Some comments on the cars and those who prepare and race them
When the editor asked me to make the necessary negotiations to track-test a Fraser Imp, I wondered why he should have chosen this car, but I soon remembered that he had been to Silverstone for the B.R.S.C.C. meeting on 9th October and had seen two of them take first and third places in the race for saloons up to 1 litre, against formidable Mini opposition, one of them sharing a new lap record of 1 min. 13.8 sec. This meeting was not the only occasion that Fraser-prepared Imps have been successful, for the team has taken nine firsts, six seconds and six thirds in circuit racing during the 1965 season, the last seven firsts being consecutive. This record, coupled with seven sprint awards, has resulted in Alan Fraser’s name becoming a household word in club circuitry.
Alan Fraser, who operates from his garage at Hildenborough in Kent, first entered the sporting arena in 1952 by jumping in at the deep end and doing the Alpine Rally in a Sunbeam Talbot 90. He has since fluctuated between racing and rallying, forming the Alan Fraser Racing Team with Rapiers in 1962. That year was reasonably successful but 1963, with the coming of the Cortinas, was not quite as good, so he started developing Imps in late 1964 with a view to ” having a go at the Minis.” The first Fraser Imp appeared on the circuits in June, 1965, and, as the record shows, the car has certainly made its mark.
When I arrived at Mountains Garage, Hildenborough, I was met by Mr. Fraser himself who, in abated tones, told me that his second car had been virtually written off the previous week when being tried on a circuit by a well known Mini driver. Needless to say I felt rather relieved that I had made my own arrangements before this had happened, otherwise Mr. Fraser may not have been at all disposed to put the life of his only remaining car in the hands of a motoring journalist. Opportunities to track-test racing machinery are all too rare at the best of times and it would have been a great pity if this one had to be cancelled.
The drive down to the test track was undertaken in the familiar Humber-drawn Fraser entourage with Ray Calcutt, their number one driver, and Norman Winn, the chief mechanic. The journey was lengthened by some ” wrong-slotting ” as a result of relying upon the ” thick pencil ” scale of a road map produced by a wellknown petrol company, your scribe being more used to the niceties of Her Majesty’s Ordnance Survey.
The first few laps of the test track rather amazed the officials, who had never before heard so much noise coming from so small a car, but the diplomatic offering of a shotgun ride to a military gentleman resulted in our being allowed to continue unhindered. Certainly it did no harm, for he returned from his couple of laps with Ray Catena, extremely impressed and certainly far more exhilarated than he would have been after any 18-hole round.
On the circuit, the little car handled extremely well. The steering was light, responsive and positive, with little or no trace of the understeer normally associated with rear-engined cars. The only amendments to the steering layout is a smaller diameter wheel and a lowering of the column angle. A slight friction noise heard on turning the wheel suggested that things had beets tightened up a little.
Most of the development on the car has been on the camshaft and cylinder head. Both have been designed and made by the Fraser Organisation, the head from a special unit supplied from Rootes with an extra thickness of metal to allow for machining. The ports have been enlarged and polished, and double valve springs fitted. The 998-c.c. unit gives over 90 b.h.p. at 7,500 r.p.m. The fact that 80 b.h.p. Is produced at 6,000 r.p.m. indicates a useful torque curve, but I could not get anyone at Hildenbprough to enlarge upon these figures. Certainly the car was reasonably flexible at low speeds in high gears, though this is not an attribute that one looks for in a racing car—I tried merely from road test curiosity. The engine, unlike that on some racing Imps, remains the right way up.
Fraser’s principle in developing the Imp for racing has been to maintain as much original equipment as possible and altering basic designs only when absolutely necessary. As a result, many quite standard items are to be found on the car. The crankshaft, for example, has merely been balanced, and the 6.25-in. diameter clutch has simply been taken from a Singer Chamois, although the clutch size on the latest standard Imp has been increased to this figure from 5.5 in. Two twin-choke Weber carburetters are fitted, and a 4-branch exhaust system designed by Brian Lovell, Fraser’s development engineer. The silencer is straight-through. The original water pump is fitted, but the radiator has been moved to the underbonnet space. Likewise the oil cooler and a Bendix electrical fuel pump in place of the original mechanical unit. All this not only gives far more working space around the engine, but helps with the weight distribution. The hot water pipes run over the floor for a short way inside the car, and a boot polish stain on one of them suggested that a certain pair of Army boots may well have lost their shine. Suspension on the Fraser Imp has been modified so that the car sits 1.5in. lower than a standard model. Contrary to beliefs in some quarters that the Imp suspension is not suitable for racing, Alan Fraser has kept as much as possible to the standard system (Front : independent by swing axle and coil springs. Rear : independent by trailing arms and coil springs). He claims only to have perfected an arrangement which was fundamentally suitable in the first instance. An anti-roll bar of his own design is fitted to the front. The gearbox is standard, but the ratios of third and top have been changed. The nature of the changes, as yet, remain a Fraser secret. The final drive ratio is unaltered. The distributor drive shall has been strengthened, after one broke at Goodwood, and re-weighted and balanced. The standard dynamo has been fitted with an enlarged pulley to reduce dynamo r.p.m. Dunlop 13-in wheels are fitted, with R7 tyres, 5.50 x 13in at the rear and 5.00 13 at the front. Standard 8-in, drum brakes are fitted, with Ferodo competition linings. A substantial roll-over bar, with oblique strengtheners, is mounted inside.
Of course, the car has been considerably lightened by the removal of carpets and all trim. Lightweight seats are fitted in front and the rear seats do no more than conform exactly to the regulations. Perspex windows are fitted to the sides and rear and the bumper’s have been removed, although One was fitted to the test car to afford an attachment for our fifth-wheel timing device. Perhaps it should be mentioned here that the figures quoted were obtained whilst the car was bearing the additional weight of the rather bulky timing gear and the average proportions of yours truly in the passenger seat.
To describe the accelerative ability of a Fraser Imp would be rather superfluous since adequate figures appear with these words, but perhaps I should explain why maximum speed in top gear is not shown. Frankly, the straights were not long enough to accommodate the speeds which were attainable. We got the car to 105 m.p.h. but before maximum r.p.m. was reached (7,500during the test, although 8,200 is used if pressed in a race) we had to shut down for the bends. Ray Calcutt told me that he’d. got 118, calculated from r.p.m. and gearing, up the straight at .Snetterton.
In the new year, Alan Fraser Racing will be offering Imps to full racing specification, in either Group 5 or club racing form. Costing has not yet been completed, so price details are not yet known, though racing cars, when they are bought or sold, are very much the subject of negotiation. It is doubtful whether kits of tuning parts will be marketed, since Mr. Fraser prides himself in the way in which the cars are put together in his Competitions Department. Besides, a car badly prepared by a purchaser would, whether deservedly or not„ reflect on the Fraser reputation.
The Fraser set-up is one which has rapidly expanded during the past year. I would not be at all surprised to see an even more rapid expansion next season with, who knows, perhaps a tie-up with Rootes in much the same way as Alan Mann is associated with Ford. Whatever happens, the stag’s head, badge of Fraser’s team and emblem of his clan, is going to be a sign to be reckoned with in 1966.
0-40 m.p.h … 4.5sec
0-60 m.p.h … 8.3sec
0-80 m.p.h … 14.7sec
Standing 1/4 mile 16.5sec
Speed in gears
First … 25 m.p.h
Second … 60 m.p.h
Third … 83 m.p.h
Fourth … See test