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Shelsley Special mystery photo


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#1 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 11:28

Here's a photo I picked up recently which has so far defied identification. It looks like a 'Shelsley Special' hillclimb car based on an Austin 7 chassis and the background looks to be Shelsley itself - or is it?
Posted Image
I have consulted Bob Cooper of the MAC and noted Shelsley historian Howard Stockley but neither of these knowledgeable gentlemen can put a name to the car or the driver and indeed there is considerable reason for doubting the venue.

In the background are what appear to be the famous sheds in the Shelsley paddock, built for the 1937 season. However the number does not tie in with any event in the pre-war era. Number 4 would place this car in the 750cc class - but such a low number was always allotted to Lord Austin's factory entries or MG works cars. This special does not seem to fit that scenario.

Could it be some other venue? May those are farm buildings visible in the background that we have mistaken for the paddock sheds? Did Shelsley have those telegraph poles you can also make out.
The suggestion is that it may be an Irish event . This kind of special is not thought to have been a feature of any european events of the era so the alternatives are fairly limited.
But it really does look like Shelsley to me....

Can anyone shed some light?




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#2 Geoff E

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 12:23

The weather seems not to have been particularly clement. In four of the last five Shelsley events (1937-9) before WW2, a new hill record was set - and in the the other event it was very close to the record, so I doubt it was one of those meetings.

The first meeting after the war (1 June 1946) "has become known as the wettest ever" (Ton Up! Midland Auto Club centenary book). It appears damp underfoot in the paddock where Alec Issigonis is shown in his Lightweight Special, No 5. Mays' fastest time was over 5 seconds slower than his 1939 record.

Edited by Geoff E, 13 August 2009 - 12:28.


#3 RS2000

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 19:37

Can't think of any other venue that fits. There's just something about some the clothing that suggests early post-WW2 rather than pre-WW2?

#4 Simon Thomas

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 20:10

Perhaps a youthful Ken Wharton?
Simon Thomas

#5 Geoff E

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 20:37

Perhaps a youthful Ken Wharton?


Wharton did attend the 1946 meeting ... "There were qualifying runs on the Saturday morning - certain drivers had to climb in less than 50 seconds and included in those who were eliminated were Ken Wharton, ..."

Compared with prewar photo's near the start at Shelsley, there is much more vegetation close to the track but, after seven years of disuse, this is quite possible I suppose.

#6 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 20:44

Perhaps a youthful Ken Wharton?
Simon Thomas

You could be right Simon, there's a distinct similarity and according to 500race.org he did build Seven-based specials straight after the war - which also fits with other suggestions that its a 1940s photo rather than from the 1930s.


#7 Geoff E

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 20:49

There are some interesting photo's of old specials here http://www.flickr.co...in/photostream/

#8 D-Type

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 20:49

Wasn't it Ken Wharton who drove a Ford 10 engined Austin 7 in trials?

#9 RogerFrench

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Posted 14 August 2009 - 04:06

Wasn't it Ken Wharton who drove a Ford 10 engined Austin 7 in trials?

Yes, he did, along with a gaggle of other folks (Mallock, Chapman, my father, just for starters).


#10 fuzzi

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Posted 14 August 2009 - 06:20

I think it is Ken Wharton in his Austin Seven/MG special. The engine used an Austin Seven bottom end with a modified ohc (with chain driven camshaft) MG block and head on top, supercharged with a centric (?) blower. He got the car going better in 1948 and according to John Bolster in "Specials" an MG J4 engine was fitted, he even surprised the Cooper drivers on occasions. But he later saw the potential of the Coopers and turned to Surbiton. I believe the car was later broken up.

Brian King of Sussex has built a tribute version which he runs at the VSCC Goodwood Sprint.

#11 Ted Walker

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Posted 14 August 2009 - 09:44

I would go along with Ken Wharton in his special. A7 chassis and blown MG J4 engine.

#12 Geoff E

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Posted 14 August 2009 - 11:53

This photo shows enough poles in the background to indicate that the first photo was taken at Shelsley Walsh http://www.flickr.co...in/photostream/


As I said previously, the June 1946 meeting was "wet", as was June 1947. Sept 1947 finished wet. All other meetings before 1950 were in good weather.

#13 Pete Stowe

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Posted 14 August 2009 - 13:43

I've asked Robin Hanny, who put on the Ken Wharton exhibition in Smethwick last year, and he agrees that it's Ken:
"The photo is of Ken Wharton: no other driver of that era had Ken's swarthy good looks. Of the venue, I'm not sure, as he took that car with various mechanical permutations to many meetings during 1945-46. This is the car which he was accused by officials and other competitors of over-modifying and being out of spec, because Wharton had removed the doors."

#14 bradbury west

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Posted 14 August 2009 - 23:34

Brian King of Sussex has built a tribute version which he runs at the VSCC Goodwood Sprint.

I can offer good, detailed pictures of King's car at Wiscombe last year if anyone wants to see the level of engineering which has gone into it.
Roger Lund


#15 mikeC

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Posted 15 August 2009 - 19:42

Wasn't it Ken Wharton who drove a Ford 10 engined Austin 7 in trials?


I have always understood that this is Ken Wharton in his Ford-engined Austin Seven trials car:

Posted Image

Can anyone confirm, please?

#16 fuzzi

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Posted 15 August 2009 - 20:03

So far I have come across the following Wharton Austin/Ford trials specials:
JHA 704
BFY 229 (in use 1947)
KHA 1 (in use December 1948)

From what I have gathered he could knock up a special in a few days from parts lying about in his Smethwick garage and would even, as mentioned above, appear in trials with a saloon with the doors removed to save weight and compete successfully with that.

