The Cars of Paul Emery
Although the building of specials is a world-wide occupation, the British have a particular flair for it, it's part of the great amateur tradition, I suppose. Look into the background of most racing car designers, and a good few leading production car designers, and you will find a special which, not infrequently, was raced. Some will even tell you that their first attempt with the parts of an Austin 7 or Ford 10 was the best practical experience they could have possibly received.
In the Fifties, in particular, some of the more successful special builders were pressed to make replicas and so became constructors. Colffi Chapman, John Cooper, John Tojeiro, Brian Lister, Eric Broadley and Arthur Mallock all began by building specials and, with others, founded the British motor racing industry.
One of the most prolific and ingenious of special builders is Paul Emery who, every so often, looked set to become a constructor but who never quite made the transition. He says, "I built my own cars because I wanted to race and never had enough money to go racing except by building my own cars." It is true that some of his designs went into limited production. Seven or eight examples of his fwd 500 cc F3 car were built, for example, but he was never able to arrange his business affairs sufficiently well to make the transition from special builder to constructor.
In preparing this article I spoke not only to Paul Emery himself but to a number of people who had been associated with him throughout his long and varied career. The phrase "brilliant engineer" was often used of him by those to whom I spoke, and certainly his ideas were often in advance of their time, but being a brilliant engineer is no guarantee of success as a constructor, one needs business acumen as well, and it is clear that Emery was deficient in this area.
Emery is essentially a practical engineer but not a practical man. One who worked with him, Bob Mitchell, recalls that hr was a very good panel beater and marvellous welder but a man who would never use a new part if a second hand one would do. He remembers the time Emery had an old Mini pick-up truck which was involved in a head on collision and appeared to be a write-off but Emery buckled to and within five hours had the truck to pieces, beaten out, and roadworthy again.
The title of this piece is "The Cars of Paul Emery" rather than, say, "The Emeryson Specials" for Paul's father, George, and his brother, Peter, both built specials which were called "Emerysons". Indeed, the name was coined when George began to be assisted by Paul in the construction of his cars.
Paul Emery was born in 1916 almost with a con-rod in his mouth. His father had a garage in New Malden where part of his business was preparing competition cars for among others, Kaye Don and both his parents occasionally competed. On leaving school in 1934 he served an apprenticeship partly with his father and partly, when relations were strained, with Geoffrey Taylor's nearby Alta concern. The first Emeryson appeared in 1935, with an Itala engine fitted to a modified ON chassis but someone offered money for it and it was quickly sold. Another ON-based car, this time with a 1,020 cc ohs Gwynne 8 engine was built up, the first car to bear the name "Emeryson" and Paul raced it with some success.
During the war, Emery worked first for Marine Mountings designing gun mountings then for Dowty Engineering designing hydraulic systems, but found time to bay and restore Fitt's twin-Centric-blown Hudson Special which had been blitzed and this he converted into a potent sprint car which was capable of accelerating from a crawl to 90+ mph in top gear. It was used on the road, too.
The first post-War Emeryson saw a shift in emphasis in the father / son partnership for Paul became the dominant influence. Working from a shed in Maidenhead, the two men produced a car which was good enough to win first time out and interesting enough for Motor Sport to devote 2½ pages to describing it (September 1947).
The chassis was a robust tubular affair with the front suspension being a modified Singer coil spring and swinging arts assembly. At the rear was Alta-type independent suspension with torsion bars. Braking was by a modified 1935 Riley "Merlin Nine" system with the back-plates on thereat brakes free to turn on a fibre bush but anchored to the chassis by the arms of the Luvax shock-absorbers.
The gearbox was a Type 75 4-speed ENV pre-selector unit with an auxiliary 2-speed 'box located just before the differential. A 1934 dohc Lagonda Rapier engine, with its capacity reduced from 1,104 cc to 1,087 cc, was carefully assembled with slightly larger inlet valves. This was then given two-stage supercharging with a Marshall IZ 85 blower as the first stage, fitted with a large SC carburettor, and a Marshall cabin blower acting as the second stage giving 22 lb / sq in boost at 6,500 rpm.
Money ran out before the car was fitted with a body and there were not even sufficient funds to pay for the entry fees for the July 1947 Gransden Lodge meeting. Still, Eric Winterbottom, whose 1,100 cc Alta had been prepared by George Emery pre-War, struck a deal whereby he would pay the entry fees for two races and drive the car in the first with Paul Emery having the second run. Even without bodywork, the car was timed at 136 mph and Winterbottom won his (handicap) race convincingly.
