All posts by Terry Wright

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

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 rode 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!




‘Look what’s turned up’ is a constant story on Loose Fillings  and thanks to some very nice photography we are pleased to bring you no less than three ‘barn-find’ Coopers recently for sale in the United States.

Daniel Rapley said he had two lots of  cars for sale. First there was a Mk7 AND a Mk9, recently pulled out of a barn in Massachusetts. The Mk9 engine was apart. There was a quantity of spares, both mechanical and bodywork. Price was $US22,500 for the pair

The other lot was a Cooper Mk4 which came out of the same Massachusetts barn that the Mk7 and Mk9 came out of. It was owned from 1959 to 1972 by Milo Kibbe in the USA. Photos of it racing in 1960 show it looking in this exact layout. She’s a lovely old thing. Price was $US19,500.

We’ll let you work out which car is which. For more call Daniel Rapley +1-203-470-5298 or email:










While on my annual migration from Australia to the English summer of 2018, I was recalling my first such trip way back in 1978. I had decided to settle in Australia and was returning to sell our little house in Stony Stratford which was just within earshot (with the right wind) of Silverstone circuit.

Apart from my day job, I had started to write and sometimes photograph freelance for Australia’s Revs Motorcycle News and the Australian, and New Zealand contingent at the Silverstone British GP that year was one of my targets. I interviewed and photographed Greg Hansford, Jack Findlay, Mike Hailwood, and Dennis Ireland. It was, I think, the year of Mike Hailwood’s return to the Isle of Man and he, for a while then an antipodean, was also in the frame.

It’s mainly distant memories now. However, I have no trouble remembering the day that Alexander, Lord Hesketh, (properly Alexander Fernor-Hesketh, Baron Hesketh) who lived even closer to Silverstone, turned up at my front door to try and shut me up about the new motorcycle he was planning to make.

I had heard on the grapevine that Ron Valentine, technical head of the Weslake concern, was developing a V-twin version of their very successful speedway 500cc single. Such an idea interested me and to find out more I rang Ron, and after speaking some vintage JAP, soon had an invitation to visit his works in Rye on the south coast.

Ron was most hospitable; we spoke a lot more JAP; he took me to lunch and then I had a tour of the works. They did everything there – cast crankcases and cylinders even – and my freely-taken photos show piles of these in various stages of machining (below).

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In the foundry, attention that day was focused on the first casting of the left side crankcase of the new V twin which Ron told me was to power a motorcycle that Lord Hesketh was planning.

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The other crankcase half had already been cast and heat-treated and was being milled in the machine shop (below), so that scene was added to the pictures I had taken in the foundry.

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This wasn’t the race engine I had expected to see. It was much more interesting than that. As far as my nascent freelance journalism was concerned, I had a motorcycle ‘scoop’. Hesketh had become world famous with James Hunt driving the F1 cars built in his stable block – maybe he could revive the almost dead British motorcycle industry? This was pretty exciting stuff in those days, I can tell you, with British manufacturing on its knees and Margaret Thatcher yet to give the country some tough economic medicine.

Back in Stony Stratford, I rang the nearby Nicholas Hawksmoor designed Hesketh stately home of Easton Neston near Towcester and soon found myself asking his lordship for details of his motorcycle manufacturing plans. I told him about the photographs I had and after a few seconds of seemingly stunned silence he said

‘Where are you?’

‘Just down the road in Stony Stratford’, I replied.

‘Can I come round – I can be there in 20 minutes’, he said.

So Hesketh turned up in his Rolls-Royce, drank tea in the kitchen and laid out the deal he had in mind. If I held off publishing my photographs he would give me exclusive access to all the Hesketh material well before the official announcement was made. Revs would have the full story before any other motorcycle magazine worldwide.

I ran all this past Revs editor Mike Esdaile. Hesketh’s offer seemed genuine enough. It seemed a pity to put a damper on his plans by prematurely releasing the story for the sake of being first with it. His lordship had been very friendly and persuasive and so we agreed to his proposal. Eventually I found out that Hesketh was no gentleman as far as his word was concerned. Neither Revs nor I heard a word from him again and my photos of the prototype Hesketh engine haven’t seen the light of day until now.

The Weslake engine which I had seen in its early stages was ready to ride in 1980 and offered all sorts of novel – for British breeds – technology such as four valves per cylinder and chain driven twin overhead camshafts. Hesketh’s success with his Formula 1 team gave everyone hopes that his motorcycle project would succeed at a time when there was little public confidence in Britain’s manufacturing competence.

Designer and cartoonist John Mockett has written about the project’s development, ‘I was working for Yamaha Europe, making prototypes and concept models … Yamaha encouraged me to get involved … and paid for some of my time there because they thought there should be another British motorcycle. The first prototype I saw didn’t need a side-stand because the exhaust pipes held it up, so you just lent it on the pipe! That was the stage they’d got to – they didn’t have anyone in a senior role who knew anything about motorcycles.’

MotoGP journalist Michael Scott was at the champagne and caviar launch in 1981 (below, Alexander Hesketh with Mike Hailwood aboard) and he wrote, ‘We all had a test ride, and the bike was lovely, a bit big and heavy, but it had this terrible gear change….the Hesketh people would ask us what the bike was like and we’d say it’s really nice but, er, the gearbox is a bit clunky …. I do remember my coverline …: To The Spanner Born.’

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Hesketh Mototcycles plc was formed and a factory was set up in nearby Daventry to assemble outsourced components. It was, says Alan Cathcart, conceived as a ‘two-wheel Aston Martin –  a classy, expensive, gentleman’s express’.  But the bike soon demonstrated a multitude of faults.  It was heavy, unreliable and the rear cylinder overheated. With unfavourable press reports and the motorcycle market then falling, only 139 bikes were produced before the company went into receivership in 1982.

Cagiva and the Triumph cooperative looked at buying the rights and then Lord Hesketh formed a new company in 1983 to manufacture a full-faired version called the Vampire. However, the old faults were still there and this venture only made 40 bikes before closing in 1984.

Mick Broom, one of Hesketh’s team on his estate, then took on development and support and resolved the V1000s overheating problem with improved oil flow.  He made a few bikes a year until the marque was sold in 2010 to a new company headed by Paul Sleeman, which announced it was going to make just 24 bikes in total with a 1917cc S&S engine made in Wisconsin – the very same one they put in the recreated Morgan threewheelers.

