I received the sad news of the passing of Eric Liddell, father of my old friend Robin. I met Eric on several occasions and found him a charming gentleman of the old school, who was justifiably proud of the achievements of his son. Robin has asked our Special Correspondent, David Blumlein, to compose a brief tribute.
It is very sad to have to record the death of racing driver Eric Liddell at the age of 81. He was one of the most successful Scottish drivers in GT and sports cars and in his career he drove a wide variety of cars.
He began his competitive life as a speedway rider for the Glasgow Giants but soon turned to four wheels. He had a Lola Junior but acquired in 1963 one of the Formula 1 Emeryson-Climaxes which he took to the first meeting that year at Charterhall. Alas, in practice a breakage caused it to crash and the car caught fire, inflicting second and third degree burns on Eric and burning itself to destruction. These injuries kept Eric out of action for a considerable time but he vowed henceforth never to race open-seater cars again.
He bought then the red ex-Jackie Stewart E-type Jaguar and, among other successes, used it to win the last race held on his local Charterhall circuit.
He also raced a Lotus Elan and managed to beat the “works “ car at Crystal Palace but his big break came when Nicoll Cuthbert purchased a new Ford GT40 for him to drive. This car, painted red with a white stripe, brought him much success including a fine second place in the Ilford 500 at Brands Hatch in 1966. He shared another GT40 with Ed Nelson in some of the major endurance events at this time and co-drove the Ferrari 250LM of David Skailes both at the Nϋrburgring 1000km and Kyalami 9 Hours where they finished 6th in 1967.
In 1968 Eric drove a GT40 at the postponed Le Mans 24 Hours with Mike Salmon but, having driven a six-hour stint at night in the rain, he was very disappointed when the gearbox gave up in the 18th hour.
Further drives came in Lola T70s with his friend Paul Hawkins and in Bill Bradley’s Porsche 906. He had a test for Ecurie Ecosse in the Tojeiro-Buick but turned down the drive when he found the cockpit too small!
After testing at Silverstone he was invited to drive a race for the championship-winning John Wyer Gulf team but, having already agreed to drive for Cuthbert, felt that he could not go back on his word – such was the integrity of Eric Liddell.
In his later career he even drove a modified Jensen-Healey, putting the car on the front row at the opening event at Knockhill where incidentally he held a lap record for many years.
On retiring he was able to devote more time to promoting the career of his son Robin who follows in his father’s footsteps by becoming a fast and reliable endurance driver. To those of us lucky enough to have known him Eric Liddell was a thoroughly well-principled and decent person. To Robin and all Eric’s family and friends we offer our sincere condolences.
David Blumlein, May 2011