Enchaîné Describes Some “Specials” of G.N. Ancestry Which Should Enliven 1955 Sprint and Race Meetings
There are indications that this coming season will be a vintage G.N. year and probably the last good competition year for G.N. Specials for ever.
A large proportion of the motor-racing public regard the G.N. Special as a frail device which is always likely to come to blows with its owner. This misapprehension is probably due to the fact that most “specialists” have limited time and even more limited resources, which make every race meeting for them not just an event, but a definite part of their development programme. If next season a G.N. is seen to be sulking then you, the reader, be kind to it and wish it better for the future. B.R.M.s and G.N.s are not the only motor cars which are raced before testing and development are finished!
An attempt is made in this article to record some of the G.N. Specials which are being built or are already built ready for next season.
John Grice’s G.N. started off life as a 1921 “Popular” with the i.o.e. engine, but is now fitted with probably the most potent Anzani four-cylinder side-valve engine still in existence. This engine is similar to the R-type Anzani with its roller-bearing crankshaft which has allowed 6,000 r,p.m. to be seen without distressing noises; the strange thing about this engine is its reactionary movement, for it goes backwards, owing to the peculiar shape of the very high-lift cams and their desire for room in which to breathe. The drive goes through the customary G.N. clutch, prop.-shaft and the four-chain final drive, though in this case the bevel box is upside down in the chassis to counteract the reactionary movement. The whole car is very nicely made, with a Frazer-Nash-type radiator and wide, braked front axle, together with a two-seater body to comply with sports-car regulations.
Nigel Arnold-Forster over the years has amassed a vast collection of G.N. and Anzani pieces and his single-seater contains parts of several famous pre-war G.N. Specials. This car has already been described in Motor Sport and no attempt will be made to repeat hitherto published information except to say that the car is typical of the genus of G.N. Specials in having Morgan-type front suspension, though the photo shows it in prototype form with a ‘Nash-type front-end. Unfortunately, this “special” never seems to be quite right and has featured in paddock rebuilds at practically every meeting. The car always seems to have a rather startled look, like a mechanised rabbit seeing a stoat, which is probably because it was built in ten days and nights, mostly nights. There was a hint towards the end of last season that things were improving for the pair and that the car regrets its past excesses and is going to be good from now onwards.
David Thirlby bought in September the G.N.-J.A.P. for what most people describe as “a song” but what the owner protests is the proper economic price for 1920 G.N.s. The car was raced with success by Axel-Berg in 1948 and has since been owned by John Bolster, who sold it to the previous owner. This is an almost completely standard 1921 touring G.N. except for the engine, front axle and reverse-gear mechanism. The engine is a very early racing o.h.v. Type K.T.O.R. J.A.P. 981-c.c. vee-twin of probably 1926 origin; it is fitted with decompression plates and runs at present on best petrol and makes the G.N., according to the owner, a very fine road car! The front axle, although still brakeless, is very wide, giving the car the delightful Frazer-Nash crab-track. The only other modification is that reverse gear disappeared long ago and there are four forward speeds. This is quite defensible since the Law says that vehicles under 800 lb. in weight do not need to have a reverse. This car has had one disastrous outing with its new owner, in October, and he promises before next season to have properly adjusted carburation and a new front axle. The car may appear later on as a monoposto device.
The engine now being fitted into Dick “Banger” Hardy’s latest device, the “Hardy Annual,” has had an extremely strenuous life. Baragwanath converted an 8/45 J.A.P. to his own specification, which included steel flywheels and a very strong bronze crankcase, and this engine, later on in life with a big Type 260 Centric supercharger, provided the motive power for the Sumner-J.A.P., which combination, in the days before the war, was one of the noisiest engines ever heard. This “special” uses the i.o.e. chassis with Morgan front-end and the engine situated behind the driver, transmitting the power through a Norton motor-cycle gearbox by single chain to the rear axle. Hardy used to race his previous “special,” “Riley’s Daughter,” now gone the way of all flesh, and this experience will be invaluable to him, for his latest device is likely to be a colossal handful with its 9 ft. 8 in. wheelbase and extremely potent motor.
