“For unto every one that hath shall he given. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” (St. Matthew, Chapter 25, verse 29). So it is in motor racing.
The impecunious enthusiast has the choice of restricting his motor sport to the lowest possible level, or gambling his “all” on a desperate attempt to reach a position where material returns begin to balance outlay.
In 1947 I made a not unsuccessful debut in Club racing using my supercharged L.M.B.-suspended Austin Seven Special, WJ 1515, but attempts to take the next step up the ladder ended disastrously. Two seasons of Formula 3 racing, first with WJ 1515 fitted with a Speedway J.A.P. engine and later with a professionally-built “one-off” (the C.R.M.) had resulted in finishing only one race.
The average outlay on mechanical replacements had been about £15 per meeting. I had run out of excuses for avoiding my Bank Manager and my ever-patient family was beginning to hint that the time was near when they really would have to start eating again. The C.R.M. was sold to keep the wolf and the Bank Manager from the door and the motto became “If it’s more than nothing, it’s too expensive.”
The 750 Club came to the rescue with the announcement of the 1,172 Formula. WJ 1515 was resurrected and fitted with the Ford 9-h.p. engine from the family “heap” (a 1936 Ford 8 saloon) which in turn was fitted with a Ford 8-h.p. engine swapped for the remnants of the blown up 750. The only tuning was double valve springs and a Ford 8 head.
We ran in the very first 1,172 Formula Race at lbsley in 1953 and were highly delighted to actually finish a race, and not in last position either. The race was won by Desoutter driving the first production Mk. VI Lotus, with Nigel Allen in the works car second.
The next event was Castle Coombe. Tuning consisted of fitting a borrowed Austin 7 Nippy 30 mm. Zenith carburetter with a 25 mm. choke and de-hotspotting the inlet manifold. We finished sixth.
Until then I had always used a Burgess “straight through” silencer, but I noticed at one Goodwood meeting that some silencers were a lot more “straight through” than others. Changing to a homemade silencer gave me an improvement of .4 sec. on a rolling ¼-mile, which worked out at about two or three places in a race. I later planed one-tenth of an inch off the head and changed to 33 per cent. methanol fuel.
The 1953 season had been a pleasant change. We had failed to finish only one race, (yes, that one-tenth was too much!), average expenditure on mechanical replacements had been 1s. per meeting. and by the end of the season we had achieved our ambition of being the fastest non-Lotus car running in the Formula.
An Overseas Posting in 1954 resulted in two years’ loss of development, so that on return to the U.K. in December 1955 some pretty drastic action was called for.
A brain-picking session with Colin Chapman revealed that the works Lotus cars used 22-h.p. Ford V8 inlet valves, camshafts retarded by 8 deg., and that great importance was attached to maximum camshaft lift. “We used to tour the local Ford agents armed with a micrometer, looking for high tolerance camshafts,” said Colin, “and then discard them after about four meetings. You can help yourself if they any any good to you.”
The 750 Club President was a good as his word and a visit to Lotus Engineering revealed a pile of camshafts all neatly labelled. I selected one marked “4 meetings,” which had a 293 thou. lift (2 thou. under nominal). My own measured 280.
A friend made up a very nice twin-pipe exhaust system for me, inlet ports were opened up to 11/8 in., my 1,099-c.c. block was swapped for one of 1,172 c.c. and the Chapman suggestions incorporated.
My first meeting in 1956 was at Brands Hatch with the B.R.S.C.C. The 1,172 Formula lap record was held by Anstice Brown (Mk. IX Lotus) in about 69 sec.
I had hoped for about 72 sec. but in practice there was no steam at all and I could manage no better than 79 sec. The trouble was eventually traced to the camshaft being set two teeth (36 deg.) too far retarded. In moving my camshaft I had set my inlet valves to open 8 deg. later than nominal but I failed to take into account the effect of reduced tappet clearances. An elementary mistake you might think, but I have known two other constructors do the same.
When this had been corrected the hoped-for performance was realised and I had a good day at the 1956 “Trio” meeting at Brands, where a wet track gave me an advantage. I noticed, however, that I was always losing ground coming out of Clearways. This was accounted for partly by the use of a standard Ford gearbox, and partly by a very peaky power curve. Dick Egerton had fitted a Ford 10 engine to his 1935 Wolseley Hornet saloon and I suggested to him that a Hornet gearbox was wasted on such a mundane vehicle. There being, as usual, no money in the kitty, would he care to swap it for a Ford 10 gearbox and a supercharger? To my delight he accepted and I had another good day at Crystal Palace, where for the first time I succeeded in overtaking a Climax-engined car.
The 1956 season had again been gratifying. I had finished every race and mechanical replacements had averaged 3s. per meeting, but there had been one or two disappointments. There were quite a few seconds to catch up before I could hold the streamliners and the scrutineers were beginning to see through my dodge of taking up the Austin Seven cable brakes a notch before scrutineering! Worst of all, the B.R.S.C.C. objected to the “sawn off” appearance of the car, so I could not run at their Brands meetings only three miles from my home.