The price when it was launched in 2014 was a whopping £35,000. Motorcycle News said it had ‘style, character, quality and exclusivity’ and they all sold.  Last year the Hesketh Sonnet was put on the market with a more affordable (for some) price of about GBP25,000. For that you got an even bigger 2163cc, triple camshaft S&S engine producing 145bhp at 6000rpm. ‘It delivers a completely unique blend of Anglo-American performance that nobody else offers on two wheels right now’, writes Cathcart. And now for 2018 there is the supercharged Valiant SC with 200bhp for GBP50,000.

It’s all amazing, really. Forty years ago the British motorcycle business was going out backwards. Now there are new Triumphs, Nortons, Ariels (definitely not a Pixie revival) and even a questionable recreation of the Brough Superior made in France. It seems to me that if you want a classic experience you should get a classic bike but good luck to them.

I’m sticking with my big-twin JAPs.

Photos August 1978 by Terry Wright show machining of the prototype engine’s first crankcase half and the casting of the other side along with piles of 500cc speedway engines.


New Motor Heritage Foundation

New Motor Heritage Foundation

At Loose Fillings we have been interested to hear that the following has been announced this week:

‘The Australian Motor Heritage Foundation is in the final stages of negotiations with the Australian Racing Drivers Club for long-term occupancy of secure premises at Sydney Motor Sport Park, initially being the whole of the separate building that comprised the original offices of the ARDC, then transferring to a tenancy within the intended new development in the Brabham Drive complex.

‘Also, we have been informed that the ARDC is in negotiation with a number of Australian universities and tertiary institutions, about four in all, which are combining to propose the construction and operation of a campus at SMSP where automotive and aeronautical engineering will be taught. We understand that the AMHF will be encouraged to co-operate with the institutions at that campus to enhance the special educational resources available at SMSP’.

The AMHF has recently been constituted as a not-for-profit company with six directors to provide a permanent home for Sydney enthusiast Hugh King’s remarkable collection of motoring books. We understand ‘Motor’ includes two and three-wheeled vehicles which is as it should be, of course.

The foundation’s directors say ‘…it is not a ‘library’, nor is it a ‘museum’ …instead, this Foundation is to serve the community … with a needed educational resource of national significance, situated at the demographic centre of our largest city, just like is set up successfully in the USA, in parts of Europe and in Japan.’

It was news to Loose Fillings that there was to be a major redevelopment at what we still prefer to call ‘Eastern Creek’. It seems only yesterday, but it’s nearly thirty years, since the editor was watching Bob Barnard and a back-hoe marking out the circuit on the ground around the rather misnamed ‘corporate hill’.

A Google search shows us that in March 2017 Glenn Matthews, ARDC’s CEO, wrote to the Greater Sydney Commission in connection with its West Central Draft District Plan as follows:

‘A new and broader vision is being shaped for the Sydney Motorsport Park precinct that we believe will be of high interest to the Greater Sydney Commission and its strategy to attract smart jobs to Western Sydney and agglomerate industry expertise with research and education opportunities.

‘… We are convinced this broader vision will bring significant social and economic impact through developing talented students in the region, growing smart jobs in innovative globally relevant industry in and around the motorsport precinct, and being an even more significant player in regions visitor economy.’

It was almost exactly in these terms that Greiner government officials were talking when the Eastern Creek circuit was first mooted; hopefully this time it will happen.

The ARDC is proposing a motorsport institute for research and development, a ‘race academy’, circuit lighting, dual pit lanes and an ‘innovation and research hub’, with most of the development being at the end of Brabham Drive around where the grandstand now is (see below).

2018-06-28 AMHF Prospectus for SMSP 15

The relevance of all this to Loose Fillings is that this new venture might well provide a permanent home for the also remarkable Graham Howard Collection of maybe 100,000 papers and photographs which is owned by Loose Fillings’ Garry Simkin and Terry Wright.

We look forward to hearing more, no doubt sometime before next year’s New South Wales election, and we’ll keep you posted on any developments relevant to the Graham Howard Collection.






Just 80 years ago – on 23 April 1938 – 33 year old Eric Crudgington Fernihough was flung off his wildly tank-slapping Brough-Superior motorcycle into the ditch on the side of the new road to Istanbul south of Budapest.

There, one of Britain’s greatest motorcycle racers died, and with him his hopes of regaining for his country the absolute world motorcycle speed record, which had been taken from him by the mighty BMW’s Ernst Jakob Henne.

Eric did not have a good start to life either. Family legend, and some evidence, suggests that his father and mother were initially well-to-do.

But not long after he was born in Birkenhead in 1905 as the ninth child of Jane and John Fernihough, Eric’s mother was recorded working as a lowly stewardess for the Cunard steamship line. It appears that all but Jane’s grown-up children were in care. Of the father there is no trace at the time and Jane was to die giving birth to a daughter in December 1908.

It is believed that Eric was chosen for adoption by Mrs Emily McCalmont at a Merseyside children’s home some time before 1910.  Eric retained the Fernihough surname and lived at 5 Stourwood Avenue, Southbourne, with his new mother, who had been widowed in 1903.

We know Eric spent two years from 1920 boarding at Clayesmore School then near Winchester and three years at Cambridge University studying chemistry, engineering and economics. He graduated BA in June 1926 and later acquired an MA.

Quite a lot is known about his Morgan three-wheeler and motorcycle activities of the time, some of it from the diary of the remarkable Miss Butler. She recorded she became engaged to Eric in November 1924 to give some apparently necessary (in the eyes of her parents) respectability to her spending a lot of time in Eric’s Cambridge shed and at various speed events all over southern England.

Whether the relationship was purely platonic and competition-focussed we will never know because Kathleen’s will required that her diaries be destroyed; fortunately for this story she wrote and dictated several sets of extracts about her time with Eric.

After various adventures including world records at Brooklands driving Eric’s Morgan, and a bad crash in 1926,  her father banned further racing, Mrs McCalmont put her foot down too and, Kathleen noted, ‘the engagement fizzled out’.

After Cambridge Eric took up motorcycle racing and was a frequent competitor and record breaker at the Brooklands track. He still lived in Southbourne and it is understood that he worked for ‘Hendys’, Britain’s first Ford dealer, which had a branch in Bournemouth and also dealt in motorcycles.

From 1926 he had an extraordinarily successful motor cycle racing career on a variety of makes but mainly Excelsiors with JAP engines, initially at Brooklands and in Ireland but eventually on the Continent.


As a motorcycle racer, Eric mixed it with the best. From his photo album at Brooklands Museum.

Late in 1931 he married Dorothy Penrose from Shirley in Hampshire, and took over the Tower Garage next to Brooklands track where he developed a tuning and motor engineering business.