Paul, however, had a UJ break on the first lap of the main scratch race. Paul eventually built an aluminium body for the car which was remarkable for its very small air intake, rather like a "Costin nose" but he had clearly done his sums right for the car never suffered from overheating and the small nose orifice became something of an Emery hallmark. It's interesting to mention that the Motor Sport profile of the car concludes with the Emerys talking of a project for an "air-cooled flat-12 with hydraulically-actuated valves and something very special in the way of boosting — if the finance becomes available."
Paul Emery has been nothing if not ambitious in his thinking, as talk of the flat-12 engine proves, and he has generally had the ability to make his ideas work, but there is always that question of money. In fact, having completed the Lagonda-engined car, Paul could not afford to run it and it was driven for the rest of 1947 by other drivers, Winterbottom finishing third in the Manx Cup with 4 in toe-out on the front wheels after a small shunt, and Bobby Baird lapping within ½ sec of Jean Behra's Simca-Gordini in the Coupe de Lyon before breaking a valve spring.
Then Emery came across the straight eight 4½-litre Duesenberg engine from the ex-Whitney Straight car. This was bought, the compression ratio was raised and eight Amal carburettors added, raising the engines output to around 400 bhp. The chassis of the Emeryson was modified to accept the engine but no transmission could be found to handle the power. Emery and Baird, who now owned the car, drove it occasionally but without success for the engine devoured gearboxes.
There being no suitable transmission on the horizon, Emery could see no point in continuing and so severed his links with the oar, the new 500 cc F3 attracting him, not least because it was affordable. The Emeryson, which with a 4½-litre engine, had Progressed to being a GP car, passed through various hands and is now the Property of Denis Jenkinson. Jenks' enthusiasm for the chassis is firmly under control but he also has the rest of the Whitney Straight Duesenherg and has plans to complete it.
Emery began to consider a design for F3 in the early part of 1949 but it was 12 months before the first car emerged from his little general engineering shop in Twickenham. Although Emery was not the only designer to use fwd in F3 at the time, the Emeryson was by far the most successful car to have the engine and transmission mounted in front of the driver. In a car with just under 50 bhp and weighing less than 700 lb, the mass of the driver is critical and by putting the driver at one end and the engine at the other it was hoped to achieve optimum weight distribution as well as improved cooling. Looking like a miniature contemporary GP car, though its air intake was again tiny, the Emeryson featured a simple ladder chassis made of 2½ in, 16 swg, steel tubing, with independent all round suspension by unequal wishbones and rubber bands though production cars had coil springs. Everything that could be drilled for lightness was drilled. There was no differential or constant velocity joints.
One of the problems of the old F3 was the vibration caused by using single-cylinder motorcycle engines and Emery tackled this in a characteristic way by building a 50 degree V twin engine using two complete 250 cc JAP cylinders. Though this was an extremely smooth running motor, when it went, it proved unreliable and the seven or eight cars eventually built were finally powered by single-cylinder JAP or Norton engines in 500 cc form.
A switch from rolling starts to standing starts in F3 proved unfortunate for the Emerysons for drivers could expect to loses few places on the grid as the front wheels scrambled for grip but, with a Norton engine fitted, Paul won the GP of Picardy in 1950 and, sold to Peter Jopp, this car enjoyed a fairly successful career, frequently emerging as one of the better non-Coopers. His cornering was characterised by having one front wheel waving in the air.
As F3 grew in popularity, so it became more professional and soon, to be competitive, one had to have a Norton engine prepared by one of the ace tuners such as Steve Lancefield or Francis Bears. "I couldn't afford the prices asked for an engine capable of winning," says Paul, "and so I packed it in."
Some of these cars are extant and, indeed, I first made contact with Duncan Rabagliati of the Formula One Register when I came across his Emeryson-JAP undergoing restoration in TT Workshops in Westbury. Duncan who is a great Emeryson enthusiast, kindly opened his copious files to me to assist in writing this article.
From F3, Emery then turned his attention to F1 again and constructed a new car with a tubular chassis and, initially, an Aston Martin DB3 engine, which first appeared in 1953. The Aston Martin unit blew up with depressing regularity and was replaced by a 2-litre Alta engine bought from John Cooper for £100. A short propshaft connected the engine to an ENV gearbox and, in order to lower the drive train and, hence, the seating position, the ENV differential was mounted backwards taking the power from underneath itself via a reduction box. Coil spring and wishbone suspension was used at the front, a de Dion layout at the rear and, again, the car had a neat body complete with that characteristically small air intake.