Fairly drastic mods. were therefore planned for the winter. A new tail section was built and the whole car lowered by 5 in. At the rear, the springs were lowered 3 in. by inverting the main leaf and re-setting the others to give a 2½ in. negative camber. The front was lowered by about the same amount by mounting the spring on top of the Austin Seven nosepiece. The track rod was put in front of the axle and the steering arms bent to give zero Ackerman. Finally, the body was lowered 2 in. by mounting it level with the bottom of the chassis members instead of on top of them.
Holly Birkett had changed his Ford 100E van to 8 in. front brakes and he passed on the 7 in. brakes to me for a nominal sum. A Ford Popular front axle beam was fitted with a “Y”-model spring, as I did not much fancy an Austin axle with hydraulic brakes. With the Austin L.M.B. front suspension I had not used any shock-absorbers, but with the much softer Ford spring, I suffered severe front wheel patter, which I cured by fitting Armstrong lever-type dampers. The appearance and brakes were thus taken care of, but still there was not enough steam. The tremendous middle-range pull of my 1953 layout was completely lacking.
The twin-pipe exhaust system had given disappointing results. This was alleged to have been designed in accordance with Colin Campbell’s book “The Sports Car — Its Design and Performance,” so an investigation was carried out. The chapter on exhaust system design was thoroughly digested and doubtful points were queried with the author. In this otherwise most excellent publication, the table showing exhaust system lengths for four-cylinder engines was most ambiguous. Probably due to a printer’s error it gave the impression that single and twin-pipe systems used the same lengths. Careful study of the text however revealed that this was not the case, and indeed that a satisfactory four-cylinder twin-pipe resonant exhaust system was impossible.
The resonant frequency of my system was about 7,000 r.p.m. and there was an anti-resonant at just over 5,000 r.p.m. exactly where it wasn’t wanted.
By far the best system appeared to be four separate pipes, the only snag being the physical problem of working in a silencer in a pipe under 40 in. long.
With the help of Mr. Howe of Chester Road, Blackpen, such a system was made up one Saturday at an extremely modest cost. A pair of very second-hand 1¼ in. S.U.s were fitted at the same time and the results were most encouraging. Brands Hatch lap times were improved to 68 sec. and the middle speed pull was such that, coming out of Clearways, I could out-accelerate even the all-conquering Lola.
Pride cometh before a fall, however, and having persuaded the B.R.S.C.C. to accept my entry for Mallory Park, I well and truly blotted my copy-book by depositing half the engine on the hairpin just as the marshals were about to go to lunch.
The cost of the rebuild kept me out of racing for most of the rest of the season, but late season encouragement was given by third f.t.d. at Bodiham Hill-Climb and f.t.d. in the Cottingham Autocross.
At this time the 1,172 lap-record at Brands Hatch was held by Eric Broadley in a Lola at 66.4. sec., so that if I was to “mix it” with the fast boys I would have to cut my time by at least two or three seconds. Having run out of ideas for engine tuning, the obvious line of attack was to reduce drag and weight. The 750 Club co-operated by removing the minimum-weight restriction.
The. L.M.B. Austin Seven layout had always shown exceptional cornering but suffered from the fact that the ¼-elliptic rear springs restricted the height of the driver’s seat. An entirely new semi-space frame was therefore built, using vestigial side members of 1½ in. square tubing with a superstructure mainly of ¾ in. square tubing. The rear springs were mounted immediately above the side members and splayed out ¾ in. each side, thus allowing the driver’s seat to rest between the springs and torque tube, right on the undertray, some 4½ in. lower than in the 1957 car. The main stresses were carried by an inverted punt structure, which gives the best combination of beam strength and torsional rigidity.
The frame is built to the same shape as the body, so that very little additional body framing was required and as the body panels are all unstressed, single curvature and well supported, only very light gauge duralumin is required; 24 gauge was used, but is much heavier than necessary.
The mechanical parts of the car were quite unchanged. Weight was reduced to 7¼ cwt. and scuttle height to 26 in. Graham Broadley supplied a reject Lola nose cowl for £1 and the front wheels were set to a negative camber to combat excessive understeer. Last minute panic was even greater than usual and six people worked all night before our debut at the 1958 Silverstone Eight Clubs Meeting. The effort was worth it, however, for lap times were reduced by 4.6 sec., to 82.4 sec. In the race I ran second to Lola till taken by John Turvey’s Mk. XI and later had to relinquish third place to Boshier-Jones’ Mk. XI when the radiator boiled.
The Trio meeting was next and once again I had a good day. In my heat I beat the lap record with 66.2 sec. in attempting to catch the leaders from a poor grid position and in the final I had a race-long duel for the lead with John Turvey (Mk. XI) who won by .2 sec, and lowered the lap record to 65.8 sec. Again the Special had “flattered but to deceive.” At Snetterton a week later, the crank broke.
This was getting tiresome, not to say expensive, so I started another brain-picking exercise. There was by no means unanimity as to which engine could be developed to give the most power, but all agreed that the 100E gave its power more easily, and that if you tuned the 93a to the limit, then you must change cranks every four meetings. This I could not accept, so in spite of the weight penalty I decided to go 100E.
