WILD AT HEART
DICK NASH WAS BRAVE, DETERMINED AND HUGELY SKILLED. BILL BODDY PAYS TRIBUTE TO A MAN WITH THE SKILLS TO BECOME A STAR
RICHARD G J NASH WAS A HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL SPRINT COMPETITOR IN his single-seater Specials which had a direct affmity with Frazer Nash cars. But he was more than that: a collector of early aeroplanes, the driver of the exciting 15-litre 1912 Grand Prix Lorraine-Dietrich in suitable Edwardian races, and a serious garden-railway enthusiast.
Tall, balding, careful with money, quietly spoken, Dick appeared almost shy. But behind the wheel of his beloved racing cars, his nature altered. As John Bolster put it, “he then changed into a driver of great pluck and determination, a member, one might say, of the ‘Win or bust’ school”.
Nash’s interest in fast cars was evident when he bought an Aero Morgan three-wheeler; this was followed by a more civilised Gordon England Cup-model Austin Seven, then by Ivy Cunliffe’s Brescia Bugatti. He then went in for a proper racing car, in the form of the Targa Florio-type Bugatti which T E Rose-Richards had raced. He said that this was too uncivilised for daily driving, so it was changed for an Anzani-engined Super Sports Frazer Nash, in which, by 1927, RGJ had commenced his competition career.
This led to frequent calls at the Frazer Nash works in Kingston, and meetings with Capt ‘Archie’ Frazer-Nash. So it was perhaps inevitable that Dick Nash (no relation) would buy a faster car of the right make. What he had seen was a very special ‘Nash, which Capt Frazer-Nash had built up from various earlier racing cars. Having abandoned Rikki-Tikki and sold Mowgli’s engine to Basil Davenport, he had used the chassis of the former car, shortened and now with Rudge hubs, front-wheel-brakes, and various side-valve 1.5-litre Anzani engines endowed with a variety of chain-driven superchargers.
Early in 1930, Dick decided this was for him and he took this lowhung, rakish single-seater with a Frazer Nash radiator, suspension and chain-and-dog transmission and a wheelbase of 7ft 3in. Dick saw potential in this roller-bearing Anzani engine with racing-type block and he installed a large Cozette No9 supercharger driven where a dynamo might have been. He did much extra work on the car, until it emerged eventually with a neat single-seater body with a proper tail, the chassis further lightened and power notably increased.
While this was being done, the Super Sports Frazer Nash had been run at various speed events, such as Lewes, the Brighton hillclimb, etc, and taken to Brooldands where it was timed over the flying-start kilometre at 108mph.
The Terror ran on alcohol fuel, the No9 Cozette blower replaced with a No11, giving a boost of about 211bsisq in and, on the Frazer Nash testbed in Kingston, 105bhp — in a car weighing some 9.5cwt. To induce the clutch not to slip on sprint starts, Dick pulled on a piece of rope tied to the clutch pedal, just as ‘Archie’ had done in the racing GN ‘Kim’, dropping this rope as speed rose and he had to concentrate on steering. With its Frazer Nash radiator and front axle, The Terror was very popular with enthusiasts of the ‘Chain-Gang’ cars — unless they were competing against it! Class wins and course records were comparatively easy meat for the determined Dick Nash. 1 His greatest victories were at Shelsley Walsh in 1931 and 1932. On s the first of these occasions, he and The Terror made I-1D at the Open Meeting, in 43.3sec, only half a second slower than Hans von Stuck’s -s 1 1930 course record in the 3-litre Austro-Daimler. Dick, using twin 1 rear wheels, took the corners quite wide, then slid round them, p-?
on an ascent which looked quite alarming even to experienced spectators. He had beaten Raymond Mays, who was driving the fearsome 3-litre 240bhp Vauxhall-Villiers, by a fifth of a second! He took home the Shelsley Cup and £105.
In pouring rain at the September Shelsley Walsh Meeting, Mays reversed things, by 0.7sec, Dick trying so hard on his second run that he slid broadside at the Esses and hit the bank more than once.
The following year, instead of The Tends usual hair-raising, breathtaking performance, it stopped on its first run. Dick then made a truly sensational ascent, on the now wet course, his accelerator foot hard down in spite of the car bouncing off the banks on each side of the road. He only just lost the 1.5-litre class to Lemon Burton’s Bugatti (46.4sec). Later in 1932, The Tenorwas again in splendid form, as was Nash, and FTD was secured in 43.2sec.
By this time The Terrorhad been lightened further by omitting the cockpit sides, and it had a shorter tail, a new plated radiator-cowl, and undershielding of engine and chains. It was a very potent car and its builder fully capable of exploiting its performance. In fact, it was said that FIDs and course records were at its mercy wherever it appeared.
At Craigantlet hillclimb in Ireland, where it broke the record, The Terror left the course on one ascent and ran up a bank, stopping between the outspread legs of a sitting spectator. A narrow escape, for both! At Branches Park Inter-Varsity speed-trials, the clutch flew to pieces, severing the fuel pipe, the car catching fire. Nash continued at full bore, The Terror now well alight, to record second-best time.
At the finish the wooden floor was ablaze. Part of the clutch had damaged one of Dick’s ankles, a scar he had to the end of his life.
As a foil to his effective sprint car, Nash had a IT Replica Frazer Nash with oversize fuel tank and a supercharged Anzani engine, which appeared in a concours d’elegance, possibly to please his fiancee.
