Vintage postbag, July 1967

Tatra cacing cars


Two of the three 1,100 c.c. Tatra racing cars, illustrated in the May issue, actually competed in the 1925 Targa Florio in Sicily and finished 1-2 in their class. Designed by the famous Hans Ledwinka – who died a few months ago – they had air-cooled flat-twin engines, transverse mounted, and a chassis with a central tubular member that carried the power train.

The Czechoslovakian Tatra Works, then part of the Ringhoffer Group of Companies, had then two teams of racing drivers, an official works team with Josef Vermirovsky, Richard Mittermüller and J. Klabazna and a “gentleman drivers team” headed by Fritz Hückel with Karl Sponer and Ing. Vodicka.

The factory produced four special racing versions for the 1925 Targa Florio, of which two – driven by Hückel and Sponer – competed successfully in the race. The picture shows Hückel’s in action during the race, in which it was the class winner. Hückel, now 83 years old and a hut manufacturer, lives in Munich, and drives a Ford “Mustang”; Sponer died some years ago.

The Tatra works built also a not dissimilar air-cooled 2-litre four cylinder racing car which, driven by Vermirovsky, competed in 1930 in the first Masaryk-Circuit race at Brno. The same driver used, between 1926 and 1928, a water-cooled six-cylinder Tatra sports car (Typ 17) and this factory built also V12-cylinder cars in the early thirties.

Hemel Hempstead, Herts. Erwin Tragatsch

Some Lea-Francis asides


I was naturally very interested in the letter you published from A. Sewell, of Leamington Spa, in your March edition, because I am J. Hewitson, the tester he refers to.

I remember very well testing at high speed on the Banbury-Warwick road. The car we were in was one being prepared for the 1929 Irish Grand Prix, and which, driven by S. C. H. Davis, actually finished second in the 1,500-c.c. class. I was the racing mechanic in this particular race, and clearly remember the terrific “dice” we had with the Alfa-Romeos, one of which, driven by Ivanowski, was the winner.

I think Alf’s estimation of the speed was rather optimistic, but it was well into the nineties. A similar car, in full racing trim, with a single-seater body, was capable of well over 100 m.p.h. at Brooklands. Some will recall it was nicknamed the “Lobster.” This car performed very creditably in the B.R.D.C. 500-mile races of that era. It is amusing to consider doing speeds of this nature on such a road, in present traffic conditions.

Lea-Francis Ltd. employed some of the finest engineers of that time. To the names Alf mentions in his letter, I would like to add those of: C. van Eugen, who designed the “Ace of Spades” engine, which took its name from the front-end view of the crank-case; H. Tatlow, the competition manager; “Meph” Norris, the works driver, unfortunately killed in Ireland; and A. Taylor, the chief racing mechanic.

Crewe. J. I. Hewitson.