Interview with Col. Michael McEvoy
It is nearly always interesting to winkle out famous personalities from motoring’s past and interview them. and I try to do this from time to time. Recently, I made Col. Michael McEvoy the subject, calling on him at his extremely pleasant house at Iver.
You remember the MvEvoy big-twin motorcycles? These were M. A. McEvoy’s first essay in motor vehicle manufacture. In 1923 the duplex-frame British Anzani was very much its the news, having set the motorcycle speed record to 108.48 m.p.h. and reached 113.39 m.p.h. in one direction on Brooklands, ridden by Claude Temple, using the 1,000-c.c. eight-valve British Anzani engine and put into production similar motorcycles, some with V-twin J.A.P. engines, at a factory in Derby. These bicycles were made from 1924 until the slump of 1929 put paid to the project. At the peak the little factory employed some 50 workmen and, on a good week. 15 or 16 machines would be turned out. These McEvoys achieved considerable success in racing, ridden by their originator and others. For instance, the World’s s.s. mile record was taken at 91.02 m.p.h. in 1926, George Patchett riding a McEvoy with 8/47-h.p. J.A.P. engine. Patchett also did 116 1/2 m.p.h. on Southport sands and in Belgium a speed of 111.84 m.p.h. was clocked. The standard versions steered extremely well and were very fast, the 1927 McEvoy Vulpine bring advertised as offering “100 m.p.h. for £99.”
During the slump McEvoy turned to the manufacture of general engineering components and engineering components and then he, Laurence Pomeroy and the late Henry Laird obtained the licence for Zoller superchargers in this country. They worked hard to educate the ordinary motorist to the advantages of a low-pressure boost applied by a properly built-in supercharger installation, and they also did a great deal of research for famous manufacturers. Blower installations were prepared for such improbable cars as the Lanchester Ten, the Austin 10/4, the then-current Fords, and other family vehicles during 1934 and 1935. An 11-h.p. Singer covered 60,000 miles in this form without trouble and a very compact installation was designed or the Lancia Augusta, the Zoller compressor being cast in one with its valve cover. Georges Roesch was presented with a blower for the Talbot 105, the British Samson was so treated, and so on. Unfortunately in many contemporary steering and braking would not stand the increase in speed, although in this respect B.S.A. were sensible, allowing Michael McEvoy to redesign the chassis as well, until it lapped Brooklands at 83 m.p.h. Naturally, Morris and Wolseley engines were superchargeol, and M. A. McEvoy Ltd., now of Notting Hill Gate, had already found a good market for such “specials,” tending thereafter to confine their supercharging activities to PB M.G., Q-typre racing M.G. and similar cars, culminating in the twin-cam head for the R-type M.G. Midgets, which enabled 141 b.h.p. to be obtained from 750cc (Motor Sport: january 1941). A touring Star was, however, given a Zoller compressor driven from the nose of the crankshaft and a handsome Jensen body.
By 1932 the McEvoy Minor, based on the s.v. Morris Minor chassis, was in production and special overlap camshafts for the Wolseley Hornet were sold for £5 apiece! McEvoy did a great deal of experimental work on the small six-cylinder Wolseley Hornet, which culminated in the well-remembered McEvoy Special, of which some half-dowzen were built and sold to discerning enthusiasts. A team McEvoy Hornets won the 1932 L.C.C. Relay Race at Brooklands at 77.51 m.p.h. and a McEvoy Special average 99 m.p.h. for over 460 miles during the 1933 B.R.D.C. 300-Mile Race before the camshaft drive failed, no mean performance for a stripped sports car assembled from comparatively inexpensive components. This car exists today, in the Wolseley Special Club. It was held back purposely in this long race but actually had a maximum speed of some 115 m.p.h.
The plot was to re-constitute the chassis, using an X-member and boxed-in side-members, stiffer road springs. bigger shock absorbers and Rudge hubs with genuine centre-lock Rudge Whitworth wire wheels. The Wolseley steering box was replaced by a Bishop cam-gear and a longer drop-arm to raise the steering ratio, with Thompson ball-joints and rods.
The engine was bored out and provided with forged pistons and forged dural con.-rods, on a steel Jessop crankshaft. The vertical dynamo driving the o.h. cam-shaft was dispensed with and extreme valve overlap indulged in. 105-ton studs held the head on, allowing it to withstand compression-ratios up to 9 to 1 unblown, or a boost by Zoller and 1 1/2-in. S.U. of up to 12 lb./sq. in. The head was provided voids 32-mm. inlet valves having 90 lb. springs and it was lapped to the block to obviate a gasket. The oilways and lubrication system generally were modified, and an oil-cooler fitted. Twin R.A.G. carburettors were used in unblown form and there were auxiliary fuel and oil tanks.
The gearbox was a four-speed Moss, the prop-shaft by Hardy Spicer and for Brooklands a straight-tooth 3.5-to-1- axle was used. The Track car had a detachable tail and even for road work small but rigid brake drums were preferred to larger M.G. drums.
The McEvoy Special Hornet met competition from the manufacturer’s Daytona Daytona model and the Swallow-bodied Hornets and the Minor Specials were a better proposition, McEvoy quoting their total production at 50 to 60.
As re-armament got into its stride. McEvoy sold his factory and went to Germany, working for a time on production-car supercharging for F. Fandi at Frankfurt on 170 Mercedes-Benz engines. In 1938 McEvoy returned to this country to design an advanced streamlined body, with headlamps within the radiator grille, for the 2-litre six-cylinder Steyr 220 chassis. He also had plans for a great car in the best vintage tradition, to be called the Hatton McEvoy and be powered by a 6-litre Renault power unit, but this was never built. In 1939 he designed a high-speed version of the Zoller supercharger for the proposed 1940 Mercedes-Benz G.P. cars but these were destroyed during the war.
During the war Michael McEvoy gained great honour, mainly on account of a good start when he modified tanks by motor-racing methods. He was able to secure the release of Rudolf Ulenhaut from an America prisoner of war camp in 1945, after which they designed jointly a space-frame, blown 16-valve five-speed 500-c.c. racing car, which, however, never got off the drawing board.
Today he acts as an engineering consultant, paying frequent visits to India. He has returned to motor-car matters virtually as a hobby – but in this respect he is doing worth-while work for Wilen Engineering as well as modifying Renault Dauphines for Butler of St. Albans. His “cooking conversion” for the 105E Ford Anglia consists of a special camshaft and inlet manifolding, with 32-mm. Solex carburetter, which lifts maximum speed to 84/85 m.p.h. and for which 0-60 m.p.h. in about 17 sec. is claimed. McEvoy also has in hand a most intriguing light-alloy hemispherical head for the 105E engine, with the inclined valves actuated by unequal-length push-rods and rockers, Peugeot fashion, front a normally-located camshaft, the slogan for which will quite likely be “100 b.h.p. for £200.” He has also designed special Triumph Herald and Trinmph TR camshafts for Wilen and altogether shapes his hobby very much for the benefit of those who crave motor cars that go faster than standard. W.B.