ALLARD MIDGET CARS AND OTHERS Mar 27, 2009 19:35:07 GMT 1
Post by administrator on Mar 27, 2009 19:35:07 GMT 1
IN the mid-1950s, stemming from Wimbledon speedway, there was another effort to pouplarise midget car racing.
Former Eastbourne and Wimbledon rider Alan Brett, who was involved in the venture, recalls what happened in regard to what were known as the Allard Midget Cars. He said, “I remember them well and world speedway champion Ronnie Moore turning one over at practice one Tuesday morninhg and breaking his collar-bone.
“At the time, I lived in a flat at Wimbledon that had previously been the home of Trevor Redmond who was also keen on midgets as well as his own speedway career. The main developers of the Allard car were Stanley Allard and Charles Batson.”
Chris Humberstone of Allard Motorsport said years later, “In 1954 a meeting between Stanley Allard and riders and management was held at Wimbledon Speedway to discuss the possibility of building a small car for use on the dirt.
“The popularity of speedway racing was waning at that time and it was thought that perhaps car racing would bring back the crowds. Mr Gill Jepson was called in and working from a few pencil sketches by Sydney, he built up a chassis, using light channel-selection steel. It had a 3ft front track and a straight tube axle mounted with two quarter-eliptic springs and radius rods, while the rear was unsprung, using an axle-tune mounted between thrust races on each side of the frame.”
Humberstone Explained, “The rear track measured 2ft 9in, and the tiny wheelbarrow wheels were driven from the centrally mounted engine by chain and sprockets. As with the speedway bikes, there was no gearbox, but a final-drive shaft sprocket was designed for easy removal to permit easy changes of ratio.
“The wheelbase was 4ft 6ims and the completed car and it light aluminium body weighed just 278lb. Painted in bright colours and named “The Atom”, it was put on a raised dias at one evening Wimbledon speedway meeting in 1954, and shortly after was tested on an empty track by speedway star Ronald Moore.
“It went quite well, though suffering from insufficient head of petrol from the tail-mounted gravity-feeding tank. A pump was fitted, riven off the axle shaft and performance was much improved, but after several laps Moore overdid things on one corner and the car overturned with him breaking his collar bone.”
Humberstone concluded, “Not surprisingly, his interest waned a little after that and as further tests showed that passing would be difficult and the first man away would usually win, the idea was dropped.”
Gil Jepson, who played a major role in designing ‘The Atom’ added, “It was fitted with a JAP speedway-type engine, but thr problem was with the springs which were similar to those used in the Frazer-Nash racing sports car and even on the straights tended to cause a sideways movement.
“Ronnie Moore had problems when testing the car and generally we decided that that the project was not suitable and the venture was abandoned.”
Charles Batson continued to have faith in midgets. In 1957, along with Wilbur Chandler and former speedway rider Percy Brine, they built cars based on a cross-design between “The Atom’ and the 500cc speedway cars.
These were initially tested at Aldershot, then ran for a short period as a support formula to speedway meetings at the track. F1 stock car driver Darkie Wright was also involved in the project.
Another unsual midget was built by former speedway rider Bill Billman in early 1957. It was based on an Austin Seven chassis and fitted with a Ford 10 engine with an aquaplane alloy head, ws 7,000rpm and had a55-60bhp. The car was fitted with twin-amal carbs and ran on methanol. It ws 6ft long, 3ft 6ins high, had a front track of 4ft 2ins and rear track of 3ft 10ins.
It made its only appearance in a meeting at Norwich which also involved Skirrows and was taken to several race wins by Billman.
An alternative form of midget car racing was ‘bantam cars’, the brainchild of Southampton promoter Charlie Knott and former England speedway international Mike Erskine.
Although designed with a steel body and wide wheel base, the Greeves-powered Bantam failed to creat much interest and in one race a car flipped over and injured its driver. Both Knott and Erskine then decided the cars were not safe to race on a small oval and abandoned them.
The first bantam car meeting was at Southampton on Easter Monday, April 11, 1955. It was billed as “England’s Latest Car Racing Thrill’ and included a trophy and £100 prize money. There were novice and ladies races and main racing featuring speedway riders.
The listed drivers for the main section of the meeting included Ernie Rawlins, Maurice Mattingley, Bluey Scott, Allan Quinn, Alby Golden, Reg Rawlins, Johnny Fitzpatrick, Gerry Bridson, Ray Hammond, Keith Yeo, George Randall, Cyril Taylor, Johnny Hole, Bert Croucher, Brian Hanham and Charlie May.
Southampton sports historian Chris Bayley said, “Details of this venture are from people’s memories - no real records were kept. Greeves motorcycles supplied the power units, so the engines were probably Villiers.
“When the cars proved unpopular, the company agreed to take back all the engines. The cars were stored for a while, then scrapped. The vehicle body makers were CA Ridgwell of Southampton, who are no longer in business.”
The Bantam Cars were probably the ugliest vehicles to ever appear on a race track. They lacked all concept of classic midget car design, and were probably more akin to fairground dodgems. Their passing was welcomed rather than mourned!
Two unusual midgets that were tried in 1935 were designed by Australian speedway riders Dickyy Case and Max Groskreutz. Case, who rode for Hackney, built a rear-engine car. Grosskreutz went one better by trying to popularise a car that had front and rear engines. Neither car was ever tested under actual racing conditions.
(c) John Hyam 2009