A Car well-known in Scottish Competition Events, described by its constructor, J. McCubbin
My interest in “specials” was first aroused by reading of other people’s efforts in Motor Sport and in 1938 I made my first attempt to produce such a car. I started off to help a friend who was working on the remains of a “Cup Model” Austin Seven. When we were about half-way through, we realised that there were things about body-building which were far beyond us. To look at the car frightened us, without even sitting in it! We had two other surprises, the first when we discovered that we had omitted some formality in assembling the clutch. It was permanently “in,” so we had to take the engine to pieces again. The next was when we went out for a trial run before we had tracked the steering. The car came to rest all in one piece, I am happy to say. . . . .
From then on for the next few years, we had other things to occupy us, but my interest in specials never really died, and when Alex. Reid, of Omega fame, invited me to act as “ballast” for him, it boiled up all over again, and we spent two very successful seasons together. During this time, I saw so many queer things masquerading as motor cars, and, strangely enough, doing things which made a normal car look silly, that I decided that I would build my own special, but with two differences, the work would be properly done and the result would look like a car.
Reid’s Omega was one of the most versatile specials ever built. It was handled with skill and dash, and performed handsomely in every kind of contest. It won cups, tankards and medals in sprints, hill climbs, sand-racing, circuits and trials, so I decided to base my special too, on the Frazer-Nash-B.M.W. I finally found one in amazing condition. The amazement arose, not from the fact that it ran so well, but that it ran at all. For example, the whole of the steering-control was held to the chassis by two bolts, but only one had a nut. This was typical of the rest of the car. It took nearly a fortnight to break up the body. It reminded us of the sinking of the Bismarck, and we felt that some of the same steel had been used. At last, we got down to a chassis, which weighed just under 9½ cwt., whereupon we started to throw things away. A tangle of wires and pulleys, acting as brake gear, was replaced by some neat pipes and a set of two-cylinder hydraulics from an Austin A40 took their place. With Al-fin drums, these are real anchors when needed.
While Alex. was doing things to the engine, and renewing the whole of the front suspension, we were moving the box section centre-bracing back 9 in. This move was a success, giving, as it did, a better distribution of weight. There is no need to go into all that was done to the engine but everything which could be lightened was lightened. Even the flywheel was turned down until there was only enough of it left to carry the clutch and starter ring and when all was put together again, the chassis weighed 9 cwt. Then the real problem started; we entered the tricky field of body-building. The framework was, and still is, square section 16G. steel tubing with the cockpit outlined in round 1in. dia. tube. This tube is easily curved or bent to pattern, cold, with the help of a wooden block and rubber-headed hammer. All the welding is gas. The long and the short of this part of the story was Jackal Mk.I; a vehicle which strongly resembled the famous Old Lady’s shoe with no room for any of her many children. Indeed, there was hardly enough room for my knees!
Here I must hand out the “credits.” The inspiration and finance were mine. The ideas, some original, some frankly stolen, were mine. Help, advice and guidance were generously given by Alex. Reid. In working on the car he gave me the benefit of all his experimental work on the Omega and he produced all the bits and pieces we needed. The work was carried out in my Engineering Works, by my own man, John. He has had so much to do with the car that it is more his than mine. I am often called Jake or Jack and Jack and Alex. gave me Jackal, hence the car’s name.
Ewart McCartney gallantly promised to drive this contraption at Bo’ness and “The Rest” in 1950. The less said about this the better. The radiator, without the help of a fan, could not cope, and the journey to Bo’ness required 8 gallons of water, and a new hose when the old one melted and finally burst. On the first run up the hill, Ewart selected third gear 10 times and the car rejected it, as many, and that was that. From the one Saturday till the following Friday, Alex. performed miracles on the gearbox and the car was coaxed to Arrochar for “The Rest.” Here again Ewart did his “Reginald Foort” act and took the car up the hill twice in a fair time, but that sounded the death knell of the gearbox and its attendant stick of rhubarb which was the standard method of selecting a gear. It certainly added an air of novelty to a snappy gear-change, as you often were presented with a gear other than the one which was desired or required.
The obvious thing was to copy the Omega and fit a pre-selector box and one was found, reconditioned and fitted. At this point the rest of the flywheel was turned off and only the starter ring left. A shaft from the gearbox to the engine was connected by a Layrub coupling and the back of the box was fixed to the old B.M.W. prop.-shaft. Here again we copied the Omega. The overheating trouble was cured by fitting a deeper radiator, and cowling it in, to give direction to the air stream. By the way, in all this I have only painted a fairly broad outline of all that was done. While we drew fairly heavily on our works facilities in the way of welding and turning shop, there was nothing which could not have been done by anyone with some engineering knowledge, skill and ingenuity.
In this form the car was seen at Bo’ness in September 1950 and returned a time of about 54 secs. and we started off on our winter modifications content that we had made it go.
The back-axle had been producing somewhat ominous sounds, so it was pulled down and we found a condition which indicated that the further outlook was uncertain. Having seen others using Ford rear-ends, we decided to follow suit. For a very humble sum I bought a great deal more Ford than I expected, or needed. Under the dirt, it was all in good condition and the two axles were laid out on the surface table. The casings were cut at the points where the taper would fit, and give us the B.M.W. track, and welded up again. The Ford half-shafts were tapered to fit the B.M.W. hubs and the whole reassembled. This turned out very well, but we have not been too clever with the meshing of the crown and bevel, as there is a slight whine on the over-run. It is not very noticeable and can be cured.
This being done, we set about the front part of the body. In consultation with a body-building friend, we rebuilt the tubular framing and found we only needed about half our first quantity. Fancy bits of metal shaping were done by our friends, and we went to the Turnberry Sprints with Mk.II. The performance was poor. It only kept ahead of a TD M.G.; so out came the engine and in to the dynamometer. All our good work had only given an extra 13 b.h.p. even with 3 S.U.s. A day’s work here did more than a week on the road. Adjustment of carburetters and ignition, and experiments with various mixtures of fuel, brought out 79 b.h.p. This made quite a difference at Bo’ness in June and September and “The Rest” in July, and thus ended our 1951 season.
During the winter, Alex. found a 328 B.M.W. engine which gave 96 b.h.p. and this fitted, exactly, the mountings for the old engine. Our coach-building friend produced the boot-door from a Rover P.4 and around this was built a new tail which is very shapely and completes Mk.III. This final effort gives a thrilling performance and the Bo’ness time came down to nearly 45 sec. Certainly a long way behind Jack Walton, but I was pleased. In the hands of somebody younger, and with more dash, I know that it would do much better, but I have achieved my ambition; I have a “special” built to my own standards. It has faults but it looks like a motor-car and it can go. I also have a road-worthy vehicle with a performance near that of a motor-cycle but with some comfort.