With its Alta engine increased to 2.5 litres, before Connaught did so, incidentally, the car was fairly competitive on slow and medium fast circuits against British dub opposition. In 1956, Emery qualified it for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, practising faster than the Maseratis of Maglioli, Godia, Rosier and Brabham, and the Gordini of da Silva Ramos, only to retire with ignition trouble on lap four. During 1957 the Alta engine, which was kept, was replaced by an Emery-developed Jaguar 2.4-litre unit with dry sump lubrication and fuel injection achieved with a modified CAV diesel injection unit. It last raced in F1 at Goodwood in 1958 though appeared on the hills where Roberta Cowell successfully competed in the ladies' class. The car was sold to Tony Biggs who had Maurice Gomm construct a two-seater body for it and, again, it appeared in minor events sometimes with Ms Cowell at the wheel. Biggs died in the early '60s and the car languished behind a café until discovered by Tony Noel-Johnson who restored it to single-seater form. I believe it is now in the collection of Dr Philippe Renault in France.
Following the 1953 F1 car came, in 1954, a sports racing coupe which Was basically an Aston Martin DB3 chassis (DB3/6) fitted with a Jaguar C-Type engine. Emery drove it at the Easter Goodwood meeting before selling it to R. H. Dennis who entered it as an "Emeryson" at Goodwood that September but subsequently raced it as an "Aston Martin-Jaguar Saloon". Dennis retained the car and in 1965 re-bodied it with the shell from DBR2/1 and also gave it a DB3S engine. In 1957 Emery worked for a while on a water-cooled flat four dohc ½ litre engine, intending it as an F2 unit, but it was never completed. Incidentally, Emery also had a marginal hand in the AJB / Kieft / Norton flat four engine which has cropped up in a number of recent issues.
In 1958 Emery drove to eighth place in the Aintree 200 in Bernie Ecclestone's Connaught B3 "toothpaste tube" car which Stuart Lewis-Evans had driven in the Tasman series. "It's the only time in my career anyone ever gave me a drive," comments Emery. In fact he also attempted to qualify the car with others for the 'Monaco GP' that year. Then, converting the Alta engine to run on petrol, Emery acquired the unraced spaceframe "C" type Connaught (again with a toothpaste tube body) for which he paid Alan Brown £400 and a promise of any prize money which the car might win in the US Grand Prix at Sebring.
Bob Said qualified the car a fairly respectable 13th out of 18 starters but crashed on the second lap. It was eventually sold to some enthusiasts who had the idea of supercharging it and running it in the Indy 500. It was entered in 1962 but did not qualify.
By the end of 1959, Emery had also built up a rear-engined Cooper-Connaught with the previously unraced experimental Connaught hydraulically geared automatic gearbox. This made a handful of appearances, Paul's friend, Roberta Cowell, taking third in class at the Brighton Speed trials that year, and the chassis was eventually sold to Doug Serrurier in South Africa. Serrurier later made the LDS F1 cars.
In 1960 Emeryson Cars Ltd was refinanced under the overall direction of Alan Brown and Emery moved from Twickenham to the Connaught headquarters at Send. A fairly conventional design was laid down (rear engine, spaceframe chassis, etc) with only the gauge of tubing differentiating between F1 and FJ versions.
Fitted with a 1½-litre Coventry Climax FPF engine, the car was an F2 model in 1960 but, an Ft car the following year. Ron Flockhart put it on the fifth row of the grid at Brands Hatch in August 1960 but it retired with a broken fuel pipe but at Montlhéry in October, John Turner impressed slot of people by dropping two laps after a spin and then proceeding to haul in the leaders. Negotiations opened with Ecurie Nationale Beige to buy some cars on the strength of this promising performance. Its not known whether the ENB knew that Tamer's progress was aided by his missing outs straw bale chicane every so often!
In a track test written at the time, Jack Fairman gave the impression that though the car did not have the ultimate handling qualities of, say, a Lotus it had no vices and was forgiving to the driver. Unfortunately the drivers were not equally kind.
Three F1 Emeryson-Maseratis (and one FJ car) were delivered to the ENB and though Bianchi and Gendebien did not disgrace themselves in terms of how high up the field they managed to get the cars on their debut at Pau in 1961, both did manage to crash quite heavily, thus setting a pattern for the season. One car was even bent on being run out of its transporter. Eventually, discouraged by the constant dramas, Emery withdrew from the arrangement and the Belgian team made up its own ENB-Maserati from what remained of the one Emeryson. Bianchi wrote one off in the 1961 Aintree 200 meeting. The third car is still in Belgium.
The Emeryson FJ car was no match for contemporary Lotuses but Mike Spence did achieve a notable victory in the 1961 100 mile Commander Yorke Trophy at Silverstone which led to a drive in the works Emeryson-Climax F1 car and, of course, progress to the Lotus F1 team. Four of these cars were built.