As well as winning many major races at Brooklands, he had numerous class wins and places in international races in Belgium, Switzerland, France, Sweden, Ireland, Holland and Spain. In 1932 ‘Ferni’recorded 18 firsts and 13 lap records. In 1933 he had 14 firsts and 17 records. In 1934 he had 16 firsts with 18 in 1935 and 10 in 1936.    (440)

In July 1935, with a JAP V-twin engine Brough-Superior motorcycle he had developed himself, he set a new Brooklands lap record for motorcycles at 123.58mph. It was a phenomenal speed that was only to be slightly bettered by Noel Pope before the track closed for racing in 1939.


In 1936 Ferni made his first move towards taking the absolute world motorcycle speed record with a visit in October to record sessions being held on one of the new German autobahns between Frankfurt and Darmstadt. The flying start records eluded him with Ernst Henne’s factory 750cc BMW taking the absolute record over a kilometre to 159.1mph but Eric was able to claim a standing start kilometre record of 103.56mph.

Travelling to Gyon south of Budapest in early 1937, now with two bikes, one supercharged and one with a sidecar, he narrowly took the absolute record from Henne at 169.79mph on 19 April along with a second prize in the form of the outright sidecar record.

A racing injury in Sweden put Ferni out of action during the latter part of the year. Meanwhile Piero Taruffi (Gilera) and Ernst Henne, each with a mere 500cc (but superchargedwith full streamlining), attacked the record. At the beginning of 1937 it stood to Henne at 173.68mph.

Once again motoring the long road to Hungary, Fernihough returned to Gyon in the spring of 1938 to try to cap Henne’s new record. It was a tall order even though the road was modern and part of it had been designed level and dead-straight specifically for record breaking.

But runs had to be completed in both directions with only a limited time for adjustments between them. The timed km section was in the middle of the 5km straight and every bit of road available was needed to accelerate and brake. This meant that the approach curves had to be taken at considerable speed.

The flying mile started with one of the kilometre timing points so it was effectively even nearer to the southern end and the approach speed here was critical. Eric made it his practice to do a fast single timed run away from Budapest which was the reverse of normal use of the course. He would then do pairs of runs starting from the south away from the sun, maybe so that he would have the longest approach to the mile on the return run.

Mainly slightly elevated above the surrounding plain, there were only a few trees and buildings roadside apart from a roadhouse (which is still there) in the middle of the timed section.

The Royal Hungarian Automobile Club, for a daily fee of £75 (doesn’t sound a lot, but it was then) provided all the necessary facilities. The road was swept during the night. There were gendarmes with rifles to keep order.

First he cruised up and down in an open car checking for wind shadows and any other hazards. Then the bike was warmed-up and ‘hotter’ plugs fitted. Finally by way of preparation there was a fast run north to south and a last action photograph was taken with him flat on the tank and his arms fully extended.


On the fateful day: Eric warms up the Brough

All seemed well and his first record run started back towards Budapest. What followed was only sketchily reported in Britain and ever since there have been arguments about the cause. Only one eye-witness seems to have put pen to paper in English and The Motor Cycle quoted him in its issue of 28 April 1938:

As he entered the measured distance a slight wobble was to be seen. The very severe wobble developed. Poor Ferni tried to correct it but …. it made the front fork go from one lock to the other. It was impossible to straighten. He lost control, flew about thirty yards, landed on the wall of the ditch and fractured the base of his skull.

The Hungarian press agency put out a release with the news of the accident at 12.00 noon and the story was in the British newspapers that afternoon. Eric’s companion, John Rowland, then had the dreadful job of driving their station wagon home to England with Eric’s remains following a few days later.

There is evidence that Eric knew what he was up against in trying to regain the record but that he bravely went on. A surviving letter from a friend to another, written on the day of his death, says “[the] sad truth compels me to admit somehow it was not unexpected. I spoke to him on the matter the last time I saw him …”.

Eric was not the first, and not the last, to experience the sometimes fatal interactions between aerodynamics and vehicle design which even today are not always understood or predictable. Things can still go wrong even after much simulation and testing, the trigger often being difficult to nail down.

It is notable that Eric’s fatal run was the first time he went to record speed with a near full enclosure of the body of the bike. He had earlier run it with little or no streamlining – not even enough to keep the wind off his goggles which were distorted so much he sometimes couldn’t see the road properly. He had last run it for his absolute record runs the previous year with a crankcase/gearbox fairing and a new tail fairing and with this he seems to have frightened himself badly.

It may be that the substantial extra enclosure of the main body of the bike reduced the ‘weathercock’ effect of the tail fairing while introducing a new possibility of ‘flag flutter’ due to asymmetrical airflow  as suggested by Hungarian authorities.

Of course we shall never know. In all probability an accumulation of ‘second order’ effects started to get worse as speeds rose with the fatal, and (almost) literal, tipping point being the now more complete streamlining shifting what is known as the ‘keel area’ fatally forward while maybe adding new aerodynamic problems.

Eric was buried in Boscombe cemetery, Bournemouth on 4 May 1938. He will be remembered this month by a ceremony, not there, but at a memorial (below) where he died which has been built by local people on the Gyon road in what is now the city of Dabas in Hungary.

Terry Wright

12Emléktábla avatás4

Terry Wright is working on a book about Eric Fernihough, Ernst Henne and their pursuit of the absolute world motorcycle speed record.



Well not so much ‘surface,’ as published for the first time. Quite a few years ago a roll of film, which had been found in the street, was handed in to the police in Wolverhampton. The roll was of over 700 microfilmed JAP drawings which had perhaps been dumped after Villiers took over JAPs and moved the remnants of the JAP Tottenham (London) factory to Wolverhampton.

Not being claimed or an owner found, and rather than being destroyed, the film was given to a friend of ours who allowed the Vintage Motor Cycle Club and the Morgan Three-Wheeler Club to copy them. The MTWC made digital copies and a copy was given to Loose Fillings some years ago.

The first set of three drawings published are of the 8/45 KTOR and JTOR crankcases of 1924 or thereabouts, probably with the later addition of ribs to the drive-side crankcase. There should be a timing cover for a single platform magneto but we have not found it yet. It may be that the drawing was lost when a new drawing was done for the 8/80 in 1936.

Future uploads will include the 1936 8/80 996cc JAP and the postwar Mk1 1098cc JAP used by Coopers. As well as crankcases there are cylinder barrel and head drawings of various types but no small parts –  the collection is almost exclusively of drawings for moulding and machining of castings in iron and aluminium.

