Number Plates - CMH 500

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Development of the chain driven Frazer Nash car was more or less continuous from 1924 to 1938 and members of the “chain gang” each have their own idea of when the peak was reached. The lightness, smoothness and flexibility of the side-valve Anzani powered cars was the peak of development for some, the all-round ability of the Meadows TT Replica of 1932 was the peak for others. Personally I always viewed a ‘Nash as a “performer” above all else, so the peak of development for me was the twin supercharged, overhead camshaft, 1½-litre Shelsley model of 1935. Of the small number of Shelsley models made CMH 500 was my idea of the “ultimate Frazer Nash”, for this was, in effect, the works development car. It was built early in 1935 and first registered on March 25th 1935 for A.F.P. Fane, who was closely associated with the Frazer Nash factory, which went under the name of AFN Ltd. It was chassis number 2152 with engine number 7/120.

Fane used the car in all manner of competitions during 1935/36, racing it at Brooklands and Donington Park; it competed in straight sprints and in hill-climbs and was driven everywhere on the road. CMH 500 was essentially a competition car, but was equally at home as a fast road-going sports car and journeys from London to the north, west or south must have provided nearly as much enjoyable motoring as the events themselves. It never suffered the indignity of being taken to an event on a trailer. If Fane was occupied driving the works single-seater Frazer Nash then CMH 500 would be lent to someone else, such as Donald Aldington, the youngest of the three brothers who ran AFN Ltd.

Wherever it went in sprints and hill-climbs CMH 500 was a certain class winner and its presence in the paddock at a club meeting gave an air of seriousness to the meeting. It was painted a deep maroon colour, sometimes referred to as “wine” or “burgundy” and the combination of its performance and Fane’s driving always made the spectators sit up and take notice.

The Shelsley model, not to be confused with the single-seater model, was a fully equipped road sports car, usually fitted with the TT Replica style of bodywork, with a single door on the passenger’s side, a rounded tail and exposed petrol tank on the back. It had semi-elliptic leaf springs at the front, working as cantilevers, the centre fixed to a chassis bracket, the front axle on the forward end of the spring, and the rearward end in a chassis trunnion. This was in place of the normal springing by quarter-elliptic leaf springs. The axle beam was a straight tube rather than the usual beam with the dip in the centre, and 14″ diameter front brakes were used, operated by Bowdenex cables rather than the cable and rod Perrot system. A very aggressive and chunky radiator was used, leaning back slightly, and the 4-cylinder engine was highly supercharged. This engine was designed by Albert Gough specially for AFN Ltd. and had a single overhead camshaft driven by duplex chain from the front of the crankshaft. It had a bore and stroke of 79 x 100 mm. giving 1,496 c.c. and the power output depended to a large extent on the state of tune, with regard to compression ratio and supercharger pressure. Driven off the front of the crankshaft were two Centric vane-type superchargers, mounted side-by-side, both feeding into a single heavily ribbed inlet manifold and they were fed by a single large SU carburetter. This engine could also be had in unsupercharged form, using two SU carburetters and featured in lesser Frazer Nash models. The official designation of the unit was “the single overhead camshaft Frazer Nash engine” but this was so much of a mouthful that it soon became known as the Gough (pronounced Goff) engine, to distinguish it from Anzani, Meadows and Blackburne engines that were also used in Frazer Nash cars.

Not only did CMH 500 have a top speed of well over 100 m.p.h., possibly even over 110 m.p.h., but it had very impressive acceleration for its day. Unfortunately the supercharged Gough engine and the Shelsley Frazer Nash had only a limited amount of development, for 1935 saw H.J. Aldington transferring his interest to BMW cars, as having more long-term potential than the chain driven Frazer Nash, and time proved his judgement to be absolutely right.

A.F.P. Fane was undoubtedly the best driver in the AFN Ltd. camp and he was soon competing with BMW cars, so CMH 500 left the competition scene in 1937 and in March 1938 it was sold to a Mr. Holroyd in Cleethorpes, who kept it until the war started in 1939. It was then put into store by Thomson & Taylor and did not appear again until it passed into the Used Car trade in 1948. In 1951 John Willment (later of Willment Racing) sold it to Mr. A.J. Wicke who kept it until 1968 when it passed to its present owner Mr. A.G. (Bert) Smith. Around 1960 the Gough engine was given a total overhaul by Layman Engineering and while this was being done an Austin-Healey 100 engine was installed. The twin-supercharged Gough engine was eventually reinstalled and still powers the car today, and while Bert Smith does not take part regularly in competitions with it, you will invariably see it at VSCC gatherings and on “chain-gang” outings. Today it is a brighter red than originally, but otherwise has changed hardly at all, so if you see CMH 500 in the paddock or car park, rest assured that it really is the famous ex-Fane Frazer Nash, the ultimate development of the chain-driven ‘Nash if it is performance that you are after. — D.S.J.

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