Readers' Letters, April 1985, April 1985

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Emery

Sir,

Perhaps I can add a little detail about the time in the 60s when Paul Emery was operating in Fulham.

The TwinMin was an interesting exercise, bedevilled by its gearchange. Various possibilities were tried, one using more rose joints than one would have thought possible, another with rather clever aircraft push-pull flexible cables, and a final version using hydraulics. None was really satisfactory, and the first intimation that all was not well was when the pair of rev counters went out of phase. At moderate speeds it didn’t seem to matter much whether both engines were in the same gear, but we used to worry considerably about the possible effects on high speed handling. The front engine, incidentally, carried the only dynamo and its box had the only reverse gear: the trick was to fire up number one, manoeuvre out of the yard, light up the back engine and get on with it. The absence of reverse on the back engine was a safety precaution: even Paul was a trifle bothered by the possibilities of push-me/pull-you motoring!

One problem with double-ended Minis is where you put the petrol. Paul made the luggage pockets on either side of what had been the back seat more or less fuel-tight, and provided loose lids. So one motored in the middle of staggering noise, the occasional spark, and a strong smell of 5-star.

The Emery GT was a much better idea. The original alloy car was built in Fulham and later raced by John Markey. It soon acquired a Ford engine (I think, finally, BDA) in place of the Imp, which gave much more power but destroyed the concept of an ultra-light GT. An oddity was the sills (and therefore doors) were significantly different in depth from one side to the other, a minor error brought about by the uneven floor on which it was built. Paul pointed out, perfectly reasonably, that nobody could see both sides of the car at once, so it didn’t matter. My recollection is that three glass fibre cars were produced, one of which certainly went to the States, but these were significantly heavier than the alloy original.

Development of the Imp engine went hand in hand with the GT project, and the later hot Imps. It’s not quite true to say that Paul modified reject blocks. The fact is that the Imp block is not strong enough to take much power increase, and at first there was continual trouble with head sealing. Paul argon arced stiffening on the sides of the block and used substantially beefed up alien bolts to retain the head: in conjunction with Wills rings this worked exceedingly well, but certainly did involve a lot of machining time. As revs went up and turbos went on something more elaborate was needed, so Paul machined the complete centre out of an Imp block and inserted a single cast iron slug forming the bores: this gave a very stiff engine and banished head problems once and for all.

The limiting factor on Imp engines at this stage was probably the crankshaft. Some Rootes Group engineers were helpful with parts and advice, but I think it is correct to say that Paul never received any official aid whatsoever. It would seem that a very limited supply of nitrided cranks was made available to certain competitors, overcoming lubrication problems at high speed and giving a safe (well, fairly safe!) 11,000 rpm. None ever came Emery’s way and Tufftriding, while an excellent process, wasn’t quite as effective as a crank made from nitriding steel.

A considerable amount of work was also carried out on the road cars. Paul marketed a set of lowering links which made the front suspension of the Mk I Imp much less frightening, and which were, in principle, copied by the factory for the Mk II. He also offered a front suspension lowering mod which owed more to expediency than science. The trick was to put a torch on the lower coils of the spring until it began to collapse under the weight of the car: this not only gave the required lower ride height, but provided a dual rate spring! There was also the cut and shut Emery Imp, which reached the market before the works fastback Stiletto. This was the full saloon with the pillars cut and welded to lower the roof: quite a pretty little beast, but basically the work involved on welding and trim made it too expensive.

As you say, the Emery GT and the precursor of just about all the Mini specials appeared at the same Racing Car Show. The latter was strictly speaking the DART, for Dizzy Addicott Racing Team, and yes, you’re right, the acronym came first and the explanation afterwards. The long wheelbase prototype exhibited was alloy, not glass, and I believe it went to Jem Marsh for productionising: Dizzy fell out of the project shortly afterwards, but I have no idea about the commercial details. Interest at the Show was immense, and the idea clearly had a future.