As well as twin-cylinder engine drawings there are many of the speedway 500 engine which will also be published. Note that the drawing number is the same as the JAP part number

So, watch this space, and here is the first being the 1924  and onwards crankcase for the JTOR, KTOR and probably the water cooled LTOW. Later, these drawings were amended for the 8/80 and in due course the 8/80 timing cover was amended in 1949 to suit the pump used for the dry-sump engine.

If you want higher resolution files, you can download pdfs from JAP DRAWINGS in the menu across the top of the page.

Image (561) JAP7405Above: Drawing 7405


Image (560) JAP7406Above: Drawing 7406


Image (559) JAP740X

Above: Drawing 7439 for chain driven magneto


Here’s a list of the available motorcycle-type engine drawings which will eventually be published:


Jap DwgList_Page_1

Jap DwgList_Page_2

Jap DwgList_Page_3

Jap DwgList_Page_4

More Bill Harris


Here’s a bit of an experiment in presentation for us, the following being some of the pages of Bill’s 50 page photo album which starts at Bathurst in 1939 (it says so on the back of the pic below) and follows him to England as a speedway rider post-war.

Enter a caption

Born in 1915, Bill raced at Maroubra (concrete oval) and Penrith (1 mile dirt track) in New South Wales before World War 2. In 1947 he sailed to England to ride for Tamworth and when speedway lost its lustre he went to work for Ken Wharton as a race mechanic for 1953.

Page 7

Page 1

Page 37

Next he joined Sheffield steelmaker Denis Flather looking after his 1897 Benz and his 1951 Flather Vincent known as the Camel (car in front below). Bill raced the Camel during 1954 while building a new Norton-engined car to his own design with wishbone and coil suspension at the front and De Dion at the rear.


Bill entered the Flather Special in 6 meetings in 1955, 8 in 1957, 12 in 1958 and nine in 1959 often finishing in the top 5 which was pretty good when you consider how strong the competition was.

Page 10

Page 15

Then,  in 1959, he teamed up with Alex Francis to build ‘Alexis’ cars for the new Formula Junior. For 1960 a second car with independent rear suspension was produced for what was obviously turning into a professional rather than an amateur class.

Page 20

Two new rear-engined cars were built for 1961 and eventually three cars were fielded in races all over Europe and there was a successful venture into F2 as well as Formula Ford and Formula 3 ; cars continued to be built into the 1970s. Number 36 below is Australian driver Paul Hawkins and maybe somebody can say where and when it is?

Page 29

Bill and his wife Reimer and daughter returned to Australia at the end of 1965 and Bill was later active in historic racing with his Lea Francis powered Harris Special. He died in 1995 and his album was given to Loose Fillings‘ Garry Simkin.

Page 59

PS  Along with miscellaneous material collected by the Loose Fillings team the Bill Harris album  will probably become an adjunct to the Graham Howard Collection which is now at the Australian Motor Heritage Foundation at Eastern Creek west of Sydney.  TW

Short Change On Fire Extinguishers

Short Change On Fire Extinguishers

Just watch this little demonstration of fire-fighting foam in action:


Way back in 1999 Loose Fillings -see Back Issues above  – pointed out a serious shortcoming in UK competition rules about fire extinguishers in our kind of cars. It was noted that dry powder extinguishers – which universally work on alcohol fuel and which you can buy in any hardware shop – were ‘prohibited’.

All this was in the context of the (now) editor taking the Walton JAP to the UK and being told he would have to remove the compact 1 kg dry powder unit that was required in Australia. Apparently ‘prohibited’ means to the UK Motor Sports Association (MSA) that you can’t even have it in the car.

The UK requirement, you see, was for proprietary halon replacement Zero 2000 or generic AFFF – which doesn’t work on alcohol. For that you need ‘AR-AFFF’ – that is ‘alcohol resistant aqueous film-forming foam’. This important distinction simply wasn’t made.

As if to demonstrate this to all concerned, about the same time the Vintage Sports Car Club (VSCC) published a picture of a methanol-fueled Cooper Bristol burning out even though it had an MSA approved plumbed-in system. Only when marshals arrived with dry-powder extinguishers was the blaze extinguished.

Eventually, the issue was pressed home face-to-face with the secretary of the VSCC and the technical head of the UK Motor Sports Association (MSA). Neither would budge an inch from their opposition to the use of dry powder (despite it long being an FIA approved extinguishant) and their unwillingness to specify alcohol-resistant foam when the fuel required it.

Fast forward nearly 20 years to the new MSA rules for 2018, and we still find the old rule in place:

K Competitor: Safety

. Extinguishers are classified as …
…. Dry powder extinguishers are prohibited.

But wait … there’s more … there are also new rules, for the time being optional and recommended, but soon to be mandatory, which at last adopt FIA prescriptions as follows:

3.3.2 Permitted extinguishants:
AFFF, Clean Agent, powder or any other extinguishant
homologated by the FIA.
3.2.3. Minimum quantity of extinguishant:
• AFFF 2.4 litres
• FireSense 2.4 litres
• FX GTEC 2.0 kg
• Viro3 2.0 kg
• Zero 360 2.0 kg
• Extreme 2.0 kg
• Powder 2.0 kg

Note there is still no mention of the need for alcohol-resistant foam even though ethanol blends are now being used in ‘modern’ competition as well as old fashioned methanol for historics. Read this, for example:

Alcohol resistant aqueous film forming foam
AR-AFFF is the firefighting agent of choice for fires involving all types of hydrocarbon or solvent fuels. These solvents include ethanol and ethanol blended gasoline (E-10, E-85 and E-95), acetone, methanol, ethers, esters and some acids.
AR-AFFFs provide longer residence time in vapor suppression situations, particularly when firefighters encounter unignited fuel spills. AR-AFFF is required for fires and vapor suppression of spills involving E-10, E-85 and E-95 gasoline-ethanol blends now being carried in standard over-the-road gasoline tankers for delivery to retail gas stations. (

Be that as it may, in the UK, where extinguishers are optional for hillclimbs, you can now use dry-powder for racing.

But in Australia, where extinguishers are mandatory for hillclimbs, an extinguisher is no longer required for any form of racing!

Make sense of all that if you can, and wonder if the people who make these rules know what they are doing!


PS: Both in Australia and the UK some serious questions are unanswered by Loose Fillings’ inquiries:

Except for the Australian Grand Prix, CAMS does not require that alcohol-type concentrate (ATC) or alcohol resistant (AR) foams be used trackside – it simply says they ‘are usual’. But are they?

The new MSA regulations don’t incorporate the FIA standard’s requirement that  extinguishers be labelled with the type of fuel for which they are suitable. So how would anybody know?

