All posts by Terry Wright

Editor, Loose Fillings. Author, Power Without Glory: Racing the Big-twin Cooper



Recently, New Zealand motor race historian Milan Fistonic sent me this shot of a Mk9 Cooper Norton, being worked on in the grassy pit area of the long since closed racetrack at Levin, New Zealand.

Captioned as being of Jim Berkett, with Cooper Norton Mk 9-28-55, it is of particular interest to me as it was from Jim that I purchased my JBS Norton in 1971. At the time Jim told me that he also had raced a Cooper as well as the JBS , and had on occasion swapped the Norton engines around. Here’s another period picture of Dick Butters at Levin:


The JBS was in the rafters of his plumbing business, the engine was sitting in the back of a VW Kombi van and the remaining parts were spread near and far. The mounting plates on the engine certainly didn’t fit the JBS, however others included in the collection did the job.

This particular single-cam pre-war engine was one of a very small number of race engines which were a fore runner to the venerable double knocker Manx engines which won hundreds of races in both bikes and F3 cars. Indeed most books on Nortons don’t even have information on these small-run engines, however they appear to have been used in 1935 and 1936 works bikes.

In time I had the JBS up and running, and at an event held by the Hawkes Bay Car Club in NZ in 1972 it was spotted by Ron Frost who immediately identified it as ‘’Curley Drydens factory experimental engine’’. Ron (RWA Frost) should have known, as he was not only a motorcycle racer and successful F3 car racer in his native England before settling in NZ, but he introduced many 500 cc F3 cars into the country, including my JBS. He was the driving force behind the construction of the Levin motor race track inside the horse racing facility there, much like his fellow countryman Geoff Sykes did with the Warwick Farm racecourse in Sydney.

It would appear that top Norton tuner of the day, Francis Beart may have worked on this engine given the quote from Iota magazine of March 1951 that he maintained Drydens ‘remarkably fast single cam engine‘, and that FB 444 is punched onto the drive-sidecrankcase.

Fast forward to 2017 and an approach to Derry Greeeklee saw me drive  to Adelaide and snap up a Mk9 Cooper that he had obtained from New Zealand some years earlier, mainly for the 1100 cc JAP engine that was then in it. I was keen to put it back to its original 500 cc F3 form and obtained a Manx engine from Charlie Banyard-Smith in the UK to do this. This Cooper is the exact one that Jim Berkett had owned back in the late 1950s, so now I have not only his old JBS but his Cooper Mk9 as well.

And that’s where the picture gets even more interesting, as sitting in the back of the Cooper in the photo is the single cam ‘’Curley‘’Dryden engine, which is still in the back of the JBS.

I have a copy of the Motor Vehicle registration papers that were used at the time in NZ, even for racing cars. Whilst there’s probably no doubt that Frost imported the Cooper, the first name on this form is Raymond Drew of Wellington. Although not on the entry list, he appears to have competed at the opening meeting at Levin.

Subsequent owners appear to have been Alistair McBeath, then Jim Berkett, Peter Slocombe, Dick Butters, Basil Brimelow, Garth Forsyth,  then maybe it went to Bill Clarke, John Holdsworth – who fitted the twin JAP – Derry Greeneklee and then Garry Simkin.

Garry Cooper Nov 2019 (3)

Fully restored, above, with a new engine , the car has had one short run on the disused airfield at Schofields in western Sydney and had a few ‘bugs‘ sorted out subsequently. When the big bug that is keeping us locked down at the moment is sorted, hopefully it will be out and about on east Australia racetracks.

Garry Simkin

PS Continuing our favourite theme of ‘things still turning up’ it might be mentioned that as opposed to a Mk8 Cooper, which has the engine sitting vertical, a Mk9 has the Norton engine leaning backwards at 15 degrees. To achieve this Cooper cast up special magnesium engine mounts, none of which came with the car. An observant fellow Cooper Mk 9 owner, Brian Simpson, noticed a pair for sale on Ebay and contacted Garry to suggest he bid for the pair. Seems not too many other people out there had these on their shopping list and they duly arrived in his letter box for the grand total of $35.


There is a better way, says Garry Simkin, who well knows the manipulations needed to time the magneto(s) on an air-cooled car.
He writes:

It seems like forever that I have used a cigarette paper to determine when the points open by way of setting the ignition timing of my magnetos.

As with many things in life, there is a better way. Recently, noted vintage car restorer and Mk 9 Cooper Norton owner Grant Cowie introduced me to the ‘Inductor Magneto Timing Light’.

By connecting the two leads to the magneto, and turning it, this device measures the inductive current, not continuity, to determine the exact of position of the points opening. This causes lights to indicate points opening and closing, but most useful is a rather loud beeping noise when the points open. Having the noise is great when you have your hands busy rotating the magnetos, and are trying to wrestle the cigarette paper while trying to get the drive sprocket onto the taper all the while tightening up the nut. It may be fine if you are an octopus, but it’s a messy and not entirely accurate business.

In his book Tuning for Speed, Phil Irving has mention of a method using a battery, light bulb, leads etc, but this also requires you to remove the centre screw. With the Inductor system no dismantling is required. It’s an all-round fantastic device which was primarily designed for timing aircraft magnetos. You can contact Grant Cowie at his Up The Creek Workshop on (03) 5470 5526 for more details and can check out his workshop and some interesting cars at

For magneto service Garry is happy to use Chris Zoch at Harrington, NSW, 0424 011 767.

Another cute little device was illustrated nearly a century ago in Motor Cycle magazine and it might be useful to those who like to rebuild their own crankshafts. Most of us with a lathe would put it between centres and then use a dial gauge to check the concentricity of the flywheels, but this little device might have a use if you are one of those people who might find themselves rebuilding their engine at a race meeting as people, including the editor, once did.



by Steve Denner with photos by Col Roper

A return to (only temporary*) COVID normal brought out a huge entry to the 44th Historic Winton in north-east Victoria on the weekend of 22 and 23 May. A lot of people had been busy in the shed for the last 16 months and the air-cooled owners were no exception. A veritable herd of the little wonders turned up to try out the cunning mods engineered in the darkness of the lock-downs imposed across the country.

Brian Simpson as usual brought out his Mk9 1100 (below) resplendent in fresh paint from chassis upwards, and he was relaxing in the security that an on-board starter gives the air-cooled owner against a stall on the grid or a restart after a “gardening” incident.

Fred Greeneklee brought his Mk6 1100 from South Australia for his “arriver driver”, Peter Fagan (21, below) , who was getting back into a race after a long spell of resting on his laurels. Nevertheless, he was soon on the pace in practice with a 1min 16s and 9th fastest in a big field of no less than 34 Group Lb sports and racing cars.

This correspondent was embarrassed to spin his Mk5 1100 (2 below) on the first corner of the first lap of practice, and being unable to restart was therefore awarded the stone motherless last slot on the grid for the first race.

Greg Snape with the Mk10 BMW 600 (S) put in a handy 1min 17s to put him 12th on the grid, although he was nervous about the future since pre-event servicing had revealed a soft thread when tightening one cylinder stud. Sorry, we don’t have a pic.

Grant Cowie had been doing a lot of work to improve the flexibility of the Manx Norton in his Mk9, while resolving a variety of gearbox issues. These were successful but still left an over-fuelling problem which dogged him for the weekend.

Rod North with the ex Davison Mk5 Vincent (S) elected to run Regularity as he is still sorting out mixture balancing between cylinders on this blown engine. Although he is an experienced speedway rider this was his first venture onto four wheels. Not surprisingly with the Cooper, he says he can’t see much difference! Nevertheless, by the end of the weekend he had destroyed any chance of a Regularity award by punishing his nominated 1:25s nomination with laps in the 1:19s region.

Alan Tidbury with the other Mk5 in Regularity was 5th in the final Regularity on Sunday. This is the car which had an FWA Climax very neatly inserted behind the driver which was coupled to a VW gearbox and transaxle by Bill Pile in 1959. It is altogether a very neat conversion and is perhaps an avenue that Coopers themselves should have explored.