Despite dire warnings given in a contemporary I found that the job of converting from one to other was surprisingly simple. With attention from drill and file quite a number of the parts were inter-changeable and all the major dimensions were the same except that the ports came 1/8 in. higher.
Once again the blow up put me out of racing for most of the rest of the season. At this stage I retired from the Army and bought a house nine miles from Silverstone. House hunting, job hunting, house moving and building a trials car did not allow much time for winter modifications, but thanks to my gratuity, my bank statement at last showed a credit balance, so I enlisted the aid of Jim Whitehouse of Arden Sports Cars Ltd. to tune my engine. Jim made a first class job at a very modest charge and again results were most gratifying. Our 1959 debut was made at the Easter Brands, we secured a close second in the 1,500 c.c. Sport Car Heat ahead of several Climax-engined cars and a third in the “Formule Libre Sports Cars over 1,100 c.c.,” which netted the first prize money for several years. Modesty almost forbids a list of 1959 successes. Suffice it to say that we had five wins and four seconds.
The highlights were two wins at the L. & C.C.C. Oulton Park meeting, winning the Ford Championship of Ireland, and finishing second in the A.M.O.C. Silverstone Formula 2 race. Brands Hatch time is down to 64 sec. At last the “Mercury Stable” is moving from the “Him that hath not” category to the “Him that hath!” Up till 1958 costs had been steadily increasing. This year, the cost of mechanical replacements has been about £6 with an income of £55, we have just about had our motor-racing for nothing.
By next year the Junior Formula should have really caught on and this looks like the opportunity for which I and others have been waiting. Running and capital costs should be no greater than the 1,172 Formula, but material returns should be very much greater. The Formula 1, 2, 3 and sports car boys have had their power units “on the plate” for so long now that they may well have lost the art of tuning, so that ex-1,172 contestants can reckon to start with a considerable advantage.
WJ 1515 was designed to use inexpensive and readily available components with the maximum of modifications, so that anyone wishing to take up 1,172 Formula racing at low cost (about £200) with a proved design could do a lot worse than build a replica. The only difficult part is making the frame. Here the Mercury Stable comes to the rescue by offering replicas of the frame at a highly non-professional price, so that U 2 can have a chassis like mine.
There is not much to add on the racing side, as I had to sell the car. As can be imagined, this was a terrible wrench in the middle of the season, just when the car was on the top of its form and I had just started a development programme in search of a further 300 revs. but the opportunity of building a new car from scratch and buying new parts with real money was too good to be missed. Also, of course, next season, will be the first full season of Junior Formula Racing, and will be the crucial one. My final score in Ford Ten-engine races was: — Eight Starts, one retirement with a broken hub when running second, one pit stop for water when in the lead, two Seconds and four Wins.
To keep myself from going quite mad with no racing for eight months I am completing my £50 Trials “750” and hope to do about half a dozen trials. If my calculations are correct a well-tuned and really light 750 should be more than able to hold its own with the present 1,172 brigade.
My design of the Junior cars is now finalised, except for the wheels. I had hoped to use Cooper 500 front wheels, but these are apparently not available (not even to Stage IV Trainees!) and the West London Repair Co. have also turned me down.
I have started to build two Juniors, one for my partner Capt. John Harwood to race mainly on the Continent and one for myself to race mainly at home. I also hope to supply drawings to my friend Johnny Streets (now resident in California) so that he can build at least one car to race in the States, so the “Mercury Stable” should be well represented in 1960. The new cars follow exactly the same fundamental layout I have always used, i.e. swing axle i.f.s., with 60/40 weight distribution (assymetric left to right) and ¼-elliptic rear suspension with torque tube drive, except that this year the torque tube becomes a torque arm, as the A.7 rear axle is being replaced by one from a Morris Minor 1000. mainly in the interest of quick-change rear axle ratios and also to allow an off-centre differential to give the driver a bit more elbow room.
It seems to me that the Junior Formula regulations virtually fix the power-to-weight ratio, so that races will be won by the car with the lowest drag which gets round the corners quickest. The U.2 design has already shown itself to be more than satisfactory in the matter of cornering power, and drag is being kept down by a combination of low frontal area and clean outline, e.g., the track is 44 in., the scuttle height is 24 in., and such items as carburetters, suspension and exhaust system are enclosed as far as possible.
The first chassis frame is already completed and the wheels and axles should be in position soon after this appears in print. Roll on 1960!
Arthur Mallock served in the R.A.F. during the war, flying Dakotas, and afterwards transferred to the Army, with the rank of major. He is an extremely keen and talented amateur racing driver who, from many years of “special” building, has evolved the U.2.1,172 chassis/body frame. This costs £48 10s. 0d., £75 fully panelled, with door, bulkhead and bonnet but excluding nose cowl, or £85 in this form with road springs attached. Details are available from Major A. M. R. Mallock, A.M.I.E.E., T.E., The Mercury Stable Motor Racing Team, Mill Cottage, The Grove, Roade, Northants.