The prototype F1 car was sold to Andre Pilette, who raced it with the FPF engine and later sold it to Gerry Ashmore. A Mk 2 version was run by the works in 1961 for John Campbell-Jones and Mike Spence but they concentrated on the non-Championship Fl races such as the Solitude GP where Spence impressed everyone by running seventh while holding the gear lever in place.
A Climax-powered sports car variant was built for Ray Fielding who won Isis class in the 1961 RAC Hill Climb Championship with it. It subsequently passed through various hands but it has been the property of Richard Falconer since 1971 who has used it on the road and in occasional races, with Paul Emery driving it for 85 laps in the 1977 Silverstone Six Hour Relay Race. It is currently undergoing a rebuild but part of it has another small claim to fame.
Frank Lugg, when a Ford stylist, was inspired by the memory of a photograph of Fielding's car which led him to design the distinctive seven-spoke alloy wheels featured on the current Escort RS cars and the Ford R5200 rally car. The wheels, in fact, originated on the Fry-Climax F2 car which Mike Parkes drove.
At the end of 1961, a wealthy teenaged American, Hugh Powell, bought into Emeryson Cars and most of the old board, including Alan Brown, resigned. The plan was to run a two-car team or John Campbell-Jones and Tony Settember who happened to be Powell's legal guardian. Settember, then, more or less ran the show.
Alongside the 1961 works car, Emery built a Mk 3 version which was originally to have had a fibreglass monocoque. Had it been built it would have just pre-dated the Lotus 25, though Laurie Bond showed a fwd FJ car with a fibreglass monocoque at the end of 1960, which, raced only occasionally and is currently somewhere in the Home Counties. The new Emeryson had semi-monocoque construction but the most startling feature was its nose for the radiator was almost fiat beneath it with air passing under the car and up through the radiator. It worked, too, which suggests that Emery really did know what he was about when it came to "eye experience" aerodynamics. The new car, which was very slim, also possessed far superior roadholding to the previous ones, and was crying out for one of the new V8 Climax or BRM engines, which it never received.
It was intended for Settember who found he was too large to get inside it so Campbell-Jones was given it. It is curious, but at Crystal Palace, Campbell-Jones suffered a persistent misfire and deliberate sabotage was later found to be the cause, a wire had been lodged in the magneto and a pencil line drawn on the rotor arm. The culprit was never discovered but relationships in the team became strained.
Campbell-Jones was shortly afterwards approached by Reg Parnell to replace Roy Salvadori, who was retiring, in the Bowmaker team. He agreed but first wished to fulfil a commitment to Emeryson by driving at Solitude. Settember, however, took over the new car for this meeting and his mechanics hack and bang away at it so he could fit in! The Emeryson involvement in F1 was pretty low key at the best of times and Paul himself withdrew from the team while Settember continued to enter the cars under the name Scirocco. Then Powell lost interest, it's been suggested that he found that women were more interesting than racing cars, and the whole effort petered out.
Of the seven F1 cars made, one remains for the others were ruthlessly cannibalised and two were destroyed in fires. Ed Glaister in Carlisle has two Emerysons, one of which may be the original F2 car, for it has an aluminium body instead of the usual glassfibre shell. Duncan Rabagliati is currently researching its history.
When the Mini appeared on the scene, special builders and tuners took to it, though probably the most interesting variants were built by the Ford Motor Company during its assessment of the new car. I believe Ford built around half a dozen Mini specials, including one with a north / south engine and rear-wheel drive, and would dearly like more information on this. Emery followed the same line of thinking as John Cooper and made a twin-engined car for Campbell-Jones to race but it proved very tricky to get both ends to work in unison and the idea was quickly wrapped though Emery is on record as saying that he still believes that if one wanted to build a 4wd racing car, then twin engines would be the best solution.
Another Mini variant was the fibreglass-bodied "Dart" which Emery built with Mini-Cooper components on a Minivan floorpan for Dizzy Addicott. This concept was taken a stage further by Jem Marsh who designed a fibreglass monocoque for Jeremy Dalmar-Morgan who was associated with Emery at the time and eventually it gave birth to both Delmar-Morgan's Mini-Jem and Marsh's Mini-Marcos (see "Marcos Reborn" — Motor Sport, February 1985). The Dart was the inspiration, rather than the blood ancestor, of a line which is still alive in the great little Midas.
The "Dart" was shown at the 1964 Racing Car Show alongside the Imp-engined Emery GT. This was an attractive little mid-engined GT car based on Imp components and Triumph Herald steering, with a simple chassis frame and unstressed fibreglass body. A backer was found and the car would have gone into production had not the one person with both the finance and the faith in the car suddenly died on his way back to England with the contract due for signing a week away. One Emery GT was later raced extensively by John Markey.
