Activity at Surbiton

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Coopers for Formula Two Racing and a New Cooper-Bristol Sports Car

Almost any time that you call in at Cooper Cars at Surbiton you will see something of interest, and a recent occasion was no exception.  The first thing was the close resemblance to a racing-car Paddock for, apart from John Cooper and his workers, there were mechanics and drivers of other équipes all busy working away on their own versions of Formula ll Coopers.

Peter Whitehead’s men were building his Cooper-Alta, the power unit being his eight-plug 1952 engine to which a Bristol gearbox had been very craftily attached, and all this was fitted into a 1953 Cooper Formula ll chassis, of space-frame type.  The Alta engine is attached by fabricated mountings on each side of the block, midway along, and by the rear of the gearbox, all points of contact being rubber.  It can be withdrawn as a unit without parting engine from gearbox — just!  At the time of inspection a remote gear-change was being built up, mounted on the right-hand side of the cockpit.  A Formula ll Cooper steering column is used in conjunction with a Morris rack-and-pinion.

Whitehead is teaming up with the Anglo-American driver Tom Cole for the season’s Formula ll racing and and sports-car events, as he now has a Jaguar 120C, and Cole retains his 2.75-litre Ferrari.  Not far away were Ken Wharton and his men surrounding another Cooper chassis, into which was temporarily fitted a Bristol engine, and their problem was whether there was room for a pre-selector gearbox under the driver.  Then Eric Brandon’s mechanic appeared, with vital parts in his hands, he was busy preparing their 1951 Cooper-Bristol which is to continue to be raced under the Richmond flag,  Alan Brown, of course, having joined the Bob Chase Cooper-Bristol équipe.  Talking with John Cooper about all these Formula II cars in various stages of construction, it transpired that Anthony Crook was having an Alta engine and gearbox in a 1953 car, while a bare chassis had been delivered to Stirling Moss, into which Ray Martin was fitting a similar power unit, but he was fitting double wishbone and coil spring i.f.s, and de Dion rear end, also on coil springs. The car will remain outwardly a Cooper as Surbiton are supplying the body panels. Four other standard Mk. ll Cooper-Bristols were being built for Bob Gerard, Roy Salvadori, Barbour and Nuckey.

Of more immediate interest was a delightful-looking two-seater, Bristol-engined car intended for road use. This very exciting-looking sports car comprises a chassis based on the lines of the 1952 Formula ll Cooper, fitted with a Bristol engine and gearbox, two-seater cockpit layout and 1953 suspension modifications and the very impressive new ribbed brakes that appeared on the racing car at the Motor Show last year. This car will scale not far off 10 cwt and even with a standard unit in place, giving 85 b.h.p., it should prove exciting, while a Le Mans unit, as we saw,  giving 132 b.h.p., it should prove extremely exciting.  A body of full enveloping form is planned, somewhat on Ferrari lines, as John Cooper felt a streamlined form was all “free” speed and that Ferraris knew  lots of the answers already. — D. S. J.

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