Every enthusiast will wish Raymond Mays the best of luck with his new British Grand Prix team. On December 3rd a luncheon was held at Claridge’s to announce the establishment of the British Motor Racing Research Trust, set up by an important group of firms in the Motor industry to assist Mays, who has formed Automobile Developments, Ltd., to foster a cause which, in his own words, constitutes “his great aim and object in life.”
At this luncheon Mr. Peter Berthon announced that a 1½-litre 16-cylinder engine is in hand which, in a chassis with all-round independent suspension will, it is anticipated, eventually have a performance similar to that of 3-litre Formula G.P. cars. Rolls-Royce, Ltd., have been responsible for the general design of this engine. It is hoped that a car may be completed by the middle of this year.
In announcing the B.M.R.R.T., Donald McCullough paid tribute to the long and valuable experience of Berthon and Mays and gave the name of the car they hope to foster as the B.R.M., standing for British Racing Motors – we have heard Bournvita suggested.
The Committee of the B.M.R.R.T. comprises Donald McCullough, Chairman; C. B. Brudenell, of Tecalemit, Ltd.; A. C. Burdon, of Automotive Products, Ltd.; Capt. J. G. Hopecraft, of British Wire Products, Ltd.: A. G. B. Owen, of Rubery, Owen & Co., Ltd.; C. F. Russell, of Specialloid, Ltd.; R. Salter-Bache, of Geo. Salter & Co., Ltd.; B. F. W. Scott. of Joseph Lucas, Ltd.; G. A. Vandervell, of Vandervell Products, Ltd.; Peter Berthon and Raymond Mays,. Mr. Owen and Mr. Oldham, of Rubery, Owen & Co., Ltd., comprise the Production Committee, Mays, Berthon and G. A. Vandervell the Financial and Planning Committee, and there is an extensive Publicity Committee, of which Cyril Mann is Chairman. Thirty-seven leading British firms have agreed to support the Trust, including Automotive Products, Ltd.; David Brown & Sons. Ltd.; Dunlop Rubber Co., Ltd.; Ferodo, Ltd.; Lodge Plugs, Ltd.; and Joseph Lucas, Ltd.
It seems that a British Grand Prix team may well be in sight at last, thanks to the efforts of Raymond Mays, and we hope to have plenty more to report of this all-British venture in the near future. It is most encouraging to find Government approval on the highest levels, to quote McCullough, and already the Trust has enjoyed an excellent Press. The importance to our export trade of motor-racing successes in International contests is something we are almost tired of emphasising.
The old-established firm, Lea-Francis Cars, Ltd., of Coventry, has announced a 1½-litre sports 2-seater amongst its range of 1948 cars. This will be welcomed by all enthusiasts who remember the excellent fast cars which Lea-Francis have been responsible for in the past. The “12/22” model, using a single-port Meadows engine, now a rare bird indeed, was very popular in the early nineteen-twenties and when given a two-port Meadows went very nicely indeed. Endowed with a chassis more in keeping with its performance potentialities; the 1½ litre Lea-Francis became a factor to reckon with in sports-car racing. The “Hyper” version is well remembered as one of the first effective supercharged production cars. Cozette boosted, it won the first Ulster T.T. race for Kaye Don, at 64.06 m.p.h. It proved equally at home at Phoenix Park and for long-distance record-breaking at Brooklands.
So we are agreed that it was high time there was another Lea-Francis sports model. The new car has the classic, longish-stroke engine dimensions of 69 by 100 mm., the rating being 11.9 h.p., the capacity 1,498 c.c. The inclined o.h. valves are operated by the highly successful and well-proved method of a camshaft on each side of the crankcase, operating via short push-rods and rockers. This head shape is notably efficient and enables a 7.25-to-1 compression ratio to be used, so that 64 b.h.p. is realised at 5,800 r.p.m. Two horizontal S.U. carburetters are used, fed by two pumps, the alloy sump has cooling ribs, the inlet camshaft differs from that of the 14-h.p. Lea-Francis, the inlet ports and exhaust valves and ports are enlarged, and altogether this is an engine well suited to a fast, individualistic car. Its con.-rods are of high-tensile forged steel.
