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Austin V8 1.5 litre GP Car ...if only....


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#1 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 10:09

On seeing/hearing the welcome re-appearance of the DOHC supercharged Austin 7 single seater at Shelsley Walsh's 100th birthday bash back in 05 , someone on my bookstand commented that Austin had visions of mating two of these little engines in a common crank case and creating a 1500cc V8 Voiturette to challenger ERA and Maserati.

The little 750cc Austin was certainly very quick for it's size and only a little slower than the 1500s of the day. The 4 cyl engine was light and compact and hit enormous revs for it's day (10,000?) so a V8 version would have been an fascinating proposition.

Of course when racing restarted after the war it would also have been eligable for Grand Prix racing...

I wondered if it was a serious consideration which the company squashed when it withdrew from racing or just someone's imagination at work?

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#2 Vitesse2

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 10:57

I think this is more wishful thinking than anything else, Simon. I haven't really researched this, but I'm sure David Venables would have done for "Racing 1500s". He comments that it was "a great pity that Murray Jamieson was not engaged to build a full 1500 voiturette", but doesn't indicate that it was ever a serious proposal from Austin. No doubt a search of the correspondence columns in The Motor, The Autocar, Light Car and Motor Sport would find enthusiasts suggesting that something should be done along those lines, perhaps as far back as 1935 when MG withdrew from racing and their anticipated S-type voiturette was binned.

In 1938 when ERA announced they would build a full GP car, apparently abandoning voiturettes to Maserati and - it turned out - the much-rumoured (and oft-denied!) Alfa Romeo 158, it would have seemed that Britain would lose the lead it had had in the category in 1936 and (especially) 1937. The only other British 1500 was the Alta, which was performing well on home soil in the hands of Abecassis, but there was no real back-up or money for an extended European campaign.

So, again, I'd guess there'd be press speculation that these "pocket rockets" - for that is what they were - could be the basis of a voiturette, but I very much doubt that Lord Austin could have justified the cost in a nation gearing itself up for war. The 750s cost him about £10000 from his personal fortune.

#3 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 11:11

Thanks Vitesse2, that sounds entirely logical to me. I learned a couple of years back from the son of a former works Austin driver that Lord A
had dipped deeply into his own pockets to fund the DOHC and that in the late 30s the cars were always entered by him, personally, against the wishes of the Austin board.
Strikes me this gives an early insight into British industrial decline and the lack of forsight in matters relating to marketing and PR. A great little product, all bought and paid for, sitting in the workshop ready to go and earn some headlines for the company... and the board doesn't want to know!

Surtees recounts a vaguely similar tale of contract negociations with Norton in the late 50s which failed because his fee for a season was more than the chairman's ....

#4 Doug Nye

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 11:36

From memory - unchecked - I believe this was a perfectly serious proposal from Tom Murray Jamieson to Lord Austin, and his concept was for a rear-engined 1500cc V8 modelled more or less along contempporary Auto Union lines. The Boss would not contemplate any such thing - primarily because it was a well known fact that proper production cars had their engine in the front and only secondarily (V8-wise) upon grounds of cost.

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#5 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 11:46

So Lord A and Ferrari thought along the same lines on one matter at least!

How that car might have altered the course of motor racing history...