1962 Martin Tanner T-5
By 1962, Martin Tanner’s creations were winning H-Mod races all over the Midwest, and his latest build, the T-5, weighed in at just over 750 lbs. and had the lines of a period Italian creation. Again, just smaller.
Despite the diminutive Swedish Saab power plant, Tanner was clocked at nearly 120 mph at Road America in 1962, where he captured the H-Mod win at the Badger 200. More wins followed until he sold the car to a friend in 1965.
After Tanner built his final car, the rear-engined T-7 in 1967, he found his eyesight was starting to fail, so he took to building and selling home built kayaks. You can guess the build quality- they too were a cut above most kayaks on the market. Tanner passed away in 1969 at the age of 62. The racing class he was crowned champion of in 1958 evolved to become D Sports Racer and is today known as the P2 category.
As years went by, T-5 and T-2 wound up in the hands of Gene Leasure of Prescott, Arizona. We can thank Gene for triumphantly campaigning T-5 for nearly 30 years in the American Southwest before he passed in June, 2021 at the age of 86.
The T-5, in Leasure’s hands, ran at many events over the years, including 1987 Monterey Historics. In one of his final events, at the 2007 Reno Historics, T-5 finished third in the hotly-contested H-Mod event.
Not long after, Gene had the two Saab engines for each car rebuilt by Bud Clark and installed one of the fresh motors back into T-5, but he never made it back onto the track. Gene was one of the racers Mike Lewis would often have lunch with on Thursdays, so when the group talked to Mike again this fall and said the cars needed a proper home, Mike called us.
When both cars arrived on December 16th to KMPR’s headquarters, Gene Leasure’s race bag was still in T-5- and the weight of that hit me like a ton of bricks. We don’t just try to restore and preserve cars; we ensure legacy’s carry forward and are remembered.
One Tanner car will soon be buzzing in 2-stroke glory around a track it once dominated. The other will take some time, and lots of work, but will be cutting through the air as Tanner intended.
Like Eagles, they’ll draw a lot of attention, and are absolute works-of-art.