Does your club, be it in Australia, UK or elsewhere, ensure that alcohol type extinguishers are used at meetings it supports?


“Extreme” Tojeiro-JAP for sale

Continuing our ‘extreme air-cooled’ theme, we hear that the
extraordinary ‘Tojeiro-JAP’ is up for sale but didn’t sell at Britain’s National Exhibition Centre on Saturday November 11.



The car was once on the Loose Fillings editor’s ‘bucket-list’. It was all-but tracked down some years ago but found its way into the hands of David Lee who did a remarkable job of a chassis-up restoration including the building of an engine.

All sorts of bright ideas were put forward for exploiting the 1096cc ‘Mk1’ all-alloy JAP V-twin when it was announced in late 1949 as a successor to the 1949 ‘dry-sump’ version of the pre-war total-loss ‘8/80’.* Coopers experimented with a transverse front-mounted engine coupled to a clutch and gearbox but that chassis is not known to have ever made it onto the road.

However, supposedly inspired by an Autocar article which had extolled the virtues of mating a Jowett Jupiter four-speed manual gearbox to the JAP Mk1 via a custom bell housing, Brian Lister took up the idea for a car to be built by John Tojeiro using a bell-housing that had been made to link the JAP to the Jowett box.

Brian was back at the family’s Cambridge engineering firm after a spell in the RAF and John had just set himself up outside Cambridge to make one-off cars. Brian’s first motorsport ventures in 1951 were with one of Cooper’s front-engined sports car but he wasn’t happy with it and commissioned a JAP-engined Tojerio, much along the lines of the Cooper prototype but with a much improved chassis.

This was John Tojeiro’s second chassis and it was the first out of his workshop in April 1952, but it carried a Lister chassis number BHL1. There was a Standard differential and Turner magnesium wheels and the whole thing is said (probably optimistically) to have weighed around 400kg, much as was claimed for the contemporary rear-engined Cooper single-seater. Whatever the weight really was, it was very light for what was technically a sports-car. Note, in the restoration photo by David Lee, below, the obvious stiffness compared with a Cooper.

TojChassisLister JAP 1 (1)(2)

Nicknamed ‘The Asteroid’ by Lister, and road-registered as KER 694, it was fearsomely quick when on-song according to the Lister story written by Robert Edwards. In its first season, 1952, Brian (above) doesn’t seem to have had a lot of success in coaxing the JAP’s performance out of it but amongst his Cambridge circle was demon lightweight (5ft tall) driver Archie Scott-Brown and tuner Don Moore.

Scott-Brown at the wheel in 1953 had no less than six first places in races (below) as well as driving his own Cooper-MG. But the Asteroid, more formally known as the Tojeiro-JAP, was really no sportscar and had to be towed to meetings rather than driven on the road which was then a serious nuisance. Archie repeated his runs of successes in 1952 but then Brian sold to the car to Peter Hughes who was living in Scotland.


John Tojeiro, Archie Scott-Brown and Brian Lister each went on to greater things in motorsport while Hughes campaigned the car in races and hillclimbs north and south of the border. In 1954 he had five circuit wins, a fourth in an international race, and two best times of day at Bo’ness and Barbon hillclimbs as well as class records at Shelsley Walsh and Prescott.

He then acquired a big-twin JAP-engined Cooper and was killed while driving back from helping Ecurie Ecosse at Le Mans in 1956. We know for certain what happened to his Cooper – it was bought by David Roscoe and then was sold to Jimmy de Villiers in Rhodesia. By then, presumably, the Tojeiro had been sold.

It is said to have passed through the hands of GMG Oliver, Alistair Dent Hutton, Northern Sports Cars Ltd, Peter Jones, W Richard Heylings, John Pacey, Richard Procter, John Baker, Jeremy Wade, Jonathan Bradburn and Frank Gourlay before being bought by David Lee in 2009.

Still road registered, this car could be a real pain in the #### today but a lot more is known now about how to keep a big-twin JAP together and in the right hands it could provide as much excitement as it is possible to have on the road or the track.

A Scottish friend, Gavin Ross, who first told me about the car, remembers it like this, “I think of all my memories from those days long ago at Bo’ness, those of that car are the most vivid; it was certainly the car that made the biggest impact on me at the time. As DSJ used to say it had PRESENCE; in spades! It was sensational to watch in action, it was just so quick compared to the other runners in its class.” The Bo’ness photo below by Graham Gauld shows Peter Hughes at the entry to the ‘courtyard’.


Loose Fillings’ founding editor Graham Howard encouraged its possible purchase saying, “You could see this car as the first move towards the emergence of totally impractical racing “sports cars” with pure-race engines and no real passenger space or luggage capacity”.

The editor is wondering if he may actually be lucky not to have bought the car, but he can’t help thinking wistfully of it as ‘one that got away’.


*There never was a ‘Mk2’ JAP even though that is what the ‘Mk1’ is widely called today. Probably the terminology arises from the 1949 engine (which JAPs labelled ‘Dry Sump 8/80’) being incorrectly described sometime in the past as the Mk1.

For more on Tojeiros, see a fine book by Graham Gauld, “Toj: John Tojeiro and his cars” available from

For auction details see


“Round-the-houses” racing is a great tradition which is still practiced here and there with historic events in West Australia. In continental Europe it was once the way most motor racing was done, with meetings usually embracing both bikes and cars. Perhaps Pau and Monaco are the only survivors running to contemporary car formulae.


Angouleme in western France was one of those towns where the annual races were an important part of the social and sporting calendar. Starting in 1939, the first main race 20170927_144622for grand prix cars was won by the great French hero Raymond Sommer in an Alfa Romeo 308. Racing recommenced in 1947 and continued until the Le Mans tragedy year of 1955. In 1978 the meeting was revived as a historic event and has continued ever since.

The old town, of Romano-Gallic origins, occupies a fortified craggy plateau high above the surrounding country, and around the plateau are the remains of over 2km of ramparts after which the race is named. A mere 1.2 kilometres long, the course runs along the ramparts, plunges downhill between packed houses, streaks along the bottom of the fortified cliffs then zig-zags back up to the plateau again. It is tight, roughly surfaced and wholly unforgiving as far as run-off is concerned.  An ‘off’ generally means contact with a stone wall or armco.

This year saw the 39th running  of the modern ‘Circuit des Remparts’. Somehow or other the pits were created in the middle of the town next to the hotel de ville, armco was erected here and there, and entries for prewar cars up to 1500cc, 500cc cars, 1965-1974 GT cars, group B rally cars, Bugattis type 35, 37, 51 and 59, post 1974 GTs, pre-war racing cars over 1500cc and pre 1965 GTs were invited to race on Sunday 17 September 2017.

