A Brooklands Baby

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Cyclecars and other small cars had been encouraged to race at Brooklands before and after WWI, but the former were mostly crude devices, if one excludes the Morgans and the GNs, which had engines of around 1100cc. Any way, apart from the latter two, the Austin 7 rather ousted cyclecars from the Weybridge scene as the 1920s rolled along. So when visitors to the Track opened their programmes on Easter Monday in 1925 and saw that a 344cc car had been entered for the second race they could be excused for being mildly surprised.

The tiny racing car was called the Jappic, in deference to its JAP engine. It had been designed by motorcycle racer H M Walters, and built by the coachbuilders Jarvis of Wimbledon in London SW. The Jappic’s entrant was J V Prestwich of the JAP engine company.

The baby was no lash-up. It was a proper miniature racer. The frame was of ash with 3/32in steel flitch plates and tubular cross-members, with another cross-member of T-section channel by the cockpit. The tubular front axle had forward-facing, underslung quarter-elliptic springs, the shock absorber anchorages adjusting the steering castor angle.

At the back, reversed quarter-elliptic springs supported an axle of tubular transverse rods instead of a solid casing, this enabling the final-drive sprocket to be accommodated in a three-armed spider, roller and ball bearings being used for the driveshafts. Expanding rear wheel brakes sufficed, and the wire wheels were shod with minuscule 650×65 tyres. The engine was a two-port ohv 74x80mm single-cylinder JAP, driving by chain to a three-speed gearbox giving ratios of 6,8 and 12:1, and fitted with a kick-starter. Another chain drove the back axle. The slender body was actually a two-seater, because production of Jappics at 1,150 each was contemplated, though this was in the end never proceeded with. But this Jarvis-bodied 5cwt car, its hemispherical nose admitting air to the engine, looked every inch a racing car. The cramped cockpit had seats of sheet aluminium and the bottom half of the steering wheel was cut away to improve access. The driver sat at a head level of 2.1/2ft. Minute gear and brake levers were mounted externally, as were the two exhaust pipes.

On that long-ago Bank Holiday afternoon the Jappic was driven by Walters, who had lmin 14sec start from the scratch cars, Victor Gillow’s sidevalve Riley and a 1914 GP Nazarro, with Reid Railton’s Amilcar, an entry probably prompted by Parry Thomas, leaving Ilsec after the tiny cyclecar, in the 5.3/4-mile race.

Walters was not placed, but did a lap at 66.85mph, implying a top speed of some 70mph. Enough for one day. But the Jappic was out again at Whitsun, lapping at 68.03mph and just missing a third place. Walters then used it to break records, such as the Class J flying mile at 70.33mph.

In 1926 Kaye Don, the famous Sunbeam driver, was not averse to driving cyclecars, attempting records with the Avon-JAP and the Jappic, the latter now with a 495cc JAP engine, which gave Don some Class I records of up to 10 miles, at around 65mph.

After which Mrs Gwenda Stewart, of Derby-Miller fame, took it over, changing the mite’s identity to HS (Hawkes-Stewart) and refitting the 344cc engine. At Mondhery in 1928 she set the Class J 10-mile record to 70.95mph. Alas, in the garage fire at that circuit in 1932 the HS was completely destroyed.

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