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Frank Ashby


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#1 Doug Nye

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Posted 23 May 2003 - 20:18

Gentleman of pre-war Brooklands Alfa fame - good engineer - did his own Alfa straight-eight blocks etc - worked with Freddie Dixon for a time - settled in Australia postwar - kept touch with the Australian motor racing world in the early 1950s - any further detail would be of tremendous interest to at least one person here...

Frank Ashby???

DCN

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#2 john medley

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Posted 24 May 2003 - 00:22

That post looks all lost and forlorn and I couldnt leave it at that, so the little I know is:
Frank Ashby's UK career ( Rileys, Brooklands, Meehanite blocks for 2.9 Alfas, 2.9 Alfa etc) is probably well known enough;then to Australia early (?)1950s, set himself up as Mona Vale Engineering Services (near Manly in Sydney), wrote some articles for " Modern Motor" on racing car preparation, was involved in preparation of some racing cars notably the ex Bira OSCA V12 that just about sent Alf Harvey broke and round the bend, and was memorable in the pits on hot days getting around in a Chesty Bond singlet and long serge trousers and braces barely covering his increasing girth.

#3 Doug Nye

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Posted 24 May 2003 - 18:29

John - thanks very much for that.

Jack Brabham - who had just begun running his Cooper-Bristol, received a call one day from Frank Ashby, who introduced himself, mentioned something of his experience - which Sir Jack recalls today as having been "one of the blokes who worked with Freddy Dixon on Rileys" and offered his help should young Jack feel he could do with any. Ashby just wanted to become involved with the Australian racing world...just for fun.

Jack went up to see him in a nice waterside house in Palm Beach, North Sydney (right???), and recognised in Ashby a very experienced and competent engineer.

Later he showed Ashby the Bristol cylinder head and Ashby recommended how he should most effectively rework its porting and generally go about developing matters in search of greater power and driveability.

Jack had already dumped the Bristol's original Solex carburettors in favour of Holdens, which offered the added advantage of accelerator pumps, and Ashby advised that these Australian carburettors looked pretty good, apart from their lousy air intake shape.

He recommended that Jack should fit the intakes with smoothly formed bell-mouths, so Jack machined some up in his little machine shop, which dropped into the top of each intake and nestled there virtually out of sight. The difference their presence made was easily tested and instantly apparent - not fitted=slow lap, fitted=quick lap.

The difference achieved by the Ashby-recommended porting mods was also a notable advance.

The even bigger difference achieved in engine response when Jack replaced Bristol's original 70-80lb flywheel and clutch assembly with his own 15-17lb Harley-Davidson based flywheel and clutch helped make his 'RedeX Special' the highly successful machine it became. When Horace Gould brought his Cooper-Bristol to NZ and met Jack with his, the Englishman was staggered (and sceptical) when he asked Jack what revs he was using. They were 500-750rpm higher than anything Gould and his Cooper-Bristol confreres in the UK would ever risk. He also asked Jack how many crankshafts he had gone through? None? Didn't believe him. With the massive Bristol flywheel and clutch, merely spinning a Cooper-Bristol could snap the tail of the crankshaft clean off due to the gyroscopic effect of that attached mass.

Thinking about it now, Blackie credits Frank Ashby with having helped to 'open his eyes' to a wide and wonderful world of mechanical motor racing advantage...a point I found interesting.

DCN

#4 john medley

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Posted 25 May 2003 - 02:52

Thanks Doug for another bundle of interesting stuff that I didnt know about. There is another nice across-the-eras connection( or maybe coincidence) between old and older very good Australian drivers that probably hasnt escaped your eagle eye: Alf Barrett's 2.3 Monza Alfa when raced earlier by 'Ginger' Hamilton in the UK was watered and manured by a bloke who had a bit to do with J Brabham 20 years later, by the name of Charles Cooper

#5 Ray Bell

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 01:52

Originally posted by Doug Nye
.....With the massive Bristol flywheel and clutch, merely spinning a Cooper-Bristol could snap the tail of the crankshaft clean off due to the gyroscopic effect of that attached mass......


