With and Without Glory

Terry Wright looks at what is needed to complete his
history of the big-twin Cooper.

POWER WITH GLORY: Hillclimbing the Big-Twin Cooper has long been the provisional title of the intended sequel to the Loose Fillings history of the big-twin Cooper and its antecedents to 1950 or so. It has been planned that it would cover the great hillclimb years of 1951-1961, when the Cooper was absolutely supreme in the UK as well as many parts of the Commonwealth and the Empire.

When all is ready it could take a couple of years to distill the research, write the text, select the pictures, lay out the pages, collate the citations, caption the photographs, prepare the index, get it printed and reviewed … and manage the sales whereby I should just about break even on the printing costs. But time is running out and if I can’t get some input from the UK it’s not going to happen.

While the main story is clear and easy enough to write, there are too many little ‘back-stories’ and details unresolved. As well as the historical narrative, I am proposing to catalogue all the period big-twins although without trying to document their provenance beyond 1961. In my view the book needs this catalogue and the catalogue can’t be done without more definitive research. That means ‘boots on the ground’ and that isn’t possible for me at the moment.

The Australian, New Zealand, Asian and African cars are fairly well resolved because they have been in tightly knit motorsport communities where the provenance of the surviving cars is generally well known right up to today. But many of the British cars are all-over the place as far as their history is concerned. There are too many mysteries and inaccuracies in the folklore which is often all there is to go on.

For example reliable information is needed on the following:

The Ken Wharton championship winning lightweight Mk4 was sold to Scandinavia less engine by Bryan Eccles around 1960. What has become of it? Here it is in Bryan’s hands …

Rivers Fletcher had a Mk8 c1958 – what became of it and who had it before him … ?

The Bertie Bradnack’s onetime twin rear-wheeled Mk7-L3-53 most recently driven by Doc and Tom Willoughby was certainly driven on at least one occasion by Tony Marsh at Rest and be Thankful – why – was he thinking of buying it ? Here it is with Bertie at Brighton …

And what happened to MK7-L1-53 and Mk7-L2-1953 of which I have found no trace. Was one of them the Peter Bell owned car which Michael Christie drove from 1953 and then Ken Wharton drove in his last year before he was killed … ?

Was another the Mk7 (possibly) that Les Leston raced in 1953 when everyone else had given more or less given up racing the twin? And was this a factory car run with full Cooper support and if so what was the objective … ?

What became of the ex Peter Hughes car that David Roscoe sold to Jimmy de Villiers in Rhodesia in 1958 and which may have been rebodied (below) .

Almost certainly it is this car in the Rhodesia copper belt …

What happened to Mk5-L3-51 ordered by Harry Schell according to the records published by Doug Nye, but which I am sure he never raced. Did someone else get the car and if so who? Here is the 1950 Mk4 twin

Betty Haigh had 10-38-50 – what became of it? Indeed what became of most of the early Mk3 and Mk4 twins including those of Spike Rhiando, Syd Logan, George Abecassis, John Cooper, Bill Aston, George Hartwell, Bill Whit house, Pat Fergusson, Eric Brandon, Ray Merrick Michael Christie, Ken Wharton (his first 1950 car) and various others?

These are only some of the questions needing answers so any input would be much appreciated. Most importantly I would be grateful for the sight of ANY 1951-1961 period twin photos of ANY quality. In many case such photos are the only surviving primary evidence of who had what car when and where.

Terry Wright

6 thoughts on “”

  1. Realise this is plea concerns the fate of European twins Terry. Assume you have enough on the Cooper Irving, but if not, I have a copy of Diana Davison Gaze’s scrapbook of the period, so happy to fill in any photo gaps if necessary.

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  2. Terry, the brutal truth is that with so many cars and so few records, the Cooper story (and others) is very patchy, despite a lot of work.
    One I can advance a bit. In 1952 Les Leston bought a Cooper Mk VI 500 to go with the Leston Special. At the opening of Crystal Palace in 1950 he guest drove the works Mk VII, and was so impressed that he got his car upgraded by the factory. He would still run both cars in 500format through the rest of the year, but would do several 1100 runs as well. Remember that in 1953 Moss was the works driver, although he only seems to have done a handful of 1100 events (including getting tipped at Castle Combe). It seems that for 1954, at least the start, the official 1100 car remained the Mk VII. It seems to be a while before we see a Mk VIII 1100 competing.
    Fate of the Leston car after that remains a mystery to me.

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  3. Rivers-Fletcher kept the car, I believe, and son Peter ran it in the late 1970s as a 500.

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  4. Thanks, Rich, they are useful ‘nuggets’. I believe there must have been a ‘works’ Mk8 as I have a pic of Wharton in it, Prescott I think, I would have to check, but I think there was only one occasion.

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