This stern looking lad is Andre Moynet. A proper chap, if ever there was one.
André Moynet was a much decorated French wartime fighter pilot who moved on to become a test pilot and an entrepreneur-businessman. He was also a politician. All very interesting, but what’s all this got to do with motor racing..well read on and find out!Born in 1921, Andre joined the French Air Force in 1939 and soon established himself as something of an Ace. Forced by the fortunes of war to depart his homeland, he became a member of Charles De Gaulle’s Free French forces and continued to fly into battle from bases in Britain and North Africa. Later he was seconded to the Russian Air Force, and ended the war flying Soviet Airacobras on the Eastern Front. In all, he notched up 150 hours of combat over 115 missions, and scored 12 “kills”. Including two FW190s and a train!
After the war he took up politics and rose to the position of Secretary of State for Youth Affairs. But he continued flying, having set himself up in business as an instructor as well as establishing himself as well respected test pilot. And it was in this capacity that he was to act as the co-pilot on the maiden flight of the Sud-Aviation Caravelle.
In 1956, as an Air Force reservist, he was recalled, and flew another 76 missions during the Algerian uprising. And in 1963 he rounded off his aeronautical career by trying his hand at building a plane of his own. Developing the twin-engined, push-me-pull-you, Moynet Jupiter 360 in conjunction with Matra. A technical novelty, but sadly a commercial non-entity.
“All very interesting, but what’s all this rubbish got to do with motor racing”, I hear you whine feebly. Well, in the early fifties Andre formed an association with Rene Bonnet and Claude Deutsch’s DB team and raced their small-capacity, Panhard powered, devices in endurance races such places as Sebring, Rheims and Le Mans.
He would wind-down his driving exploits during the sixties. But having tried his hand, and failed, as an aircraft constructor, he thought he might as well give the car industry a go.
A group of former DB employees were employed to a design a small-capacity, closed-coupe sports car for the 1968 Le Mans 24 Hours.
The design seemed sound enough, but as always, money and time were short, and the result was much compromised. Instead of the intended custom built chassis, it was decided to base the car on something off-the shelf. Oddly, the shelf chosen was that occupied by the British Costin-Nathan. Oddly because the Costin-Nathan was based on an unusual, although very effective, bonded plywood centre monocoque. With tubular sub-frames at each end, to carry the engine and suspension.
Andre’s boys basically dumped the original Hillman Imp engine, replaced it with a rather gutless Simca unit, and covered the lot with their own sporty-looking body-shell. Why they bothered at all, is something to wonder at. Probably the strongest feature of the Costin-Nathan design was it’s genuinely aerodynamic bodywork, conceived by the former De Havilland, Lotus and Vanwall aerodynamicist Frank Costin. If there was one item that you’d have wanted for your Le Mans car in 1968, it would have been Frank Costin designed bodywork. And that was the bit they didn't use! The Moynet-Simca LM68 made it’s debut as planned. Retired after 3 hours or so, and slid away almost unnoticed.
Entries were filed for the car in 1969 and 1970, but on both occasions it failed to make it to the startline. And that appeared to be the whole story for Andre Moynet’s ambitions as a constructor of self-propelled motor carriages. That was until 1975, when, rather unexpectedly, the Le Mans organizers were told to brace themselves for the arrival of the Moynet-Simca LM75.
It looked somewhat similar to the LM68; ie old-fashioned. But it was actually completely new. This one was based on the chassis of a CG-Simca rally car. It had a full race-spec 2-litre engine, and most strangely, very generous sponsorship from Esso.
The petroleum giant was rumoured to be putting a million Francs into this rather odd project, and added to the novelty by filling the cockpit with women. Three of France’s top female rally drivers to be exact. Marianne Hoepfner, Christine Dacremont and a young Michele Mouton. Michele later admitted that she wasn’t at all excited by the prospect of what would be her only appearance in the Le Mans 24-Hours. And only drove because Esso, who sponsored her rallying, had badgered her into it.
A young Michele Mouton, Marianne Hoepfner and Christine Dacremont
The rest of the team was made-up of former Matra crew members, and if it hadn’t have been for the curious little Moynet, the various ingredients may well have expected to have been taken a lot more seriously.
A little manly assistance being provided by Monsieur Moynet during a pit stop
A little manly assistance being provided by Monsieur Moynet during a pit stop.png The Esso ladies would be racing in the closely fought 2-Litre class, and frankly, even they expected to get little reward from the exercise. But they dragged their charge around for the full allotted 24 hours, cruised home in 21st place, and amazingly, won their class! Having proved themselves to be a worthy bunch of “Vainqueurs”, the Moynet team was disbanded and never raced again.
Andre Moynet later became Mayor of his home village of Biot near Antibes, and remained a resident thereof, until he flew off into the sunset in 1993. His LM68 was rumoured to have been destroyed in garage fire many years ago. But the Ladies-Favourite, the LM75, lives on today, in shabby splendour, at a small museum near Antibes.