FRA “Lofty” England
Frank Raymond Wilton England, known to us all simply as “Lofty”, the oft 5in-tall, good natured character who had probably as much varied experience of motor racing from the inside as anyone, at all events in the later period of the game, has died, aged 83, in Austria. It seems incredible, for “Lofty” was one of those happy enthusiastic people whom one felt would go on for ever…
Born in London in 1911, England won a scholarship to Christ’s College, East Finchley. The family moved to Edgware, and the young “Lofty” was intrigued by Bentley cars being tested up and down the road out of town. There being no vacancies at Bentley Motors, he was apprenticed at “The Daimler”, and became a keen motorcyclist, riding Douglas, BSA and Francis Barnett machines, and a spectator at Brooklands and the loM TT. He borrowed a customer’s Daimler Double-Six to get a second place in the 1932 RAC Rally, before joining the racing workshops of Birkin & Couper in Welwyn. After a spell with Alvis, he in 1934 joined Whitney Straight’s head mechanic Giulio Ramponi, and travelled all over Europe keeping the team cars in good order, especially the Maseratis.
When Straight gave up motor racing, “Lofty” moved to ERA at Bourne in 1935. He also raced motorcycles, taking second in the 1936 Manx TT, and once told me this was one of his great joys. “Lofty’s” skills and love of racing had not gone unnoticed, and he was able to join Dick Seaman and go with him and the wonderful rebuilt Delage to South Africa.
Next he went to work for Prince Chula in his “White Mouse” stable, as chief mechanic, preparing “Bira’s” racing cars. In 1938, needing a more secure job, England was again back at Alvis in Coventry, as a Service Engineer. The war interrupted that, and he joined the RAF, flying Lancasters from Waterbeach. England returned to Alvis in 1945 and the next year drove an Alvis to sixth place in the Brussels GP. But the big roles lay ahead. England went to Jaguar in 1946, primarily as their Service Manager but with racing and publicity tasks fitted in. Indeed, “Lofty” was from then on a prominent figure wherever Jaguar raced, and he masterminded the great C-type and D-type Jaguar Le Mans victories, and Jaguar’s record bids. He rose to become Jaguar’s Deputy MD, in 1966, and by 1972 succeeded Sir William Lyons as Chairman and Chief Executive of Jaguar cars Ltd.
“Lofty’s” interest in all things Jaguar and in motor racing never faltered. He kept in touch with his friends and the clubs after his retirement in 1974, and building a fine mountainside house in his new wife Doris’s native Austria. What a man! What an enthusiast! “Lofty” is survived by his first wife Jill, daughter Jane and four grand-children. Condolences all round.