Interview with R. G. J. Nash

The Story of "The Terror," "The Spook" and the Frazer-Nash-Union-Special

In the late nineteen-twenties and nineteen-thirties Richard G. J. Nash was extremely successful as an amateur speed trial and speed hill climb driver, using a variety of Frazer-Nash-base Special cars. Indeed, he followed on virtually where Basil Davenport (see Motor Sport, December, 1957) left off, except that Davenport is still competing at Shelsley Walsh at the present time.

Nash and Davenport have this in common: both developed respectively, Frazer-Nash and G.N. Specials beyond the limits of speed and acceleration achieved by the manufacturers.

Dick Nash commenced his motoring career about 1926 with a very " hot " Morgan-Blacklyarne three-wheeler, which he travelled down to Malvern to collect and drove back to Oxford. This exciting animal was followed by a Cup-model Austin Seven, a Brescia Bugatti purchased from Miss Ivy Cummings and a Targa Florio Bugatti afterwards raced by the late Tim Rose-Richards.

The Bugatti proved too uncivilised for the neighbours, so it was sold, to be followed by a Boulogne Frazer-Nash, the side-valve Anzani engine of which possessed a Cozette No. 8 supercharger, later replaced by a larger blower. Just before acquiring this fast F'nash, "R. G. J." had owned a Super Sports Anzani-Frazer-Nash in which, in 1927, he had driven in his first sprint competition.

He began to take competition motoring seriously the following year. driving the Boulogne Frazer-Nash at Lewes, Brighton hillclimb, etc., the car eventually managing 108 m.p.h., timed over a flying kilometre.

Nash's competition motoring kept him in close touch with the Frazer-Nash works at Kingston and there he discovered the Anzani Frazer-Nash "Mowgli," which he bought to replace the sports Boulogne 'Nash.

As delivered, this racing single-seater had a drilled chassis and the roller-bearing side-valve engine. Nash improved this car, which had been used by Capt. A. G. Frazer-Nash, by installing a Bosch racing magneto and a big Gazette supercharger. He fitted a narrow single-seater wooden-framed body and later-type radiator. Nash set about further drilling of every conceivable component and later made up a wooden streamlined two-seater body, fitting at the same time a later radiator. This brings us to 1929 and for 1930 a short-tailed alloy racing body was used. This car was driven at Southport. About this time Nash departed from his "Chain Gang" loyalties and had for a time a Frontenac Ford, originally bought in Thornton Heath, and run at Skegness. Nash also possessed a model-A Ford tourer, which was employed in towing "Mowgli" to speed venues and which he also drove at Lewes and Shelsley Walsh, completely equipped with mudguards, lamps and even bumpers. By 1930 something faster was sought. At the time Capt. "Archie" Frazer-Nash had a sprint Frazer-Nash called "The Terror," which was quite impressive but sufficiently reliable to be driven from Kingston to various far-distant speed events. For competition work Nash bought Frazer-Nash's racer. This had a roller-bearing side-valve Anzani 69 by 100 mm. 1½-litre four-cylinder engine with a No. 9 Cozette supercharger. front wheel brakes and four-speed chain-and-dog transmission, a wheelbase of 7 ft. 3 in., and a "body" consisting of bonnet, scuttle and a bucket seat. At Shelsley Walsh the brakes were found to be so ineffective that the return road had always to be taken in cog!

In 1931 Nash removed the skeleton body. drilled every possible part, altered the ratios of the chain drives and got the weight down to 9½-10 cwt. Experiments were conducted with alcohol, fuel, using. a boost of some 21 lb./sq. in., and on the test bed at Kingston the output was seen to be 105 b.h.p. The blower was mounted vertically at the off-side front of the engine and sucked from a big Solex carburetter. Cooling was by pump, and there was dry-sump lubrication. Considerable difficulty was experienced in maintaining a gas-tight joint between head and block, where a plain copper gasket was employed. During the 1932 Brighton Speed Trials the engine blew out a considerable portion of this ⅛ in. solid copper gasket about three-quarters of the way up the ½-mile course but "The Terror" still won the 1.500-c.c. class, clocking 25.6 seconds, an average speed from a standing start of 70.31 m.p.h.

When starting in a sprint Nash used to haul on a rope, arranged to run from the. clutch pedal along the near side of the cockpit, for the first thirty yards or so, to encourage the Frazer-Nash clutch to grip ! As things got busier he dropped his grip on the rope to concentrate on steering, his right hand being fully engaged with the gear lever, the air-pressure pump and steering wheel

Nash gained a reputation for fearless driving of "The Terror" and made f.t.d. at Shelsley Walsh in 1931, with a climb in 43.3 seconds, the car then having a normal but very cramped cockpit and short tail. At this period he also owned for a time a light green Frazer-Nash with T.T. body, large rear tank and a supercharged engine.

For 1932 a new body was designed for "The Terror" and, after abandoning the idea of a faired-in single-seater, Nash used a very light shell with virtually no sides to the cockpit and a plated shell round the radiator. Undershielding streamlined the sump and chains, and the No. 9 Cozette was replaced with a No. 11 Cozette supercharger.

