Mrs JoJo's new clothes

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A reader has asked me if I remember H C ‘Nobby’ Spero. Yes, I certainly do: I saw him racing at Brooklands. He was a regular competitor with his Austin 7, and he used some rather unusual streamlining in the search for extra speed.

He appeared first in 1928, in his Boyd Carpenter car named ‘Mrs Jo Jo’, at the Whitsun Meeting. In his second race he finished third, with the respectable best lap of 80.46mph, especially for a non-works Seven.

In those days they had evening meetings at the Surrey Track. The green A7 was second in an open five-lap handicap, its lap speed up to 81.24mph. As a diversion Spero had a go at Greenford dirt-track, and at the Middlesex MC’s day at Brooklands he came home third in a 50-mile handicap, behind the supercharged Sunbeam and s/c Amilcar of Mr and Mrs W B Scott.

More importantly, the Austin ran in the JCC’s 200-mile race. Driving with commendable consistency, Spero won the 850cc class at 59.95mph, after driving for over 3hr 22min, with one stop for fuel, beating half a dozen other A7s.

At the August races Spero was second to Capt Alastair Miller’s 1093 cc Lombard, to which he had given a 32sec start, with an excellent best lap of 80.98mph, a speed he repeated twice in the President’s Gold Plate event, although unplaced, showing that he knew how to get a small car very quickly round Brooklands.

That November, before the Track closed for winter repairs, Spero, with co-driver Bell, set Class H records in the A7 for 200km, 200 miles and six hours, at speeds of 68.85,66.14 and 67.99mph, the last from Chase and Boyd-Carpenter, which they had established in the previous year, at 62.97mph.

The following year, 1929, a new body was used for ‘Mrs Jo Jo’ with an elaborate nose over the radiator and a flat tail, Spero sitting so far back that he could rest his upperarm on the top of the off-side back tyre, hopefully only when the car was stationary! At Easter the car, now described as a KC Special of 749cc, with its pet name clearly displayed, at first fizzled out, but by August the little aluminium car with cream wheels had recovered to win that year’s President’s Gold Plate race despite an increased handicap, with a lap of 84.70mph. Spero had beaten all 10 rivals including Clive Dimfee’s 3-litre Austro-Daimler.

In September he scored a second and two more thirds lapping at 81.71mph and doing a standing-start lap at 72.71mph in the Sprint Handicap. Spero entered the 1929 BRDC ‘500’ but with no result.

For 1930 Spero moved from normal streamlining to the unconventional in his search for ever more speed. He used frontal bodywork which completely covered the tops of the Austin’s front wheels, following that of the Sunbeam with which Segrave had raised the LSR to over 200mph in 1927, the body shell tapering into a sharply-pointed tail.

It took until a five-lap race at a Brooklands Club meeting before he got results, a third, lapping at nearly 84mph. He was also driving an S-type 1½-litre s/c Lea-Francis in racing trim, lapping at 101.43mph, but in spite of a kind handicap it was at first no match for other cars, until at Easter it took a third, its lap pace up to 102.27mph. That was almost the end of this enthusiast’s serious racing, which had endeared him to the Weybridge fraternity, although he did try seaside sand racing.

Later he successfully drove his ex-Whitney Straight/Prince Bira 8CM Maserati in VSCC races. He then bought a 250F Maserati and encouraged his son John to race it, after which Neil Corner bought it and raced it effectively. He still owns it. A keen VSCC member, Nobby presented the Spero Trophy for VSCC events for up to 750 and 1100cc cars. He died following a heart attack in January 1970.