Historic Grand Prix Cars

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Sir,

It gave me great pleasure to read D.S.J.’s account of Connaught A8, and one must give all credit to Gerry Walton for the manner in which he has restored and now maintains the little car.

If I may mention one or two points — firstly, the major part of the racing mileage as a works entry was driven by Roy Salvadori, who is not mentioned by D.S.J., although some of his races in A8 were memorable, such as that against de Graffenreid in the Maserati, and Ken Wharton in the V16 BRM, both at Goodwood. [Sprint races! — D.S. J.]

Apart from being the first European single-seater to use fuel injection, A8 was also used as a guinea-pig when we were experimenting with roll controls, and still has the modification made to the rear suspension to restore it to “normal”. “Benny” Benstead, who looked after A8 at Connaught Engineering and carried out most of the suspension mods., still remembers how to set it up.

The c.g. of the A series Connaught was about four inches or so ahead of the windscreen base, and the weight distribution varied ± 1% from 411% front / 52% rear between full and empty.

When the 2-litre formula became full Grand Prix, Connaughts had problems because the side-mounted fuel tanks gave a limited range and were not easily modified. I drew up a tank, which was made and fitted to A8, to go between the chassis tubes, on which it rested, with the propeller shaft running in a tunnel. It held seven gallons, but was not popular and was discarded. A rear mounted tank was also tried and discarded. The de Dion tube went over the top of the final drive unit because it was shorter and stiffer than the tube we tied round the back, which also was extremely difficult to locate laterally, and gave too high a roll centre. The tube over the top presented location problems, too, solved by the short torque strut to the top of the final drive case and the lateral linkage evolved by Bert Barrett. Only one radius rod could be used on each side because there was no room on the chassis for two mountings. A1 had a built-up de Dion axle with detachable hubs and a smaller diameter tube, easier for the mechanics to work on, but heavier than the later all-welded longer tube assembly. I was able to use twin parallel radius rods on the AL/SR two-seater chassis, by taking them out backwards in the same plane as the single rods, to give similar handling characteristics. This can be seen on Gerry Walton’s AL/SR, the sole survivor.

The rear suspension modifications to A8 were to experiment with complete roll freedom, leading to the roll stiffness control mechanism fitted to A10 and initially to B1, for which a patent application was submitted.

There is much more to recount, but that is all being written down gradually and slowly. I hope we will be able to record events as they were and not as hearsay modifies them, to give one small piece of history some sense of authenticity.

Woking, Surrey
C. E. Johnson