Alex Postan’s love of cars is clear even before he opens his mouth, writes JAMES ROBERTS.

The Conservative district councillor’s passion is obvious from the Porsche on the driveway of his home in Shilton, West Oxfordshire, parked in front of the half-built 1953 Lotus Six Climax in the garage.

Step inside the garage and you are transported into a petrolhead’s paradise: a giant workshop where tools jostle for position with motorsport memorabilia.

Mr Postan deserves to be proud of a career that brought him a national Formula Ford 1600 championship and a place on the grid at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1990 - all as a ‘dedicated amateur’.

Back to the present day, and the Lotus is now the 70-year-old’s pet project, the star attraction of a room he calls his ‘life’.

It is the car, he says, that ‘built’ the company’s founder, the legendary Colin Chapman, as a motor manufacturer.

Most people with a lifelong passion remember exactly when the spark was lit and Mr Postan is no different, recalling a family holiday aged eight with perfect clarity.

“It started on a midsummer break, my brother and I were in the back seat of my father’s Vauxhall Velux going from Cambridge to North Wales,” he said.

“Coming the other way were three D-Type Jaguars, in the days they drove them to Le Mans.

“My Dad said ‘look at those rich children, wasting their parents’ money and killing themselves. No son of mine’s ever going to do that’. But the seed was sown.”

It is safe to say his family did not share his passion for motor racing.

Born Alexander Keppel Postan in Cambridge in 1948, he grew up in a ‘Labour household’ - Hugh Gaitskell, who would later become chancellor and eventually Labour leader, was the best man at his parents’ wedding.

His father, Michael Postan, was a respected British historian, while his mother, Cynthia Keppel, excelled in several fields, most intriguingly as a secretary for MI5.

Ms Keppel was also the fourth daughter of Walter Keppel, the ninth Earl of Albemarle and a former ‘grandfather’ of the House of Lords.

As a youngster, Mr Postan attended Westminster School, but as a ‘child of the 60s’, he was not exactly a model student.

“I’ve come from a political background in all senses, but I was a tearaway,” he admits.

“I did badly at school and left university after one year.”

A lifelong love of art saw Mr Postan land a job as a gofer at a gallery in London, delivering items on the West End's Cork Street.

After 18 months running errands, he gained a foothold in the industry and set up his own gallery, Alexander Postan Fine Art.

He was among a small group of dealers that ‘pioneered the reassessment of modern British art’ and his first text, on the work of surrealist painter and war artist Paul Nash, was published in 1973.

The three-day week of 1974 hit the gallery hard, but this created more time for another great love: cars.

Three years earlier, he had bought his first racing car: an Erskine Staride Formula 3, which he changed for a Brabham BT21, and changed again for a GRD Formula 3 car.

With art increasingly pushed to the side, the amateur driver began taking part in hill climb events all over the country.

“I always imagined being a racing driver was for special people, not you and me, until someone told me just have a go,” he said.

“I didn’t touch the car from the end of one race to the next.

“The fact I was there taking part was all that counted.”

In 1977, Mr Postan moved in with his second wife, Jane, with the pair marrying in 1991.

There were more exciting developments on the track, as Mr Postan began competing in the national Formula Ford series.

He recalled: “It was the best racing ever. You’d have 80 people turning up for one race, there would be three heats and a final.

“The cars had very restrictive rules, with no aerodynamics and the same horsepower.

“It was all down to skill and getting the car to work at its best.

“They were fabulous to drive because they didn’t have much grip.”

An amateur racer, Mr Postan took a part-time job as an insurance salesman, simply to ‘pay the bills and go racing’.

It did not work out that way. He developed a knack for the role and, in 1982, became part of a three-man partnership of independent financial advisors in Cirencester. He remained in the job for 25 years.

One year later came his greatest achievement in racing to date, as he won a national Formula Ford 1600 championship.

He said: “I thought I was no good but just loved it. Because of that, I always went for a finish and racked up the points.

“But I have a terrible reputation as being an aggressive driver.”

The ex-district council chairman’s racing history unsurprisingly throws up several incredible tales.

He set 11 land speed records in a Lamborghini Countash, while coming into contact with several people who went on to have great careers in motorsport.

Mr Postan’s first mechanic in Formula Ford, Rod Nelson, later won back-to-back Formula One world championships with Fernando Alonso at Renault.

During the 1980s, he continued to enjoy ‘the whole cocktail’ of motorsport, while he moved to West Oxfordshire in 1985.

One treasured memory arose from his position as one of the less powerful, ‘baby’ cars in Formula 3 in the late 1980s.

He said: “During that era, I did one of the most useful things I’ve done for international motorsport.

“I helped world champions train in the art of lapping backmarkers.

“I remember one 20-lap race at Silverstone, I was expecting to be lapped by about lap 15 or 16.

“A pack of three front-runners came by and it was [future Formula One drivers] Eddie Irvine, Mika Salo and Damon Hill. The first two came by, but guess who gave me the wheel? Damon Hill.”

Mr Postan could write a book from his motorsport anecdotes and any text would surely reserve a chapter for Le Mans.

Despite a 'disastrous' season of C2 sports car racing, Mr Postan and his team managed to raise the money to take part in the 24-hour endurance race.

Driving for the GT Motorsport team alongside Alistair Fenwick and New Zealand driver Craig Simmiss, the team qualified for the race 'by the skin of their teeth'.

They finished down the field in 28th, but Mr Postan admits he 'still can't believe' he drove in one of motorsport's three great races.

“I’m still speechless about it," he recalled.

“I can still see the sun rising up at 4am, coming down the Mulsanne Straight, the Porsche 962s rushing past me going 10mph faster.

“And the heat - we had a 4L Cosworth DFL engine, alumninium chassis, radiator, hot summer’s day, so it got really hot in there.”

After achieving a 'lifetime ambition', he never raced at Le Mans again.

He explained: “That was probably the last year a basic amateur like myself could take part. Now it’s a sprint race for professionals.”

Mr Postan remained involved with motorsport, most notably as financial advisor and close friend of Richard Burns, the 2001 world rally champion.

In 2005, Mr Burns died of a brain tumour, aged just 34, and 'the fun went out of it' for Mr Postan. He retired four years later.

The rally driver's championship-winning helmet is one of the councillor's most prized possessions. It is a poignant memento in a house of motor racing memories.