Asides

THE SAD DEATH OF ERIC FERNIHOUGH

THE SAD DEATH OF
ERIC FERNIHOUGH

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 1918 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.

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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 123.54mph. It was a phenomenal speed that was only to be slightly bettered by Noel Pope before the track closed for racing in 1939.

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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.

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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 Ferni’s remains packed in ice behind him.

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

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

JAP DRAWINGS SURFACE

JAP DRAWINGS SURFACE

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:

 

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Jap DwgList_Page_4

More Bill Harris

MORE FROM BILL HARRIS’
PHOTO ALBUM

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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 who is shortly to deposit it in safe hands back in the UK where Bill was so successful.

Page 59

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

3.1.Capacities
. 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. (https://www.firerescue1.com)

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!

TW

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.

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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.

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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’.

TojeiroGauld

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’.

TW

POSTSCRIPT
*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 http://www.smrh.co.uk/acatalog/

For auction details see http://www.silverstoneauctions.com/1952-tojeiro-jap.

RACING ROUND THE RAMPARTS

“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.

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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_1554
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.

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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.

POSTSCRIPT

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.

Angouleme

DAVID cyclecars, JAP engines and HURRICANES at Brooklands

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.

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

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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?

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Terry Wright

BRABHAM TROPHIES TURN UP

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.

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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 jack-brabham-engines.com 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.

Doghouse

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 www.vintagespeedway.com

Brabham2

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.

Postscript
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.

Scan.BMP

Trophy photographs courtesy Andrew Halliday

See also https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FLooseFillings%2Fposts%2F1378378935615895%3A0&width=500

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘CLIMBED YOUR LAST HILL’

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 Fishermens 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