The first voitourette race was led, almost from start to finish, by Morgan ace (and old mate of Loose Fillings) Chas Reynolds who has, over the years, perfected a racing engine with speedway top-end bits on the robust 1323cc DTZ rail trolley motor. As you can imagine, the big-twin exhaust note reverberated splendidly though the tight streets of Angouleme and not a beat was missed.

The second race, being for 500cc cars, was for our air-cooled  brethren and it was pleasing to see that these days the once ubiquitous curved tube Cooper is being challenged by a wide variety of other makes and models.

For a start there were no less than 6 DB (Charles Deutsch and René Bonnet) cars which were initally built around a modified Dyna Panhard flat twin engine mounted ahead of the front driven wheels. There was an Arnott, a Staride, a Martin, an Effyh, the Waye special (late of Australia), a Revis, an RJ, a Cousy and several more-modern blow-ins such as a Vixen (1966) and a Boyer (1960). All were allegedly 500cc and why the latter two were there was a moot point.

IMG_1567The flat-twin DBs are fierce looking creatures

Further inquiries on the Internet revealed that the ‘Boyer Racer 500’ was conceived about 1998 for a French formula. It had a Honda V-twin Transalp engine developing 50hp at 8000rpm, with a five-speed gearbox. Yet in the programme it is listed as 1960 which is patently not true. Whether the same may be said of the ‘1966’ Vixen VB1 I have not troubled to find out as it finished well down the field. Suffice to say it should be totally unacceptable to genuine historic 500 racers to have this sort of pretend car in the grid.

The race was to be over 23 laps, which was to be a bit much for some people fuel-wise, and they and others wanted a rolling start as they are now accustomed to. At a post-briefing conference it seemed to be agreed with the organisers that a shorter race with a rolling start would be run, but in the end it didn’t happen; indeed there were two standing starts from the grid – one for a parade lap and one for the race.

Being on holiday and not at work, Loose Fillings was not really keen enough to keep a lap chart, hadn’t done the usual homework in the paddock and found it impossible to question the blow-ins about their equipment and its dubious presence. Indeed the winning car simply wasn’t even in the paddock after the race although the driver turned up to stand on the podium.

As far as the race is concerned, some notes and results might suffice: Xavier Kingsland in his Norton engined Staride set a cracking pace and had a long dice with George Shackleton’s lovely Mark 11 Cooper which stopped on lap 12. Xavier was to finish on the same lap in second place behind the Boyer, while Oliver Rinaldi’s DB was 30 odd seconds adrift. Then followed Andy Raynor (Cooper Mk5) and Roy Hunt (Martin 500) with Martin Sheppard in the Effyn Brynfan Special. Yes, only one Cooper in the top six.

For Loose Fillings, a star attraction car-wise was the Waye JAP sold to England a few years back by Sydney’s Halliday family. It was bought last year by Simon Dedman from Essex who, over the winter, did a chassis-up rebuild including some new body panels. It looked splendid. After a few hillclimbs, this was Simon’s first race meeting as the French organisers seemed not to require a full race licence. He went well but fried his clutch after 14 laps, in which he was not alone.



IMG_1486Simon Dedman has done a terrific job with the Australian Waye JAP

It was great stuff, the 500s looking and sounding terrific in amongst the limestone walls of the old town. The atmosphere was true round-the-houses racing. It was tight on space, sociable, friendly, competitive and apparently well organised. In other words, great fun and well worth the trip if only for the sights, noises, smells, food and drink.

Highly recommended/Four and a half stars.


Raymond Sommer won the 1950 F3 race in one of Harry Schell’s Coopers and here he is  superimposed on the unchanged but now full-colour townscape of Angouleme.


DAVID cyclecars, JAP engines and HURRICANES at Brooklands

In Power Without Glory, my short history of JAP V-twin engines incorrectly said that the  picture (below) showed a Spanish David cyclecar with one of the 80 degree racing engines. In fact it would appear that it had an engine that JAP produced specifically for cyclecar use which was 90 degrees. It was in the 1914 catalogue (see below) and I have just had the privilege of seeing one of these engines courtesy of Dieter Mutschler, who has what must surely be the world’s greatest collection of JAP-engined motorcycles. The collection is accompanied by a superb archive and library which again has a strong emphasis on JAP material.



Above: the David cyclecar with JAP 90 degree engine – probably a prototype.
Below: the 1914 catalogue entry.



Above: this rare 90 degree cyclecar engine came from South Africa.

I can also advise that the photograph (below) of the  Hurricane with Lord Nuffield, in the chapter about WW2, was not at Brooklands as I had been told but was probably at the No.1 Civilian Repair Unit on the airfield adjacent to the Morris factory at Cowley.  Lord Nuffield was appointed Air Ministry Director General (Maintenance) by Air Minister Sir Kingsley Wood on 6th October 1939 and perhaps that was the occasion of the photograph?


Terry Wright


There seem to be more ex Ken Wharton Coopers about than there are ex Stirling Moss Coopers, so the purpose of this post it to try to set the record straight, at least as far as that is possible with the limited information available today on Ken’s cars.


Ken’s first appearance in a Mk4 Cooper, apparently new, was at Goodwood on 27 May 1950 with the BSA engine out of his hillclimb special. His first appearance with a twin JAP was at Shelsley Walsh on 10 June (Stilltime pic from Power Without Glory  above). It’s not known what happened to this car.

For 1951 he had one of the ‘lighter’ lower Mk4 Coopers, this one allegedly built or designated for Raymond Sommer but it is not clear why a 1950 car would have been readied for him – he  was killed on 10 September that year. He was anticipating ‘a little Cooper team’ for 1951 – as he wrote to a friend – why would he not have lined up a Mk5 for 1951?  The caption in the Autosport pic below is wrong, by the way –  the nominal capacity of the iron engine was 996cc.

XXXKen Wharton also had a Mk5 for 1951, Mk5-19-51, according to the factory records published by Doug Nye, and he raced this as a 500 through the year (see Autosport pic at Castle Combe below) then advertised it for sale in Autosport on 14 and 21 September.


It has been claimed that he kept this car until it was sold by his father after his death in 1957, but this is simply improbable. First, it is unlikely that having advertised the car at least twice, it didn’t sell and was mothballed for the next  five years. Furthermore, I asked his race mechanic Bill Blythe, ‘Was there another Cooper stored at the workshop or at his home’, and he said there definitely wasn’t. It certainly wasn’t the car, seemingly a Mk7 which he used in 1956.