As the weekend wore on, so the major and minor mechanical casualties were either repaired or declared mortal. Brian Simpson’s misfire was sourced back to a loose points mounting stud, but Peter Fagan’s charge ended on Sunday morning when the gear box failed to report for duty with a suspected second gear collapse.  This was a big disappointment after his 3rd place in the Lb race on Saturday, and with a best lap of 1:13.7 in the handicap before a spin and the gearbox expiring.

Your correspondent had an ignition lead disconnect from the distributor instantly turning into a 550cc Cooper, but reported for duty, started and finished in good shape for the final Lb race on Sunday. Unfortunately on the first turn melee found Greg Snape and the Cooper BMW stalled across the track after a tangle with another car. This resulted in a stop and restart to the race and Brian Simpson got everything in the Mk9 together and earned a 4th with a best lap of 1:13.56, winning the Cooper lap time challenge for the weekend.

* The guys were lucky. At the time of publishing, 1 June, the whole of Victoria is undergoing a minimum seven-day COVID lock-down and it may be longer. Great photos, thanks Col!

RE-ENGINED COOPERS:The cooper minx

The Cooper Minx

Here we have a new theme – with hopefully more to come on the
subject of numerous air-cooled Coopers that had different engines
shoe-horned into the back of them

It wasn’t long after the early air-cooled Coopers started competing in Australia that many owners tired of their often cantankerous engines, JAP engines in particular. Notorious for bad vibrations and reliability issues, many of these were re-purposed with alternative power units, such as small Coventry Climax, Ford, MG, BMC and others. This car shown here with ABC presenter Peter Wherret driving, started with a 1096cc JAP, then had Manx Norton power and has spent the last sixty years with a pushrod Hillman Minx engine.

Imported by John Crouch and originally raced by Queenslander Les Taylor (below), it led the under 1500cc handicap race at the Easter Bathurst meeting in 1951 before clutch problems intervened. The next owner was Mrs Geordie Anderson who had a Manx Norton engine fitted and it became known as the LPS Cooper, LPS being the business name made up from the initials of Ray Lewis, Bill Pitt, and Charlie Swinburne.

Events the car competed in included Whites Hill (Brisbane) hillclimb and it also had a 10th place in the 1954  AGP at Southport, Queensland. The next owner was a B Campbell who competed at Lowood, Qld, in 1957, then it went to motorcycle racer Tony Crick of Wellington, NSW who appears to have done very little running with it before was acquired obtained by Jim McQuire of Sydney. Jim ran it once at Orange, NSW with Alan Tatham doing the driving chores; it was still in Norton form.

Soon after, the Norton was hoisted out, and a 1500cc Hillman Minx engine was shoe-horned into the vacant engine bay, complete with the ubiquitous VW transaxle. A radiator was fitted in the nose with suitable plumbing, a gearshift linkage was made-up to suit the rear entry VW box, engine mods were done and the body work modified to suit. Additional spring leafs were added front and rear to handle the extra weight.

Meetings at Lowood and Strathpine in Queensland, as well as events at Tarrawingee and Hume Weir (Victoria ) plus, of course, various NSW events saw many miles racked up by drivers Peter Wherret (below) and Barry Collerson.

July 1960 saw it compete at the Castlereagh sprint strip where it recorded 16.00 seconds for the standing ¼ mile. Later it ended up with Monty South (who was a previous owner of the Sulman Singer) before going to Peter Cohen who ran in many hillclimbs with the car. He recalls replacing the original Cooper wheels with steel rims but the there is some uncertainty about just when this happened. He also tried reversing front and back wheels but only succeeded in turning too much understeer into too much oversteer. [One of the pictures below, from Amaroo Park, February 1966, has been digitally reversed to simulate them both being taken on left hand corners  – Ed]

In 1967 Peter on-sold it to David Hunt, who lost a wheel at Silverdale hillclimb, a situation that was to repeated by a later owner, the Cooper rear stub axles not being the best engineered of parts. The next owner was Doug Mcleod but we know little of his exploits.

David Kerr of Kurnell, Sydney was a later owner who competed in many historic events with his side-kick Bill Harris assisting. He, also, once returned to the pits at Amaroo on a truck, missing a rear wheel. David sold the car in 1995 and it is still in the hands of John Hermann in its Hillman Minx form, still carrying its 10/54/50 chassis plate.

Garry Simkin

Thanks to Kerry Smith, John Medley and Peter Cohen for their input.

Sports Car World, May 1960 has the following story by Peter Wherret on the fitting of the Hillman engine.

… works for singles too

It is Higher School Certificate (HSC) exam time for year 12 high school students in Australia. Poor kids, including the editor’s grandson, have had to cope with a year in which practical work and engagement with teachers –  which could make or break some of them –  has been made very difficult. We wonder how they would cope with the following question from the last year’s Engines – JAP Racing –Maintenance examination as imagined by Steve Denner:

A V-twin, 4 stroke engine has the cylinders disposed at 50°. The connecting rods run on a common journal. A half-timing pinion (HTP) has 18 teeth and runs on the end of the mainshaft, i.e. at engine speed, and clockwise viewed from the outside of the timing chest. The HTP drives the 36 tooth cam gear for No.2 cylinder, and this in turn drives the cam gear for No.1 cylinder.

The mainshaft carries a key to locate the HTP, and the HTP has five equally separated keyway options for adjusting the valve timing.

The current valve timing opens the inlet valves at 38 degrees BTDC.
Write the paragraph for the Owner’s Manual which will describe the
procedure for

1. Advancing the valve timing by 4 degrees
2. Retarding the valve timing by 8 degrees.

Steve has reported on last year’s answers and has added some useful drawings. Most candidates worked out that the arrangement of 5 keyways and 18 teeth is essentially a vernier coupling. That is, there are 5×18 (90) different positions that the half time pinion can be engaged with the cam gear. Dividing 360° by 90 means each position offers a 4° degree variation.

It is essential to start from the existing and known valve timing by marking the current engagement of pinion and cam teeth, and also the currently utilized keyway in the pinion.

STEP 1 requires the pinion to be disengaged from the crank with the cam gears held in position, and the crank rotated anti-clockwise and
re-engaged in a new key position as dictated by the required degrees of advance or retard (see table below).

STEP 2 requires both the crank and pinion to be rotated clockwise by the number of teeth indicated in the table, and the pinion to be
re-engaged with the cam gear teeth that were marked at the outset.

Condensed into a tabular form it looks as follows. The degree of advance or retard achieved is the difference between Columns 1 and 5.

The first response was from Mark Burns who eats lots of fish, does The Times crossword before breakfast, and consequently has a brain the size of a small planet. He also produced the drawings to support his solution. Planning permission has been applied for and many thanks, Mark.

Curiously no response was forthcoming from any Morgan Three-wheeler owners. Perhaps a cold chisel and 2lb lump hammer is all that is required to keep them running?

The author thanks all participants and thanks them collectively for saving him the trouble of exercising his own strained grey matter, and hours of random and pointless meddling on the workshop bench.

Stephen Denner

The editor is also most grateful, being about to re-time the Walton JAP engine that shed some cam gear teeth just in time not to make the Collingrove hillclimb a year ago.


Here’s something new to add to our occasional ‘Still things turn up’ theme. Let’s call it, ‘Whatever happened to …’ which is especially relevant to the Coopers that came to Australia, New Zealand and other places such in Asia and Africa and then became something else, often with four cylinders.

The excitement of having a brand new Cooper from England may well have soon rubbed off as local specials could sometimes show a clean pair of heels to Surbiton’s best. If you had a ‘big-twin’ JAP in it rather than a ‘500’, the chances were that its unreliability would get you down.

An obvious solution was to put something else in it and so the Loose Fillings team thought we should have look at things that people did to Coopers engine-wise. The first candidate has been described for us by Andrew Halliday who writes as follows:

Built in 1949 by the Cooper Car Company at Surbiton, Surrey England, car 10-26-49 was powered by a 996cc JAP dry-sump 8/80 V-twin engine and was painted red. The car is the oldest survivor of the first batch of Coopers which was imported to Australia by Keith Martin, the original Australian Cooper agent.  The cars arrived in Melbourne on 25 January 1950 and this one, coloured red, was purchased by Jack Saywell who had raced a monoposto Alfa Romeo before World War 2.

