I was saddened to see from your ‘Valve Angles’ piece in the October issue that you are perpetuating an untruth: Keith Duckworth was not ‘the first engineer to use a narrow-angle, four-valve cylinder head with the valves operated by twin overhead camshafts’. You are following unwittingly in Graham Robson’s footsteps in failing to give credit where it is due to the late great Harry Weslake!
Back in May I put the record straight in a lengthy letter to Graham, following his ‘Auotocar & Motor’ article which in effect was an abridgement of his book and repeated the same untruth. I realise, though, that he was serving only as Keith’s mouthpiece and naturally would expect to be told the truth. In ascribing the invention to Weslake I am talking at first hand. I saw an experimental engine with the subject configuration (and its dynamometer results) about two years before the Cosworth FVA was announced. The engine was a Shell research project with which BRM were involved, and moreover it was not the first Weslake unit with four narrow-angle valves.
While Keith was undoubtedly the man who put the narrow-angle four-valve DOHC layout ‘on the map’ thus making a very praiseworthy and major contribution to engine technology, it should now be clear to you that he was certainly not first in the field. Hence he should not have made his rather boastful claim to be the inventor and he should have given credit to the Weslake company for having antedated him, not least as some posthumous kudos for Harry. Honesty and magnanimity would have done his reputation more good, with me anyway, than dubious ego-boosting.
While anxious to give full credit to Weslake Developments lid, I was thinking in terms of racing car engines rather than experimental test-bed engines and the Cosworth FVA was in use before the Eagle Weslake had been raced, although as Graham Robson, whose book ‘Cosworth’ I was quoting from says, ‘I don’t think one was a copy of the other’. He was also quoting throughout the book what Keith Duckworth told him. ED.