THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE E.R.A. AND SOME NOTES ON CHRONOLOGICAL DISTRIBUTION OF THE BOURNE MARQUE
UNDENIABLY, the British E.R.A. is supreme in the 14-litre racing
category. Now that the AlfaRomeo concern is seeking to challenge the Bourne marque with the introduction of the straight-eight twin o.h. camshaft 14-litre Alfas, and now that the new Grand Prix 2.2-litre E.R.A. is due to make its bow, it is worth while to trace the general development of the E.R.A., albeit there Is much which cannot be told. The very first E.R.A. made its appearance in 1934, following Humphrey Cook’s big-hearted decision to finance the building of a team of English Racing Automobiles, and after Raymond Mays’s successful showing with the white Riley Six—we well recall the appearance of the first green E.R.A. outside T. & T.’s at Brooklands one week-day afternoon. The engine was a 14-litre based on the Riley unit, but with head and base modifications and higher-set camshafts, work for which Peter Bethron was responsible, and the half-elliptically sprung E.N.V. gearboxed chassis was designed by Reid A. Railton and built by Thompson and
Taylor. Since the introduction of the first car, sixteen more E.R.A. racing-cars have been built, and of the total of seventeen, six were originally used as works cars. It will be remembered that the works used a 2-litre car for sprint work and used a 1,100 c.c. car in the International Trophy Race. The first car of all (R1A) went to a French owner after a while, but was bought by the late Major Cotten at the end of 1936 and driven in the Vanderbilt Cup Race by Brian Lewis and Freddie
Clifford. Later Bjornstad, the Norwegian driver, acquired it, changing its hue from blue to red. At the end of 1937 W. E. Humphreys bought it and is now rebuilding it.
The second car (R2A) was bought by Embiricos after the works dispensed with it, and in 1937 he fitted an Italian system of independent front wheel suspension. This year Ken Pollock bought the car and started racing it at the B.A.R.C. August Meeting, under the care of Ramponi. The next car (RSA) became the property of L. Fontes but was resold to Norman Black and T. H. Wisdom in 1936 without being raced by Fontes. In 1937 Charlie Martin acquired it, painting its former
green bodywork red. J. H. Bartlett now owns it. It won the 1,500 c.c. Aviis race in 1937. The fourth car was the first to be built for delivery to a private owner, being sold as a new car to Pat Fairfield (R4A), in April 1935. In 1936 Fairfield was invited to join the official E.R.A. team and changed his car’s colour from white to green. At the end of last year N. G. Wilson bought the car, and the 1,100 c.c. alternative engine which Fairfield had for it, and painted it dark blue. The car won the 1935 Mannin Beg, Nuffield
Trophy and Dieppe 1,500 c.c. races, and the 1937 Rand G.P. and South African G . I’. In 1935 E.R.A. introduced the B class cars, with additional bracing of the frame below the driving seat, and more flexible rear springs. The first of the B-series (R1B) was built for Dick Seaman and painted black. It won the Coppa Acerbo, Berne, and Masaryk 1,500 c.c. races, and in 1936, when Seaman revived the old 14-litre Delage, Manby-Colegrave bought
the car, painting it green. Last year Billy Cotton bought it and stabled it with Bellevue Garage, where minor modifications were made. The next B-class car (R2I3) was built for ” B. Bira ” and is the most successful E.R.A. yet, winning the Prince Rainier Cup, International Trophy and Picardy races in 1936, the I.O.M., London G.P. and Imperial Trophy races in 1937 and this year’s Coronation Trophy and Lon
don G.P. This is ” Romulus,” built in 1935 and fitted with special De Ram shock-absorbers all round in 3937, rendering its road holding superior to that of other B-class E.R.A.s.
The third ” B ” car (R3B) was a 1936 works car and the late Marcel Lehoux lost his life in it in a bad smash at Deauville. It has never been rebuilt.
The next car of this series (R4B) was used as a works job, repainted black towards the end of the 1936 season. In 1937 it appeared as a C-type. The C-class cars have the Porsche-designed torsional independent front suspension, Lockheed hydraulic actuated Girling brakes and the huge Zoller vane-type blowers set behind the cylinder block and straddled by the driver’s legs. Previously MurrayJ amieson Roots-type blowers had been used, designed by poor Murray-Jamieson, who later joined E.R.A. and was fatally injured in the last International Trophy Race when the Delage hit the spectators. For the 1938 season R4B was further modified, with Lockheed brakes having two leading shoes, short radius arms for the independent front suspension, Luvax piston-pattern hydraulic shock-absorbers and extensively-drilled side members. Renumbered as 40, it won this year’s Donington Coronation Trophy and Picardy G.P. and made best time at Shelsley. The fifth ” B ” car (R5B) was built in 1936 for ” Bira ” and christened by Prince Chula ” Remus.” Last year Rolt bought it and with it recently smashed the Limerick course record very
thoroughly. ” Bira” won the 1,500 c.c. Albi G.P. with it in 1936. The next” B” car (ROB) was supplied new to Dr. Benj afield and later in 1936
bought by Douglas Briault. In 1937 Ian Connell bought it and after a while experimented with twin chain-driven Arnott vane-type blowers, fitted by Carburetters Ltd., in place of the MurrayJ amieson Roots blower. For this season he replaced the original blower and painted the car black, making fastest time and course record at Syston.
The next car in the series (R7B) was built in 1936 for the master-driver, Arthur Dobson—his famous white car, the frame of which is now grey-hued ; perhaps an indication of old age and a good omen, for we should like to see Dobson at the wheel of a ” C ” or “D “class car.
Earl Howe had the next ” B ” car (R8B). It was built in 1936 but converted to a C-type in the winter of 1937-8. It won this year’s Grosvenor G.P. D. H. Scribbans, almost a newcomer to racing, bought the next E.R.A. in 1936 (ROB). During the middle of 1937 a normal gearbox was substituted for the E.N.V. box. This year Ansell bought the car, on Scribbans’s retirement from racing, and replaced the self-changing E.N.V. box. In 1936 Charlie Martin won the Nuffield Trophy Race with this car. Peter Whitehead, that fiery young driver, bought the next car (R10B) and drove it in lots of big races, partnered
by P. D. Walker. It won this year’s Australian G.P. Reggie Tongue relieved Bourne of the next car, using it most in Continental races, though he ran at Brooklands two months ago. It won the 1936 Cork G.P. The next ” B” car was a works team job, built in 1936 and in 1937 converted into a ” C ” car. At the end of 1937 it was bought for ” B4ra,” painted blue and named ” Hanuman,” after a Siamese monkey-god, carrying this silver emblem, beautifully executed, on the scuttle. Tended by Shura, it won the Cork and the Nuffield Trophy races this year.
The latest car to be delivered is R14B, begun in 1936 and is owned by John Wakefield.
E.R.A. IDENTIFICATION CHART