Great stuff, Doug...

On this particular subject, however, I have bells ringing... was it Brian Muir or Norm Beechey? The latter, I think, used a Bristol harmonic balancer on his S4 Holden to give that inertiaral (?) balancing effect needed to keep the crank in one piece.

I never realised that the reason Bristol had used such a big balancer was that there was such an overly heavy flywheel on the other end of what was essentially a gem of a little 2-litre engine. Did the Germans use such a flywheel too, or was it a British (Brutish?) addition?

So Jack really, in his backyard in the early fifties, predated the work that's gone on with flywheel weights in modern day racing? Did anyone else go to these extremes in the similarly distant past? One also wonders if he did any of this stuff to the rear engined car he ran in England?

I don't think, by the way, that 'gyroscopic' is the right word here. Surely it has more to do with inertia? Or is there something happening there that I'm not aware of?

The other mods mentioned seem to be rather unfamiliar... I wonder if Blackie really kept them securely under his hat for all those years? And I wonder if Ashby steered anyone else in this same direction with the Holden Strombergs?

#6 Doug Nye

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 20:12

Originally posted by Ray Bell
I don't think, by the way, that 'gyroscopic' is the right word here. Surely it has more to do with inertia? Or is there something happening there that I'm not aware of?


Trying to describe the effect which saw a number of Cooper-Bristols forced to retire after an apparently innocuous spin, followed immediately by the realisation the crank had broken. Spin a kid's gyro Ray, try to make it alter its plane of rotation, feel the resistance...we were trying to describe this effect which snapped the tail off those Bristol cranks. It does the job.

DCN

#7 Ray Bell

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 22:15

Sorry Doug...

I missed the 'merely spinning a Cooper Bristol' part when I was revising your post for my response. I was thinking it was more like the Formula Ford problem, where the weight of the standard Dagenham flywheel tends to lead to cracks in the crank at high revs.

Interesting stuff... never heard of this before.

#8 Steve L

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 07:13

Have any articles ever been written about the fascinating development work Frank Ashby carried out on his Monoposto Alfa?

I believe as well as casting special engine blocks, he altered firing orders, developed special exhaust systems and did lots of other wonderful things to what was already a pretty fantastic piece of kit!

I have a feeling the car still exists (in Australia or America?), but is now pretty much back to standard factory specification?

#9 Doug Nye

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 13:39

I'm pretty sure I recall a feature on or by Frank Ashby in a wartime issue of 'Motor Sport'. When I have the time I'll try to find it.

DCN

#10 David McKinney

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 18:39

The Hull/Slater Alfa book described the P3 mods, IIRC

#11 Ted Walker

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Posted 28 May 2003 - 08:04

I think that he produced a range of "go faster" goodies such as steering wheels etc.

#12 onelung

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 02:32

Originally posted by Steve L
Have any articles ever been written about the fascinating development work Frank Ashby carried out on his Monoposto Alfa?

I believe as well as casting special engine blocks, he altered firing orders, developed special exhaust systems and did lots of other wonderful things to what was already a pretty fantastic piece of kit!

I have a feeling the car still exists (in Australia or America?), but is now pretty much back to standard factory specification?


Have just read the Bill Boddy article in March '09 issue of Motor Sport - came back to TNF to see if the A F Ashby referred to therein was one and the same as the Frank Ashby I recalled from Modern Motor articles in the mid to late 50's and indeed it was! What a rich source this Forum is for semi-amnesics such as myself..... :up:

#13 rileylincock

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 15:45

If anyone has any information about the Ashby flat iron special it would be gratefully appreciated.

So far we have tracked down a couple of grainy shots from brooklands, but nothing particulary clear.

If anyone knows where any parts of the rest of the car are we'd like to try and reunite them with the engine. So far all we have been able to track down is that the car passed through the hands of a riley trader called clarke in the 1950/60s in the south london area and has not been seen since...