Cars

My first car was an HRG Aerodynamic with an 1500cc Singer single overhead-cam engine (I believe). Not this one – I have no photograph – though I sense it was one of the HRX series. My uncle Stephen helped find it after I came out of the Navy in 1957. I took it up to Balliol where it acquired the proctor’s mandatory green light and led to my meeting Nicholas Ouroussoff, Pip Danby, Mike Thornhill, and Angus Clydesdale – Nick, Angus, and I being fellow engineering students.

Though the HRG works thought the car viable enough to send three to Spa and Le Mans in 1949, to no great effect, mine was a horrible brake-less machine. Decelerating demanded deft use of the handbrake and occasional slalom techniques.

The little group at Balliol converged with Wilson Southam, a Canadian graduate student and serious skier. He persuaded the MG people at Abingdon to loan/sell him one of the ex-Le Mans Fitzwilliam MGAs:

Nick and I became Wilson’s mechanics. I bought an old Commer furniture van which we converted into a transport/accommodation machine.  As the Floreat Domus article (below) reveals, Pip decapitated it with a bridge-too-low.  Thus we entered the world of UK club racing under an august Latin name:

Floreat Domus 2017 FINAL pp36-37

LBL301 is now fully restored – as above – doing the auto-enthusiast show rounds in the US.

Somewhere during this time I traded the HRG for a Morgan +4 like this.

Taking it to my first meet to try my hand as a driver, I whacked it into the back of another car – the case went to trial and I was exonerated, but the Morgan was now about a foot shorter.  It went back to Malvern and I moved on.

Through our association with Geoff Williamson, of Austin A40 and other motor-racing fame, and working on LBL301 in his shop at Wheatley, I replaced the missing Morgan with one of the Sprinzel Sebring Sprites – as shown on my website’s header.

Sprinzel’s Sprites

Here is 777EBH at another meet – feels like Snetterton:

I graduated in 1960 and joined Rolls-Royce & Associates in Derby, working on the nuclear propulsion for the UK submarine fleet.

I traded the Sprite at David Buxton’s shop in Derby for a Lotus XI. Since then 777EBH has been fixed up and is now doing the autoshows.

Also out and about:

Campaigning the Lotus XI was serious stuff, compared to the Sprite which was driven to and from the meets.  I soon got into the routine.  Pick up the car from Alan on Friday.  Off the the meet early.  Roll 1 JVX off the trailer.  some practice laps.  One or two races.  Back on the trailer and drive home, knackered.

I have only recently learned my XI was one of three Series IIs that Colin Chapman built in 1957, as semi-works cars, mine being Alan Stacey’s – chassis #304. Stacey sold the car in Fall 1957 after a full season’s racing, including a major shunt at Snetterton, advertised at ₤ 1175 (only used weekends).

By the time I got 1 JVX in 1960, its engine was the  1200cc Climax variant. I could not compete in the regular Lotus XI 1100 cc Climax class.  The engine was wonderfully curated by a local whizz (Alan ?) whose shop I recall under some railway arches. With his help I was pretty quick.

I believe its next owner flipped it while on the road. A later owner changed the body-work into a GT. To my astonishment 1 JVX is now restored (to the Stacey body-work?) and owned by Malcolm Ricketts . Looking a whole lot tidier:

also getting out and about:

This picture at Goodwood where 1JVX may still hold the 1200cc lap record.

By then I was getting involved with Chris Lawrence’s motor-racing activities – see LawrenceTune for a very sketchy story.

Chris and I met at the meet where I was headed with my ill-fated Morgan +4 and we ‘bonded’, given we were both ex-Navy, both engineers.  He was 3 years older than me, less one day, both Leos.  He was campaigning Morgan +4s, first a second-hand 1956 one, and then the aluminium-bodied Super Sports +4 TOK 258 with great success, eventually winning the class at Le Mans in 1962.

He was also working on a succession of Deep Sanderson ‘specials’, initially with his patented swing-link suspension.

Chris and I designed the body of this DS (102?) version (2ARX), initially framing a body with wires brazed together in the garage at Bottomhouse Farm.  The body was built by Williams & Pritchard and lampooned by Brockbank as a perfume delivery van (I have no copy of that wonderful Motor Sport cartoon). Chris at the wheel.

In 1962 we took it to the Nurburgring. The big boys drove TOK. Len Bridge, my DS co-driver, flew it into a tree-top and himself into hospital, fortunately he was not too seriously damaged. Here is the car fixed up at the 1962 Racing Car Show in London show. Perhaps it still exists.

The next Deep Sanderson model – the DS 301 – was a more serious project, also with a Mini engine/gearbox in its rear. I sketched its body too, much better, though it is obvious we knew almost nothing about aerodynamics, especially between the car and the track beneath, mistaking style for function.

In 1963 we took the DS301 to Le Mans – here we are at the scrutineers. That’s me (pilote #2) to the left, Chris (pilote #1) to the right (we have been working for two days with no sleep).

(Mine is the head immediately to the left of the guy in ‘white’ overalls.) John Pearce is ahead of me in his black cap.

The DS 301 had more traditional suspension than the ‘perfume’ machine and directional stability its predecessor lacked. I messed up and put it in the sand at the end of the Mulsanne Straight – and was then aided by one of the marshals:

After 16hrs my time in the sand and zero brakes led us to be eliminated for falling below the class’s distance/time criteria.

In 1963 Chris got the better known SLR project rolling. I designed the body (or rather sketched outlines that Charlie Williams at Williams & Pritchard turned into something rather fine). Here’s my Mum’s copy of the catalog for a show – perhaps in 1964 – stand #4.

I spent 1964 in the US at Electric Boat ushering bits of HMS Dreadnought‘s reactor across the Atlantic.

I suspect the SLR’s first successful outing was at Grand Prix de Spa on May 17th 1964 when Chris finished 10th in the GT 2.0 class.  Gordon Spice finished 14th at Brands Hatch on July 11th 1964.

While two Morgan SLRs and the TR4 SLR were entered at Oulton Park April 11th 1964, one of the Morgans did not show up.

Here is Lawrence’s SLR (now the green car) looking reasonable before we put the side windows in.

By 1965 I had returned to the UK. Chris and I co-drove his SLR at the 1965 Guards 1000 at Brands Hatch. He took advantage of the unusual rolling start and turned it into a 17 second first lap lead. Looking down into Surtees.

The entries for the Guards 1000 (below). We were Class B #22.

As Chris wrote in  Morgan Maverick, the lower tube of our front suspension broke and we lost a deal of time doing a jury-rig that satisfied the scrutineers.  Here is some newsreel of the event, showing Chris’s great start:

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/guards-1000-race-for-production-sports-cars

Note also the Thurston SLR (grey #26) trailing the field, not a great start.

Here is Roger Everett tanking us up: TOK at Brands 21012019

Three +4 SLRs were built, and one on a TR4 chassis. All look nice today and get together.  The ‘green car’ is now labeled 258 TOK.

The SLRs

In 1966 I left Rolls-Royce to work for IBM (UK) in the Finance District.  I turned up for the disastrous 1966 Le Mans trip with two DS301s, hoping for a drive.  But by then I was also becoming way too busy with IBM – and that was the end of my life in motor-racing.