At Brooldands, he used The Terror, with twin rear wheels and sprint ratios, to good effect, lowering the Test Hill record to 7.45sec. He recalled how the little car performed a 43ft leap at the end of the climb, and how near the trees were before he could pull up. Timekeeper George Reynolds had told Dick beforehand, to two decimal places, what his time would be! There was also a stab at record-attacking on the level, after The Terror had been timed at 132mph. At Brooklands in October 1932, short Class-F records were attempted. The car was not on form, but broke an old record held by Segrave’s Talbot single-seater for the two-way kilometre, at 75.89mph.
When midget car dirt-track racing was introduced at Wembley Stadium, Nash and The Tenorwere there but the bronze gears driving the vertically-mounted supercharger kept failing. In order not to disappoint the spectators who had been promised a demonstration by this well-known speed-trial specialist, Dick borrowed Mrs Elsie Wisdom’s ordinary Frazer Nash. With less poke than The Terrorpossessed, it could not shift the cinders so effectively, the wheels dug in, gently toppling the ‘Nash onto its side. Steel gears cured The Terror’s trouble, and by 1932 it had the Wembley Stadium car course-record, Dick adept at the sliding technique required, his lappery distinctly spectacular. Competition from larger cars was increasing and it would not be long before ERAs would dominate the 1.5-litre class at many meetings. So Nash set about another of his celebrated Specials, by buying from the Conan-Doyle brothers the old racing Frazer Nash The Slug, which had been used to good effect by the works and ‘Archie’ FrazerNash back in 1928. This had a one-off single-overhead-camshaft Anzani 1.5-litre engine, which Dick removed and installed in a longerwheelbase Frazer Nash chassis with bigger brakes, using some parts from the old Rikki-Tikki racer. Named The Spook, the car looked much as had The Terror except for a huge polished bulge on the offside of the bonnet to make space fora big supercharger and its Solex carb. 11,-?
It was reckoned that this gave about 124bhp.
At the 1934 March Brooklands races Nash entered it for a half-mile sprint along the Finishing Straight, but the ivory-hued car was not going well and it made slowest speed, 59.21mph.
Not as consistently fast as The Tenor, successes by The Spook included 1ID at the 1934 BOC Lewes speed-trials, and also at the later events there, best time at the JRDC Elstree sprint, three more class wins at Lewes, and F ID at the JRDC’s Chalfont hill-climb. When dirt-tack racing came to Crystal Palace, Nash did a lap speed which none of the midget cars could approach.
Nash was by now busy with his abiding interest, that of collecting and restoring ancient bicycles, cars and aeroplanes, having in 1927 owned a veteran Oldsmobile. He had for this purpose acquired the business of C S Burney, brother of Sir Denistoun Burney, designer of the successful R100 airship. Bumey had bought Ken Kirton’s similar company and was installed in the row of sheds on Brooklands’ Aerodrome. Nash eventually used a tall building not far from the sewage farm at the Track and, being at Brooklands almost daily, I got to know him. In 1938, he asked me if I would like to go with him on the London-Brighton Veteran Car Run in his 1900 Peugeot “Don’t wear a good suit,” I was advised, “we may need to get out and get under.” We didn’t, enjoying a trouble-free run. The last racing Special of the RGJ breed was Terror II, entered as the Frazer Nash Union Special. It followed the body style of the other two, but was based on the racing `Nurburg’ Frazer Nash. However,
it was decided to trim weight to about 11cwt by feeding the twin Centric superchargers of the Gough single-overhead-camshaft engine with one carburettor between them, and dispensing with the SheLsleytype cantilever front-springing and straight front axle, but retaining the larger brakes and duplicated driving chains. Alas, difficult starting caused by icing-up of the lone carburettor was experienced and two SU substitutes were not altogether successful. Yet at a 1936 Shelsley Walsh meeting, the new car was 0.2sec quicker than The Terror had been. By May 1933, the Vauxhall-Villiers had got into its powerful stride and at Shelsley vanquished The Spook, which nonetheless won its class (45.6sec). However, Raymond Mays’ supercharged Riley Six was just too much for Nash at the second Shelsley climb.
In 1934, Nash was now living with his family at The Beeches in Weybridge, almost a mile from the Track, and racing gave way to historical interests and his passenger-carrying model railway in front of his house, the running-shed containing a steam locomotive, a huge electric loco, which was quite daringly fast on full notch of its rheostat, and a hand-propelled track-inspection trolley. Dick was also very busy looking after his collection of ancient cars, one of which was the venerable 1912 15-litre Grand Prix LorraineDietrich Vieux Charles Trois, with a long Brooklands history. It was in a sad condition; I was given a run round the Track roads in it and tried to buy it for a fiver before Nash restored it and drove it in Edwardian races; at the Crystal Palace circuit it proved to be a bit faster even than Anthony Hears 1910 10-litre Fiat
Nash was also searching for early aeroplanes, with journeys to France if he heard rumours of such a find. He learnt to fly at Shoreham on Avro 504s, and had had his own Klemm, G-AAHL, sold to Lord Aspley in 1932. By 1950, he had a dozen pre-1919 aeroplanes, one a 1912 G3 Caudron which a very brave Ken Waller flew across the Channel for him. Dick flew a 1909 Bleriot XI and a later Bleriot at Brooklands. The 1940 bombing raid damaged some of the collection which was then moved to his house. Dick’s versatility was astonishing, ranging as it did from skilful Special-building and driving of such cars to proper restoration of veterans of all kinds. He died in 1966. His son has the old Lorraine, which he has exercised at suitable events from time to time. II