Whatever it’s history (which didn’t involve Ken’s hillclimb championships), the car survives and I believe it was last seen in public at a UK Coys auction in 2013. The following pic shows the car as it was previously owned for some years by Mike Sythes who sold it on but without the twin engine it had at the time.


The next Wharton car emerged in 1956, probably first at a Bugatti Owners Club Prescott test day in April (see photo below). Comparing this with the Peter Bell owned Mk7 supercharged car that Michael Christie hillclimbed in 1955 (as well as his own 1107cc unsupercharged car), they are clearly identical in engine and other details.


The proof copy of a  LAT photo below shows Michael Christie at Prescott on 9 May 1954. . The second picture is one of many showing Ken in what is, I believe, the same car which he ran through much of 1956.



It isn’t known whether Ken owned this car or whether it remained in the ownership of Peter Bell. The plot thickens after Ken was killed in New Zealand on 12 January 1957. It has frequently been said that Tom Norton bought Ken’s cars from his father and there is no doubt he bought ERA R4D and the Mk4 Cooper; he used the Mk4 at Prescott on 4 May 1958 (see  below) and possibly only on this one occasion. He is understood to have sold this car then to Duncan Hollingsworth who sold it to Brian Eccles about 1959. Brian sold it to a Scandinavian buyer less engine about 1961. The engine and blower were fitted to Brian’s M11-14-57 which he now has again after it being in other hands for many years.


But did Tom also buy Peter Bell car, as many have said, presumably because during 1959 and 1960 Tom appeared regularly in a car that was very similar? Well, no, in my view, because the Bell car had distinctively badged long front dampers (probably Girling) with bottom mounts below the wishbone tubes. The Norton car had shorter Armstrong type front dampers with the bottom mounting bolt above the bottom tubes (below).



There are other minor differences but there is none so clear as the front damper set-up. It would be improbable that Norton modified the wishbones and dampers on his car from the set-up Ken Wharton had on the Bell car.  The following George Phillips picture, which shows George Boyle (who did a lot of Peter Bell’s mechanical work) on the right and Bill Blythe in the centre is the most detailed available of the front suspension. The set-up is clearly quite different to the Norton car.


In all probability Tom Norton simply had a car that was very similar to the Bell car and it was this car which he campaigned through 1959 and 1960 and then sold to Wally Cuff who used it from 1961 onwards.

So to answer my own question, Ken Wharton definitely had three Coopers and may or may not have also owned the Peter Bell car, the fate of which is unknown for the moment. I do not know of it competing after Ken was killed, nor do I know of any car that can definitely be identified as it; it would be nice to know.

 Terry Wright




trophy & car

‘Stuff can turn up if you keep your eyes open”, Garry Simkin wrote in a recent Loose Fillings post, and the latest to do so is an amazing cache of fire-damaged Jack Brabham trophies that go right back to his earliest days on Sydney’s speedways.

trophy & carZoom

early presentationJack receives the Australian championship tray at Kilburn Speedway on 25 February 1949.

There is a cup which is clearly Jack’s first major trophy of all – the New South Wales Speedcar Championship 1948. There is a tray which records his win in the Australian 20 Lap Speedcar Championship of 1948-9 –  the presentation of that very tray, laden with cut-glass, is recorded by a photograph (above) that is on the website. There are even ‘billycart’ and other racing trophies of sons David and Gary.

Another trophy had a marble base and was surmounted by a casting of what might be a Ferrari – for what success we do not know – but only the car survives. There are Indianapolis awards and others that are impossible to identify. There is a much cracked dish of the “Doghouse Club” which was founded in 1962 by a group of driver’s wives and girlfriends – including Betty Brabham –  to provide some much needed paddock social activities and facilities. In due course it raised millions for charity and is still going strong.


As is well known, Jack started his motor racing career driving a speedway ‘midget’ or ‘speedcar’ which he then famously entered in a number of hillclimbs, taking the outright Australasian hillclimb title at Rob Roy, north of Melbourne, in 1951.

When Jack retired from racing and his role in Motor Racing Developments at the end of 1970, he returned to Australia and bought a farm north of Melbourne where his first wife Betty hoped that their boys could grow up far away from motorsport. A few years later the Brabhams moved to a much bigger spread – 4300 acres apparently – at Galore, west of Wagga Wagga, New South Wales.

Jacks’ memorabilia was still stored there after the farm was sold but then it was practically all lost in a fire in one of the out-buildings. At some stage remnants were recovered from the farm by people who worked there. There may have been other ‘finds’ – nobody really knows –  but this one has been brought to Sydney in search of a safe place of keeping.

Doug Nye, who knew Jack well, and has written extensively about him, has told Loose Fillings, “Blackie was not a bloke to get emotional about the past, or things connected with the past – but he did weaken when he described to me how he had lost a mass of stuff ‘in a fire at the farm’, I think during the late 1980s or early ‘90s.”

This set us wondering where the trophies fitted into Sir Jack’s biography, and in particular just when was Jack’s very first race?

The 1960 Jack Brabham’s Motor Racing Book doesn’t say, but the context puts it after August 1947. In a recording held in the National Library of Australia Jack says ‘late 1947’. In his book with Doug Nye, The Jack Brabham Story, he says of the Johnny Schonberg/Jack Brabham joint-venture to build the now famous JAP-engined midget number 28,  ‘Johnny drove for about half our first season but in the second half –  into 1948 – his wife persuaded him to stop racing’.

Schonberg Johnny # 28Above:  Johnny Schonberg in No.28 obviously when it was new and before it was signwritten and trimmed. The engine is a 996cc 8/80 JAP probably from one of the several Skirrows which came to Australia. Below: Jack poses for the camera on his first night at Cumberland Oval. Photos courtesy Brian Darby’s


Searching newspaper records and old programmes confirms that Jack’s first night at the Sydney Showground was 28 February 1948 when he was listed as ‘H. Brabham’, as he was the next Saturday too.

But of his first night at suburban Parramatta’s Cumberland Oval (where he would have had to qualify for the Showground) there seems to be no record that searches of various collections and archives, especially that of that of speedway historian Brian Darby, have been able to find.

