Lee Lucas – An Appreciation

Lee Lucas in his Bedford-based "Grasshopper" Special.

The following is extracted from a tribute, prepared by Ronnie Trouton, and first published in CarSport Magazine April 2013.

Lee Lucas was a very successful motor sport competitor, especially in Autotesting, where he was a member of the winning Northern Ireland team at the famous Ken Wharton Memorial International Autotest in 1978 and 1982.

Lee passed away at the age of 86 on 15th December 2012. He was born in Trillick, Co. Tyrone on. 11th December 1926. He and his family moved to a number of towns throughout Northern Ireland including Coagh, Fintona, Limavady, Omagh, and Portrush before settling permanently in Belfast.

Lee and his wife Joyce were married for 61 years and they had a daughter Claire and two sons, Malcolm and Philip. Most of his professional life was spent with Sydney Pentland Ltd., Ravenhill Road, Belfast, where he was a Director and Company Accountant. He had been Treasurer for the St. Nicholas Parish Church on the Lisburn Road for over 20 years, and a member of the choir there for 30 years.

Lee started competing in Driving Tests in 1959, and almost exclusively drove Vauxhall cars; hardly surprising since Sydney Pentand was a Main Vauxhall Dealership. He drove Victor, Velox, Chevette and Astra saloon models, and his famous Grasshopper Special which was built locally from Vauxhall/Bedford parts. Amazingly, he even used the Grasshopper to tow the family caravan, visiting Cork and Kerry in the 1960s and 70s.

His competition cars were almost exclusively driven to and from events, and very few Autotest drivers today would be willing, or able, to cope with “under the dashboard” umbrella handbrakes, or steering column mounted gearchange levers! Lee did it regularly and often won his class.

Among his list of successes would be his contribution to the winning Vauxhall Team on the 1964 Circuit of Ireland International Rally, along with his great friend, Ken Shields. He was also joint winner of the very first Paddy Hopkirk Trophy, awarded to the best “driving test” driver in 1966, along with Adrian Boyd.

Eric Hopkirk, Paddy’s Brother, presents the Hopkirk Trophy to joint winners in 1966 – Adrian Boyd and Lee Lucas.

Lee had a very mild and diplomatic manner, so much so that he eventually convinced the Hagley & District Light Car Club (organisers of the Ken Wharton Memorial Trophy event) that a VW Beach Buggy was eligible for the production sports car class in its event.

He was a founder member of the Autotest Drivers Club (NI) and acted as Honorary Treasurer for quite a few years.

Lee will be missed by his many friends in motor sport who will remember him, not just for his driving skill and competitiveness, but most of all for his sportsmanship.