Service history -- Fairley Mercury

Plenty of miles left in an old stager

Wartime surplus was key to the creation of the Fairley Mercury, a hillclimb special that has now been competing for half a century. In 1953 Reg Phillips took an ex-military Ford Mercury V8 and Austin 10 front and rear axles and made his own chassis from scaffold tubes.

Running mainly at Prescott, Phillips enjoyed plenty of success during the 1950s, although the car’s first major shunt came when his wife rolled it, fortunately without injury.

Roger Ballard and Paul Bevis later paid £120 for the car in 1960 before it found its way to the Harris family.

Although the fragile Austin axles were replaced by Talbot 10 items, it remained largely unchanged despite several more accidents.

The Fairley was used most seasons, but a blown engine in 1998 sidelined it until Alex Brown sought the car out.

In Brown’s hands it has gone quicker than ever and now climbs Shelsley in the 37sec bracket. “It’s a hell of a handful,” admits Brown. “I’m terribly fond of it and I have a duty of care to the car. The diff is welded up and with good old V8 power it flexes a lot, which tends to fire you off in every direction!” That’s exactly what happened at Doune in 2004 when Brown had a hefty shunt. A new chassis is being made — old and new will be at the Stoneleigh Historic Festival — and Brown hopes to have it ready for Shelsley’s 100th anniversary celebrations.