There is some dispute over the number of Emery GTs made, Paul thinks there were four but he has a notoriously bad memory. Others say two were made. Certainly one went to the States, there was one in a scrapyard in Newcastle a few years ago and there is a restored one in London. It was not the last time that Emery tried to go into production with a car, though other writers have made the claim.
Towards the end of 1966, Emery was in negotiations to buy the one-litre F2 Honda engines with which Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme had dominated F2 and which had become obsolete with the introduction the following year of a new 1,600 cc F2. His idea was to use these engines in a works sports car team which would drum up publicity for a new project he had in mind — the production of a mass-produced sports car with a monocoque and vacuum-formed fibreglass bodywork.
Once again, his thinking was way ahead of then current practice but, once again, the project died through lack of finance. One wonders what the man might have achieved if, like Colin Chapman, he'd had the temperament to find the right business partner and to surround himself with the sort of engineer who could have taken his ideas and made them a practical reality. He didn't and that is the end of the story, for motor racing is about achievement not just bright ideas. Still, one cannot help but wonder.
An Emeryson F3 car appeared in 1964 but this was one of Peter Emery's designs and was an update of the Elfin fwd Formula Junior car which he built in small numbers with no great success. Peter Emery was also involved in 250 cc racing which flourished briefly in the late '50s and build fwd Emerysons for that formula.
Paul Emery became an acknowledged Imp tuning expert, though his cars were frequently unreliable in racing which fact was perhaps not unconnected with his buying reject blocks cheaply from Routes and machining them. There was an Emery 1,100 cc version of the Imp which was notable for its flexibility and Paul became a pioneer of turbocharging in 1965 with a 1,150 cc Imp turbo car which he raced in Rallycross. He even had plans to build a two-stroke flat eight turbocharged F1 engine based on two Imp blocks with twin crankshafts to be put in a 4WD car, but cost ruled this idea out.
In 1966 he bought the Coventry Climax FPE V8 "Godiva" engines which had been produced in 1954 but not used for racing since the firm had wrongly been led to believe that its 250 bhp would not have been competitive in F1. Using his ingenuity, Techalemit fuel injection, and Jaguar pistons, he converted it to three-litre form in time for the new F1 formula and it showed 312 bhp on the brake first time of running. Unfortunately, it was put into the back of the Shannon, a GP project commissioned by Alden Jones, and the monocoque was not sufficiently well stressed to take the engine, which ripped out its mountings during practice for the one race in which it appeared, the 1966 British GP where Trevor Taylor qualified it 18th of 20 entries, hut it retired on lap one with fuel feed problems. Extra pannier tanks had been fitted, the urn plumbing came adrift and Taylor v as sprayed with petrol. The project folded a d the engine never really had a chance, though it did later appear in the back of a modified BRP owned by John Willment.
John Campbell-Jones drove the BRP in the 1966 Dalton Park Gold Cup where it proved terribly slow, Campbell-Jones being over 10 sec off the pace in practice and black-flagged in the race for dropping cit. There was insufficient money to develop either the chassis or the engine, let alone both.
Emery's ambitious projects died with the BRP-FPE and the parts were sold. The engine was later used by "Doc" Merfield, who had Bill Lacy develop it, and was raced in a modified Ford Cortina. I believe it is now owned by a gentleman who also has the F1 Kieft which was designed to take the "Godiva" engine.
Emery continued with his Imp conversions for some time, then he discovered midget racing at Wimbledon stadium and, in his mid-50s carved out a successful career as a driver and modifier of midgets. His expertise in both fields took him to five successive national championships and, because this form of racing, which is frequently sneered at by "purists", is actually run on professional lines, he made money out of racing for the first time in his life.
Emery has had a turbulent life and hut scored a few "own goals" himself, and apart from that drive with Richard Falconer's car in 1977, has not raced since leaving the midget world at the end of 1974. People with far less ability than he have translate, it into commercially successful enterprises. As a businessman, Emery was a disaster, yet as an engineer he received the warmest praise from all I spoke to.
Until fairly recently he had been working for Ray Fielding, one of his most successful customers from the old days, restoring historic cars in Scotland. When I saw him at the end of last year, he had recently returned from Cyprus where he is acting as a consultant on a new racing circuit project which will include, if it comes to fruition, short road circuit, a quarter mile oval and a kart track.
He has had his ups and downs but approaching 70, is still spry and dapper, the eternal optimist. He was at pains to point out that he has never announced his retirement from the sport and is still open to offers for drives. — M.L.