Bill Boddy’s excellent article in the October issue concerning the Freikaiserwagen was of particular interest to us in Frenchay Village Museum.
Frenchay was the home of the Fry family from the time of Joseph Storrs Fry (1767-1835), who built up the great chocolate business of J S Fry & Sons, until the death of David’s father, Cecil Roderick Fry, who was the last of the line to chair the company.
Both David Fry and his brother Jeremy were born and brought up in the village, and they began their engineering company, Frenchay Products, here. Older villagers remember the Fry cars roaring around in the middle of the night.
As Bill wrote, the Freikaiserwagen was competitive from the beginning, and David is credited by the VSCC with holding the Prescott record from 1938 until ’48. However, the later ‘Mark Umpteenth’ Freikaiserwagen looked very different from the pictures which accompanied Bill’s article. You had an excellent one of this version on the cover of your July 1949 issue.
After Joe’s death in the Freikaiserwagen, his widow commissioned a model of the car as a trophy, which is still presented annually by the Bristol Motorcycle & Light Car Club for the Wiscombe Park hill-climb. The club brought this trophy to our museum back in February. The model clearly shows the twin blowers and the strange exhaust system (which was presumably to ensure each pipe was of equal length).
Incidentally, there was another car built by David Fry called the Freikaiserwagen. It was a Formula 500 car, but I have no idea how successful it was. Again Joe seems to have been the principal driver.
In the late 1950s, David produced a Formula Two car, the Fry-Climax. It was of monocoque construction, but was too heavy according to people I have spoken to who worked on it. It was entered in the 1959 British GP, but did not start.
David’s collaborators in this venture included Alec Issigonis, Tim Fry and Mike Parkes. (Interesting that the designer of the BMC Mini and the designers of Rootes Hillman Imp should be working together in their spare time!)
Not to be forgotten is David’s brother Jeremy (now living overseas), who was also successful on the hills in his Bugatti and Parsenn 500cc car. He broke the sportscar record at Prescott in 1949 in his s/c Bugatti, and at the 1949 Shelsey meeting when Joe broke Raymond May’s long-standing record in the Freikaiserwagen (37.35sec), Jeremy was second-fastest 500cc in his Parsenn with a time of 42.94sec. Our researches at the museum have recently led us to the present resting place of the Parsenn, and although unused for 50 years, it’s in good condition. If any readers have information on Fry cars, we would love to make copies to add to our display on the subject. I can be contacted on 0117 957 0942, or by e-mail:frenchay [email protected]
Frenchay Village Museum is near the M32/M4 junction, just inside Entrance B of Frenchay Hospital. The museum is normally open on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday. Entrance is free.
I have attached a photograph taken at Bo’ness on June 25, 1949 by J D A Ross (who kindly donated it to the museum).
I am, Yours etc,
Alan Freke, Frenchay, Bristol