Further to my earlier letter published in the April issue on the topic of the little-known rear-engined Kieft GP car, in early April I was delighted to receive a ‘phone call from Cyril Kieft in Spain. It seems that, like so many of the ‘old guard’, he is an avid reader of Motor Sport and read your article and my follow-up letter with great interest. He spent some time explaining to me the facts surrounding the design concept for the rear-engined car and he answered the questions I posed which have, for me, been unanswered since 1953!
This delightful man, now in his nineties, was full of enthusiasm and interesting facts and urged me to follow up my earlier letter with this information for the benefit of all interested.
He explained that he had indeed obtained an Archie Butterworth flat-four engine to install in his innovative rear-engined car intended to attack the interim GP formula of 1952-53.
He and his engineer had replaced the original four Steyr barrels and heads and replaced them with ‘double knocker’ Norton barrels and modified heads. Thus he anticipated Colin Vandervell’s engine for the Vanwall Special by two years. The engine, as modified, was quite powerful but regrettably suffered severe overheating of the rear cylinders when installed in the car. This was the reason for the air intake duct seen on the somewhat bulbous nose. The duct took air from the nose to the rear cylinders.
Regrettably, it was ineffective and, despite several attempts to cure the problem, the project was abandoned.
Cyril told me that the car was first tested at Silverstone where the overheating problem reared its head. After modification of the car to incorporate the duct, it subsequently only ran in competition once, at Prescott, where I was lucky enough to see it.
He went on to tell me of his record-breaking exploits in France and of the development of the Kieft sportscars, a few of which still exist, I understand. He also advised me of the sad passing of Don Parker a few years ago. Who can forget the great battles he and Stirling Moss had during the 1952 and ’53 Formula Three seasons? Happy Days!
I am, Yours etc,
David Stick, St Austell