A GN Affair

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THE ME0 SPECIAL AFFAIR AROSE OUT OF MY YOUTHFULL fanaticism for any link with motor racing. I had written to SCH Davis of The Autocar in 1933, asking if anyone would employ me as an unpaid, spare-time labourer, doing any kind of work on a racing car? He kindly put me in touch with a Mr Meo who lived in Hampstead, and had built a GN Special for racing at Brooklands. I was allowed to emery the front axle of a long lean all-black car. Although basically GN, it was disguised by body cowl to look much later.

The engine was a GN Vitesse with the chain-driven overhead camshafts, one above each ‘pot’, but Meo had refined the cylinder heads. A single Sunbeam motorcycle hairpin spring closed each valve. Ignition was by a Bosch magneto; lubrication from a small dash mounted tank and a Pilgrim pump. A large motorcycle-type Amal semi-downdraught carburettor supplied fuel via polished bell-mouthed ports. The fuel tank was in the tail.

The usual GN chain transmission used a 1922 bevel four-speed box with no reverse. To lower this 1922 chassis the springs had been raised on steel blocks, and this very low GN Special was slightly crab-tracked. The body was of wood, and a plywood floor alone protected the occupants from being savaged by a broken driving chain.

That was the car I found at a garage in Oppidans Road and later at another in Erskine Road, Hampstead. Being a ‘spanner-fool’, I was just given lots of emery cloth, so I spent my time writing a nine-page description of this racing GN. I was then towed to the Track behind Meo’s Salmson and had one practice run. We did about 90mph down the Railway straight, and I saw 4500rpm on the tachometer, which was driven by Meccano pinions.. Alas, the Meo was highly temperamental and difficult to start, due to oiled-up plugs and flooding carbs, calling for squirts of benzole before it would fire, and missed its races at the 1932 and 1933 Inter Club Meetings. I don’t think a photograph of the car was ever taken but if one exists, I would like to see it. Michael Meo, who died not long ago also, also had the rare Laystall Special engine in his garage.

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