It was the second Cooper to race in Australia, and it made its first race appearance at the Easter car races at Bathurst in 1950 as number 4. It was timed at 190 km/h (118.4 mph) through the flying quarter mile down Conrod Straight.  In the under 1500 cc, 25 mile race, the car finished 5th, winning the handicap with a fastest lap of 3 minutes 10 seconds.

In the October meeting at Bathurst (above) it finished 4th in the 12 lap, 50 mile under 1500cc race, with the fastest lap of 3 minutes 13 seconds and fastest time. At the Easter 1951 Bathurst meeting it became the first car to lap the circuit in 3 minutes; in unofficial practice Saywell crashed into to the fence near Quarry Bend and during the race the car broke a countershaft sprocket.

The 1952 April Bathurst meeting was held as the 17th Australian Grand Prix and the car finished 16th. It raced at Ballarat, Parramatta Park and Mt Druitt winning a few races. The car was maintained at Jack Zeidler’s workshop in Leichardt, Sydney, and the engine was maintained by well-known motorcycle racer Don Bain.  With business commitments to deal with, Jack Saywell parked the Cooper at the end off 1952 and it sat around for five years.

In 1957, Bill Reynolds, a well-known speedcar driver, motorcycle racer and announcer at the Sydney Sportsground Speedway, purchased the car.  At the Easter Bathurst meeting, during the Bathurst 100 of 26 laps, the car caught fire as it exited Forrest’s Elbow and returned to the pits with flames shooting to the sky.  It was found that a float bowl had come loose, spraying fuel onto the exhaust pipes.

Bill raced the car at Mt Druitt (above), winning two scratch races and the NSW Sprint Championship, and he won the 501cc to 1100cc class at Silverdale hillclimb. Doug Chivas raced the car for Bill Reynolds at Mt Druitt, winning an under 1500cc scratch race.

In February 1958 Jack Myers purchased the car for hillclimbing, removing the JAP 8/80 and replaced it with a pair of 650cc twin Triumph twins which were later supercharged (below) .  One of the engines ran in reverse direction and chains served all three drives – primary, final drive and blower.  The final drive was through a Cooper ZF differential. The gearbox was from a 1938 Norton motorcycle.

The car was capable of 120 mph (200 kph) and a standing ¼ mile in 13 seconds and became known as the Tangerine Tornado. Ken Waggott helped engineer the car and would drive it too, only to break crankshafts at Gnoo Blas (Orange), Foley’s Hill at (Mona Vale) and Fishermens Bend (Melbourne ).  Eventually Jack Myers solved the problem at his Maroubra workshop.

Jack’s first outing in the car was at Foley’s Hill. Never having driven the car, he broke the record in practice and in competition bettered his time by 1½ seconds.  His next meeting was at Huntley’s Hill near Wollongong, breaking the course record. This would be the last time the car ran with natural aspiration, it then having a supercharger off a Spitfire fitted.

While on his way to the Bathurst hillclimb, Jack called into Marsden Park airstrip to do some testing and put a hole in a crankcase. He missed practice but knocked ½ a second off the record on his second run. He also won the NSW Hillclimb series smashing all four outright records in all competition events.

In 1960 Jack Myers again won the NSW Hillclimb Championship in the car. He then replaced the Cooper with a chassis built by Ron Tauranac, removing the two Triumph 650cc engines from the Cooper and putting them into the Ralt chassis.  Jack would lose his life in the Ralt at Katoomba’s Catalina Park on 21 January 1962.  In 1961 Peter Williamson had purchased the Cooper using it at Silverdale Hillclimb powered by an Ariel engine and finished third in 50.37 seconds.

The car was next purchased by Bob Joass who rescued it from decay. It was later owned by Peter McCleay until 1976 when Tony Caldersmith acquired it.  In 1990 the car was issued with CAMS first ever Certificate of Description and was displayed in a Parramatta bookshop shop window in Church St in 1993. In 1995 Matt Segafredo, a Formula Ford racer, purchased the car as he liked the look of it and it sat in his lounge room for years until Andrew and David Halliday acquired it for historic racing.

Stirling Was Great

As is well known, Stirling Moss’ first motorsport event was at Shelsley Walsh hillclimb in a Cooper 500. In 1948, and still today, Shelsley is one of the world’s great motorsport venues, so what better place to start such a career?

The Midland Automobile Club  has always run the hill and recently published in its MAC News a fine tribute to Stirling  with an emphasis on his ‘air-cooled years’. With the club’s  kind permission, here it is complete with his 1948 entry from its archives:

Moss obit_Page_1

Moss obit_Page_1AMoss obit_Page_2-001

Moss obit_Page_2


Scroll down for earlier stories
  • The Mystery of the Seized Cylinder
  • Magnetos – a care free alternative
  • Art Seniors’ very fast JAP
  • A short history of JAP speedway engines
  • With and without glory
  • Skirrow progress too slow!
  • Starting trouble?
  • Great Cooper pics on-line


by Garry Simkin

In the Yarramalong Valley, inland from Gosford NSW, near the small village of the same name, is a stunning piece of road which seems ideally suited to make a decent long hillclimb. Steep in places, windy and newly black-topped, I have driven over it on many occasions of late and it seems to be an ideal venue.

In a chance conversation with John Wright of Gosford regarding the road, he told me that there were in fact a few hillclimbs held there in years gone by. On 11 September 2020 it will be 60 years since the Central Coast Car Club held a round of the New South Wales Hillclimb Championship on the hill, and not only was John there, but he had some fantastic photos to prove it.

Fastest time of the day was taken by Jack Myers in his WM Cooper, and the first of the air-cooled cars was 3rd quickest, Geoff McClelland in his self built MacVincent.


Winner of up to 750 cc racing car class was Neal Simpson driving the Aquilla, a swing axle device that John describes as ‘an evil handling car’.


Geoff Surtees was second in the class in his Surtees JAP – see more on this car in Loose Fillings #32 at This car is shown in front of the Chrysler, with no number on it.


The MacVincent, number 67 has Loose Fillings’ founding editor Graham Howard to the right in the front-on shot (below), and with his back to the camera in the rear-on shot (earlier).


Car 18 is the Ewing with Harley Davidson bottom end and ES2 Norton heads. There is more on this car in Loose Fillings #14 and an obituary of Ron in #7.


Cars 30 and 31 appear to be Ralts, and we do know that Alan Hindes was competing in one on this occasion.


Thanks to John Wright for the photos and Brian Lear and John Medley for help with the details.

Here are a few more shots which give an idea of the range of cars and people then in action starting with Tom Sulman’s  Maserati 


Doug Kelly’s Cooper Climax type 41


…and don’t you love the Mk2 Zephyr ute –  what happened to them all – or weren’t there that many –  John Bisset’s Buckle is behind it


The Mystery of the Seized Cylinder

Scroll down for earlier stories
  • Magnetos – a care free alternative
  • Art Seniors’ very fast JAP
  • A short history of JAP speedway engines
  • With and without glory
  • Skirrow progress too slow!
  • Starting trouble?
  • Great Cooper pics on-line

MYSTERY of the SEIZED cylinder

Most enthusiasts are familiar with the 8/80 V-twin JAP engine. It is essentially two of the famous 500 speedway JAP heads and cylinders bolted to a common crankcase to give 1000ccs of brute power. Made by the English company JA Prestwich, variants of their V-twin engines went into countless Morgans, Brough Superior motorcycles, speedway sidecars, and early Cooper racing cars.

Around 1990 I acquired a 1955 Mk9 Cooper fitted with an 8/80 JAP. It was an exciting car to drive with an excellent power to weight ratio, and went like a jet. For about a lap! Then, as soon as the engine reached operating temperature and ran on full throttle for a few seconds, the front piston would either seize and or melt. This was a real puzzle, because with identical carburettor and ignition settings the rear cylinder showed no signs of distress.

