Your recent article on Mike Hawthorn brings back many happy memories. In 1951 he won the Ulster Trophy Handicap race at Dundrod driving the Riley Imp prepared by his father; I won the same race the following year driving a Ford Special built by a friend and myself in the upstairs bedroom of his house.
To illustrate how simple things were in those days the basic chassis was Ford Ten with lowered front suspension, ie the central torque tube was separated and brought outside the chassis; the removal of two or three leaves from the transverse spring, plus Armstrong hydraulic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar, completed the front end. Ford suspension was retained at the rear with, again, leaves removed and Armstrong shock absorbers.
Engine-wise we went for a Morris 10 block and crankshaft (beefier than the MG) fitted with an MG it Series 3 head, oversize inlet/exhaust valves. The compression ratio was 11:1. The crank and rods were balanced by Laystall and we ran on a 50:50 mixture of Pool petrol and Benzole obtained from the Belfast Gas works at 2s 7d per gallon. A pair of two-inch SU carbs supplied the juice — the fuel system being pressurised by a hand pump in the cockpit. A Buckler close-ratio three-speed gearbox completed the mechanics.
The body was a problem. Panelling was 10gauge aluminum spread over half-inch angle iron — not elegant but it’s amazing what you can do with a drill to bore holes and small nuts and bolts (some tightening was required after each race).
The result of all this effort? Not a lot to be truthful. But we did have a great deal of fun. In those days there were races at Dundrod, Phoenix Park, The Curragh Army camp at Naas outside Dublin and the Leinster Trophy Race in Wicklow, as well as numerous hfficlimbs.
The highlight of our short career was the win at Dundrod, average speed of 69.5mph in the wet, with a fastest lap of 72.7mph in a dry spell.
I AM YOURS, ETC,
AW Fleming, Donaghadee, Count Down