Wheels were an Emery preoccupation, and very nearly put him in the money for the first time. The pretty alloy wheels on the earlier competition cars were exclusive to Emery, and the patterns, when rescued and brought to Fulham, took up an excessive amount of space. It may have been this that started Paul thinking on a wheel using a cast centre with a separate steel or alloy rim: production was simplified, and changing rim width and offset was easy. Pilot production started, a number of wheels went on hot Imps, and Paul made a determined effort to sell the concept to Ford, but it never really took off. The final blow was when the suppliers of the special alloy needed for the rims would only quote for a large, and frighteningly expensive, delivery.

Workshop facilities at Fulham were quite good, with a reasonable machine shop. Paul is a first rate machinist, but I always rated his skill as a welder as outstanding. One is used nowadays to beautiful welds in new alloy using various submerged arc techniques. Paul can do the same thing on grubby old material using a gas set.

The first midget racers were built at Fulham, based (from memory) on Dastle frames. Site development forced Paul out to Ealing, and the loss of the machine shop was a serious blow. The move to Scotland, which was a great success, came later.

Paul may well have been a business disaster, and certainly is a supreme engineer. It’s worth mentioning that he is also the kindest of men: I think you’ll find he is spoken of with real affection by everyone who has worked with him.

London W11, Sandy Skinner

Emery-II

Sir,

Although not a great correspondent, I feel forced (through nostalgia) to write on a few points, of I hope interest to you, on the latest of your recent fine articles about the fifties.

As a lad I bicycled to every car race meeting at Brands Hatch from 1953 until their sad demise, to watch the passion of my life, Formula III 500 cc racing cars (I still have all the programmes). So as you can see, the article on Stewart Lewis-Evans (My Hero!) and Kieft have been pure pleasure. Now, to top it all, my favourite “500”, the Emeryson.

So keen was I at that time that after one year of training in marine engineering I gave it up, left my native Essex and took a bed-sit in Twickenham to work for Paul Emery. Your profile of the man (as has been noted in the series on others) is very exacting. He was very much a finger-tip engineer! His hands seemed to work ahead of his brain, and as you have said, that was full of ideas others had not even thought of then. There were never enough hours in the day for Paul and that is why the mundane things of business slipped by!

At the time he acquired the 2.4-litre Jaguar engines, for the F1 car and some cars from the works fire, he had already started to develop the 1½-litre flat four. He was so involved in both these projects that the bread and butter work on the rebuild for sale of those XKs took a very low profile! Incidentally the flat four started life as an ex-Jowett Jupiter unit, tuned to produce 90 bhp in standard form. He then designed and had cast, chain driven twin-cam heads. In this form it produced 120 bhp, the mobile test bed being an elderly Morris Minor. With the unit slotted in and straight through exhaust, it was the scourge of the local law, on test runs down the Chertsey By Pass, as was the F1 on the same test track! The next move was to go to air cooling to save weight. There were boxes of BSA Gold-Star and AJS 7R parts in the upstairs store, but again the money ran out. The Twin Cam was sold to a Jowett enthusiast (where is it now?).

This brings me to the first point. Paul and I shut up shop at Amyand Park Road, and moved to Camberley to run a small service station (his father then lived at nearby Crawthome) this was before he became involved with Alan Brown. As he explained to me at the time there would be no racing, only serving petrol and would I like an apprenticeship in engineering? He and his good wife were like a second Dad and Mum. Within the week he had secured for me an apprenticeship with Weldangrind of Fulham (Stewart Young’s father engineering works). So at 18 I felt lucky, but sad to leave Paul. As has been said he is a brilliant engineer and a very nice man. Although I never made it in motor racing, I can thank him that I have always had a job in a trade.

The second point I would like to make concerns another part of your article covering the Ford Minis. Some tin e ago I was for a while employed at the Ford Motor Co research and development unit then at Aveley (in the same building as the later AVO line). Before Dunton, Ford Experimental was spread far and wide and the advanced cars division was based in Birmingham and this is where the Minis were built, while on test projects at MIRA we did do some testing with one of the prototypes code named “Trident”. This was in shape and size like the BMC 1100-1300 model. As you said it had a 105E type engine placed north / south, but was fwd with the gearbox in unit with the engine, almost identical to the Triumph 1300. Perhaps some of the Minis may be lurking around the Birmingham area, as I later worked at Dunton and none were ever seen there.

Have I written all this; it just goes to show how good Mike Lawrence’s articles are. Perhaps we could have some more on the 500s, say: Staride, Martin, Arnotts, Revis, etc, etc, just to help fill up my scrapbook of 500 info.