The obvious cure seemed to be to guarantee adequate fuel flow to the front carburettor, and fit larger and larger main and needle jets. All this achieved was to upset the carburration and allowed the engine to run a little further up the road on full throttle before the front piston failed again. Similar experiments with ignition timing, various grades and makes of sparking plugs, and substantial air scoops directing air onto the front cylinder, all failed to achieve a result. Over many visits to the race track for private practice, the engine just kept eating pistons and plugs on the front cylinder. Nothing I did made the car driveable flat out. Something was basically wrong. But what?

I started to ask around. One old retired sidecar speedway rider with a long memory knew what I was talking about straight away. He’d had the same problem with the front cylinder on his 8/80 sidecar outfit running hot, but not as bad as mine because his race lengths were only four laps, and his motor was exposed to the breezes. His cure was to have his sidecar passenger pump an extra shot of oil onto the thrust face of the front cylinder when he had a spare moment between corners! This idea had some merit because the rear cylinder of a V-twin gets most of the oil flung out of the big end and off the flywheels, and the front cylinder gets very little. However trials in this direction made no real difference to my engine.

Then I read something in an old 1954 Motor Cycle magazine that sounded interesting.

The article, (see below) by well-respected rider and journalist Vic Willoughby, was the story of a similar V-twin JAP used for record breaking at Brooklands and ridden by a Ted ‘Barry’ Baragwanath. I quote,……”The front carburettor jet was about 2 sizes larger than the rear to combat an INEXPLICABLE tendency to overheating of the front cylinder.” I kept reading and found more….”Early tests at Brooklands revealed  a pronounced tendency for the front cylinder to overheat… so much so that it was impossible to complete a FULL LAP ON FULL THROTTLE.”


That was exactly my experience, so I was not alone! But what to do? I was tempted to say, “OK. Just let’s use the car for hillclimbs and forget about circuit racing. The head is cast iron, has virtually no cooling fins, and is only meant for the speedway anyhow.”

Now, from the 1920s and even earlier, JAP made thousands of engines for all sorts of applications and one hesitates to question the design of such a well-known manufacturer, but after all the work we’d done, something had to be basically wrong somewhere. So the question remained unanswered. Why did only the front cylinder overheat when both cylinders were the same? But were they…… the same?

In desperation both front and rear cylinder heads were removed, stripped to the bare castings, and examined side by side. They were identical…. EXCEPT FOR ONE THING!

What follows needs a brief explanation. When we look at a standard 500 speedway JAP engine’s cylinder head, we find it has the carburettor and exhaust pipe ports located on the right hand side of the head, (like the typical English BSA or AJS.) This 500 speedway head will bolt straight on the rear cylinder of the 50 degree V twin. However if we try to bolt a 500 head on the front cylinder of the twin, we find the front carburettor pokes into the rear cylinder’s exhaust pipe. So Mr. JAP got over that problem by using front heads for the twins identical to the rear heads, but with THE INLET STUB FROM THE RIGHT SIDE TO THE LEFT. Now the front carb pokes out on the left side of the engine, well out of the way of the rear exhaust pipe.


‘Barry’ with ‘blower’ – not the usual view

But what does this have to do with our overheating problem? The answer is everything, because when we take a quick look down the inlet ports of both front and rear cylinder heads with the valves removed, something is obviously different! It’s all to do with the location of the spark plugs! On the rear cool running head the plug is clearly visible, and the electrodes are in the direct path of the incoming cooling air and fuel. But looking down the inlet port of the hot running front head, the PLUG is hidden around the corner and NOT VISIBLE at all, and therefore does NOT enjoy the full blast of cooling air and fuel on its electrodes on every intake stroke.

Consequently, on 14:1 compression on full throttle, and with skimpy finning on a cast iron head, it was reasonable to assume that it would not take long for the electrode of the hardest plug in the range to become incandescent, pre-ignite the charge, and destroy one piston after another.

So, working on this theory, we drilled and tapped the front head to 14mm, and transferred the spark plug to the opposite side of the combustion chamber where it would be directly in the path of the incoming charge, just like the rear head. The results were immediate!

Now with sensible jetting, the engine will hold full throttle down the long straight at Mallala, and do six flat out 1.25 laps before something else breaks … but that’s another story!

Chas McGurk

Editor’s Note: As best we can work it out, about 1933-4 JAPs moved the inlet port on the speedway engine from the left (as shown in the drawing  below)

Image (435)11237

to the right hand side, as described by Chas. The original head design then seems to have been used on the front cylinder of the 8/80 which went into limited production for the Skirrow in 1936. This same engine, but with the crankcase extended to provide a sump, was used in the 1949 Cooper twins and was followed by what JAP called the ‘Mk1 ’in 1950 with aluminium heads and barrels.






by Steve Denner

Many moons ago Chas McGurk confided to Demon Tweaks that it was possible to convert the V-twin JAP to a simple coil and distributor (Kettering) system by mounting and driving a distributor in place of one of the magnetos.

In one such conversion Chas had crept up on an unsuspecting Vincent and requisitioned its 50 degree distributor cam which was then “cut and shut” into an early Lucas distributor. This surgery required bits of different distributor shafts to be welded together to provide a taper for the JAP bevel gear at one end and a home for the Vincent cam at the other. Shaft alignment under these circumstances is difficult to achieve. An alternative has been tried as described here.

For myself, the sound advice from Andrew Makin at Performance Ignition Services in Melbourne was to start with a Bosch distributor ex VW, and “Made in Australia”. The reason? He can still get almost any spare required to provide continuing service of the instrument. The vacuum advance is removed and the rotating plate is locked to the base plate with a BA screw. Here are the major steps:

First, make new bracket which mounts the distributor horizontally on the left hand magneto platform so that the drive shaft is at the correct height to engage with the bevel drive from the timing chest. Second, modify and fit the JAP bevel gear on the distributor drive shaft. Third, make and fit a suitable cam for a 50 deg. twin instead of an in-line four VW. Fourth, modify the distributor rotor so it can deliver two unequally spaced sparks through the existing four cylinder distributor cap.

1. Distributor mounting bracket.
This may be either fabricated from mild steel or cast from aluminium to suit the platform mounting. I chose the latter (because I am a lousy welder). The shaft centre height is 45mm above the platform, and the distributor is 1.062” diameter where it is clamped. See below for machining the 45mm centre height of the distributor and below that for distributor mounted in the bracket:



2. Drive shaft bevel gear.
The distributor in its VW life is driven by a skew gear which is a parallel fit on the distributor shaft and pinned in place. The standard JAP bevel gear has a taper seat with no keyway. The choice is therefore to either grind out the taper to fit the shaft or grind a taper on the distributor shaft to fit the gear. It was much easier to have the gear ground to fit the shaft (0.491”) and it can then be drilled and secured with a roll pin to achieve (say) 0.005” end float. It should be a precise but not a press fit on the shaft which would make it difficult to dismantle for servicing; the pin will take all necessary drive load.

3. Cam for points
The problem of making an accurate cam is simplified by recognizing that the only critical point is when the points open and a spark is generated. All other points in the cycle can be “more or less”. The dwell time when the points are closed should be not less than 30 deg but could be a lot more, with the only disadvantage being a heavier drain on the battery. The points gap for the rest of the cycle should not be less than .015”.

The Bosch cam is removed by off-hand grinding the hard casing, after which the rotor shaft can be turned accurately with a carbide tip to 15mm dia. A new cam ring can then be machined (below) and fitted to the rotor shaft. The ring has two pairs of flats accurately milled, using a rotary table or dividing head, at 0 deg and 155 deg. The second flat is cut 20 deg ahead of the first to ensure that the points are closed for about 35-40 degree of arc. Importantly, this cut on the leading end of the first cut does not affect the critical point where the contacts open.

IMG_3737(5)Cutting flats for the new cam-ring

The cam rotates clockwise viewed from the distributor cap end, as shown below. Therefore the points will open at the LH (trailing) end of the flats. Providing that nothing is done to remove metal from this critical contact point you now have an accurate ignition cam for a 50 deg twin.

