW07/01 around the newly built circuit where the magical sound of that Cosworth V8 echoed through the stands.
Chris Mellors, Managing Director of Fifteen Eleven Design commented:
“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.
“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.”
Fifteen Eleven Design is the classic arm of the World Rally Championship team Mellors Elliot Motorsport, which has been building bespoke cars for competition and road use for over 40 years, and if you would like to find out more, please visit: www.fifteenelevendesign.com
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs by Tom Kahler courtesy of Fifteen Eleven Design