Grays, Essex, Mike Thwaites

Hysterical Historical Heretical

Sir,

With regard to D.S. J.’s enjoyable article on the faking and replicating of competition cars, may I be allowed to express an extremely heretical view.

If one draws an analogy with antique furniture, or for that matter with paintings, the sale rooms are full of replicas and fakes, trading under such descriptions as “from the factory of”, or “by the pupil of’ etc and quite rightly, for in their own way these artifacts bring their owners a considerable amount of pleasure.

I fear that in 2085 the car historian will need as intimate a knowledge of GT40 and Cobra replicas as he does of the originals because the replicas will, by that time, be almost as respected.

So the last refuge of a true car snob like me can only be in a vehicle so mundane, so unsuccessful, and so unevocative that it will never be flattered by being replicated. I am afraid that I cannot for the life of me think of one, though doubtless your many readers will be able to compile lists.

Painswick, Glos. Richard Falconer

Mobile Chicanes

Sir,

On February 1 at about 2.15 pm I encountered what I believe must have been the first caravan of spring.

Often, whilst waiting behind these abominable appendages, watching others’ hair-raising attempts to overtake in their frustration, I have meant to write to you on the subject. Last week-end’s encounter with the bane of summer motoring has finally induced me to do so: my favourite trans-pennine route ruined!

At this pre-budget time of year I would suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that instead of increasing the tax on motor cars he might very well charge the caravanners at least £45 per annum for the privilege of delaying others and (indirectly perhaps) causing accidents.

These people seem to me to be the most inconsiderate of all road users: not only do they upset everyone en route (never, in my experience, pulling off the road to allow others past), but also offer insult to the hoteliers and restaurateurs of their destination by bringing with them their own ‘home from home’.

Newark on Trent, R. D. Marsh

Lost Opportunities

Sir,

As the former owner, in the 1950’s of half-a-dozen pre-war and post-war French quality cars, I was most interested in your article on the Talbot-Lago America (February issue). Your reasons for the demise of the marques in the fifties were very well-researched, but I would like to offer two more reasons why the French on the whole stopped buying the larger high-performance quality cars, viz: petrol was already heavily taxed and people became obsessed with “litres aim 100 kms.” and when filling ‘von income-tax return one had to state what cars etc one owned. The latter was a way of checking on “appearance of wealth” in an attempt to identify obvious tax-dodgers.

The question of petrol consumption in particular reduced the prices of them cars dramatically on the second-hand market, of which I took full advantage, working and living in Paris at the time, and having got to know one or two back-street small garages still enthusiastic about such cars, I found them at prices I could afford, and in the course of a few years I owned a Hotchkiss, a couple of pre-war Talbots, a 1950 Delahaye 135, and the T57 Bugatti on which Marcos had fitted a prototype T101 intake manifold* in 1947. The Delahaye was the most striking example of a “steal”; I bought it in 1957 in perfect condition with 25,000 kms on the clock for about £350. It had a coach-built body by “Letoumeur et Marchand”, and as you pointed out it must have cost in excess of £3,000 in 1950. Unfortunately in 1958 my job took me to India, so I sold it to another Englishman living in Paris, and he eventually brought it to England and, believe, still owns it. It was a delight to drive with the Coed gearbox permitting very rapid changes, providing the battery was kepi well-charged! I eventually brought the T57 Bugatti to England, but buying a home and school-fees forced me to sell in the early sixties before the collectors boom. The car is now in Holland.

The Bug was a paragon of reliability, and could keep up with anything on the main except for the odd Austin-Healey or XKI20. On a tour of France and Spain the only problem was a flat battery one morning. I really used these cars and enjoyed them rather than keeping them “a la Schlumph”!

Alas those days are over, and I failed to foresee the boom, hence I have to be satisfied with a Citroen BX16. However, I must say (with all usual disclaimers that this is the first “low-priced modern” I have owned that gives me the same feeling a driver as those old Gallic friends made between 35 and 50 years ago

Newbury, B. N. Thorpe

*With twin Strombergs; and it was water-jacketed!