Distrib cam drwngMachining details for the pairs of flats

I made the new ring 20mm diameter, which is slightly larger than the diameter of the Bosch cam. Too big a diameter would increase the rubbing speed of the fibre heel of the points. The adjusting slot in the points holder will need to be filed longer to allow correct gap setting with this increased diameter.

In practice it is sensible to lightly stone the edge where the flats and outer diameter of the ring intersect to make life easier for the fibre heel of the contact arm.

IMG_3741The new cam ring  machined and fitted to the rotor shaft.

The new cam ring is made from 4140 steel because it can be nitride hardened, which will be done at a low enough temperature to avoid any distortion. Aim for a light push fit on the shaft so that you can Loctite it in position and this will be enough to prevent it slipping under the friction of the fibre heel. The cam will need to be indexed to the rotor arm so that the rotor is passing a post in the distributor cap as the points open. The rotor is modified as described below to cope with the unequal spacing between cylinder ignition.

IMG_37394. Rotor arm.
The standard Bosch rotor arm is retained but modified to extend the arc of the arm (right). This is necessary because the terminals in the cap are spaced for 4 cylinders at 90 rotor degree firing intervals. We are using only two of the (opposing) terminals but the spark will be delivered at 155 and 360 degrees of rotor arc. This is done by soldering a prepared brass segment to the existing arm, but be careful that the extended arm does not foul the terminals in the cap and that the HT spark is not asked to jump Sydney Harbour. Bits of plasticine or BlueTac could serve as a witness to check this. Finally assemble the cam so that the rotor arm is abreast of a contact in the cap at both of the opening points on the cam.

The mechanical advance system is retained and to check the ignition at the desired full advance position grip the rotor arm and rotate clockwise so that the advance weights come up against their stop. Ignition advance is adjusted by rotating the distributor body in the cradle and clamping, which is substantially easier and more accurate than trying to position the bevel gear on the taper and tighten  it up after disengaging the magneto.






















Continuing our occasional theme of Still Things Turn Up, we have news of the revival of a JAP-engined motorcycle which was prepared and ridden by one of Australia’s most controversial motorcycle characters. On it, he set three outright Australian land speed records and holds the lap record at the Vale circuit near Bathurst.

Art Senior is most famous for extracting explosive power from humble Ariels but he first came to prominence in the early ’30s on a self-tuned but wickedly quick flat-tank AJS. On this he set an all-comers Australian quarter-mile speed record as well as winning the 1934 Junior GP in record time at Bathurst. He also won the 1935 Senior GP at Phillip Island, again on an AJS and most likely the same machine.

In late 1934, New South Wales OK Supreme agent Stan Ellis acquired a retired factory racer (see above) to help publicize and sell OKs. The bike had been campaigned in England throughout the 1934 season, including the Senior TT at the Isle of Man. Ellis offered to pay Senior’s expenses, a generous retainer and all winnings if he would prepare and ride it in major race and sprint events.

Eventually, on 27 November 1935 Senior made a successful attack on the Australian flying quarter-mile record wresting it from Rudge-mounted Wal Hawtrey. Senior’s outward run was 111.11mph and the return 112.23mph, for a mean speed of 111.67mph. In June 1936, Norton-mounted Leo Tobin added 8.33mph to Senior’s record for a mean speed of 120mph and Australian records in the 500, 750 & 1,000cc classes.

It was thought that this figure might stand for some time but within a couple of months, Senior had smashed both it and the 130mph mark. A newspaper reported, ‘On Wednesday August 27th, in very adverse conditions on a course close to Sydney (Hume Highway near Liverpool), Arthur Senior, the well-known Sydney racing cyclist, attained the highest speed on the road ever recorded by a motor cyclist in Australia – 130.434mph. His average speed of 123.288mph for a two-way run is accepted as an Australian record in the 500, 750 and 1,000cc classes. Senior was astride an ex-works OK Supreme on which he had previously established the record in late 1935 before it was broken by Mr Leo Tobin some eight months later’.

For the first record attempt, the bike had been stripped but, for the second (see below), Senior and Ellis decided to streamline the OK. Their inspiration was the supercharged Brough-JAP streamliner (known as Leaping Lena) that had set a world sidecar speed record when piloted by Australian Alan Bruce. Senior, ever reluctant to farm work out, set about fabricating the panels himself.

An aluminium wedge enclosed the crankcases, gearbox and clutch. The front down-tube and fork blades were sheathed in the same material. An elongated tail cone, which also covered the top of the disked rear wheel, was shaped to allow his backside to slide inside. And a new petrol tank enabled Senior to squat even lower. Lastly, a handlebar fairing, designed to deflect wind over his reverse beaked helmet, was made.

Art Senior on the Hume Highway on a very wet record day, and below, outside the Stan Ellis showroom

The TT wheels, with their large brakes, were replaced by weight-saving unbraked front and lightly-braked rear items. To minimize rolling resistance, the tyres were the thinnest imaginable. While it lacked Leaping Lena’s elegance, Senior’s Ned Kelly-esque hotchpotch proved surprisingly effective. He later remarked ‘The most difficult part about the streamlining was finding somewhere to attach it’ (the writer has noticed that some lugs have been crudely altered and wondered why. Clearly this was done to aid mounting the fairing).

But hang on – 130mph! That’s a 15% speed increase on the original bike. Impossible! Without access to wind tunnels, streamlining design in the day left a lot to be desired and could not possibly account for all that improvement. Something else was clearly at play.

Unbeknown to those outside the inner sanctum, Stan Ellis had recently taken delivery of a new JAP JOR racing engine (JOR V/46508/S): a pukka 1935 big fin, twin carb, twin spark job used exclusively by HRD at the TT. It shared the same bottom-end as the ‘34 unit so slotted straight in. He fitted a high-compression piston to run on alcohol and enlarged the inlet ports from 7/8” to 1-3/32”. The ports are splayed at 22.5˚ with 7˚ of downdraft and are fed by two right-handed carbs (handed pairs were not made before the war). This engine type had only ever been used in anger once: in the 1935 Isle of Man Senior TT where, in stark contrast to the previous year’s lightly-finned, single-carb units, it proved both fast and reliable.

As the fairing hid the new motor from inquisitive eyes, the remarkable speed increase was put down to a combination of Senior’s freakish ability to conjure yet more grunt from clapped out junk allied with the wind scything properties of his crudely fashioned fairing. Art’s and Stan’s secret was well kept. The record-breaking bike was soon put on display at Stan Ellis Motorcycles Goulburn Street premises. A massive placard proudly proclaimed it as ‘the fastest motorcycle in Australia’. It proved a huge draw card and orders flooded in.

With OK sales soaring on the back of Senior’s records, Ellis offered Senior his own OK Supreme agency which duly opened on 1 June 1937. Senior should have been over the moon but something was gnawing away inside him. Shortly after a club event on June 13 (his last on the OK), Senior demanded Ellis gift him the record-breaker as was the tradition following a successful record attempt. Ellis rejected Senior’s claim as he had not only financed the entire campaign but this was not part of their deal.

Senior’s decibel-rich dummy spit not only kayoed their lucrative two-year partnership but also his own 2 week old OK Supreme agency. However, Australia’s fastest man wasn’t out of the saddle for long. Ariel’s Eric Moore gave him a new Red Hunter to race and sprint. It turned out to be a very lucky move as Senior’s record-breaking resumed and Ariel survived the war.

With the war killing off both motorcycle racing and OK Supreme production, the bike lost its hero status and its purpose. Now little more than a curio, Ellis moved it on and it was thrashed and trashed. I can only assume that the person(s) responsible for this vandalism was oblivious to its great deeds. Sometime in the early ‘fifties, it sold as a flogged-out ex-racer with no special history. While the new owner, who sold it to the writer, never got it running, he did arrest its decay. And so, despite the abuse and despite languishing unrecognized and largely unloved in a western Sydney shed for nearly seven decades, it survived.