In this handsome form "The Terror" again made f.t.d. at Shelsley Walsh in 1932, ascending in 43.2 seconds., while the little car won almost every sprint for which it was entered, and set innumerable course records, including that for Craigantlet hill-climb in Nash's native Ireland. At Branches Park the clutch flew apart and severed a petrol pipe, the car continuing to the finish at full bore, to get second fastest time, well on fire, after which the Minimax men had a splendid chance to display their prowess in extinguishing the flames, which had set the wooden flooring alight. Nash still carries a scar where a clutch plate grazed his ankle and after this he discarded the Frazer-Nash clutch in favour of an earlier G.N. clutch.

To convey his car to meetings a home-made two-wheeled trailer was constructed, using an old 15.9 Humber back-axle, the tow car being at first a Cozette-blown " Hyper" Lea-Francis coupé which replaced a 12/40 Lea-Francis, then a 24-h.p. Ford saloon, later a Ford V8 coupé, Dick Nash having ever since retained warm affection for Fords.

On October 25th 1932, just for fun, "R. G. J." took "The Terror" to Brooklands in normal trim, using twin-rear wheels and the same ratios as at the season's sprint events, and broke the Brooklands Test Hill record with a time of 7.45 sec. (32.444 m.p.h.), a record which will stand for ever. He remembers vividly the car's leap at some 50 m.p.h. over the crest of the hill towards some rather solid trees (it was air-borne for 43 feet!) and, incidentally, remembers that George Reynolds, the timekeeper, told him before the attempt, to within decimals, the speed he would attain.

At this time "The Terror" had been timed unofficially at Brooklands to cover a flying kilometre at 132 m.p.h. but, when contemplating a stab at the Class F kilo record the same engine r.p.m. were not forthcoming. It did, however, set a British Class F s.s. kilo record of 75.89 m.p.h.

When car dirt-tracking was introduced at Wembley Stadium Nash "had a go" with "The Terror." At first he destroyed several sets of the bronze gears which drove the supercharger, and Mrs. Wisdom lent him her normal Frazer-Nash, which was insufficiently powerful to move the waves of cinders on the corners, so that it dug-in and rolled gently onto its side. Steel gears were then used for "The Terror's" supercharged vertical drive and no further trouble of this kind was experienced. In 1931 Nash set a dirt track lap record at Wembley.

Seeking yet more poke, Nash bought "Archie" Frazer-Nash's old Frazer-Nash "The Slug" (which was prominent at Brooklands in 1928, driven by Capt. A. Frazer-Nash) from the Conan-Doyle brothers, and the single-overhead-camshaft Anzani engine—a "one-off "—was taken out and put into the chassis of a new longer wheelbase Frazer-Nash Special which Nash called "The Spook." Some chassis parts of the racing Frazer-Nash "Rikki Tikki" were incorporated, and the weight was about the same as that of "The Terror," because lightweight transmission parts were used. This was not a particularly successful car, but at Shelsley Walsh it climbed in 43.0 seconds. "The Spook" was also run in sprint races at Brooklands. "The Spook" had larger front brake drums than "The Terror" and the big Cozette supercharger protruded on the off-side of the bonnet, a considerable "power bulge" concealing it. The carburetter was again a Solex and something like 124 b.h.p. was developed.

When car dirt-track was being given a trial at the Crystal Palace Nash protected the car's chains with oiled silk, used the big air filter for the carburetter which Vokes Ltd. had provided for "The Terror" when it went cinder shifting at the Crystal Palace, and set a lap record which no midget racers could approach.

At the time when the engine of "The Slug" had been designed, Eric Burt had financial interests in the Frazer-Nash Company but the engine was never proceeded with. Nash found a roller-bearing side-valve four-cylinder Anzani engine with big Cozette supercharger at Eric Fernihough's premises, and this he put into "The Slug's" chassis, a two-seater sports body completing the car, which was subsequently sold.

The last Frazer-Nash Special built by R. G. J. Nash was called the Frazer-Nash-Union-Special, "Terror II." It consisted of a similar body and chassis to "The Terror" and "The Spook." After contemplating an Alta or Blackburne engine Nash decided to use the single overhead-camshaft twin-blower Gough 1½-litre engine as introduced for the "Shelsley" Frazer-Nashes. The duplex chains were used, also the large "Shelsley" brakes–but not the straight tubular front axle or cantilever front springs, and the car weighed about 11 cwt. A single carburetter fed the Centric superchargers but considerable trouble was experienced with the inlet manifolding, which iced-up even when lagged with asbestos and made starting-up extremely difficult. Nash set about modifying this, hanging an S.U. carburetter below each supercharger, but his interests were turning to other matters and the Union Special was never as successful as the single-seater "Shelsley" Frazer-Nash in which the late A. F. P. Fane broke the Shelsley Walsh record in 1938 in 38.77 sec. and set a Brooklands Class F Mountain record of 78.3 m.p.h. in 1935.

When war broke out in 1939 "Terror II" was damaged by enemy action in Nash's shed at Brooklands. "The Terror" had been sold in 1932 to J. Allen Arnold, who prettied it up but suffered a monumental engine "blow up", after which Rupert Instone put in another side valve Anzani engine but never got the phenomenal performance which Nash extracted from this car.

Guy Griffiths acquired "The Spook" and got Giron to make him an integral head and block. Northway then bought the car but broke the crankshaft, so installed a Mercury V8 engine, Joe Lowrey later driving the car in this form.

Today R. G. J. Nash, whose veteran-car interests date back to the ownership of an early Oldsmobile in 1927, retains his love of historic bicycles, cars and aeroplanes and resides in Weybridge, where he is steadily developing his Weybridge Beeches garden railway. – W. B.