Cack-handed Corporal

Sir,

“Swan song of a Great Tradition” was a most enjoyable three Kleenex tear-jerker. I must, however, respond to M.L.’s question regarding the origins of left-hand drive; the true answer to which can be blamed on one “Swan Song of a Great Tradition” was a diminutive French meglomaniac.

Since the domestication of the horse, it has been customary to pass oncoming mounted strangers on their right. The behind this was that if one had to draw one’s sword (which hangs on one’s left side) one’s wouldn’t have to do battle across mount.

Then along came Napoleon. He wanted to conquer the world but being left-handed (his sword on the right) he was more than somewhat disadvantaged by this daft custom. So M. Napoleon decreed that this custom be reversed. Hence the explanation. It is natural for most “gentlemen” to drive on the right side of their car because most people are right-handed and would wield a sword with the same.

M. Napoleon has much to answer for.

London WC1 N.P.R. Talamo

[While Napoleon undoubtedly spread the driving on the right heresy throughout the places unfortunate enough to receive his attention, and did so with perhaps excessive zeal because of his own predilection, I believe the move from driving on the left to driving on the right was one of the decisions immediately following the French revolution along with different weights and measures. A papal edict in the Middle Ages had established driving on the left and the reversal of this was undoubtedly part of the Revolution’s anti-clerical stance.

In the early part of this century, towns in Italy drove on the left or right according to the political sympathies of the local councils! Until the ‘30s, the two parts of Austria which had suffered the tyrant drove on the right while the rest of the country drove on the correct side of the road. — ML.]

More on Kieft

Sir,

I was fascinated to read your absolutely excellent article by M.L. concerning Kieft cars, in the January 1985 Motor Sport. Also the letter from “Pop” Lewis-Evans about his son, Stuart.

Some time ago I owned a Kieft JAP 500 cc racing car, elastic suspension et all! I used to blast down the side roads, in the very early morning, when I lived at Oxted, in Surrey. The noise was outrageous! I never got caught!

I also owned “Pop” Lewis-Evans’ Cooper-Norton 500 cc, which I competed with at Prestcott Hill Climb. It ran on methanol and Castrol “R”, and went like a conker! It used to give me the same “kick up the backside” that the Lola-Chevrolet Can-Am car I currently race does!

I sold it to Tom Wheatcroft, who I believe still has it at Donington.

In conclusion, having been a keen Motor Sport reader for ages, I consider to be a million miles in front of any other motoring magazine, in terms of quality and excellence.

Kensington, Malcolm Cube

Sad Decline of Orchestra

Sir,

My attention has been draw-n to a letter in Your February issue from Mr. Don Whitten commenting upon the motor-racing activities of a former Principal Conductor of this Orchestra. George Weldon. Like Mr. Whitten. I would welcome for our Archives any further details that might come to light regarding Weldon’s “alter ego” behind the steering-wheel — I know only that (both as a driver and in his general life-style) he was regarded hereabouts as a pretty fast operator all round!

Music and fast cars often do seem to go together (a fact that gives orchestral administrators many sleepless nights)) and George Weldon was not the only CBSO Principal Conductor familiar with the racing-driver’s goggles. Hugo Rignold (who filled the some role here from 1960 to 1968) had raced, I understand, at Brooklands in the ‘Thirties, and in his time here succeeded in terrifying most of us out of our skins at one time or another, on the pretext of “taking us out for a little spin” in his latest Bristol, or whatever. Needless to say, he was in fact an outstandingly safe and skilled driver, so we needn’t have worried.

Our present Principal Conductor, Simon Rattle, has redressed the balance to some extent: he doesn’t have a driving licence at all!

Beresford King-Smith
Deputy General Manager
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

More Music

Sir,

One very talented musician, who was also successful with motor racing is the American tenor sax man Allen Eagar.

Playing alongside such doomed figures as Wardell Grey, Serge Chaloff and Fats Navarro, Allen Eagar decided that if he continued his jazz career he’d be unlikely to enjoy the benefits of senior citizenship. He was one of the few white jazz men considered significant.

In the early sixties Eagar took up motor racing, and driving a Ferrari won the GT class at Sebring one year. Recently he has returned to the jazz world with considerable effect.

Cheltenham, M.J. Biscombe

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