Over time, many important components such as the TT-spec Webb forks, drop-forged Harwil front wheel, Bowden racing levers, bespoke oil tank and Amal TT carbs had disappeared. The condition of the remainder varies greatly. The frame has several broken lugs and more twists and turns than the Nurburgring. The TT petrol tank and Harwil 8” rear brake have clearly had a hard life but the priceless mechanicals: the Burman AR racing gearbox and bronze head twin carb JOR engine are surprisingly sound. There remains enough of the original for an authentic resurrection.

The bike as it is today

For practical reasons, the bike will be returned as closely as possible to its 1937 Bathurst lap record trim. A frame jig has been fabricated and a set of double-damped TT Webb forks and Hunter Bros front wheel (a favourite of Art’s) found. Bronze 7/8” Amal 15TTs are proving elusive. Period racing Bowdens will have to suffice for the moment. A new oil tank, primary guard and exhaust pipe will need to be made.

By and large, progress is glacial, but the bike, bless it, survives.



by Terry Wright

The following is another experiment in posting more detailed information online. Not having worked out how to display a pdf file, the following is in the form of images and some of the detail may have been lost. If you zoom to 200 or 300% you should be able to read the text but the detail of the drawings will still be hard to read.

Its an analysis of surviving JAP engine drawings and other information which attempts to create a history of the earlier speedway engine. Corrections and comments are most welcome either here or on the JAP Engines Facebook group.

This is very much a work in progress. To download the full pdf of 9 pages click here JAP info models etc See also JAP DRAWINGS SURFACE

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

Skirrow Progress Too Slow!


Some years ago I bought a ‘Skirrow Special’ on eBay, of all places. The Skirrow went into limited production in 1936 and was a development of a prototype that Harry Skirrow had built for Belle Vue, Manchester speedway. It was all part of a plan to start up speedway car racing, which was a raging success in the United States, in England.

Belle Vue decided to build their own cars so Harry started a company called Skirrow Special Cars Ltd to build his. Car Speedway Ltd was set up to run the business side of things and there was a National Association of Speedway Car Racing Circuits that licensed drivers in 1938 and 1939. The photo below shows one of the Belle Vue Elto-engined cars ahead of a Skirrow-JAP at Coventry speedway some time in 1938 or 1939. When the war started, racing  came to a stop for the duration.


The photo below shows a brand new car at London’s Lea Bridge speedway where they were built for Harry Skirrow:


Post-war, about a dozen or so of the  JAP 8/80 V-twin­ engined cars were bought up and kept in Northamptonshire by Dave Hughes who founded the Brafield speedway  in 1949. He took the cars to speedway tracks all over the country, organized races and did what he could to revive midget car speedway racing.

Some Skirrows were still racing in 1962 but cannot have lasted much longer. Sometime in the 1960s, one of the most successful of the pre-war midget drivers, Les White, bought one of Hughes’ cars. lt was just ‘for old time’s sake’ said his son Malcolm who did a ‘light restoration’ on it and demonstrated it from time to time at a local speedway.

When Les retired from the garage business he sold everything up and the car went to America, eventually to a private collection in Florida. From there it was sold to Canada, and then I bought it without an engine and shipped it to Sydney with the aim of restoring it and running it in Vintage Speedcar Association events. Here is the car as it arrived,


The chassis has two pairs of BSA FWD springing and drive mechanisms, one at the front and one at the back as can be seen in the following drawing:


The rear wheels are obviously fixed direction-wise and both ends are without dampers. The front uses a BSA steering box and column with a Bluemels sprung steering wheel.  A double sprocket on the front-mounted engine drives forward and rearward Rudge clutch assemblies which are on counter-shafts running in cast aluminium mounting cases. Exactly as on a speedway bike, a final drive sprocket is fixed to each clutch and drives a shaft on the ends of which are flexible joints and all the other BSA bits and pieces . The following video shows the chassis and the transmission after the body was removed:

The whole of the chassis and running gear was stripped to bare metal and reassembled with repairs and replacements such as the flexible drive couplings using the invaluable assistance of the BSA FWD club’s spares scheme. The sprockets were replaced and a new rear drive-shaft was the only significant part that needed to be custom-made.

I was prepared to make an engine more or less from scratch but I was lucky to acquire a post-war  8/80 JAP and Greg Summerton has made a new crankshaft and reconditioned the bottom end. The cylinders need to be relined and a new timing cover machined to accommodate the prewar total-loss Pilgrim pump. Cylinder heads and rocker gear need a service of course and there are brand new Mahle pistons andTerrys valve-springs in boxes as well as new valves. There are Amal type 27 carburettors with twin float-bowls. but no magnetos.

Rudge speedway countershaft units and clutches seem to be like gold but I found two sets of these to replace the ill-fitting Norton units. The very stylish body, which is mainly several heavy pieces of welded sheet metal sitting directly on the chassis, has been extensively reconditioned with some new panels and it is now ready for final finishing. Here it is at the moment:



Nobody knows how many Skirrows were made but I have seen a reference to Harry Skirrow saying there were just 17. Several were reportedly destroyed by bombing in the war, two ended-up in Australia but have since been lost and, allowing for a few to be scrapped, that would line-up with the dozen or so that Dave Hughes had.

There seem to be just three complete Skirrows surviving including this one. Bugatti expert Ivan Dutton has one which he bought at auction about ten years ago; it is complete and running. He also has a real treasure in the substantial remains of demon-driver Spike Rhiando’s Skirrow as well as one of the Elto-engined cars built for Belle Vue. It was Spike Rhiando’s spare engine for his Skirrow that was part of a deal for John Cooper to build a long chassis car with the 8/80 JAP at the rear. Spike first raced this in the Isle of Man in 1948.

I wrote a while ago that work on the Skirrow had stopped while several other projects – a book and another car – were finished off. That work seems to be  everlasting, so I want the Skirrow  to be taken over by somebody else. I bought it out of curiosity and dug up a lot of  history some of which was used in my book Power Without Glory.  The Skirrow was a pioneering series-production single-seat racing car with strong motorcycle connections. Significantly, it was the reason the 8/80 JAP, as developed by Eric Fernihough for his world’s motorcycle record efforts, went into limited production.

It’s a sweet little car and if you would like full details of what has been done, and still needs to be done, with a view to making an offer for it over $A30,000, or about £15,000, please get in touch.

Terry Wright

There is another Loose Fillings article about early English speedway car racing at



I am not sure who first built a roller starting machine for an air-cooled car like ours, but Garry Simkin had one long before he built one for me, and when I took it and the Walton JAP to the UK in 2002 it was, I think, the first that had been seen there in air-cooled circles.

Be that as it may, it proved its value and was then enhanced somewhat with adjustable feet so that it could be levelled and/or raised or lowered to level the car. The only limitation with this approach is that you have to cart the machine around with you, and if you have to do a restart it’s all a bit of an effort. Because there is normally no differential on an air-cooled car you also need a helper to jack the opposite wheel off the ground then put it back down and push the car off the starter rollers when it is running and ready to go.

One day at Shelsley Walsh, I saw a Vincent powered car that seemed to self-start well, and having embarked on building a brand new engine from scratch for the Walton JAP I got stuck into the on-board starter motor problem.

First you have to attach a ‘flexplate’ with a ring-gear to the engine. You get one of these from your local ring-gear shop (mine was ex Daihatsu with 100 teeth) and attach it to the engine sprocket with a suitable spacer and screws all lock-wired in place, of course. Obviously, the ring-gear has to clear the chassis and the primary chain. In my case that was straightforward but it is best to dummy the whole thing up before cutting metal.

Next you need a starter motor and I just went on-line and found a brand new unit available in Melbourne for custom big V8s to which the supplier fitted a starter pinion to match my ring gear. Probably a much smaller motor than my 2.5hp job might have been fine but I was not taking any chances.

