Letters from readers, June 2004
Life in the fast lanes
Mike Plant’s letter about Masten Gregory in the May issue tweaked a forgotten memory.
In the early 1960s, one of my drinking companions in our ‘local’ at Kingston-upon-Thames was Phil Brooks, an unseen and little-known director of Cooper Car Co. He told me that when Gregory signed up with Cooper for the 1959 season, John Cooper murmured about life insurance. “Hell, man, what do I want with life insurance?” said Gregory. “I own all the bowling alleys in Kansas City.”
On another occasion, Phil commented that if Roy Salvadori had stayed with Cooper in 1959, instead of going to Aston Martin to drive the outclassed DBR4/250, he could well have been world champion. He pointed out that Salvadori would have been the team’s number one driver ahead of Brabham and, at that time, was probably Sir Jack’s equal; his results in 1958 were better than the Australian’s. Now there’s a talking point!
David Venables, Hove, Sussex
In 1962 I was working in the competition department at Jaguar’s Brown’s Lane plant. Sometime in August, while on a weekend visit to my home, a small village near Carlisle, I was having a drink in the ‘local’ when the landlord said: “I know a chap with a Jag you might be interested in.” On enquiring further he told me he thought it was “a racing car”. He told me that it belonged to a man called Davidson who ran a Shell filling station on the lefthand side of the A6 just as the road left Penrith.
The following day I sought out Mr Davidson. It was not a Jaguar, but an E-type ERA-Jaguar. He told me that he had bought it from a Liverpool motor trader, Ken Flint, who ran a business under the name of Autospeed. As bought, it had an open body and cycle-type wings. A picture in Motor Sport (September 1955) actually shows the car in this form at a Crystal Palace meeting. But Davidson did not take to the open bodywork and told me that he had Williams & Pritchard design and fit an all-enveloping, aluminium coupé body.
Davidson claimed the car “went like hell” and described its ability to take various bends on the A6 between Carlisle and Penrith. But he was not happy with the car because it was “temperamental”. I believe he really meant troublesome, as he tried hard to persuade me to buy it for £500 with, at this point, me not having even seen the car! I was then escorted to his home, some 50 yards away, and shown the car. The body was, as you would expect, nicely made, finished in bare metal and fitted with a removable aluminium hardtop. The interior trim was rudimentary and, in truth, the car could best be described as rough and ready. It was registered 933 BAO, this being confirmed by a photograph I took showing the rear threequarter aspect.
I declined his offer of sale — £500 was a lot of money in 1962, particularly for a car of dubious reliability and zero spares availability (jaguar engine excepted) — and thanked him for showing it to me.
About a year later I heard that Davidson had emigrated to Canada and that the car was still in his garage, having been left with other members of his family. I heard no more after that.
Many years later I spotted a large advert placed by the late Gordon Chapman, offering various cars and other items. Listed therein was a Williams & Pritchard aluminium bodyshell described as exERA-Jaguar. I concluded, therefore, that the car had been acquired by Gordon from Davidson.
Peter Wilson, Kenilworth, Warwickshire
Thank you for the edition of Motor Sport with the article about Gary Hocking. I must offer you my heartiest congratulations on capturing ‘Sox’ absolutely as he was.
One extra story that your readers may enjoy. I did not know, until I read your article, that his race at Mallory Park was in the rain. Gary was brilliant on a bike in the wet and a reporter once said to him: “You must love the rain.” Gary replied: “No, I hate it — but why does everyone go so slow?”
Jim Redman MBE, Durban, South Africa