From what little I know it is quite possible that the special above is another Wharton car. :wave:

Edited by fuzzi, 15 August 2009 - 20:04.


#17 David McKinney

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Posted 15 August 2009 - 20:04

...doesn't look like Wharton driving though

#18 mikeC

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Posted 15 August 2009 - 20:07

...doesn't look like Wharton driving though


Comparing with the original post, that's what I thought, which was why I posted the pic.... I suspect that it isn't :confused:

#19 Geoff E

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 08:13

Ken Wharton is also recorded as having competed in his "unblown Austin Special" at the Madresfield Speed Trials, 16 July 1946.

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#20 Pete Stowe

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 15:10

I've asked Robin Hanny, who put on the Ken Wharton exhibition in Smethwick last year, and he agrees that it's Ken:
"The photo is of Ken Wharton: no other driver of that era had Ken's swarthy good looks. Of the venue, I'm not sure, as he took that car with various mechanical permutations to many meetings during 1945-46. This is the car which he was accused by officials and other competitors of over-modifying and being out of spec, because Wharton had removed the doors."


Further from Robin Hanny :
‘Apologies for the date error. It should have read 1946-47. The car was, according to CAN May, entered in the first Shelsley event after the war, where the weather conditions were appalling: the photo appears to confirm this. So it looks as if it was taken at Shelsley. This would have been the car that eventually became registered as KHA1 which was essentially a trials car.
Concerning the incident of the doors - the first copy entry form I have for Wharton at Shelsley makes no mention of bodywork. However, in all subsequent entries, the form asks "Is the bodywork complete?".
Another factor in favour of the venue being Shelsley is that in 1946 there was severe petrol rationing, so most competitors would have been restricted to local events.’


Robin also tells me that he is continuing to make progress on his Ken Wharton biography. :up:


#21 Geoff.Harrison

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 07:40

[quote name='fuzzi' date='Aug 15 2009, 21:03' post='3797091']
So far I have come across the following Wharton Austin/Ford trials specials:
JHA 704
BFY 229 (in use 1947)
KHA 1 (in use December 1948)

From what I have gathered he could knock up a special in a few days from parts lying about in his Smethwick garage and would even, as mentioned above, appear in trials with a saloon with the doors removed to save weight and compete successfully with that.

From what little I know it is quite possible that the special above is another Wharton car. :wave:
/quote]


The Wharton sprint / hillclimb car is described in the Bolster 'Specials' book.

KHA1 was intially sold to B.Thompson and then to M.Beardshaw in 1950.

Wharton's 1950 RAC Trials Championship winning car PHA 1 was Austin A40 engined in the ubiquitous Austin 7 chassis . Unusually for the period it had Cooper 500 wheels.
It was subsequently sold to A.W.Lilley who used until 1953.

Building a trials special was still relatively quick and easy in the early 50's.
My father 'built' his first one in 3 weeks during the late summer of 1950 - buy a short chassis Austin 7 - scrap everything apart rear springs and chassis.
Fit a Ford 1172 engine , gearbox front and rear axles together with rudimentary 2 seater body and you had a special.
The most expensive item were probably the new wheels and tyres required!
Re- register the Austin 7 as a Ford engined 2 seat Austin Special - even his later tubular chassis framed cars still used Austin 7 log books , cars being specifically purchased
and then scrapped purely for the registration documents!




#22 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 09:40

Having returned from a weekend selling books the venue in question (well done to the Moran family for dominating the meeting with their Gould) and consulted several of those most closely associated with the hill and it's history, I think we can safely say it is Ken Wharton in the first 1946 meeting.

He carried number 4 for that event, it was indeed wet ,so the spectator/officials clothing seems appropriate, and comparing the car to the photo in SPECIALS really clinches it.

Bob Cooper of the MAC came up with the appropriate entry list . Several people said there was something not quite right about the background - the juxtaposition of the paddock sheds looks a little odd compared to other photos - but I think that might just be due to the photo being taken by an amateur from a slightly different position to most of the more familiar professional photos you see. I think it could also have been taken with a slightly wider-angle lens, which makes the background seem somehow out of proportion to how we normally see it.

Many thanks for all your efforts chaps. This one had a lot of people scratching their heads!


#23 Stephen W

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 11:20

Several people said there was something not quite right about the background - the juxtaposition of the paddock sheds looks a little odd compared to other photos - but I think that might just be due to the photo being taken by an amateur from a slightly different position to most of the more familiar professional photos you see. I think it could also have been taken with a slightly wider-angle lens, which makes the background seem somehow out of proportion to how we normally see it.


If the photo was taken by an 'amateur' as you suggest then the camera lens itself may be a contributing factor to the odd look. As for the angle being different then this also may be a function of the lens.

Did you have time to wander round with the photo to try and locate where it was taken?

:wave:

Edited by Stephen W, 19 August 2009 - 11:22.


#24 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 23 August 2009 - 21:09

If the photo was taken by an 'amateur' as you suggest then the camera lens itself may be a contributing factor to the odd look. As for the angle being different then this also may be a function of the lens.

Did you have time to wander round with the photo to try and locate where it was taken?

:wave:

To be honest, no, it never occurred to me! But then the modern day sheds must be replacements for those in the photos so may well be aligned a little differently.
I am with you on the lens matter. I'd assume a humble Box Brownie-type camera would have a wider angle lens as standard than something like a Lieca or a Speed Graphic which the professionals might have used.