This engine is installed in an 8 ft. 3 in.-wheelbase chassis, with half-elliptic suspension, Girling 13 in. dia. brakes and 5.25 in. by 17 in. Dunlop Fort tyres. The four-speed unit synchro-mesh gearbox gives ratios of 4.88, 6.71, 10.53 and 19.78 to 1. The body is a very handsome 2-seater, on modem but hardly futuristic lines, although a low-drag frontal aspect and spatted rear wheels are used. There is full weather protection and ample room for luggage in the tail. The car’s dry weight is only 19 cwt., so that excellent acceleration and maxima in the region of 65 m.p.h. in 3rd gear and 85 m.p.h. in top are to be expected. The specification embraces such reliable items as Lodge H.14 plugs, Luvax P.6 shock-absorbers, Dunlop pressed-steel wheels and Lucas electrics, and a rev.-counter is driven from the exhaust camshaft.
Altogether, this new sports Lea-Francis is a most welcome addition to the ranks of British high-performance cars, combining a sound specification with considerable individuality. Some people may express surprise that a sports 2-seater should be introduced at the present time, but they should remember that some very impressive sales to the U.S.A. have been secured by a manufacturer of cars of this type. Indeed, the entire output of the new Lea-Francis is ear-marked for export and we shall expect to find it receiving a welcome reception in America and elsewhere. Those who wait patiently for one to use in the country of its origin may like to note that the price is £895, or £1,144 7s. 3d. mit purchase tax. A 2½-litre 95-b.h.p. engine is in process of development and it is a pleasant exercise of imagination to picture one of these in the sports chassis, and the urge that would result. A torsion-bar system of i.f.s. is also on the way.
The R.A.C. has booked August 21st as a provisional fixture for the Tourist Trophy race. Whether it will be possible to hold this race remains to be seen, but as the Ards circuit is banned, a new course would have to be found, apart from other difficulties, and that is a major problem on its own. But every possible step should be taken to revive our great sports-car contest. If British representation at International motor races abroad is vital to our national prestige, so would the T.T. race be our finest means of exhibiting to the world the excellence of one of our more valuable exportable commodities – our high-performance cars. Some very interesting entries should be forthcoming. We should expect the latest thing in Allards to do battle with the recently-announced 2-litre Frazer-Nash. The H.R.G. Engineering Co., Ltd., would unquestionably want to enter 1,100-c.c. and 1½-litre Aerodynamic H.R.G.s, against which the famous Healey would be a formidable competitor. The new sports Lea-Francis would certainly be suitable, and as the T.T. is a class-handicap race, these cars might well be entered in both 1½ and 2½-litre categories. The TC M.G. and Morgan 4/4 would be likely to meet stiff Continental opposition from such makes as Cisitalia, Gordini Simca, Peugeot. Fiat and Lancia. Alfa-Romeo, Darracq, Delage. Delahaye, Maserati, B.M.W., Ferrari and possibly Bugatti should be represented – in short, even without permitting closed coachwork, and confining the race to unsupercharged cars as was done prior to the war, a very successful and informative race should result. Incidentally, since its former revival in 1928 the T.T. has been won three times by M.G., three times by Riley and once each by Lea-Francis, Mercédès-Benz, AlfaRomeo, Darracq and Delage. To M.G. goes the credit for the fastest win—Tazio Nuvolari’s 78.65 m.p.h. in a Magnette in 1933. A British win in the 1948 T.T. would do this country’s export drive a power of good. We would commend to the Board of Trade two considerations: Give us back Donington Park. Let us stage the Tourist Trophy race there this year.
On November 18th last the first production Jowett Javelin was on show at Jowett’s Albemarle Street showrooms, prior to its departure on a tour of the Continental agents. The tail of the car is less tapered than that of the prototype and improvements have been made in the accommodation of the tools.
Leslie Johnson has acquired E.R.A., Ltd. Humphrey Cook remains on the Board of Directors.
H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Elizabeth used a Lanchester on their honeymoon – presumably an out-of-production type, as the only model made at present is the smaller Lanchester Ten.