Forgotten makes No75: The Reynard

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Vanishing act

It is fortunate that these notes purport to be but fragments of information, for this month’s subject remains swathed in mystery. The Reynard was revealed to the motoring public, more particularly to enthusiasts, late in 1931, but its builder is said to have built a number of experimental cars before forming the Reynard Car and Engineering Co, and venturing into production at Highgate in North London.

On the face of it, the ploy was quite attractive. It was for a sports two-seater intended to have notably effective roadholding and fast cornering qualities. To this end, a low-hung chassis, with 6in deep channel-section side members braced by strategically located cross-members, was employed.

Springing was said to have been the subject of prolonged experimentation, but at the front it resembled that on GN and Frazer Nash cars, short quarter-elliptic springs with radius members beneath. The tubular front-axle was virtually the same. At the back there were cantilever springs, with check leaves of reverse camber beneath them. The brakes were by Rubery Owen, and the wire wheels had eared knock-off hubs. Hartford shock-absorbers were fitted.

The Reynard was a 11/2-litre car and its engine was a four-cylinder Meadows 69 x 100mm (of the three-bearing type with pressure lubrication) which developed 45bhp at 4000rpm, breathing through two horizontal Zenith carburettors. It is interesting that Mr Reynard (if such there was) chose this power unit, because Frazer Nash had done just that in 1930 and Lea-Francis had used Meadows power plants since 1923 — their 1925 12/40hp sports model having the 4ED type, which Halford, Robins and Godfrey were to adopt for their HRG in 1936.

Such firms were not in a position to manufacture their own engines, being devoid of foundry and machine-shop facilities, and the Meadows were excellent buy-in units, with their alloy con-rods, push-rod overhead valves and accessible magneto. The one in the Reynard was said to have had its con-rods individually balanced, and a compression ratio of 6:1, which was presumably what increased the power output to the advertised figure.

Supplies of this sound engine were assured, as the Wolverhampton company was well suited to meeting the demands of the marine and motor industries, and Reynard coupled the unit to a close-ratio four-speed gearbox, with a choice of central or right-hand gear lever. Final drive was by torque-tube to a Moss back axle.

The final experimental car was registered GO 1945 (Oxfordshire). It was very unattractive, but production models were intended it look better, with judicious use of fairings. A price of £325 was fixed, at a time when you had to pay £598 for an Aston Martin, £395 for a touring 12/50 Alvis, £390 for a side-valve Super Sports Frazer Nash, or £425 for a 12/40 Lea-Francis.

So the prospects looked good, and Motor Sport was promised a road-test. However, this never materialised, and nothing more was heard of the marque. Presumably financial or production problems forestalled the project.

One wonders who was behind the venture. Someone who knew about Frazer Nashes, perhaps? Could Reynard have been a name used to fox speculators? The builder was alleged to have worked for many years on experimental cars, and one is reminded that between overhauling GNs and designing the HRG, HR Godfrey built a Godfrey-and-Proctor sports light-car around Austin 7 parts, showing it at the 1928 Southport Concours d’Eligance. This bore some resemblance to the later Reynard and, as far as can be ascertained from a photograph, may well have had GN-type front suspension. And, in later times, the HRG used the shock-absorber arms as torque-members for its tubular front axle — perhaps a legacy of the Reynard’s torque rods? That is surrnise, however, and if anyone can throw any fragments of additional Reynard history my way, I shall be more than mildly interested. WB

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