Gush Special remembered

Some time ago I recalled the 344cc Jappic, which at first amused, then impressed, the Brooldands spectators back in 1925. A professionally-built racing cyclecar, there were plans for production, but these never came to fruition. The Gush Special was quite different, but equally potent.

When revised classes for record attempts were instituted in 1925, the smallest cars recognised were those in Class H, up to 750cc. Not long afterwards, Classes I and J were added for cars of up to 500cc and up to 350cc, and that autumn the under-5cwt Jappic took records in Class J, the fastest at 70.46 mph.

This gave Bryan G Gush an idea. He was an enthusiast who used his 30/98 Vauxhall at Brooklands and who had friends of similar keenness. One of these was Clive WindsorRichards, and together they thought up a scheme for having fun at the Track while earning some money. There was hardly a rush to grab records in the cyclecar categories but bonus payments were made by fuel, oil and accessory companies for successful bids. Gush set about building a crude but effective car for such attacks. He made a simple chassis for which it was said a 30/98 steering trackrod served as the front axle.

The Gush rode on wire wheels shod with A7-size 3.50×19 tyres, and a body was formed of 24-gauge bashed-out aluminum sheets. The minuscule car weighed 4cwt. Nicknamed ‘Mickey Mouse’, power came at first from a single-cylinder JAP engine; this was replaced by a 348cc TT Blackbume motorcycle unit, said to produce over 33bhp at 6500rpm on Pratt’s Racing Ethyl fuel. It drove by chain to a fourspeed Burman motorcycle ge#Tbox, and another chain drove the solid back axle. Renamed Gush Special, the odd little car began profitable record attacks in March 1934, driven by Gush, his sister and two friends who had not, I think, done this before.

A 12-hour bump-and-bruise session resulted in some International Class J targets being reached, after clocking 44.48mph for one hour. If the car hit trouble, it was easily turned on its side for repairs. Henceforth this entourage, which included Pope (the famous Noel?), Selby (the Bugatti driver?), the girl Gush and ‘Le Croisette’, raised their own records at frequent intervals.

They then drove the Vitesse Spl, a change of name prudent for their blatant bonus-bids perhaps; one journalist insisted there was only the one car and that it was done with mirrors!

They deserved their modest bonuses, the Gush’s short wheelbase and minute quarter-elliptic springs giving it an awful ride. Windsor-Richards only just fitted the cockpit.

When war stopped play, the Gush held 16 international Class J records, the Jappic three, if one includes Gwenda Stewart’s with the renamed Hawkes-Stewart. The Gush averaged 77.52mph for a two-way mile; the Jappic’s best, eight years earlier, had been 70.46mph. After the war, Kieft and Cooper minced these speeds, the latter with over 92mph.

Cyclecars still live on in VSCC circles — the three GN Akela racers, that Malvern hill-storming event, lists of makes being compiled and revived 500cc racing. Worthington-Williams did a pictorial history in 1981 of these objects and another author is tackling the same subject.

Having long ago acquired an aircooled JAP vee-twin engine and a Beardmore Precision cyclecar engine of this kind, I would like to have built a road-going cyclecar were I not only a spanner-fool and a lathe-dunce but also lacking woodwork ability. One engine was stolen, the other survives, possibly a never-used prototype. The JAP had no valves, the BP no tappets. Don’t ask me why…