AN OLD MASTER REVIVED
DAVENPORT’S FAMOUS FRAZER-NASH ” SPIDER ” REBUILT FOR SHELSLEY Following my query in ” Rumblings ” about B. H. Davenport’s famous old 1,500 c.c. twin Frazer-Nash, writes ” Boanerges,” I received a visit the other day from Mr. G. H. Symonds, who has
now acquired the entire outfit from its late owner and is re-building the car in its original trim to run at Shelsley Walsh, Lewes and other sprint events.
When Davenport used to run at Shelsley he had two Frazer-Nashes, one with a two-valve-per-cylinder engine, which was fitted into a two-seater chassis, and which he used for practising. The other of course was the famous four-valve ” Spider.”
Mr. Symonds began operations by acquiring the two-seater car, lightened the chassis and fitted it with a razorblade body identical with that of the sprint car. By continual tuning and aided by advice from Mr. Davenport himself he managed to get the old car functioning really well, and ran with success at Southport, Lewes and Brighton, his time in the iflitre class being 62.5 m.p.h. as against 63.38 m.p.h. of Pane’s blown Nash. The latter car of course was fitted with a two-seater body and touring equipment.
Encouraged by this, Symonds naturally wanted to get hold of the ” Spider ” itself, but Davenport could not bear to part with the chassis and body of the car with which he had so often delighted the crowds at Shelsley, and which now stands in honoured retirement in his garage. After many entreaties he agreed to sell the four-valve engine, feeling that it was going into worthy hands, and after a hunt for one of the cylinder heads, which had come into the possession of another Frazer-Nash enthusiast down south, the new owner had the satisfaction of owning if not the original “Spider,” at any rate a complete replica. The V twin engines used by Davenport differed from any other of the G.N.Frazer-Nash type in having the cylinders off-set, or in other words not opposite to one another on the crank-case. This did away with the necessity of a forked connecting rod, and the big-ends run side-by-side on the crank-pin. The crankshaft is unsupported at its forward end, and the ” innards ” of the engine
are of the simplest, consisting simply of the crank and its associated bob-weight. The big-ends and the crankshaft run on roller-bearings, and to reduce friction to the minimum, the crank-case is drained just before the car is brought to the line, sufficient lubricant being retained between the rollers to keep the motor from drying up on short runs like Lewes and Shelsley. Overhead camshafts are used on both the two-valve and the four-valve engines. In the former case they were driven by a single ” lawn-mower” chain which ran down from one cylinder head round a central jockey pulley and up to the other
head. In the case of the four-valve,
two chains are used driven from a double sprocket. A fair amount of engine trouble was encountered when the ” four-valve ” was first acquired, but the pistons, connectingrods, and crankshaft, the latter a component demanding the finest material, have all been renewed, and the engine is now as good as ever. It runs at 5,000 r.p.m., a really high speed when you consider that the stroke is 120 m.m. Davenport reckons that the engine is now delivering some 75 and not unexpectedly the rear axle has been found
unequal to the strain. A new one made of 110 ton steel and 1 inch in diameter has now been installed, and should prove adequate. The complete outfit weighs about 8 cwt. When Davenport held the Shelsley record, in 1926, 1927 and 1928, when he put up a time of 46.2 seconds, no front brakes were fitted to the car. In 1929 he tried a set but they were too heavy and tended to make the car turn tail first, and his supreme run of 44.6 seconds was made with rear brakes only. Symonds intends to try a pair of the type used on the latest Austin Sevens, in conjunc tion with a straight front axle,
Whether f.w.b. are a success or not the car is now definitely as fast as it was in 1929, and with the revised Shelsley regulations, in which all unsupercharged cars in each class are grouped together, it should stand an excellent chance of pulling off a win in the 1i-litre class. In any case Mr. Symonds deserves all praise for his enterprise in bringing forth this famous record-breaker from its regretted retirement, and if enthusiasm gets its due should show some of the modern blown ” sixes ” and ” eights ” that there’s still life in a Ten-Year-Old.