Travel down Kingston-on-Thames High Street and you will see possibly the oldest established tuning and accessory business in the country—V. W. Derrington. Look across the road and there is a large Heron Service Station and tucked behind that in light and modern premises is a firm called Huron Auto Race Developments Ltd.—by a coincidence the most recent racing car manufacturer in the country.
In fact Huron only moved in a couple of months ago and the firm was not formally announced until January 1st this year. Already the company’s new 2-litre sports car looks as if it could well challenge the present supremacy of the Lolas and Chevrons and a very workmanlike Formula Atlantic car is also ready to go. Three Huron 4A sports cars have been accepted for Le Mans, an achievement in itself, and a team of two private cars will be sponsored by a large American tobacco company.
The firm is named after one of the Great Lakes in North America which also lends its name to a ferocious Red Indian tribe from those parts. In fact the original idea was to run the firm from Harrow, Ontario, Canada, but after a thorough investigation of the finances involved it was decided that it was better to start in Britain where the right kind of labour and materials are readily available at the right prices, and expand to America when and if the time seemed right.
The idea of Huron had existed in the minds of two friends, Jack Smith and Roy Ireland, for several years but it wasn’t until they came into contact with the McLaren team’s chief designer Jo Marquart that things really began to happen. Marquart had been with McLaren for three years and had a yearning to be his own boss so the idea of Huron appealed to him. Much of the credence for the operation is hung on his reputation for neither Smith nor Ireland are particularly well known in International racing circles.
The 34-year-old Swiss is a graduate engineer and worked for the Sauer diesel company, a Scottish bus company and Hawker Siddeley before joining Lotus on road cars projects. He then moved over to Team Lotus, which had been his ambition for some time, before joining McLaren where he designed such cars as the Can-Am M8A, the four-wheel-drive M9A and the 1970 Formula 1 M14A as well as having a hand in the latest F1 M19.
Jack Smith is the managing director of the firm and, though Canadian, he has lived in England for some time and still manages to run a business as a chartered surveyor. He has been involved in club racing for many years in both countries and a couple of years ago scored considerable success in Formule Libre racing with a Brabham-Climax which even appeared at the Race of Champions.
Roy Ireland is the Marketing and Sales Manager of Huron and at 40 years of age, the tall bearded Englishman has worked extensively in Canada and the States where he spent a while on automobile styling with General Motors and has also designed everything from a teaspoon to a refrigerator. He also had considerable experience in the field of fibreglass and has designed the bodywork for the Hurons. Ireland also raced at a modest level and is a vintage car enthusiast and a Talbot owner.
The three have recruited a so far small but efficient staff headed by former McLaren F1 mechanic Eddie Wyss, from Switzerland. Working with him are Derek Walker, formerly of Trojan, Harley Morgrette from the States, Ralph Hulme from Derrington plus Sid Fox who is the team’s development driver and general progress chaser. Sid has vast experience of many different kinds of racing cars and must have driven more Formula Fords than any other one man. Working in association with Huron up in Luton are former Team Lotus mechanics Bob Sparshott and Ron Chappel who do much of the prototype sheet metal work.
Despite a limited amount of publicity and the fact that they did not appear at the Racing Car Show, the firm has quite a few orders to fulfil particularly for the 2-litre sports cars. The first car was ordered by Bill Harding for the very fast club Cobra driver, Shaun Jackson while Roger Enever has ordered two cars and the Swiss Herbert Muller has ordered the next three. Muller is in fact the European agent for Huron. The firm also has single orders for an F2, and F3 (both destined for Swiss hill-climbing) a Formula Atlantic for a chap called Del Bennett and a Formula Ford. The F2/3/Atlantic car is naturally very similar in design.
When we called in at Huron the first sports car had already gone for exhibition in the Geneva Show and a second car was under construction. Basically it is of monocoque design with a semi-stressed Cosworth FVC engine in the rear. The suspension is reasonably conventional but of particular note was that Huron had designed some special sideplates for the Hewland gearbox. These act as mounting points for the twin-parallel bottom links and also as a locating point for the top link as well and also for the inboard rear disc brakes. A similar idea is used for the monocoque single-seater. Another interesting feature of the two-seater is that the side mounted radiators are enclosed in the doors of the car.
The single-seater was being finished off for its first race that coming week-end and it also looked an exceptionally workmanlike and well-built car. Huron are concentrating hard on building a lot of quality into the cars and this they are no doubt achieving with the early cars at least.
The monocoque tubs are built by the London firm of Grand Prix Metalcraft, the glass fibre bodies come from FKS in Poole, while the castings are the work of Stirling Metals.
The racing-car business is a somewhat cut-throat one these days and breaking into the establishment the way March Engineering Ltd. have done within the last year is not something that can be done easily or without a good deal of capital. The success or failure of Huron must lie with the car’s performances on the track and as this is written not a single Huron wheel has turned. For that matter, success on the track not only depends on good machinery—another factor is the man behind the wheel. It will be interesting to watch the progress of Huron on the circuits of Europe this year and particularly at Le Mans.—A. R. M.