“Salome” was in the days before the war a classic example of the work of the specialist, for Jan Breyer amalgamated a Morgan three-wheeler chassis and G.N. final transmission, with a vee twin s.v. J.A.P. engine. The car is now fitted with an A.B.C. flat twin aero-engine which is said by the manufacturers to have developed 40 b.h.p. (which is perhaps a shade optimistic), and is definitely only a sprint car, with its manual method of valve and rocker lubrication, i.e., the mechanic throws a small bucketful of Castrol R over each cylinder head on the starting line. Tim Vessey now owns this delightful motor car and is arranging for positive oiling of the aforesaid bric-a-brac and for an aluminium veil to be drawn over the motor to satisfy the scrutineers that “Salome” is now decent about fireproof bulkheads.
Richard March, who normally drives a very rapid Alvis Silver Eagle, is fitting an A.C. six-cylinder 2-litre engine into a very early Frazer-Nash chassis which he obtained from Arnold-Forster. This “special” should be very similar to the Caesar Special which Dr. Taylor uses to such good effect. The Caesar Special, though, is built round a G.N. chassis, which is adequate proof, if any is needed, of the strength of the cars that Godfrey and Frazer-Nash used to build in the halcyon days after the first World War.
A most ambitious G.N. Special is being built by Cecil Mitchell, co-designer of the Staride, the car being beautifully made, with detail work of an extremely high standard. Mitchell is probably unique in having laid out his plans on a drawing board before taking hacksaw to metal. A G.N.-type chassis is used, liberally cross-braced with aluminium sheeting, forming a very rigid but light chassis. The suspension on this car is extremely soft, being looked after by only two springs; a transverse spring together with a split pre-war beam axle looks after the front end whilst a single central spring, as can be seen from the photograph, looks after the back. Most G.N. Specials are like Mitchell’s in having very soft springing, although there are exceptions like Thirlby’s, whose front-end is practically solid. The vee-twin engine is again a K.T.O.R., but with racing cams, which drives through an Albion gearbox to the back axle.
It is a strange but nevertheless true fact that doctors seem to have an affinity with chain-driven motor cars, be they G.N. or Frazer-Nash. This may be an antithesis of their ordinary way of life and is the modern-day version of “Jekyll and Hyde-ism.” This leads to the sprint car that Dr. John Farley is rebuilding, namely the Farley Special which did hold, possibly still does, the standing start ¼-mile record at Tewin Water in 13.8 sec. Farley is at the moment rebuilding this very fast car to an even more potent specification, with twin-stage supercharging. What boost is obtained from these twin superchargers, Centric 260 and Shorrocks 250B, is very much a closed secret, but it certainly is higher than 25 lb./ sq. in., making the car without doubt potentially the fastest G.N. Special of all time. Farley has built this car to the usual specification, reading from front to back, of Morgan i.f.s., G.N. chassis, vee-twin J.A.P., motor-cycle gearbox and solid rear axle. The engine is very special, being an 8/75 J.A.P. with twin magnetos and a penchant for 6,000 r.p.m. The back axle is extra special in being tubular, with the wheels taper-pinned directly onto the axle, saving the weight of hubs, and shod with Michelin “X” tyres.
This practically concludes the list of cars known to the author, but mention should be made of a vee-twin Blackburne o.h.c.-engined device said to be in Blackburn and of the G.N. being built by Barry Peerless at “Arnold-Forster’s home for Anzanis and G.N.s” with, it is said, two Scott motor-cycle engines (not very practicable, but terrific fun) in the engine room. Kenneth Neve is supposed to be inveigling a Hudson straight-eight engine into a G.N. chassis, and the very best of luck to him.
It was stated at the beginning of this article that this would probably be the last good competition year for G.N.s and this is reasonable when one considers that the production of G.N.s ceased in 1923-24 and the parts are now getting very tired indeed. Let us hope, therefore, that the indications of 1955 being G.N. Renaissance year are fulfilled and close by wishing G.N. Specialists the best of luck.