Jul/Aug 2022 edition
Issue #23 Automobilia Resource Magazine
Written by Nathan Chadwick
They say good things come in small packages, and few things look quite as engaging as an Abarth 595 on three wheels with its tiny engine screaming for more revs in wheeled combat.
In the 1960s the master of this fine art was Ed Swart – a talented racer, engineer and businessman who won the Division 1 class of the 1965 European Touring Car Championship. Though this was the highlight of a varied career, Swart turned his hand to GTs, sports cars, sports prototypes and Can-Am, among many other things.
Much like Sir Stirling Moss, Swart keenly kept a diary of all his racing activities, scrupulously maintaining a record of results, press cuttings and more. It’s all been collated in this 10-inch-square hardback book, produced in association with Johnny Tipler.
We begin the story with the young Swart’s amazing youth – his father was the main Fiat dealer in The Hague and was heavily involved with Dutch motorsport, often providing photographs for a national magazine. Through these connections Ed got to meet such racing luminaries as Giuseppe Farina and Luigi Villoresi, and, unsurprisingly, the dream to become a racing driver was soon formed.
His engineering studies took him to the Abarth factory, where he soon developed the contacts to start his own business, importing tuning parts to The Netherlands, which helped fund his racing passion. He was a late starter in karting in 1959, but by the early 1960s he was already rallying and racing. In 1964 he made his international debut with an 850-cc Fiat-Abarth, and through this he met British racer Warwick Banks.
This friendship would prove to be instrumental: through Banks he met his now wife, Sally, a one-time girlfriend of Jim Clark!
For the 1965 European Touring Car Championship season, Swart bought an ex-works Fiat-Abarth 1000 TC and competed with great success, recording a class victory at Spa-Francorchamps. This caught the attention of Carlo Abarth, who invited him to drive for the works team at the Nürburgring 6-Hours – big ask for any private amateur racer. But at least Ed had some knowledge of the track – one lap, in the reverse direction, at the 1963 Tulip Rally. Despite this, he soon found his pace and finished the race second in class and tenth overall. That set him up for five more races with the works team, and he won the Division 1 European Touring Car Championship. To cap it all off, he won a 500-km race at Zandvoort singlehandedly in a Fiat-Abarth 850 TC, which impressed Carlo Abarth still further.
The mid-1960s saw Abarth launch the 1000SP and 2000SP for the European FIA 2.0-litre Sportscar Championship, taking Ed with them. After seeing mixed results in 1969, in 1970 Ed notched seven class wins in 14 races, plus overall victory at Zandvoort. It was enough to give Swart the Group 5 class title.
At the end of the season Abarth was sold to Fiat, and Ed moved to Chevrons as part of his Canon Racing Team. It would be his last season as a driver, and he moved into management. With two racing teams to manage, a business, and duties with Zandvoort itself, Ed’s life was busy, though the loss of his friend Piers Courage at Zandvoort heavily influenced his decision to hang up his helmet. Well, temporarily.
Three years of not racing were torture for Ed, and he soon bought a Ferrari 250 GT SWB and began historic racing – that car is now part of Ralph Lauren’s collection. Ed moved to the United States in 1980, where he became heavily involved in historic Formula 5000, Formula Atlantic, and Can-Am racing, and he still competes to this day.
“Ed Swart: From Zandvoort to Daytona” is a fascinating book that paints a colorful picture of a brightly hued life, full of insight into the life of a racing driver and the social circles he ran in, rather than simply the circles he raced around. We also get an insight into his other endeavors, such as his involvement with the Bitter car company and running Zandvoort.
It’s a visual feast too, with beautifully rendered action images and selected items from Swart’s archive of programs, race results, newspaper clippings and more. There’s also a trove of images from his father’s collection, featuring signed photos of the likes of Jean Behra, Mike Hawthorn, Alfred Neubauer, Alberto Ascari, Luigi Villoresi and more. Brian Redman also provides an entertaining Foreword to the book.
The quality paper and hardback construction lend a nice weight to the book, and the fairly wide pages allow you to sink into the photographs for extended periods of time. Ed has lived a remarkable life, and by the end of the book you may feel that you’ve caught up with a friend, not just a far-off member of the racing elite.
“Ed Swart: From Zandvoort to Daytona,” by Ed Swart with Johnny Tipler, is available from CoteriePress.com or 303-933-2526 for $49.95 plus $6.95 shipping (in the U.S.), which represents a great value for such a well-produced and absorbing read.
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