Obituary ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson
Walter Ernest ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson,who has died aged 98, came from an era of riding mechanics and wizard engine tuners, whose painstaking work contributed to automotive know-how until more formal research and technology overtook them.
A distinguished mechanic at the Evans’ Bellevue Garage, and with Reg Pamell in the 1930s, Wilkie also enjoyed success as a racing driver – at the wheel of Billy Cotton’s ERA among others.
He became best known during the 1950s with Ecurie Ecosse. His credentials as head mechanic and deputy to patron David Murray were never in doubt, but his engineering expertise proved unequal to the development of a 3-litre version of the XK engine. Jaguar regarded him with suspicion, warning Murray that there was danger in building Wilkie up into “some kind of Freddie Dixon legend” — even though Ecosse Jaguars won Le Mans ice. Wilkie remained bitter at his treatment by Murray, whom he describes in his autobiography as “far from honest. I was one of his financial victims.”
Following Murray’s flight from his creditors, Wilkie joined BRM, becoming their F1 team manager, but even here in the 1960s his reputation somehow fell short of his capability, and he was never seen as among the lop flight of engineers.
He was engaged in BRM’s special projects, working with Matra among others, covering engine sales, and acting as liaison with Rover on the gas-turbine project.
He retired in 1972, but his spry figure was often seen at racing gatherings, even in his nineties. Eric Dymock