I was most interested to read your article on the Ferguson G.P. car in the November issue of Motor Sport.
Along with one or two accounts in other motoring publications, I noticed that no reference was made to the work of Cromie and Rex McCandless of Belfast, who built, to my knowledge, three four-wheel-drive cars for Harry Ferguson around the early 1950s. Two of these cars had all enclosing bodywork and were built for Formula Three racing. I saw both of them racing at one time or another in Northern Ireland and their performance, particularly round the corners, was superior to their competitors. There were no differentials employed as far as I remember—the drive going from the single-knocker Norton at the front by way of a motorcycle gearbox to the front sprocket, thence by way of chains to a pair of drum brakes situated half-way down the backbone of the car, and so by another chain to the rear sprocket. Cromie/McCandless’ car had handlebar steering and motorcycle-type controls. The other car had conventional racing-car controls and was raced frequently by a Mr. McGladdery. The third car was a cross-country vehicle and employed a V-twin J.A.P. engine located at the rear. The car seated three people abreast, the driver being seated in the centre. I remember a friend telling me that this car featured in a “trial of strength” at the Conlig lead mines near Belfast. Apparently a Land-Rover, a Jeep and the McCandless cross-country car attempted to ford a muddy duck pond. Both the Land-Rover and Jeep got bogged down, but the McCandless not only went straight through but went back and reversed out to prove that the first attempt was not a fluke.
Alas, I understand that all the work the McCandless brothers did ended in discord. I believe a Civil Action was taken by them against Harry Ferguson for non-payment of their work. The outcome of this action, and I can only speak from hearsay, ended in judgment in their favour. I wonder if anybody has any idea of the whereabouts of these cars as they certainly were years ahead of their time and would bear close inspection today.
J. A. Clarke.
V to C miscellany, April 1987
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