PROMINENT SPEEDMEN :
Mr. J. L. Emerson.
By THE EDITOR.
ALTHOUGH by reason of an almost complete abstinence from racing, during the last two years, Jack Emerson may not be very well known to the youngest enthusiasts, yet among those who know him more intimately and those who have followed racing since pre-war days, he is generally acknowledged to be one of the cleverest tuners in the country.
Belonging, as he does, to the older school of racing motor cyclists, his experiences and successes date back to pre-war days, so that it is not surprising that after fifteen years he should have learnt one or two useful tips on the subject of ” fast motors.”
Jack Emerson was born at Walthamstow, but his father’s business moving to Hull, most of the earlier years of his life were spent on the Humber. During these years he was educated at Hymer’s School, where no doubt he gained much of the scientific and mathematical knowledge which has proved so useful to him in his work of tuning internal combustion engines. After matriculating, it was at first intended that Emerson should continue the study of science at a University, but for some reason or other this plan was not followed, and in 1912 we find him articled to Messrs. Roland Winn & Co., of Leeds, manufacturers of marine engines. At this time Jack Emerson was the owner of a Norton motor-cycle, of the single geared belt driven type, which after a certain amount of tuning seemed very fast. Emerson accordingly entered in the 150 mile race at the August Brooklands meeting. In this race he was competing against such acknowledged cracks as 0. C. Godfrey and the Collier brothers, but, despite the fact that it was his first race, he won in the extremely credit
able time of 140 minutes. Continuing, he also annexed the 3 hour record in his class.
In 1913 Emerson became a trade rider, in so far as he owned a motor and motor cycle agency in Hull—known as the Kingston Garage, though he was still, in effect, a private owner where racing was concerned.
Emerson has always been good at the longer races— one hour and upwards, and in 1913, still on the Norton, we find him winning several hour races, thus confirming his success of the previous year.
In 1914 Jack Emerson joined the firm manufacturing the flat twin A.B.C., a marque on which he was destined to make a great name for himself, his first achievement being to put up a new record for the Class C flying kilometre at 80 m.p.h. Riding the same make of machine he finished 6th in the Senior T.T. of that year, thus making his debut as a road racer and incidentally registering the first of the three occasions on which he has finished 6th in a T.T. race !
Then came the war, and the A.B.C. concern devoted its whole time to the development and perfection of the aero-engine.
After spending some time in Paris on this job, Emerson endeavoured to enlist as a pilot in the R.A.F., but being then over 25 years of age he was turned down and advised that his services were required far more in the experimental departments of the aeroplane engine works. Accordingly, during the whole period of hostilities Emerson was in France, at times subjected to bombing raids and gunfire, engaged in developing the Dragonfly and Wasp engines for our fighting ‘planes, work of supreme national importance, although he was actually still in a civil capacity.
After the war Granville Bradshaw dropped the design of the old 500 c.c. A.B.C. with the engine mounted in a conventional frame and produced the famous 400 c.c. 4-speed spring frame model, with its flat twin engine carried transversely.
Emerson was engaged on experimental work with this design during 1919, and he rode the earlier examples in a few reliability trials and hill climbs during the year. In 1920, Emerson, still in his capacity of experimental engineer, decided to race the A.B.C. at Brooklands ; his success is fairly well known, for in spite of conceding 100 c.c. to most of his rivals, he several times broke the Class C hour record, eventually achieving approximately 70 miles in the time. Nor were Emerson’s successes confined to this record, as he won numerous events, including the Brooklands T.T. race of that year, and broke records up to 400 miles at various times.
During the winter of 1920-1921 Emerson was engaged jointly by Granville Bradshaw and Zenith Motors for six months to test the oil cooled flat twin Bradshaw engine which Zeniths were fitting. In the course of his work he attained 90 m.p.h. on one of these machines, but the belt drive would not stand up to this speed, and as, at that time, Zenith Motors would not agree to the adoption of chain drive, further developments were somewhat hindered.
At the end of his six months’ agreement with Zenith Motors, Emerson joined the Douglas racing stables, and his first appearance on the famous Bristol machine was in the Brooklands Senior T.T. Race, held over a distance of about 75 miles. In spite of strong opposition from Horsman (Norton) and Le Vack (Indian), Emerson took the lead on lap 1 and held it throughout, his 34 h.p. Douglas averaging over 70 m.p.h. for the whole race. Race after race fell to his credit during 1922, and he established new times for the 500 c.c. hour record no less than three times between August, 1921, and May, 1922, at speeds ranging from 72.87 m.p.h. up to 78.91 m.p.h. In the 1922 T.T. Emerson rode a Douglas, but the frame design was not suitable for road racing, and he metwith no success. During this year he again finished first in the Brooklands T.T. race, this being the occasion on which he averaged 78.91 m.p.h. for the hour. In 1923 the improved I.O.M. Douglas, with the low
frame, was introduced, and Emerson finished 6th in the Senior T.T. on one of these machines. But for the delay incurred in removing a dangerously flapping back-mudguard, and the subsequent watering up of the rear sparking plug on the last lap, Emerson would almost certainly have finished second to Tom Sheard, who averaged 55 m.p.h. through rain and mist on his Douglas.
After three years with Douglas Motors, Jack Emerson again returned to a Bradshaw product, this time the 350 c.c. single” oil boiler” made by Walmsley’s. After months of hard experimental work he eventually extracted useful speeds from these engines, and in 1924 he finished sixth in the Junior T.T. on a Dot-Bradshaw. It was during the Senior Race of that year, again riding a 350 c.c. Dot, that he touched handlebars with Hassall when passing the grandstands, fortunately without serious results.
During 1925 Emerson worked for Messrs. Burney & Blackburne, being chiefly occupied in coaxing speed out of an experimental o.h.c. design. Riding a 350 c.c. push-rod machine, however, he put up a fine race with Handley in the 200-mile solo race, but eventually broke a valve and retired. Owing to various serious breakages, in which several valuable components were distributed over the neighbouring country, the oh. camshaft engine was never entered in a race, although at times it was very fast. Emerson’s most interesting ride for Blackburne’s, how
ever, was when he made his debut on Riddoch’s big twin Zenith and won his race at over 100 m.p.h., thus joining the select few who have handled 1,000 c.c. motors at this speed. During 1926 Emerson represented the H.R.D. interests at the track and won the 200 mile solo race for 500 c.c. machines at 84 m.p.h. His only other appearance was in the 200 mile sidecar race, when he and V. Horsman shared thelead until Emerson’s fork springs broke and caused his withdrawal. Emerson is now working on his own in a well equipped workshop at Brooklands, where he undertakes the tuning of any vehicle for racing and competitions ; he has invented several aids to high speed reliability, and his
special design of big-end bearing is used in all racing J.A.P. and Blackburne engines.
In view of the remarkable long distance performances Emerson has put up from time to time, it would appear that he is a past master in the art of making a fast motor go a long way. Actually, however, he claims to use heavier moving parts than the average racing man, so that in reality his special forte is to make the reliable type of engine go remarkably quickly.
At present Jack Emerson is using one of the new Marchant designed M.A.G. engines, and we may confidently expect that before long he will add to his already remarkable list of successes, as by virtue of his perseverance and real knowledge he thoroughly deserves.