Obviously you will already have thought about how and where to mount the starter and you can really only do it in front of the engine. In my case there were three mounting holes in the chassis forward of the engine for a supercharger that Bruce once had on the car and it proved easy to use these (see below, guessing Templestowe, Victoria. Ten mm thick aluminium plate was cut, machined and screwed to form a T piece mount with slotted holes so the starter could be moved when the engine was moved. If the starter motor was mounted on the engine rather than the chassis then of course there is no need to adjust it when the engine is moved to adjust the primary chain.


Bruce Walton and the supercharged Walton-JAP, here with a Mk1 JAP engine and Marshall cabin blower  supercharger

The wiring is simple. You need an Anderson connector to connect your portable starter battery to the motor. You need a starter button in the car which is wired to the starter motor and that is it. From day one it has worked flawlessly and clearly has a heap of grunt to spin the JAP over and fire it up without hesitation. I do have an electronic ignition set-up with automatic retard so that doubtless helps too. Not having to hump around the roller unit is an advantage and there are no issues with the car sliding off the rollers or needing help to restart other than somebody to connect and disconnect the battery. Obviously you are carrying a bit more weight up the hill.


Starter motor as installed in the Walton JAP using the supercharger mounting holes

There was a stage when I was having problems with my first set of flywheels shifting and thought the starter motor might have been responsible but some expert opinion (naa … no worries!) and some high-tech computer modelling (thanks Roald) dismissed this worry. A more recent and more compact solution has been built by Brian Simpson which he describes as follows:

The flexplate is from a BA to BF Ford Falcon with a strengthening ring welded to the centre . A JAP spline from an old sprocket is welded to the ring so it is easy to change the gearing by simply sliding the flexplate off then the sprocket (I am using a speedway type splined sprocket carrier) I then had the finished article dynamically balanced. The starter motor is of course from the same model Falcon with no modifications needed.  Brand-new off e-bay the motor was under $A100.00 & the flexplate was $A40.00 from a wreckers.

Click above to play video


The car needed rewiring with heavy cabling to the starter motor & the fitting of a battery isolating switch to keep CAMS happy. I have also fitted an Anderson socket and plug for a slave battery to do all the work in the dummy grid area. The car is wired so it will start on the slave battery only with the on board battery totally isolated. Interestingly the car starts easily with its own battery & there’s at least 3 or 4 starts before it starts to weaken.


Thanks Brian.

Terry Wright

Addendum:  The picture below of the Walton JAP shows the starter motor and fuel pump shielded by a cowling identical in shape to a pannier fuel tank which sits on the other side (bottom)


Oops, no pee in Simkin


146Prescott copy-X2


Isn’t this just the loveliest pic you could imagine of a big-twin Cooper in action? It comes from a collection that Hugh Miller has published at and it is reproduced here with his kind permission. But who is it? Here’s another shot, by Hugh, maybe a fraction earlier on the same run:

PrescottRoy011 copy-X3

This is, according to Hugh’s programme, Jim Payne at Prescott in May 1963 but he thinks it looks more like Mike Hatton. Hugh took the picture in his teens and he might be right to question the record –  I have met both Mike and Jim and I do agree it looks like Mike from many other photos I have seen of him in the ‘sixties. I haven’t, though, got any period pics of Jim.  I do have a lot of Mike Hatton pics because he was a close friend of prolific Photographic Craftsmen photographer Griff Bury and I have copied most of what Mike has. So I looked further and Mike initially seems to be in a dark helmet, as follows, at Shelsley Walsh on 12 June 1960 or 11 June 1961:

Mike Hatton, Shelsley Walsh, 12.6.60 or 11.6.61 photo by Photographic Craftsmen

Then I found this super Griff Bury photo which I have labelled as Mike Hatton but don’t have a date for:


I am quite sure this is Mike Hatton and so it seems that the dark blue ex Michael Christie Mark 10 had a facelift about 1962 and maybe the helmet got a paint job. My Cooper twin entry information – reports, programmes, results – collected with a view to some day finishing the big-twin story of the great hillclimb championship years from 1950 – mainly stops at 1962. So if anyone can verify –  or challenge –  what’s written here, please let us know.

There are more fine photographs, both period and contemporary, on Hugh’s website and just to finish, here is another classic Shelsley shot by Hugh of Mike Hatton on the Esses approach.


Terry Wright









Ceylon might seem an unlikely place to have air-cooled Coopers but, as we have written in the case of darkest Africa (see ), they were there too.  Recent correspondence from Vincent owner John Farrington, who worked there 1978-81, has added to the little that we already knew about life and racing in what has been Sri Lanka since its independence in 1972.

It’s long been known that one of the first of the production Coopers, later known as the Mk2 type, left London in late 1948 or early 1949 bound for Colombo. There it found itself in the hands of SG ‘Bill’ Bilton, manager of the British Car Company, who were Nuffield agents and AE Filby an engineer for Messrs Rowlands who were Rootes agents.

Both are reported as driving the car but the ownership is strangely uncertain. It seems most likely it was owned by one of the two companies mentioned above because, in a long article in Motor Sport, November 1949, p457, an anonymous author describes persuading his managing director to buy the Cooper. There is a blow by blow description of the car’s acquisition. There is a photo of the author (presumably), the Cooper and trophies that have been won and here it is from Motor Sport.


The author also describes his first outing in the Cooper-JAP at a Ratmalala airfield race on 3 April 1949 where the JAP seized; this was followed by ftd at the St James Estate hillclimb on Easter Sunday, 17 April 1949. There are frequent references to a friend ‘Phil’ who is overseas on six months leave and who is going to use the car when the writer is on his home leave. My best guess is that the author and first driver is Bilton because the cars in the background are Nuffield models and ‘Phil’ is Filby.

In both pairs of hands the car was most successful, winning hillclimbs at St James, Oodoowerre, Mahagastotte and Karanapolando with racing on the WW2 airfields at Ratmalana and later Katukarunda. There were other places too that were used for (mainly) motorcycle racing such as at Kandy and Nuwara Eliza and the Cooper certainly competed at the latter.

I have a little more information DavidCeylonBike8from my English friend David Stevenson who was posted there in 1951 along with several motorcycles which he road and raced with some success (right). He returned to England in 1952 with a nomination as the third member of the Ceylon ‘team’ for the Isle of Man TT that year. He didn’t have a suitable bike but a sponsor supplied one and a Junior replica was earned for finishing well. Following that he rode the bike, an AJS 7R, all the way to Spa to race in the Belgian Grand Prix and then back to London! He can’t remember where he finished but recalled it was well up with the privateers.

The following are some of David’s pictures from Ceylon 1950-51, showing road racing at Kandy and the 500 Cooper at one of the airfields:



That gets us to the letter from John Farrington who wrote to Loose Fillings recently about the Vincent ‘White Shadow’ engine which he has and which came out of a Cooper in Ceylon. Here again there are a few mysteries. What is known is that the engine number, 1A/1458, is recorded in the Vincent works records as being supplied to JP Fergusson in early 1949. Fergusson first competed in a Cooper Vincent, presumably with this engine, at Shelsley Walsh in June 1949. Then, in 1950 Fergusson was JV Green’s entrant a few times at Goodwood in a Mk4, serial number 10-44-50 and here he is on 27 May 1950:


Vincent records have the Vincent engine being overhauled for Green in 1950 with the note ‘ex Fergusson’. Curious? How is it that Fergusson had a car and engine in 1949, but the engine ended up in a new car of Green’s in 1950? We can only assume that Fergusson sold his car sans engine, maybe to someone who didn’t want a big Vincent and sold or lent the Vincent to Green who put it in a new car. Maybe.

The car is known to have been sold to Eric Thompson some time later in 1950 and he used it a few times but advertised it for sale in Autosport in November that year. It is believed he did not sell it and he competed in it a few times in 1951. Then it was advertised again and it is believed to have been sold to Ceylon.  John Farrington, who worked in Sri Lanka in 1978-81 wrote as follows:

The first mention of this Cooper was in a Ceylon Daily News article on 8 February 1952 saying that it had recently been imported. The owner was reported as being one Cedric Seneviratne. Subsequent reports gave the names of drivers as Brown and  MI Rouff. The car was plagued with problems of overheating. A large scoop was added to the nearside to direct air onto the engine. The oil filter housing was cut off to aid airflow to the magneto, and the car was run without an engine cowling. It was also fitted with a clutch from an ex-WD Harley.