The slender newspaper records aren’t a lot of help either but one report in The Sun tells us that No.28 first took to the track at Parramatta on Friday 5 December 1947. However online searches for other spellings such as “Schoneberg” brings us more from a paper called The Biz of Fairfield on 11 December 1947:

“Speedcar drivers appreciated the
change of weather conditions at Parra-
matta Speedway last Friday night, and
“turned on” a great show. The track was
very fast, and Johnny Schoneberg, ace
American driver, equalled the track re-
cord established by the late Jack Skelton.
“The 10-lap scratch race went to champion
S. Payne, who just lasted long
enough to win from Vickery, with Bra-
ham (sic) and E. Groom close up in 3rd and
4th place. We were pleased to welcome
Schoneberg back to the track, driving
his new car No. 28 … “

Although he must have been racing at Cumberland Oval there are no more newspaper reports of  Braham/Brabham until he is recorded as graduating to the Sydney Showground in February next year. From then on there is no stopping him. Schoneberg/Schonberg only makes occasional appearances in 1948 – apparently in  borrowed cars  – so his wife’s pressure to give up speedway can only have been partially successful.

The Sydney Morning Herald of Monday 22 November 1948 records Jack’s win in the New South Wales speedcar championship on the previous Saturday night. The Advertiser (Adelaide) of 26 February 1949 tells us that Jack Brabham won the Australian 20-lap speedcar championship at the Kilburn speedway ‘last night’. History also tells us that he won another Australian championship in Sydney a few weeks later!

Speedway program

So there we have it – Jack Brabham’s first race was at the Cumberland Oval, Parramatta on 5 December 1947. Someone must have a programme but otherwise nothing other than the briefest local newspaper report survives to mark that night.

Taken about 5 years ago this photo shows Ron Tauranac (left), Jack Brabham (right) with No.28 and its owner Don Halliday (centre). Whenever Jack met up with No.28 he always would tell Don that it had “made his day” to see it again. He was clearly proud of the old warrior. Note the Tauranac cast wheel centres and the 1360cc engine that Jack eventually built with the only JAP bits being the rocker boxes.


Trophy photographs courtesy Andrew Halliday

See also












So concluded Camille, wife of the great Bruce Walton, 1-WaltonCooperLogo.jpgin a notice of his death in The Age of Melbourne this week.  Australian hillclimb champion for a Guinness Book of Records cited six years on the run from 1958-1963, Bruce was 90 and had been disabled for some years after a stroke.

After taking a science degree at the University of Adelaide, Bruce came to Melbourne in the early ‘fifties to take up a post in the laboratories of the new Gas and Fuel Corporation,  with which he stayed all of his working life. As some did then, he took a keen interest in the new 500 car movement, and set about building a Cooper likeness. He started by buying a pair of Ford 10 stub axles and after he ran out of room in his bed-sitter the project was moved to Ken Gayfer’s workshop in Coburg North (below). Bruce happened on an 8-80 twin JAP from a crashed Cooper and this was his brave choice of engine rather than a 500.

1-Top-1Under construction with the 8-80 JAP in Ken Gayfer’s workshop

The car, the Walton Special – later know as the Walton JAP –  made its first appearance at the Fishermans Bend records day on 18 July 1953,  but he didn’t finish a timed run. Then followed Templestowe, Rob Roy, Albert Park, Templestowe again and Altona, with the 8-80 JAP eventually being superseded by a more manageable and reliable 500 JAP

1-BruceWaltonRobRoy 001Fully rigged and flying at Rob Roy: Photo by Peter D’Abbs

The best performance to date had been at Templestowe with a second fastest-time-of-day – FTD – but with the 500 Bruce drove better and better. There was a third at Fishermens Bend races, a class win and third FTD at Collingrove, South Australia, a first at Altona, and class records at Rob Roy and Templestowe. The 8-80 went back in for 1956 – itswas later supercharged – and there followed class and meeting wins at hillclimbs around Australia including Newcastle for the NSW championship (first) and Bathurst for the Australian championship (second to Lex Davison).

1-Trevor_0004Chasing the NSW championship at King Edward Park,
Newcastle in 1956

With a supercharged 1100 JAP installed, Bruce finally beat the Davison car, which was tuned by Phil Irving, over the closely fought three rounds of the Victorian Hillclimb Championship in 1957. In the final round at Rob Roy on 5 November, if Lex made FTD then the title was his;  if Bruce made FTD it would be a tie and he would win the title only if he got the bonus point for a new hill record. Lex’ last run was a new record at 24.44sec; Bruce, who had been frantically replacing his over-stressed universals, made a final last dash of the day in … 24.4sec! With a new record the title was his and photographs show that nobody seemed more pleased than Lex himself.

1-waltonHepburn Springs, with the JAP supercharged

With more than a few factory racing cars to his name, Lex sometimes teased Bruce about his ‘home-built’ special. In 1958 Bruce took the bait and bought a Mk8 Cooper which had pressed him hard when he had been up to New South Wales to take the state championship. The Marshall-blown 1100 JAP was slotted into the new Cooper and the ‘Walton- Cooper’ was born, first appearing   at  Rob Roy on June 1, with a not very good time of 26.24sec. Disappointingly, the new car was nearly two seconds slower than the old one.

1-templestoweBruce tips the Walton Cooper into the first corner at Templestowe

It took months of work to find and cure the Cooper’s massive handling problems. Built for fast racing on (relatively) smooth English airfields, the Cooper just couldn’t handle the bumps that were the norm on Australian hills. When sticking  splines on the rear drive-shafts were diagnosed and replaced, Bruce was back at the top from the two Victoria rounds of the 1958 Australian Hill Climb Championship, beating Lex Davison’s Cooper at both.

1-silverdaleaIt was the beginning of a run of titles that earned Bruce his place in the (Australian) Guinness record book for the most successive Australian championships in any sport –  from 1958 to 1963. Of course he again won New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian state championships, his last meeting before retiring being the Victorian titles at Templestowe on 10 November 1963. It was his seventh in a row and his notes simply say “FTD 54.07 on melting surface. McEwin (Elfin) 56.64. Replaced cracked piston during the day”.

Bruce was absolutely committed to his car and to driving it –  just look at the pictures. He was very kind to the writer when he acquired and restored first one and then the second of Bruce’s cars; he would write long letters of advice enclosing data from his record books. At our last meeting at Rob Roy he looked wistfully at the Cooper and said to Camille, “Did I really own that?”

1-silverdalebigtreeAbsolute concentration at Silverdale, New South Wales

Maybe 50 years on now, going to see Bruce Walton is something people still remember from their younger days, as the late Peter Brock once recalled. As a  great champion, Bruce had many headlines and my favourite probably sums him up best  –
BRUCE WALTON: Maestro of the Hills.

Terry Wright

Postscript: the Walton Cooper is still competing today

Walton Cooper -  as restored 2004Photo by Katy Wright