Gamini de Zoysa acquired the car from Seneviratne in the late 1950s. He holed the 13:1 pistons. Following advice from the Vincent club he stuck to a lower compression ratio and began a winning streak. He also had a high-speed engine seizure which caused the drive-side mainshaft to turn in the flywheels. I’m not sure whether the seizure happened at the same time as the holed pistons, or subsequently. He scrapped the 1A engine and sold the remains to me (minus conrods and TT carbs). With a Black Shadow engine as replacement, he continued a winning streak, but some years later left the car deteriorating in a makeshift garage when he emigrated to Canada. 

John says that a lot of this information came from John Mocket who worked in Ceylon in the early 1950s, about the same time as my friend David Stevenson; David left Columbo about the time the Cooper-Vincent arrived so he has no knowledge of it.

The black and white picture below from John is of Gamini de Zoysa in full flight at Katakurunda race track:


The colour picture below is of the remnants of the car, with what looks like a replacement nose, sometime later. Unfortunately nothing is known about the later years of the Ceylon Coopers and neither seem to have survived. At least the engine has and some of the history.


Terry Wright



Here’s something different, as we catch up with the ‘movie’ age. Sorry we don’t know who took this great film.

Bathurst New South Wales was the venue in 1952 for that year’s Australian Grand Prix and there was an impressive entry of five air-cooled Coopers, plus another for a shorter event.

To quote from John Medley’s excellent book, Bathurst, Cradle of Australian Motor Racing, ‘Cooper distributor John Crouch was pleased; the Cooper entry was impressive: his own silver MarkV 1100cc, South Australian Bill Craig’s bronze MarkV 1100cc, and ex motorcyclist Lloyd Hirst’s cream MarkV were entered in addition to the now familiar MarkIV 1000cc Coopers of Mischa Ravdell and Jack Saywell. As well, Dick Cobden had entered his blue MarkV 500cc for the big race, and Bill Patterson his green MarkV 500cc, which he had recently raced in Europe, in the shorter event’.

Sadly, the results didn’t live up to expectations, and Jack Saywell was the only Cooper running at the end of the 38 lap, 150 mile long event, in 16th place, having covered 32 laps.

Observant viewers of this 10 minute film will see:

John Crouch (number 7) at 52 seconds then 1:20 and 2:38
Bill Craig 9 (number 6) at 6:15
Lloyd Hirst, (number 8) at 41s, 55s, also 1:16
Mischa Ravdell (black car number 10)  at 2:17, 3:0, 3:58 and 5:17
Jack Saywell (red car number 11) at 1:15, 3:38, 4:05, 6:50, 7:15, 8:30, 9:03, 9:50
Dick Cobden (Number 23) at 28 and 50 seconds, also at 5:35

Well, we hear you say, where are those cars now? Fortunately, most are still with us.

The John Crouch driven MkV Cooper is in the Penrite Collection in Melbourne. The Bill Craig MkV later had a 1100 cc Coventry Climax fitted by Bill Pile in South Australia where it was used extensively by various owners before migrating to NSW for Paul Armstrong – it now resides on the NSW south coast and appeared at the 2018 Sandown historic meeting.

The cream coloured MkV of Lloyd Hirst later went to Queensland and ran a Ford 1172 cc engine and also a BMC B series engine fitted by Bowin race car designer-builder John Joyce; however it cannot be accounted for now.

The black MkIV of Mischa Ravdell was used in supercharged form by Lex Davison to win the 1955 and 1956 Australian Hillclimb  Championships  and passed through many hands before being obtained in dilapidated form by Garry Simkin in the early 1990s. It is now back in original condition and being used regularly.

Jack Saywell’s MkIV went to Bill Reynolds and Jack Myers with a supercharged Triumph then through various hands before being restored by Tony Caldersmith with single JAP . It was bought by Andrew Halliday and is awaiting a twin JAP to be built up hopefullyto end a long period of retirement.

Dick Cobden’s single MkV was used extensively in Victoria by Reg Smith then bought by Lex Davison who, with Phil Irvings assistance, fitted a supercharged Vincent and christened the car ‘’Cooper Irving’’. This combination won the 1957 Australian Hillclimb Championship at Albany, WA. Graeme North of Shepparton Victoria used it mainly in country Victoria events; it then passed through many hands including Neal Videan and now resides with Graeme Noonan of Phillip Island.

The green MkV single JAP was raced by Bill Patterson in the UK before the Bathurst 1952 AGP event and was later used extensively in Victoria before spending many years in Tasmania with a 1000cc Jap. Later owned by Brian ‘Brique’ Reed, it is currently owned by Peter Harburg in Queensland.

So that’s 5 survivors out of 6 which is a pretty good score we think. How many of the other cars at Bathurst that year also survive?

Garry Simkin




Doesn’t this photograph have a lovely Australian feel to it, and would it be right to think it might be in Queensland? Must be the trees or the style of  hats maybe?*

What is known for certain it that this is Australia’s first competing ‘500’, the Low-Lane Special built by Bill Low and Bob Lane in Melbourne in 1947 with an Ariel Red Hunter engine. Other 500s had been promised or had even unsuccessfully appeared for practice, but the Low-Lane was the first to make it to the finishing line at Rob Roy hill-climb on 21 September of that year in a vaguely stated time of 40s.

The chassis, was a slightly modified ABC, which Australian Motor Sports (October 15, 1947, see below) says was an American-made Austin Seven which was married to a Ford 8/ 10 front axle with a Ford wishbone and transverse leaf spring. The upsweep at the rear of the chassis served to provide a top anchor for coil springs and the drive is by chain to a sprocket in a new banjo housing which is open at the front. The differential was discarded of course. Brakes were ‘modern’ Girling all round and the steering was by a Model T box.

Lowe Lane 500 1

Lowe Lane 500 2

Bill Low ran his MG TC at the September meeting and was tenth fastest in 38.40s so the round 40 seconds quoted by AMS seems not too bad. On November 2 that same year at the Australian Hillclimb Championship he was recorded more precisely in the Low-Lane at a ‘smart’ 42.18s so maybe that 40s was on the hopeful side? The champion for that year was Arthur Wylie in his special at 29.18s.

There doesn’t seem to have been another 500 at Rob Roy until the 1949 championship meeting on 1 November which was won by John Barraclough in the ex-Bira MG K3 in 29.69s. Reg Hunt’s 500 did 31.40s and L Day in the Day 500 was at 38.51s.

Our information is that the Low-Lane was bought by Queenslander Clem Warburton and taken to Queensland in late 1947 and was later run in hillclimbs there by Connie Jordan and Doug Wiles. That’s about all we know for the moment but what is news is that ‘things still turn up’ and Jeff Hodges in Bomaderry, just north of Nowra NSW, has the car for sale at a nominal price of $1000.



Post a message below and we will put you in touch or email direct to

Terry Wright

* In fact, it must be Queensland because the car didn’t have a body when it ran in Victoria.



Long-time Melbourne Cooper aficionado Garth Rhodes has been having a tidy-up and has kindly given us a Cooper Yearbook which we haven’t seen before at Loose Fillings. There are some interesting advertisements and photographs of air-cooled cars which we are happy to reproduce here. Many thanks Garth, but sorry the image quality isn’t better here.


Cooper 3

Cooper 4Cooper 5

Cooper 7

Cooper 8

Cooper 9

Cooper 10

Then follow some pages of photographs which are not new to us but we think these are:

Cooper 16

Cooper 17

Cooper 18

Cooper 19

The following though is not the Mk8 as we know it but maybe the early ones had the body style of the  Mk7 –  seems more likely that there just wasn’t a Mk8 twin when the yearbook was put together.

Cooper 20

Cooper 21To finish here is a cutaway drawing of the Cooper Bristol; the rest of the handbook is a list of Cooper successes from 1946 to 1953.

Cooper 22

Hope you like it!